By Dustin Tahmahkera
On a recent visit to Southwestern University, Joss took some time to discuss his work with Graywolf, King of the Hill, and Parks and Recreation with ICTMN.
One could hear the Red Corn Band's albums The Red Corn Sessions and Still No Good as a soundtrack for the John Redcorn character and an extension of the series King of the Hill. What would you say is the role that music played in catapulting Redcorn toward becoming a fuller character and having his own band on the show?
It was all about changing the approach that King of the Hill had with John Redcorn. They liked the idea of him being a running joke, a good laugh of climbing in and out of the window. After a while of doing that, I felt they were wasting a good character that could have an arc and tell a story other than being a one-punch joke. I pitched ideas to the writers, such as Redcorn becoming a wrestler with a mask who finds a new fan in his son Joseph and becomes closer to him. It was all about coming from a good place and trying to make Redcorn a better character. When I approached Fox in a more mature and creative manner instead of complaining and refusing to do certain things, that got their ear. It wasn't until I discovered the music aspect of it and gave John Redcorn a voice through his music that the writers then had a picture to work with. They listened to the CD Golden Driplets that I did with musician Kris Kiser, and I got the call one day that they liked the aspect of Redcorn as a musician. Not everyone wants to hear the Indian talk about his land being stolen; but a lot of us will want to listen to music when we sing about it, which speaks to the power of music. I was able to communicate through John Redcorn to Fox, and they allowed him to have his band and to have an arc in a different place.
On the show, the music opens doors to other entrepreneurial avenues for Redcorn, eventually becoming a talent agent and his own boss—it was quite a journey for Redcorn, wasn't it?
He has his own business. Native characters and guest characters in general aren't allowed to arc like that. People have hit me over the head, saying I was that character sleeping with the white lady and having a kid I don't care about; but I tell him you didn't see King of the Hill after the first few seasons. Redcorn changed.
Below: Jonathan Joss as Ken Hotate.