Your understanding of the history of Thanksgiving may be about to change. "Saints & Strangers," a two-night miniseries that premieres Nov. 22 on National Geographic Channel, is a visually stunning, action packed account of the first Thanksgiving in 1620. The series delivers a rare, in-depth chronicle of events leading up to the historic meal, as well as insight on the dynamics at play between Pilgrims and Native Americans, from each of their perspectives.
In an exclusive interview, The Christian Post spoke to actors Vincent Kartheiser, Kalani Queypo, Tatanka Means and writer Seth Fisher about the real-life events that are recounted in "Saints & Strangers."
Vincent Kartheiser, who plays William Bradford — the Christian English leader who settles in Plymouth in search of religious freedom — spoke of the integrity brought to the project by National Geographic and producers of the miniseries.
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"The best stories are the real stories and this is as real as it gets for history in America," Katheiser said, asserting that Nat Geo was very "passionate about getting the story right."
Although Englishmen had been reaching American shores for 200 years before Bradford and his separatist friends and strangers arrived, Kartheiser said what makes this specific colony different is that they do not come looking for war, but freedom.
"Why would you ever help a group that was coming onto your land? There was already a very long history of the white man coming to the shores bringing death to their shore," Kartheiser explained. "Why would the Native Americans help them make it through this historically hard winter? The film explores that. It explores what was the motivation behind that."
"Saints" writer Seth Fisher told CP that he made the two-part film to reflect what actually happened when Bradford and his crew established their new colony among the natives. Fisher maintained that the religious convictions of the Pilgrims, specifically the separatists, were arguably the most important thing they brought with them, and resulted in miracle after miracle.
"William Bradford and the separatists just brought their faith and that got them through one of the hardest journeys, and for Bradford that got him through the death of his wife upon arrival, being away from his son over an ocean, and ultimately — despite how some of these events unfold in violence — it brought him together with Squanto, which is arguably one of the most beautiful relationships between two different cultures I've ever encountered historically," he said. "It didn't come out of Bradford proselytizing or even looking to spread the word of God. It was just the way that he lived his life, and that had a profound impact on their new neighbors."
"Saints" explores the unique relationship between Bradford and Squanto, a native who encourages the leader of the Pokanoket tribe to become allies with the English. A bond is forged between the two men.
"Bradford could have been the most intolerant person, his only friend arguably was a Native American, and for me that friendship is the rock of this story. It really is the heart of it," Fisher noted.
"Historically, we know from Bradford's journal that when Squanto eventually passed away [and was] on his death bed, he had Bradford pray with him to — as he put it — the English God," Fisher continued. "Squanto probably wasn't even thinking about it in any sort of religious sense as much as it was an impact that Bradford had on him and how Bradford used his faith to persevere."
Nat Geo did not shy away from highlighting the Pilgrims' faith with scenes that showed the separatists meeting outside for church, talking about not working on the Sabbath, and praying.