Some Native American extras from TNT's hit 12-hour miniseries — airing Fridays at 8 pm/ET — recently alleged in a television trade publication that they were underpaid and overworked in frigid weather during the show's arduous four-month shoot in New Mexico last year.Executives at TNT and DreamWorks refused to elaborate on the allegations, saying the Steven Spielberg production — which included 15,000 extras (many of whom were Native American) and a half-mile wagon train — "treated everyone with care." And that "we take these specific complaints seriously and will look into them immediately." Irene Bedard, who plays Margaret Light Shines Wheeler, the daughter of a Lakota and a settler, confirms that weather on location was awful. "Snow and mud and wind... we were all cold," she says, adding that the low temperatures were harder on the Native American actors, who were wearing skimpier costumes, than on the white actors in settler garb. But Bedard says there was one perk to the awful weather: It intensified the authenticity of the performances because "the situation was like the situation faced by the people at the time." Now for the good news. Despite the controversy, the first two episodes of Into the West drew more than 11 million viewers. The series has also been heralded for its stellar cast of Native American actors — one of the largest ever assembled. "You can go all over Indian country and meet somebody whose family has been part of [West]," says Bedard. "It's kind of like a family reunion."
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