Zahn McClarnon, who plays Toshaway on The Son, talks about how life for the Comanche tribe is changing, his character’s relationships with Young Eli and what he’s most excited for viewers to see this season.
Q: Earlier in the season the Comanche camp is attacked by Apaches while the warriors are out hunting. Toshaway is severely injured and much of the group is killed. What does this represent to Toshaway? To the rest of the group?
A: I think it represents a changing of times, and more tribes being more aggressive. Europeans, colonialism. Also the vulnerability of the tribe the way it is, with the amount of people in the tribe, and that changes will have to happen and he’s going to have to make some choices.
Q: Weakened by the attack, they must find another camp. Toshaway is forced between asking his estranged son, Fat Wolf, for help or letting his people starve to death. How hard of a decision is this for him?
A: I think it’s very difficult for Toshaway because I think he’s a prideful character and he doesn’t want to be looked at as weak in any way, doesn’t want his leadership to be put into question by the other tribal members and especially doesn’t want to be questioned by his son. He doesn’t want to be vulnerable.
Q: Why does Toshaway hide his injury when they first get to the new camp?
A: Again, I think it’s a bit of pride, pride in his leadership and his strength. More importantly, he doesn’t want his son to see it and to show that he is weak in any way. I think that culture, especially back then, it was very masculine. There was a lot of pride in one’s ability to take care of, especially if he’s Chief, to take care of the tribe. [By revealing the injury] he’s showing vulnerability. And he’s showing that he can be wounded by an Apache.
Q: Toshaway and Fat Wolf quickly fall into a power struggle, fighting over leadership of the group. Why doesn’t Toshaway respect that Fat Wolf is the chief?
A: I think for the simple fact that he is the father, and he wants that respect. He thinks he can do better than his son can do. And also that guilt from the past I think might turn into more of a defensive stance, because of that guilt.
Q: When Ingrid kills Scalped a Dog, Young Eli helps her cover it up to protect her. Back in Season 1, Eli quietly killed a soldier the group was torturing to put him out of his misery. What do these choices, that go against beliefs of the Comanche, say about Eli?
A: Obviously he comes from a different culture, and he was raised a different way than the Comanche culture and Comanche ethics. I don’t think he’s totally bought into the Comanche ways, especially when it comes to the treatment of a prisoner. I don’t think he’s able to separate himself from his ethics that he grew up with and follow the ones that Toshaway is teaching him and what the tribe has to do to survive and the ethics that they follow, the values, etc.
Q: Young Eli chooses to hide the fact that Ingrid murdered Scalped a Dog from Toshaway. Why do you think that is?
A: Obviously he’s scared to confide in Toshaway, and he doesn’t want to be cast out of the tribe. I think he’s fully committed at this point and doesn’t want to go back to his other culture. But his compassion for Ingrid and her struggles — he’s scared about what might happen to her if he does let Toshaway know. He just grew up differently, in a different culture and different ethics and different values than the Comanche have. And he’s holding onto those things, which is understandable.
Q: What are you excited most for people to see this season?
A: I think I’d like people to see just the relationship between Toshaway and Eli. What happens with that, what events happen with the relationship and what the results are.
Q: What’s your favorite memory from filming this show?
A: In general, I think just being around the cast and crew and just working with good people, the community that we established, the work environment. I’m still close to most everybody. I stay in touch with the cast. I was just with Elizabeth Frances [Prairie Flower] the other night. Just the friendships that came about because of the project.
Read an interview with Paola Nuñez, who plays Maria Garcia.
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