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Why Longmire's Officer Mathias Looks So Familiar

Neo-Western cop drama "Longmire" ostensibly focuses on old-school Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) and his deputies, but some of the most interesting personalities in the show come from outside the Absaroka County Sheriff's Department. One particularly memorable recurring character is Mathias, Longmire's counterpart in the Cheyenne Tribal Police — a branch of law enforcement that's better equipped for crime-fighting than the Sheriff's Department, but often finds its hands tied by their limited jurisdiction. Mathias and Walt are very different people and clash personally and professionally in a number of ways. Despite this, Mathias is no villain. He's just a complex character with often legitimate reasons to get in Walt's way, and the two don't hesitate to team up when the situation absolutely calls for it. 

A large part of Mathias' charm is the self-assured rock star swagger actor Zahn McClarnon brings to the role, and it's no wonder that the actor has found plenty of success in his career. McClarnon got his start playing guest and recurring roles in various TV shows, but over the years, his notoriety has risen to the point that his CV is absolutely packed with memorable characters. Let's take a look at some of the greatest ones. 

Zahn McClarnon had enough of the Gerhardts as Fargo's Hanzee Dent

In 2015, Zahn McClarnon was still busy playing Officer Mathias when he appeared as a radically different character in the second season of FX's black comedy crime series "Fargo." Hanzee Dent starts out as the mild-mannered, soft-spoken enforcer for the Gerhardt gang, but his humble exterior hides a truly brutal man. As one of the biggest shocks of the season, Hanzee becomes the show's ultimate antagonist when he finally has enough of the Gerhardts' disrespect and embarks on a Terminator-style rampage that presents him as truly unstoppable.

Despite his violent and remorseless nature, Hanzee is a complex character who yearns for respect, yet is constantly pushed down by the Gerhardts and the racist society of the late 1970s. When you look at his CV, it's pretty clear that his stellar job playing this character and his work in "Longmire" truly put McClarnon on the map. However, the actor himself told The New York Times that he initially thought he wouldn't get the role, as he felt his audition went badly. Luckily, series creator Noah Hawley thought otherwise.

"After I finished, Noah [Hawley] just stared at me for a minute," McClarnon said. "I said, 'Do you want me to make adjustments or anything?' And he kind of looked at me and said: 'Nah. If it's not broke, don't fix it.' Then two weeks later, he hired me."

He was Rose the Hat's second-in-command in Doctor Sleep

It's no wonder that Mike Flanagan's career has skyrocketed since his 2019 movie "Doctor Sleep." The supernatural horror film serves as a sequel to both "The Shining" the novel and "The Shining" the film, deftly navigating the significant differences between Stephen King's book and Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation.

The movie centers on a grown-up, tormented Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), who befriends Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl with powerful Shining abilities. Together, they have to face old evil – as well as a newer, equally dangerous one in the shape of a psychic vampire group called True Knot, led by the powerful Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson).

Apart from Rose, the most influential member of this villain faction is her partner and chief lieutenant, Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon). As Vulture noted, the character's rugged nature and ominous demeanor have become quite popular online, which McClarnon – who personally avoids social media – was surprised and delighted to find out. Less surprising, of course, was the fact that he had a great time working with the talented Ferguson. "She made me feel very, very comfortable," McClarnon discussed his "Doctor Sleep" co-star. "It's intimidating working with somebody so good like that, and you want to be as good, and you slip into the anxiety of that. She calmed me down quite a bit and helped me to listen and be in the moment."

He led the Ghost Nation as Westworld's Akecheta

In 2018, McClarnon joined the cast of HBO's prestige sci-fi drama "Westworld" as Akecheta, a seasoned early-model host android who was designated as a major enemy for park guests, and cuts an appropriately threatening figure. However, Akecheta became self-aware early on, and abandoned his designed role in the park. He's one of the very first hosts ever built and has spent years secretly figuring out the dilemma of self-awareness — as well as helping other hosts walk the same path. Akecheta's maze symbols and seemingly ominous, mysterious nature make him seem like a truly threatening figure, but as the show reveals more about him, it becomes clear that despite his fearsome Ghost Nation role, he's one of the less violent and vengeful host main characters.

Due to his intimidating body paint, McClarnon is one of the few major "Westworld" actors who required significant time in the make-up chair on a regular basis, which he told The Hollywood Reporter was a bigger challenge than the acting. "It's probably the most difficult part of the job, getting that done every morning," the actor described the two-and-a-half-hour process. "I was very happy on the mornings I didn't have to wear the paint. Getting the stuff off was extremely hard. I would wake up in the morning and still have paint in my ears. It was pretty tedious. But I kept thinking about what someone on 'The Hobbit' or 'Star Trek' or something like that goes through, with four to six hours of prosthetics. I had it pretty easy; all they had to do was slap it on."

The work was definitely worth it, seeing as Akecheta is the focal point of the best episode of "Westworld" Season 2, "Kiksuya."

He joined the MCU as Echo's father in Hawkeye

2021 saw Zahn McClarnon follow the path of many other fine actors by joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His role in "Hawkeye" is a relatively small one, but it may very well have huge ramifications for the Disney+ leg of the MCU.

McClarnon's William Lopez is a powerful member of the Tracksuit Mafia criminal gang and a considerably more measured man than the majority of the group's members. He's also the father of Maya "Echo" Lopez (Alaqua Cox), who becomes consumed by vengeance against Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) after the Avenger kills William during one of his Blip-era Ronin vigilante missions.

Though McClarnon only appears in one episode of the show before William quite conclusively passes away, the MCU will still have big things in store for him. Marvel's "Echo" Disney+ series will explore Maya's background, and McClarnon will return as a part of the show's cast — presumably, as a flashback character.

McClarnon showed his gentle side in Reservation Dogs

Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi's FX comedy-drama "Reservation Dogs" focuses on its Indigenous teenage stars, but there are several prominent adult characters, as well. One of the most memorable is, without doubt, Zahn McClarnon's Officer Big, who's a tribal cop like "Longmire's" Mathias, but allows the actor to use his talents in a dramatically different way. Big is a good and kind man who's trying his best and carries plenty of guilt for his failures. However, he's also prone to believing conspiracy theories and is so very inept at his job that when "Reservation Dogs" decides to give him a buddy cop episode with Kenny Boy (Kirk Fox) in Season 2, it begins when Big accidentally ingests a massive dose of psychedelics. 

Of course, this being "Res Dogs," things go way deeper than such a wacky premise might initially suggest. McClarnon welcomed the challenge with open arms. "You get the script, man, and you just show up and you have fun and you take risks and you go for it, you know," the actor told Deadline. "And what a great guy to have next to me, Kirk Fox, improv specialist, with that you just go for it, you know? We were straddling this line of going over the top and not going over the top."