Jeymes Samuel’s The Harder They Fall tackles Old West outlaws seeking revenge for past crimes, supported by an all-star predominantly Black cast bringing the real-life characters to the screen. The true story of Netflix’s The Harder They Fall follows the Nat Love gang as they seek out revenge on the man that murdered Nat’s parents as a child. The movie documents the crimes and rivalries of notable gangs in 19th-century Texas, with Nat Love serving as the protagonist outlaw who only robs from other outlaws. What makes The Harder They Fall so incredible is that it isn’t revisionist history, it’s based on real people in the American Old West with fictionalized events that are still inspired by their real stories.
Another important aspect of The Harder They Fall is the incredible star power that brings these historical figures to life. The actors recruited for the film include some of the most iconic Black creatives and movie stars of today, including a record-setting female director as one of the main outlaws. Among the cast playing The Harder They Fall’s core real-life figures are four Emmy-nominated actors, one Oscar winner, and one Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee. Here’s a breakdown of The Harder They Fall’s cast and their corresponding characters.
Jonathan Majors As Nat Love
Heading up the cast of The Harder They Fall as protagonist outlaw Nat Love is actor Jonathan Majors. While his primary concern in being an outlaw is to take from other outlaws, Nat Love is motivated by getting his final revenge on the man that murdered his parents when he was a child. The real Nat Love was born into slavery and became one of the most famous cowboys of the later 19th century. He claimed to have won a rodeo in the infamous city of Deadwood, leading to the nickname “Deadwood Dick” and to have been captured and later adopted by a group of the Pima Indigenous people.
Nat’s actor Jonathan Majors first broke out as Atticus Freeman in HBO’s Lovecraft Country, a performance that earned him an Emmy nomination, and has gone on to star in major blockbusters as Dame Anderson in Creed III and Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp in Quantumania. Majors also notably starred as Mont Allen in The Last Black Man in San Francisco. However, Majors’ future as an actor is in question following recent domestic violence charges.
Idris Elba As Rufus Buck
The film’s core antagonist, outlaw Rufus Buck, is played by famed actor Idris Elba. Rufus Buck is one of the most notorious outlaws in the Old West, serving as the leader of his own brutal gang. The Rufus Buck gang and their leader were real historical figures. The gang was made up of both Black and Indigenous men, and were responsible for several robberies and rapes before being hung in 1896.
One of the most prolific stars of his day, English actor Idris Elba is known for his movie and television credits as well as being voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2018. Elba notably starred as Stringer Bell in HBO’s The Wire, John Luther in Luther, and Nelson Mandela in 2013’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. He has also appeared in the MCU as the Asgardian Heimdall, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad as Bloodsport, and The Office as Charles Miner. Since appearing in The Harder They Fall Elba has starred in Beast and 3000 Years of Longing and voiced Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Regina King As Trudy Smith
Now focusing on her directorial pursuits, Regina King appears in the cast of The Harder They Fall as villainous outlaw “Treacherous” Trudy Smith. Trudy became the de-facto leader of the Rufus Buck gang during his imprisonment, taking over the responsibility for their interests in Redwood and robberies. Trudy Smith is one of the more obscure real-life outlaws that inspired The Harder They Fall with little historical information available, but it is known that she was a pickpocket from the Barbary Coast (via Popsugar).
King is a highly accomplished professional, having won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk, four Emmys for her roles in American Crime, Seven Seconds, and Watchmen, and various awards for directing the 2020 historical drama One Night in Miami. King is also known for her various roles in The Boondocks, The Big Bang Theory, Southland, Ray, and Jerry Maguire.
Zazie Beetz As Stagecoach Mary
The no-nonsense outlaw and bar owner Stagecoach Mary is played by Zazie Beetz. Mary is one of the most notorious robbers in the Old West, having come to fame for her thefts even before joining the Nat Love gang. After Nat’s gang went their separate ways, Mary opened up her own bar in Douglastown. Mary is also Nat’s former lover, who he is still in love with when he recruits her to seek revenge on Rufus. The real Mary Fields was the first Black woman to work in the dangerous position of star route postwoman in the nineteenth-century West.
