The Awakening Land was a 112 minute miniseries on NBC about a single woman named Sayward Luckett who left Pennsylvania with her three younger sisters who she was raising shortly after the end of the revolutionary war to become one of the first settlers in the wilderness of the Ohio Valley. Life is hard in the new territory and the story follows her struggle as she marries and has four children of her own to raise in addition to her sisters.
The Awakening Land Miniseries Cast
Elizabeth Montgomery .... Sayward Luckett Wheeler
Hal Holbrook .... Portius Wheeler - The Solitary
Jane Seymour .... Genny Luckett
Louise Latham .... Jary Luckett
Steven Keats .... Jake Tench
William H. Macy .... Will Beagle
Jeanette Nolan .... Granny McWhirter
Tony Mockus Jr. .... Worth Luckett
Derin Altay .... Achsa Luckett
Michelle Stacy .... Sulie Luckett
Barney McFadden .... Louie Scurrah
James D. O'Reilly .... Angus Witherspoon
Sean Frye .... Resolve Wheeler (As a Youth)
Martin Scanlan .... Resolve Wheeler (As an Adult)
Johnny Timko .... Kinzie Wheeler (As a Youth)
Paul Swanson .... Kinzie Wheeler (As an Adult)
Pia Romans .... Huldah Wheeler (As a Youth)
Devon Ericson .... Huldah Wheeler (As an Adult)
Charles Tyner .... Reverend Hutchins
Dorrie Kavanaugh .... Mistress Bartram
Bert Remsen .... Isaac Barker
Sandra Wheeler .... Cora Barker
Art Kassul .... George Roebuck
Louis Plante .... Zephron Brown
George Holcomb .... Danny Goldring
Dennis Dimster .... Chancey Wheeler
Charles Gowan .... Alan Hamilton
Theresa Landreth .... Little Sulie Wheeler
Tracy Kleronomos .... Dezia Wheeler
Byrne Piven .... Dr. Pearsall
Katy Kurtzman .... Rosa Tench
The Awakening Land Miniseries Trivia
While the Awakening Land was about pioneer life in the Ohio Valley, the miniseries was actually filmed in and around New Salem, Illinois. New Salem was nearly perfect as a location because it is an authenticly constructed village of the post revolutionary period. This greatly reduced production costs as set construction was greatly reduced. The only problem was that there was no river nearby and the first settlers in Ohio settled on the Ohio River. When the local government officials offered to fill in portions of a lake near the village so it would look like the Ohio River, the producers had found their filming location!
That was just the beginning of the cooperation producers got from the locals in Illinois. A gymnasium in Springfield was used to house props and costumes. The scenes indoors at the cabin were also filmed there. American Indians living in Chicago came to New Salem to play their ancestor's roles. The Plainsman Zoo in Elgin, Illinois provided wolves, cougars and other "wild" animals of the period.
President Abraham Lincoln grew up in New Salem. The cabin that Sayward and her family lived in was a reproduction of the cabin where Ann Rutledge lived. Ann was a woman that Lincoln dated. Another Lincoln connection is that Hal Holbrook who played Sayward's husband in The Awakening Land had also portrayed Abraham Lincoln in the "North and South Miniseries" and on a short-lived 1974 TV series titled simply, "Lincoln".
The struggles that faced the early pioneers were intensely and accurately portrayed throughout the three episodes of The Awakening Land including Sayward loss of a child in a fire.
Elizabeth Montgomery ("Bewitched") said that her role on The Awakening Land was physically exhausting. She said that even minutes driving an oxen and plow through the fields drained her. Just think of the poor pioneers who spent weeks behind that plow! Elizabeth also said that while the surrounding countryside was gorgeous, the bees, mosquitoes and other hardships of being out in nature were challenging. She even got a terrible dose of poison Ivy during the production!
Another fact of life for women pioneers struck Elizabeth as important. She said that while portraying Sayward she realized that the women in those days must have often had to forget about marrying for love. Women were dependent on men for their livelihood. Especially in the case of women raising children, there was just no way that was possible in the long term without a man. So therefore, many women of the day must have settled for a hard working man who they didn't necessarily love.
His role as Will Beagle on The Awakening Land was William H. Macy's first credited role! He went on to receive an Oscar nomination for "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" for the 1996 film "Fargo" plus a total of nine Emmy nominations as of 2010. He won two of those Emmys in 2002 for his work on a TV movie titled, "Door to Door". One of those Emmys was for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie" and the other for "Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special". By the way, Mr. Macy is married to Felicity Huffman who stars as Lynette Scavo on the hit series "Desperate Housewives".
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