HBO’s Deadwood – Fact & Fiction

Seth Martha Sophia HBO

Seth, Martha & Sophia. Courtesy HBO’s Deadwood Series.


HBO Deadwood Series Cast:

HBO Character Actor Description/Diversion From History
Aunt Lou Cleo King George Hearst’s cook in the series. In actual life, Lucretia “Aunt Lou” Marchbanks worked at the Grand Central Hotel and other places before starting her own boarding house.
Silas Adams Titus Welliver One of Al Swearengen’s henchmen in the series, no record of him actually exists in Deadwood’s history.
Martha Bullock Anna Gunn Martha Bullock was married to Seth Bullock. In the series, she is the mother of William Bullock, who never actually existed, nor was she ever married to Seth’sbrother. The couple actually had three children.
Seth Bullock Timothy Olyphant Co-Owner of Star & Bullock Hardware, sheriff, rancher, and owner of the Bullock Hotel. No affair with Alma Garret, no stepson named William.
William Bullock Josh Eriksson In the series, William is the deceased stepson of Seth Bullock and the biological son of Martha Bullock and Seth’s brother Robert. William Bullock did not exist.
Johnny Burns Sean Bridgers Gem Saloon worker/henchman. A “real-life” character, history shows him to actually have been a worse man than he appears to be on the series.
Calamity Jane Robin Weigert Frontier woman who often followed Wild Bill Hickok. Calamity Jane was, in real life, just as drunken and foul-mouthed as she is in the series.
Doc Cochran Brad Dourif The physician of the camp. A Dr. Cochran did not exist in Deadwood. Perhaps patterned after Dr. Lyman F. Babcock or Dr. F.S. Howe.
Andy Cramed Zach Grenier The gambler who brought Small Pox to Deadwood turns minister. No history for anyone by this name in the “real” Deadwood.
Dan Dority W. Earl Brown Henchman to Al Swearengen at the Gem. Though his last name was spelled differently, he did work with Al.
Wyatt Earp Gale Harold The legendary lawman from Dodge CityKansas, is actually noted to have been in Deadwood in 1876.
Ellsworth Jim Beaver Prospector, manager of Homestake Mine, marries Alma Garret. Non-existent in real life.
E.B. Farnum William Sanderson Innkeeper of the Grand Central Hotel and Deadwood Mayor in the series. In real life, did not own a hotel but owned a retail business. He was elected as the major. He was married with children.
Samuel Fields Franklyn Ajaye General of African American troop and works in the livery stable. Real-life Fields was seemingly just a flamboyant as the one of the series. Obviously, not a “real” general in the Civil War.
Alma Garret Molly Parker Widow of claim seeker, now married to prospector Ellsworth. Though typical of many naive people in the early camp, Alma Garret did not exist in the “real” Deadwood.
George Hearst Gerald McRaney Successful California businessman and mining industrialist. Actual person who purchased Homestake Mine. Not known to have been ruthless as in the series.
Wild Bill Hickok Keith Carradine The Old West gunslinger was murdered by Jack Mcall at Nutall’s #10 saloon.
Hostetler Richard Gant Runs the camp’s livery stable in the series. No known person like this appears in Deadwood’s history.
Hugo Jarry Stephen Tobolowsky Commissioner for Lawrence County, Dakota Territory.
The Huckster Gill Gayle Con man, known for his prize soap sell swindle. Based on the real-life “Soapy Smith.” Though Smith was a widely known conman who often worked the mining camps of the west, there is no record that he was in Deadwood.
Miss Isringhausen Sarah Paulson Tutor to Sofia Metz, secretly a Pinkerton. Though there were probably Pinkerton Agents in Deadwood, no one by this name is known.
Jewel Geri Jewell Handicapped cleaning woman at the Gem. No record of anyone in like this in Deadwood’s history.
Jack Langrishe Brian Cox Stage promoter and theatrical troupe manager. Did exist in real life, but rather than being gay, he was married.
Leon Larry Cedar Worker for Cy Tolliver at The Bella Union. No known man by this name in Deadwood’s history.
Maddie Alice Krige The deceased madam of the Chez Amis did not exist in real life.
Jack McCall Garrett Dillahunt Unemployed, classless camp member, murdered Wild Bill Hickok in Nutall’s #10Saloon.
A. W. Merrick Jeffrey Jones Editor of the Deadwood Pioneer newspaper. Actual historic figure. Married with children in real life.
Sofia Metz Bree Seanna Wall Adopted daughter of Alma Garret and sole survivor of the Metz Family Massacre. She did not exist in real life; the only survivor of the massacre was an adult man.
Tom Nuttall Leon Rippy Owner of Nutall’s #10 Saloon. True in history. Would later run the Bella Union.
Pete Richardson Ralph Richeson The cook at the Grand Central Hotel is a fictional character.
Reverend Smith Ray McKinnon Deceased minister of Deadwood. Actually existed but did not die in the same manner.
Con Stapleton Peter Jason Worker for Cy Tolliver at The Bella Union. Was actually Deadwood’s first marshal.
Soloman Star John Hawkes Co-owner of Star & Bullock Hardware. Would later become Deadwood postmaster and mayor. Was not part of any Deadwood bank.
Joanie Stubbs Kim Dickens Former hostess of the Bella Union started her own brothel called the Chez Amis until selling it to Jack Lagerishe. Did not exist in Deadwood’s history. May be loosely based on a madam named Mollie Johnson.
Al Swearengen Ian McShane Owner of the Gem Saloon. Was actually as bad in life as on the show. Was also married.
Cy Tolliver Powers Boothe Owner of the rival saloon, The Bella Union. No actual existence of anyone by the name of Cy Tolliver in Deadwood’s history. Bella Union was owned by a man named Tom Miller.
Trixie Paula Malcomson Former prostitute at the Gem Saloon.
Charlie Utter Dayton Callie Owner of a freight business and sometimes travel companion of Wild Bill Hickok. Was married when he was in Deadwood.
Francis Wolcott Garrett Dillahunt A sociopathic geologist who worked for George Hearst and committed suicide by hanging. There was no Francis Wolcott in Deadwood’s history; however, Hearst did send investigators to Deadwood prior to his arrival.
Mr. Wu Keone Young Though Wu is representative of Tong leaders in the camp, there is no record for anyone by that name in actual Deadwood history. In the series, he is the leader of the Chinese camp.


