Seattle native Rainn Wilson, instantly recognizable for his role as Dwight Schrute on “The Office,” plays an entirely different kind of outrageous character in AMC’s “Dark Winds” (airing 9 p.m. Sundays).

This time Wilson is Devoted Dan, a used-car salesman who poses as a man of God but in actuality allows lust to get the better of him when cameras on his cheap, tacky commercials stop rolling.

In the July 3 episode, the fifth of the first season, which is set in the early 1970s, Devoted Dan’s role in the criminal enterprise at the center of “Dark Winds” comes into clear focus.

The series is adapted from author Tony Hillerman’s novels about Native American tribal police officer Joe Leaphorn (played by Zahn McClarnon) and his deputy, Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon). The series counts both George R.R. Martin (“Game of Thrones”), a friend of the late Hillerman, and Robert Redford among its executive producers, and the show has gained critical acclaim for its authentic depiction of Navajo culture, led by a roster of Native talent both on camera and behind the scenes, including in the show’s writers’ room.

Wilson said he was impressed with the first few scripts for the show (“mysterious, funny and unique,” he calls them) and he was familiar with the show’s concept from previous adaptations (a 1991 Lou Diamond Phillips movie; PBS’s 2002 “Skinwalkers” movies).

“I love the idea that there was a majority Native-run writers’ room, Native crew, Native actors,” Wilson said. “I just wanted to be a part of this incredible project and it was so exciting being on set with all of these Indigenous actors and Navajo crew members telling a story that they all kind of know based on 21 books, but stories and characters and nuances and subplots that are all generated in the writers’ room.”


Wilson said Devoted Dan is a new creation for this iteration of “Dark Winds.”

“You need your corrupt white guy to be the portal into all the nefarious doings of those in power, and he serves that role,” he said. “And we’ve got the delicious hypocrisy of being a used-car salesman and connected to crime and at the same time purporting to be a preacher. It’s just a super-fun character I’ve never played before and I love that as well.”

Wilson was born in Seattle and lived the first three years of his life in the University District before his family relocated to Nicaragua, then back to the U.S. for a stint in Olympia before settling into Lake Forest Park. Wilson was there from third through 10th grade.

Wilson said he always had an interest in acting as he grew up watching supporting comedic actors on TV sitcoms, including Lenny (Michael McKean) and Squiggy (David L. Lander) on “Laverne & Shirley,” Radar O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff) on “M*A*S*H” and Rev. Jim (Christopher Lloyd) on “Taxi.” He tried taking a drama class at Shorecrest High School back in the day but it didn’t live up to his expectations.

“It was the worst acting class I’ve ever taken,” Wilson said. “We spent half the semester making finger puppets out of Popsicle sticks. I don’t know what the teacher was thinking.”



When his parents divorced — his mom, Kristin Wilson, recently retired from selling jewelry she makes at Pike Place Market — Wilson returned to Seattle to study acting at the University of Washington for a year in 1985 alongside Garret Dillahunt (“Raising Hope”), Matt Ross (“Silicon Valley”) and the late Lynn Shelton (“Your Sister’s Sister”). It’s also where Wilson met his wife, actor-turned-writer Holiday Reinhorn. Wilson transferred to New York University and graduated in 1989.

In addition to “Dark Winds,” Wilson plays Dr. Demento, mentor to the title character played by Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”) in the upcoming movie “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” streaming this fall on The Roku Channel.

“I’m really excited for people to see that film,” Wilson said. “It’s so funny and he’s got such a great cast together for it. It’s told with great seriousness as if Weird Al was the biggest musical force on the planet, as big as Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen.”

Yankovic co-wrote the film with director Eric Appel (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”).

“[Weird Al] was on the set every day giving notes and thoughts and it’s just a terrific cast,” Wilson said of the film, which also stars Evan Rachel Wood, Toby Huss, Julianne Nicholson and Thomas Lennon.


Wilson is currently traveling the globe filming episodes of Peacock’s docuseries “Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss,” based on Eric Weiner’s New York Times bestseller. Wilson goes in search of the world’s happiest and least happy places, from Iceland and Ghana to Japan. There are no plans to visit Seattle in the six-episode first season.


“I think you guys need to work on your happiness a little bit more,” Wilson said. “If you do, I’ll come by.”

With all the reboots being made today, there’s certainly been talk about revisiting “The Office,” but Wilson is hesitant.

“If the circumstances were right, I would consider becoming Dwight again,” he said. “But the problem is, and this is truly a creative issue, I don’t see how we could ever be better than the original.

“So then it’s like, why do you do it? It’s not going to be funnier than what we did. And we’re just going to look older. So it’s going to be disconcerting because the show’s been off the air almost 10 years now. When you put all of that together, I don’t know that I would want to be a part of it. But you know, never say never. Maybe there’s some kind of movie that makes sense or something like that.”

As for Devoted Dan, now that “Dark Winds” has been renewed for a second season, it’s possible he will be back.

“We’re talking about it,” Wilson said.

“Dark Winds”

Season 1 episodes of “Dark Winds” air at 9 p.m. Sundays on AMC.