Jeremy Renner on 'Mayor of Kingstown': "Hawkeye helped me prepare for this role"
Renner draws insight from superhero alter ego to star in hard-hitting Taylor Sheridan drama, 'Mayor of Kingstown.'
On the surface, Jeremy Renner’s character Mike McLusky in Mayor of Kingstown does not have a lot in common with the actor’s most recognizable role, Hawkeye/Clint Barton from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One wears tights and uses a bow and arrow, while the other wears an ill-fitting suit, drives a Lincoln town car and serves as a go-between for both cops and criminals. Despite the superficial differences, the actor said that his superhero alter ego helped him in more ways than one when working on the new Paramount Plus original series co-created by Taylor Sheridan and Hugh Dillon, which is set to debut on the streaming service Nov. 14.
Renner fans will certainly get their fill this November, as in addition to Mayor of Kingstown, Disney Plus is also set to release Hawkeye, its next Marvel original series for the streaming service, on Nov. 24. In a press junket for Mayor of Kingstown, Renner revealed that he worked on the two shows back-to-back, which had an unexpected benefit.
Mayor of Kingstown is a drama series that follows the McLusky family, who are power brokers in their Michigan town where, as Paramount Plus describes it “the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry.” The show tackles “themes of systemic racism, corruption and inequality” and provides a look at how the McLusky family attempts to bring order and justice to a town that has neither.
We were shown the first two episodes and can agree that some pretty dark moments unfold. That’s where Hawkeye was an advantage, Renner explained.
“[I] didn’t realize it until about halfway through Mayor of Kingstown … I am like, ‘Oh my God, I was just in this sort of Christmas vibe in New York’ [filming Hawkeye] and it’s like oh my gosh, this is really heavy,” said Renner. “I think the idea that the Hawkeye thing actually really helped me, just helped transition the set vibe, if you will, to be a little bit lighter. I don’t know how you can crack jokes on a set like Mayor of Kingstown, but somehow, some way I did and we had actually a really good time shooting it.”
It wasn’t just the off-camera vibe where Hawkeye helped Renner’s work on the show. Even though Mike McLusky is a former convict who straddles both sides of the law — he consistently makes the argument that he doesn’t break the law, only bends it — Renner believes the overall goal of Mike and Clint Barton is very similar.
“I think the intentions are always good in both characters, they’re trying to do what’s right and trying to keep the peace,” Renner said. He also believes that they both have a ferocity and moral code that they deploy.
While Mike isn’t hopping on a Quinjet to face off against some otherworldly threat like Hawkeye does, Renner still has to get active in his new series. And, in a likely nod to his superhero role, Mike actually shoots a bow and arrow in one scene — but he isn’t quite the shot that Hawkeye is. Renner has found that having action experience has helped him prepare for a role like Mike, though, for the now 50-year-old actor, it isn’t quite as easy as it used to be.
“Am I getting a little older? Is it a little harder to start doing this stuff? Yeah, maybe a little bit. It took me a little bit longer to get ready in the gym than I’d like to. But so many other things that kind of inform the truth and honesty of the physicality of the characters in it. But for me personally, is there muscle memory in it? Yeah. I mean, I’ve done … stunts, fighting and all that stuff for a lot of my career and I love them both in both shows. They’re both a lot of fun. I enjoyed it a lot.”
Mayor of Kingstown serves as a reunion for Renner with Taylor Sheridan, who wrote and directed the 2017 film Wind River that Renner starred in with fellow Marvel actor, WandaVision’s Elizabeth Olsen. The actor was excited to get back to work with Sheridan, particularly because of the hard-hitting topics he covers.
Speaking of a particularly challenging scene, Renner said of Sheridan:
“This is where he’ll punch you right in the face with his writing, but also put his arm around you and nurse you back. His writing is ferocious as it is poetic and romantic. And I love that about Taylor’s writing, I love it. I love it so much because it’s truthful and it’s real. And it should be harrowing, shouldn’t it be, that scene. I don’t know if I can watch that one. I don’t know if I can watch a lot of this, I already had to do it, OK, over and over again many times.”
Though he doesn’t think viewers of the show will have any similar problems.
“This is based on something that is truthful and that has value to it, it’s just not entertainment for entertainment’s sake,” Renner said. “Which it is, it’ll be entertaining, it’ll be thrilling. If it was a book you wouldn’t put it down, you know what I mean? You would binge watch this if you possibly could, I promise you that’ll be the case.”
Viewers of course won’t be able to binge watch Mayor of Kingstown, at least not initially. Episodes of Mayor of Kingstown will debut weekly on Paramount Plus starting Nov. 14 (side note, the first two episodes will be simulcast on Paramount Network), so you’ll have to wait a bit if you want to try and binge your way through the series.
Mayor of Kingstown was created by Taylor Sheridan. Jeremy Renner stars alongside Dianne Wiest (In Treatment, Hannah & Her Sisters), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Hugh Dillon, Taylor Handley, Emma Laird, Tobi Bamtefa and Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones).
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Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.