Bill Paxton draws on family roots for Texas Rising

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Bill Paxton and Christopher McDonald in a scene from Texas Rising.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Bill Paxton and Christopher McDonald in a scene from Texas Rising. Contributed

AMERICA'S Wild West was called wild for good reason.

The new period drama Texas Rising depicts the most dangerous times in the state's history as white settlers, Native Americans and the Mexican Army battled for control of the region.

The 10-part event series, filmed in Mexico, is set during the Texas Revolution and portrays the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers, horse-riding lawmen employed by the "father of Texas" Stephen Austin.

Bill Paxton plays another Texas icon, General Sam Houston.

Executive producer and writer Leslie Greif originally planned to cast Paxton as legendary ranger Deaf Smith, eventually played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

But Paxton put himself forward for the role after learning he was distantly related to Houston. The two men share common grandparents six generations back, making them second cousins four times removed.

Bill Paxton stars as General Sam Houston in the TV series Texas Rising.
Bill Paxton stars as General Sam Houston in the TV series Texas Rising. Contributed

While he would go on to have America's fourth largest city, among other things, named after him, Houston was criticised during his time as a general for his perceived unwillingness to fight Santa Anna after the fall of the Alamo.

"There were a lot of scenes I felt could be stronger or more specific or clearer, so I fought for the integrity of the character the whole way through," Paxton told The Wrap.

"This man was a great student of human nature, but he also had an incredibly deep code of honour, integrity and ethics. That was the feeling I tried to get across."

Houston eventually led a ragtag group of volunteer soldiers and rangers against seemingly insurmountable odds to victory over the well-armed Mexican armadas of Santa Anna.

His victory at the Battle of Santa Jacinto in 1836 paved the way to the Texas Republic's independence from Mexico. Houston went on to become the Republic's President and eventually its governor when it was annexed by the US.

Texas Rising is Paxton's second leading role for America's History Channel.

His previous mini-series Hatfields & McCoys, also produced by Greif, was the channel's first scripted drama and its highest ever rating program.

The series also stars Olivier Martinez as Santa Anna, Crispin Glover, Christopher McDonald, Chad Michael Murray, Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta and Kris Kristofferson.

Texas Rising airs Wednesday at 7.30pm on Foxtel's FX channel.

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