In November 1620, after 66 days at sea, the Mayflower arrived in New England’s Provincetown Harbor with 102 men, women and children aboard. The brutal journey across the ocean on a vessel never intended to carry passengers had left many sick, hungry and dying. And though the sight of land brought great relief to the travelers, little did they know their journey had only just begun.
Nat Geo Mundo’s two-night movie event Pioneros del Mayflower (Saints & Strangers), premiering Nov. 22-23 at 9/8c, goes deep inside the familiar historical account of Thanksgiving, revealing the trials and tribulations of the first settlers at Plymouth and their complex relationship with the Native Americans.
Of those who made the journey on the Mayflower, there were those we know as “saints,” religious separatists who abandoned their prior lives for a single cause — religious freedom. The others, the “strangers,” were motivated by real-world material objectives and adventure as opposed to spiritual ideas. This clash of values between these groups created complex inner struggles as they sought to establish new individual identities and a new colony in America, compounded by a complicated relationship with, and between, the local Native American tribes. It’s a story of survival, perseverance, dedication and commitment — themes that reverberate throughout American society today.
The cast tasked with telling this story for the ages includes Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”) as “saints” leader William Bradford, the colony’s moral compass; Anna Camp (“Pitch Perfect”) as his wife Dorothy Bradford, still haunted by their decision to leave their three-year-old son behind for the journey to the New World; Ron Livingston (“Band of Brothers”) as John Carver, the initial leader of the Pilgrims and the first governor of the Plymouth Colony; Barry Sloane as Edward Winslow, who would serve as a diplomat to the nearby Pokanoket tribe and their leader, Massasoit; and Michael Jibson as Myles Standish, the colony’s military advisor.
The “strangers” are led by Ray Stevenson (“Black Sails”) as Stephen Hopkins, who, despite his checkered past, is the only Mayflower passenger who had previously been to the New World; Natascha McElhone (“Californication”) as his wife, Elizabeth Hopkins, who gives birth to their second child aboard the Mayflower and is one of only four women to survive to the first Thanksgiving; and Brían F. O’Byrne (“Aquarius”) as John Billington, an antagonistic patriarch of a family known for troublemaking.
The Pilgrims were far from the first settlers in the area, and conflicts and shifting alliances between the region’s Native American tribes — both with the settlers and among each other — played a vital role in the survival of the colony. Raoul Trujillo (“Apocalypto”) plays Massasoit, the sachem — or leader — of the Pokanoket tribe, whose population has been decimated by disease, leaving him uncertain of how to deal with the arrival of the new settlers. Joining him are Tatanka Means (“Banshee”) as Hobbamock, one of Massasoit’s men and a “pniese” — an elite warrior thought to be unkillable in battle — and Kalani Queypo (“The New World”) as Squanto, a former captive and slave of English explorers, who has crossed the Atlantic four times and acts as a translator and negotiator between Massasoit and the governors of the Plymouth Colony. Also playing key roles are Bianca Mannie and Nahum Hughes as Kaya and Wematin, the wife and son of Hobbamock; Michael Greyeyes (“Klondike”) as Canonicus of the Narragansett; Del Zamora (“Longmire”) as Aspinet of the Nauset; and Tamer Burjaq (“Homeland”) as Wituwamat of the Massachusett.
The movie also features main title theme music scored by Oscar-, Golden Globe-, and Grammy award-winning composer Hans Zimmer. Bleeding Fingers Music — a partnership between Zimmer and Extreme Music — will score the film.
Unfolding over two nights, Pioneros del Mayflower begins at sea, with passengers sick and weary from a seemingly endless voyage. The first night explores hardships faced by the passengers aboard the Mayflower and as they begin to build their settlement at Plymouth. With half of their population dead after the first winter, the settlers are concerned about their vulnerability to attacks by the area Native American tribes, who themselves are divided on how to deal with the English. One leader, Massasoit of the Pokanoket tribe, chooses diplomacy first, putting him at odds with some of his peers. With the aid of an English-speaking emissary, the Pokanoket make peace with the Pilgrims, putting them in a position of great power among the other tribes. “I do not long for home. I am home,” says William Bradford in the movie, perfectly reflecting the will of these first settlers to survive despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
On the second night, alliances are put to the test when a betrayal by the settlers leads to a broken agreement with the Pokanoket. Finding themselves again exposed, a new threat emerges for the Pilgrims as rumors spread that the natives are planning to attack the English. But after the Pilgrims help nurse an ailing Massasoit back to health, he warns them of the danger. The Pilgrims preemptively strike first and are victorious, and the Plymouth Colony’s renewed alliance with the Pokanoket would go on to last for more than 50 years.
A true story of survival, sacrifice, alliances and betrayals, Pioneros del Mayflower shines a light on the desperate and often reckless decisions that went into the founding of one of the first American settlements and the reverberations of those decisions, which would last for centuries to come.
Pioneros del Mayflower is produced for National Geographic Channels US by Sony Pictures Television. For Little Engine Productions, Grant Scharbo and Gina Matthews are executive producers. Teri Weinberg is also executive producer, Eric Overmyer is executive producer/writer and Seth Fisher is executive producer/writer. The original script was written by Chip Johannessen, with revisions by Walon Green. Paul Edwards is the director and Hans Zimmer is the executive music producer. For Sony Pictures Television, executive vice president of movies and limited series is Helen Verno. For National Geographic Channels, president of original programming and production is Tim Pastore and vice president of production is Matt Renner.
Join Nat Geo Mundo for this holiday special November 22nd and 23rd, 2015 at 9/8c as Pioneros del Mayflower tells the story of our nation’s very first Thanksgiving.
For more information on the movie, visit www.natgeotv.com/SaintsAndStrangers orwww.natgeomundo.com and follow us on Facebook (Nat Geo Mundo), Twitter (@natgeomundo) and Instagram (@natgeomundo) using # Pioneros del Mayflower or #SaintsAndStrangers.