Other “Real” Black Hills Characters Worthy of Mention

Sarah Campbell The first African-American woman in the Black Hills.
Captain Jack Crawford The Poet-Scout
Madame Dora DuFran A Brothel Madam and Humanitarian who was so popular in Deadwood, that she wound up having “branch” houses in Sturgis, Rapid City, and Belle Fourche.
Fred Evans A Real Paul Bunyan
Alice Goassage An Inspiring Lady
Poker Alice Ivers A Poker Playing “Lady”
Lame Johnny Talented Horse Thief
Kitty LeRoy A beautiful murder victim.
Nat Love, aka: “Deadwood Dick” – The Greatest Black Cowboy in the Old West Though there were a host of men who called themselves “Deadwood Dick,” Nat Love, who really was a great cowboy, was said to have earned the title in a cowboy contest in Deadwood
Dr. Valentine T. McGillycuddy Unsung Hero of the Black Hills
Doc Perce Popular Humorist
John Perrett, aka: Potato Creek Johnny One of Deadwood’s most colorful characters, John Perrett, more often referred to as “Potato Creek Johnny,” is credited with finding one of the world’s largest gold nuggets. Though many say the nugget was actually several nuggets melted together, the tale persists, along with stories of Perrett’s other eccentricities.
Jebediah Smith The first white man in the Black Hills.
Annie Tallent The first white woman in the Black Hills.

Courtesy of HBO

No Law Can Make It Respectable!

Deadwood’s third season was its last!

On May 13, 2006, HBO confirmed that it would not pick up the options of the actors, which expired on June 11, 2006.

Though a major campaign was launched by viewers as soon as the first news of non-renewal hit the airwaves, HBO said it made its final decision.

While the ending of Deadwood was a sad state of affairs for this household, and I can’t imagine Seth Bullock being anyone other than Timothy Olyphant, Al Swearengen played by someone other than Ian McShane, and so on, the series had already lasted almost as long as the “real” Deadwood gold rush.

So, we enjoyed while we could, and hoped that HBO or someone else came up with something just as good.

After all, there are all kinds of tales yet to be told about the Old West.

Shoot, the best idea would be to have a sequel – which would be mighty easy if they [HBO] (or someone else) would move on to the LeadvilleColorado mining rush. Back in those days, people, and especially miners, were extremely transient, and it was no exception in Deadwood. When the Leadville strike was made, hundreds of miners quickly fled Deadwood for new potential in Leadville. And, Leadville had all the flair, flamboyance, and violence as did Deadwood. Complete with the rags to riches fortune of the TaborsDoc Holliday as a resident, an ex-Tombstone character or two trying to shake up new gunfights, many of those same Deadwood characters were there as well, including Charlie UtterCon StapletonBilly Nuttall, and Jack Langrishe. Here’s a catchy title – Deadville to Leadville!

Then, there’s always other gold rushes, such as the Comstock Lode in Nevada, the California 49ers, or the Klondike gold rush in Alaska.

Or, yet another tale situated in Tombstone or Dodge City, or the many stories of misery, death, destruction, and cuss words found along the trails of America’s westward expansion.

HBO has already proven that there is most definitely a profitable audience for the many tales of the Old West.

UPDATE:!! In January 2016, HBO confirmed that series creator David Milch was working on a Deadwood movie to wrap up the loose ends. It premiered on May 31, 2019.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, originally published 2005,  last updated January 2023.

Also See:

Black Hills Historic Characters & Tales

Deadwood Photo Gallery

Deadwood – Rough & Tumble Mining Camp

Deadwood Timeline