Beetz is best known for starring on the FX series Atlanta as Vanessa Keefer, a role that earned her an Emmy nomination. She has also been featured in the Netflix series Easy, in Deadpool 2 as Domino, in Bullet Train as The Hornet, and in the 2019 thriller Joker as Arthur Fleck’s neighbor Sophie.
LaKeith Stanfield As Cherokee Bill
Academy Award-nominated actor LaKeith Stanfield portrays real-life gunslinger outlaw Cherokee Bill in the cast of The Harder They Fall. As a member of the ruthless Rufus Buck gang, Cherokee Bill is known for being one of the best quick-draw shooters and robbers in the Old West. This is faithful to the historic Cherokee Bill, born Crawford Goldsby, who ran his own criminal gang and was responsible for at least eight murders.
Stanfield has quickly become one of the most prolific actors of his generation, gaining wider notoriety after his pivotal role in Jordan Peele’s Get Out as Andre/Logan. Stanfield is also known for starring in FX’s series Atlanta, Dope, Sorry to Bother You, Uncut Gems, Knives Out, and FBI informant William O’Neal in the Oscar-winning film Judas and the Black Messiah.
Danielle Deadwyler As Cuffee
The Harder They Fall’s highly skilled fighter Cuffee is played by Danielle Deadwyler. Cuffee is the newest addition to the Nat Love gang, having worked for Mary as the bouncer in her bar. Cuffee’s skill with her fists and a pistol make her a pivotal asset for the gang, especially her ability to easily disguise herself. Cuffee isn’t a direct analogue for a historical figure but is inspired by Cathay Williams, a Black woman who served in the United States army disguised as a man during the 1860s.
Deadwyler is best known for playing Quita Maxwell in Tyler Perry’s soap opera The Have and Have Nots. She has also been featured in episodes of Atlanta and Watchmen alongside her The Harder They Fall costars, as well as the miniseries Station Eleven. She received major critical praise for her performance as Mamie Till in 2022’s Till, a performance that many considered to be an Oscar snub.
The Harder They Fall Supporting Cast & Characters
Delroy Lindo as Bass Reeves: The deputy U.S. marshal who assists the Nat Love gang in bringing Rufus Buck to justice. Reeves was a legendary lawman in the Old South who has been described as “the real Lone Ranger” (see Texas Monthly). Lindo is well-known for appearing in numerous movies by director Spike Lee, including roles in Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Clockers, and Da 5 Bloods. He has also starred in films and TV shows like Get Shorty, The Cider House Rules, and The Good Fight.
Edi Gathegi as Bill Pickett: The Nat Love gang’s talented sharpshooter who typically robs other gangs with young outlaw Jim, based on a real cowboy and rodeo performer. Gathegi notably played Laurent in the Twilight films, Darwin in X-Men: First Class, Matias in The Blacklist, Ronald Dacey on StartUp, Dr. Jeffrey Cole on House, and Dev on For All Mankind.
RJ Cyler as Jim Beckwourth: The Nat Love gang’s youngest outlaw who seeks to prove himself as a talented quickdraw shooter against Cherokee Bill. The real Jim Beckwourth, also known as “Bloody Arm,” was a famous rancher and explorer. Cyler previously starred in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Power Rangers, Rap Shit, MTV’s Scream, and I’m Dying Up Here.
Deon Cole as Wiley Escoe: The Rufus Buck gang member who has been running Redwood City and betrayed Rufus during his imprisonment, nmed after a Deputy U. S. Marshal active during the 1890s. Cole is best known for his recurring role on episodes of Black-ish and Grown-ish as Charlie Telphy as well as comedic characters on Conan, Angie Tribeca, and the Barbershop film series.
Damon Wayans, Jr. as Monroe Grimes: The leader of the Crimson Hood Gang that Jim and Pickett rob. Before The Harder They Fall, Wayans starred in New Girl as Coach, Brad Williams in Happy Endings, and the film Let’s Be Cops.