Netflix’s highly anticipated The Harder They Fall puts a new twist on the old West. Written, directed, and scored by Jeymes Samuel, this movie highlights a moment in history and shows that cowboys came in different forms, contrary to popular belief.
The film tells the story of Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), an outlaw hell bent on avenging the death of his parents, who were murdered in cold blood by Rufus Buck (Idris Elba). After Buck was broken out of prison by his gang, The Harder They Fall follows the battle between the two groups led by Love and Buck, along with providing the audience an action-packed journey backed by an amazing soundtrack.
Also starring ESSENCE digital cover star Zazie Beetz, Edi Gathegi, RJ Cyler, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, Delroy Lindo, Daniel Deadwyler and Deon Cole, The Harder They Fall premieres on Netflix on November 3.
While the story told in the all-Black western is entirely fictional, many of its characters were actual figures. Below is a list of the characters as they are depicted in the film — and the actors who play them — along with a short biography of the true historical figure.
The real Nat Love was born into slavery in 1854. After the Civil War, his family was freed and began working on plantations in and around Davidson County, Tennessee. Nat’s father passed away when he was about 15 years old. During his time in Tennessee, Nat became skilled at cattle punching and raised enough money to go out on his own at the age of 16.
By many historical accounts, Nat was a skilled cowboy. He earned the name “Deadwood Dick” in 1976 after winning $200 in a competition in the Dakota Territory that required contestants to rope, throw, tie bridles, and saddle a horse.
In 1889, Love married his wife Alice and retired from cowboy life. After spending time in Denver as a Pullman porter, he and his family settled in southern California.In 1907, Love published his autobiography, Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as ‘Deadwood Dick,’ by Himself, which added to his legacy as a cowboy. Love died in California at the age of 67 in 1921.
Led by the 18-year-old Rufus Buck(center), the members of the gang included Maoma July, Lucky Davis, Sam Sampson, and Lewis Davis. In 1895, the gang robbed, raped, and murdered; eventually being captured in August of that year. On July 1, 1896, the gang was hanged.
Born Mary Fields in about 1832, “Black Mary,” as she was sometimes referred to, was a slave at birth. In her early years, she worked as groundskeeper at the Ursuline Convent of the Sacred Heart in Toledo, Ohio. She was known for her volatile temper and gun-toting, which eventually led to her being kicked out of the convent.
In 1895, she earned a contract from the postal service as a route carrier. Her job was to protect the mail from thieves and deliver the mail, regardless of weather conditions. She was the second woman—and first African American woman—to have that occupation. Mary retired in 1904 and died 11 years later at the age of 82.
Born to slave parents in 1838 in Arkansas, Bass Reeves was a member of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. After being freed in 1863, he married a woman named Nellie Jennie and started a large family. By several accounts, Reeves served as a guide for U.S. marshals going into the Indian Territory.
He was appointed a U.S. deputy marshal in 1875, and arrested over 3,000 criminals, killing 14 outlaws in the process. He died in 1910 from nephritis.