Vital Thrills recently got a chance to talk to the Mayor of Kingstown cast and learned all about the original Paramount+ series premiering on Sunday, November 14. The series comes from Academy Award nominee Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone) and Hugh Dillon.
In attendance for the press day were Mayor of Kingstown cast members Jeremy Renner, Dianne Wiest, Hugh Dillon, Taylor Handley, Emma Laird, and Tobi Bamtefa. Also starring in the series are Kyle Chandler and Aiden Gillen.
Consisting of 10 episodes, the Mayor of Kingstown follows the McLusky family, power brokers in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. Tackling themes of systemic racism, corruption and inequality, the series provides a stark look at their attempt to bring order and justice to a town that has neither.
Produced by MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios, Mayor of Kingstown is executive produced by Sheridan, Dillon, Renner, Antoine Fuqua, David C. Glasser, Ron Burkle, Bob Yari and Michael Friedman.
Renner plays Mike McLusky, part of a family of corrupt public servants who wants to do good but might not be able to survive that way. Renner said of figuring out the role, “That world was pretty foreign to me… the first few weeks it was just about putting putting my feet on the ground, trying to understand, because everything is also written in very sort of shorthand of that world.
“So, you know, Taylor there to help, give me a lot of understanding of what the shorthand of all this information was going back and forth, and what does it really mean? What is he really trying to say? I didn’t want to just say the words and not really have a real understanding of the meaning.”
Renner said that viewers should be prepared for Mike to lose control in episode 7 or 8 and that the blowup is a “very principled thing.” Does he want to be the Mayor of Kingstown? Renner says no.
“No, I don’t want to f****** be there. It’s all you know. There’s a bleakness to the thing. It’s all you know how to do in your life. When you grew up in a town of prison[s] and everything is about incarceration… what else do you do?”
He also spoke about transitioning from the humorous upcoming Marvel Studios series Hawkeye to this, much darker show. “It’s easy enough… it was a different country. That was a transition more than anything else during a pandemic. You know you fall right into it, and fall right into place and you got different actors and different sets and different costumes.
“You know, I didn’t really realize the difference that we’re doing until I saw like the first, the second episode. Early on in the process I’m like, ‘wow, this is pretty intense.’ It’s pretty intense compared to the Hawkeye show, the lighter fare, the happiness and the Christmas music, and then this is harrowing storytelling…[I’m] blessed to be able to do both – very, very, very happy to be able to do both.”
Wiest plays the matriarch of the McKlusky family, who really wants her children to avoid the pitfalls in this town that ultimately took down her husband, their father. Wiest said that while she normally looks for her character when reading the script, “I went to the script, and I forgot to look for the character. I forgot to look at Mariam and what Mariam does or says, and I thought, what, does she have nothing to do or say, and of course she did.
“But, I was so compelled by the story and the characters and the writing… I thought, well, I haven’t read anything like this in a long time.”
Taylor Handley plays the youngest McKlusky brother, Kyle, who wants to get out of the “prison” of the town. He said, “[Kyle wants to] break this generational dysfunction, and is so conflicted because he knows what this town can bring to his family… he’s presented with an opportunity to leave this town go work for the troopers in another part of the state, but the conflict that he’s dealing with is, you know, something that I think many people deal with.
“It’s like, any right person in their mind would leave Kingstown, but just picking up and leaving everything you’ve ever known and going off into the unknown and starting something new… there’s a lot of fear behind all that you don’t know, whether you’re going to succeed, whether you’re going to fail, and have to come back with your tail between your legs.”
Wiest compared her role to one of the three sisters in eponymous Anton Chekhov play. “It’s like the Three Sisters, ‘Oh, to go to Moscow, to go to Moscow. Oh, to go to Moscow.’ I’m telling my boys go to Moscow; ‘Go, go, go.’ And who isn’t in Moscow? Me. I didn’t have the courage to leave, but I am in a rage to get my boys out.”
She also spoke about the family situation. “For Mariam, I think her family troubles began and ended with the death of her husband, and her son’s father, I think… perhaps when they were in their late teens, he died. And I think they worshipped him. And no matter what I’ve said, no matter how I have pleaded or threatened, they are following in his footsteps. And that’s just the road paved to hell. And I expect any day to get a knock on my door and another one of my children will be dead.”
Tobi Bamtefa plays the local Crip leader who has a relationship with the McLuskys. He said of his character, “So I play a character called Bunny. Bunny is the head of the boss of the Crips of the Michigan faction, And he is. He sells pharmaceuticals from his front yard. He’s a pharmaceutical expert. And he’s a man who has a lot of influence within this underworld. So much influence, in fact, that it’s almost like he’s almost imprisoned by it.”
Hugh Dillon, who is one of the creators and writers of the series, said: “I play Ian Ferguson. I grew up with McKluskys. He has an ethical drift that he’s coping with, that he’s unaware of, you know slightly desensitized. He’s hypervigilant, he’s predisposed to some darker impulses, and he’s a cop who does everything by the book, but it happens to be his book.” Though we don’t see a lot of Ian in the first two episodes, you can see this part of his character very clearly.
Emma Laird plays the sex worker Iris, who is still a bit of a mystery after the two episodes the press was sent. She said, “I’m an associate of the Russian mob and my boss is called Milo, who’s played by the wonderful Aiden Gillen, and he is in one of the Kingstown prison. And I’m sent into Kingstown to do my job.”
She added: “I’m a sex worker based in New York, and I turn judges and people in power to get on Milo’s side. And so I’m sent into Kingstown to try and have some influence over these powerful men… what I take away from this is that once you enter Kingstown, you really don’t leave unless you die.”