“Common Ground,” the newest episode of Outlander, has some fans up in arms. In the episode, Jamie (Sam Heughan) is thanked by a Cherokee named Tawodi for seeking justice against a man who “laid with his woman against her wishes.” Will Strongheart, the actor playing Tawodi, ironically had several assault charges, himself.
In 2010, Strongheart was faced with charged of domestic violence when he reportedly assaulted Melanie Rope, his girlfriend at the time. “He was threatening to kill me as he was beating me,” Rope stated. Upon the release of Indian Horse, a film released earlier this year that starred Strongheart as a supporting actor, Rope informed viewers on social media about Strongheart’s dark past, warning them “to think twice before before they go and see it.” She did not, however, want to ruin the message, adding that “It’s not about trying to take away from this movie, but maybe just giving people the option.” Nevertheless, the image of her swollen face cannot be ignored, along with the fact that she wasn’t the last to be abused by Strongheart. Her post went viral until Facebook took it down within 24 hours.
In response to these allegations and publicity, Strongheart made a statement in an email to CBC:
“I would like to address the story and photos that have resurfaced, and most importantly, offer my sincere apologies to those affected by my actions — especially to the women and their families who I have hurt resulting in pain and suffering that they did not deserve. To those I have wronged, and caused undue grief and anguish, I wish to extend the hope of reconciliation and healing with you.”
Regarding the choice in casting, fans questioned Diana Gabaldon, author of Outlander, especially in light of the #MeToo movement. Gabaldon, who also acts as consultant of the series, told fans on Facebook that, “I have absolutely nothing to do with the casting. “Sometimes, they’ll tell me ahead of time who’s going to play a particular part, if it’s an important character and they want me to announce it here when whichever media outlet they/ve chosen break it, but not otherwise.”
In response to the multitude of enraged fans, Diana later added: “Naturally I don’t think it’s good that this happened. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask the production people to investigate the backgrounds of every actor they hire for a minor part.”
Strongheart was in custody 18 months and stated earlier this year that “I wish to inform you that this matter has been dealt with as of 2010.” Additionally, given that he appears only in two episodes, it would have been unusual for casting to have checked his background. However, it might be safe to say that Strongheart won’t be making any appearances in either films or tv series in the near future.