Watching Hell on Wheels crib Deadwood’s aesthetic (and archetypes) got us nostalgic for the dear, departed HBO Western, a feeling that is only heightened every time we spot a Deadwood alum in a current project. It’s rewarding to see that most of the Gem Saloon bunch are working, but are they playing to the strengths they displayed in David Milch’s Shakespearean, profanitarian world? Let’s take a look at what John Hawkes, Timothy Olyphant, Robin “Calamity Jane” Weigert, and the rest are up to, and assess whether we think it’s what they should be doing. Sure, that may be rudely presumptuous of us, but in the words of Al Swearingen, “In life you have to do a lot of things you don’t fucking want to do. Many times, that’s what the fuck life is. One vile fucking task after another.”
Then: Sol Star, hardware-store owner, bank founder, and Deadwood’s only Jew.
Now: If you need a creepy guy in your indie movie that features a breakout performance from an emerging female star, call John Hawkes. He deftly provided exactly those services in last year’s Winters Bone and this year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene. He’s also in Contagion and will play Robert Latham in Lincoln. He’ll also play poet, journalist, and quadriplegic Mark O’Brien in The Surrogate.
Where we want to see him: 30 Rock. Hawkes is great as scraggly backwoods monsters, but he showed off his lighter side on Eastbound & Down and showed plenty of gentle charm in Me and You and Everyone We Know. Borderline-menacing craziness topped off with a silly accent, performed with a glint of joy? Well, Kenneth can’t be alone forever.
Then: Seth Bullock, Deadwood’s conflicted and sometimes moody sheriff.
Now: Olyphant’s singing a similar song on Justified, only with more swagger and less righteousness.
Where we want to see him: Exactly where he is. Justified is great, and Olyphant’s great on it. His other outings were less wonderful, though: Between lousy action movies (Hitman) and awkward comedy stings (The Office), it’s become clear that Olyphant belongs in a smirky, bad-boy-but-actually-good-boy role.
Then: The widow Garret, Deadwood’s heartbroken, drug-addicted, high-society lady.
Now: She’s Colin Hanks’s weird, in-the-dark sister on this season of Dexter, and she’ll play Josh Lucas’s wife on the upcoming TV adaptation of The Firm.
Where we want to see her: Somewhere she can freak out. She barfed like a champ on Party Down, and marveled at open sexuality on Swingtown — it’d be nice to see her in a role that required nuclear-metldown screaming or anything even remotely high-energy. Get thee to American Horror Story.
Then: Trixie the whore. Oh, Trixie.
Now: She recurred on Sons of Anarchy last year and played the bereaved, unraveling mom on Caprica, but her next big role is as Mrs. Everdeen in The Hunger Games.
Where we want to see her: Reunited with John Hawkes, for starters. (Trixie + Sol 4 eva.) Until that glorious day, though, she belongs on Homeland: Malcomson plays wounded-but-steely incredibly well, and that’s Homeland’s M.O.
Photo: Kevin Winter/2010 Getty Images
Then: Dillahunt played both Jack McCall and later the evil, fascinating Francis Wolcott.
Now: He’s the affectionate, hilarious grandfather (!) on Raising Hope.
Where we want to see him: His comic flare on Hope is irrepressible — and he and Martha Plimpton make a damn cute couple — but the iciness of Wolcott would be right at home on Dexter. Dillahunt was also on David Milch’s impenetrable John From Cincinnati, so it’s only natural to want to see him on the upcoming Luck.
Then: Joanie Stubbs, madame of the ill-fated Chez Amis.
Now: She plays Janette Desautel, the unluckiest chef on Treme. And that’s saying something.
Where we want to see her: She’s in the Jason Katims world thanks to her stint as Matt’s mom on Friday Night Lights, so she’d fit in great on Parenthood. Not that that show needs more characters, but still.
Then: Calamity Jane, Deadwod’s most loyal drunk.
Now: She was on the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy and is in The Surrogate (with John Hawkes).
Where we want to see her: Anywhere, first of all, but particularly The Big C. Weigert showed off an sublime hybrid of stubbornness, dark humor, and pathos as Jane, and The Big C could really use a grounding presence.
Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/2010 Getty Images
Then: Silas Adams, go-between.
Now: He’s prosecutor Glenn Childs on The Good Wife, the thorn in everyone’s side.
Where we want to see him: He’s perfectly cast on Good Wife, but he could smarm it up just about anywhere. House? Grey’s Anatomy? Boss? Take your pick.
Then: Martha Bullock, former sister-in-law turned wife of Seth Bullock.
Now: Skyler White, Walter White’s better half on Breaking Bad. She’s the weird bright light in the show’s encompassing darkness — not necessarily a force for abject good, but a presence that’s not fully evil.
Where we want to se her: Parks and Recreation. Without spoiling anything about Breaking Bad, let’s just say Skyler knows how to play a role when that’s what the situation requires. Now imagine Gunn channeling that into a Pawnee resident.
Then: One of TV’s great characters, Al Swearengen, the owner of the local bar and brothel, and keeper of all of Deadwood’s secrets.
Now: McShane plays one of the dwarves in the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman.
Where we want to see him: On Game of Thrones. McShane dabbled in the fantasy world with The Pillars of the Earth (and sort of with Kings), but we’d love to see him go full-on faux-medieval somewhere in the seven kingdoms. Too bad they’ve already cast Balon Greyjoy …
Photo: Francois Durand/2011 Getty Images