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Mantecan part of HBO ‘Deadwood’ film cast
Jim Anderson plays George Hearst in the HBO film “Deadwood”. - photo by Photo Contributed

It was a hot day in Tacoma when I struck out across the field at Pacific Lutheran University to talk to a football coach I was working with that summer. 

The night before I had gone out with a group of guys and stayed out much later than I should have, and that only made the sun of the Pacific Northwest burn brighter and hotter as I squinted and came into his view. 

“Congratulations,” he yelled in his trademark booming voice as people stopped to look. “Congratulations on being a big f****** deal!”

I laughed even though I didn’t know what he was talking about – talking to the young lady at the bar night before is what I think he was referencing – and he laughed as he draped his big, sturdy, offensive lineman arm around my shoulder. 

It wouldn’t be until years later that I realized he was quoting Jane Canary – Calamity Jane – from HBO’s “Deadwood.” And while the show has since become one of my absolute favorites and something that I consider a masterpiece, I had no idea how much I would truly appreciate it until this past weekend. 

And, interestingly enough, the connection to this recent revelation has to do with football. 

I’m not sure when I actually met Jim Anderson, but I believe it had to do with his work as an Elvis tribute artist and a festival that he was going to be performing at. With the cool, laid-back, rockabilly style I would expect from somebody paying homage to The King, we chatted on the phone for what seemed like an eternity as I took extensive notes and turned the conversation into a promo for his next show. 

We’ve been talking ever since – whether it would be ahead of another show, or on the sidelines at a Sierra High School football game when he was the freshman head coach.

While Jim is friendly, funny, and disarming, he’s also a hulking figure – quite imposing and maybe even a little bit intimidating if you don’t take the opportunity to get to know him. 

So, when he told me that he was going to follow his lifelong dream of becoming an actor, I didn’t quite know what to make of that. If breaking into Hollywood is next to impossible for a young, fresh-faced kid with drama experience, what would be it like for somebody twice that age that has never before been a thespian? Would he be able to make it?

Well, as anybody who watched the long-awaited Deadwood movie on HBO that premiered this past Friday can attest, he more than made it. 

In a featured role supporting the main antagonist, George Hearst (played by Gerald McRaney), Anderson appeared in more than two-thirds of the film – including a scene where the story’s hero, Seth Bullock (played by Modesto native Timothy Olyphant), draws his gun on him. 

Here I am, watching a movie that I have been waiting to see for more than a decade, and there’s a scene where I somebody I know is all alone in a frame for several seconds while one of my favorite characters of all-time points his gun at him. It was surreal to say the least, so I can’t begin to understand how Anderson must have felt seeing that in the final cut. 

When he told me that he was going to be down in Southern California shooting the Deadwood movie I was more than excited for him but didn’t realize how big of a role he would play in the finished product once it aired on HBO. The fact that he appears throughout the movie – from the scene on the rooftop outside of the hotel where the gun is pointed at him, to walking into a saloon – made me giddy with excitement, and I paused it no less than a dozen times to take pictures and send them to people whenever his face came into the scene. 

“This guy is from Manteca!” I would say enthusiastically. “I know him.”

And while I would have likely had this reaction to any film that I saw him in, the fact it was Deadwood was something truly special.

Now heralded as one of the best television series’ ever written, the show was abruptly canceled without any real, meaningful resolution to the story that fans had spent three seasons involved with. The characters we had to come to love were just left in limbo, with no real closure and no real understanding of where things would go. 

It was, in a sense, unfinished. 

It goes without saying that I would have watched the Deadwood movie on the night that it premiered regardless of who was in it because I love the story that much – for all of its foul-mouthed dialogue, there is something deeply poetic about the show. But knowing that Jim Anderson not only got to be a part of the experience of filming it but be a part of the film itself made me proud to say that I know him. 

So far, this film has become a darling of the critics, and I have no doubt in my mind that it will be up for an Emmy award next year when awards season rolls back around. How awesome would it be for Jim Anderson to be part of an Emmy-winning production just several years after telling people he was going to follow his dreams and make his way in Hollywood?

Rumor has it that things in the acting front are going very well for the hulking former law enforcement officer, and he’ll appearing in one of my favorite Netflix shows when it returns at some point this summer. 

But for the time being he’s riding high being a part of one of the most anticipated films on HBO in years. And I couldn’t be happier for him. 

Congratulations, Jim. If anybody deserves the success, it is you. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.