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‘Mayor of Kingstown’ Creator Shares Promise Made to Jeremy Renner’s Mom

‘Mayor of Kingstown’ Creator Shares Promise Made to Jeremy Renner’s Mom

[This story contains spoilers from the second episode of season three of Mayor of Kingstown, “Guts.”]

If there is one takeaway from the Mayor of Kingstown over its three seasons, it’s that the fictional town of the Paramount+ series starring Jeremy Renner seems to drain hope and dreams out of its inhabitants.

Kingstown, Michigan — a city whose main industry is nine penitentiaries — is a wounded community. Whether locked up in the penal system, committing crimes that will lead to being behind bars, serving as a prison guard or being one of the family members of the victims, suffering seems to spare no one.

And that’s what Mike McLusky’s (Renner) voiceover tells viewers in the opening scenes of the second episode of season three, “Guts.” The message comes as McLusky, the town’s unofficial mayor and problem fixer, discovers new metaphorical fires in and out of the prisons for him to extinguish in Kingstown. The third season marks Renner’s remarkable return following his near-fatal accident with a snowplow a year and a half ago.

So, is Mike up to the challenge physically and emotionally?

In the season opener, Mike and his family had put to rest their matriarch (played by Dianne Wiest). But during her funeral, someone set off a bomb next to the hearse. That sent Mike off to his trusted informant, Deverin “Bunny” Washington (Tobi Bamtefa), an inner city gang leader who blamed the bomb on the Aryan Brothers. Bunny’s word then got the Aryan Brothers’ compound raided by Mike’s police pals, and more than half a dozen members blown up in a shed by SWAT team leader Robert Sawyer (Hamish Allan-Headley).

But now, in episode two, Bunny’s drugs have been tainted and they are killing prisoners and users on the streets. Could the Aryan Brothers have infiltrated his stash as a form of payback?

Meanwhile, a homeless man finds the dead body of Russian club hostess/prostitute Tatiana (Gratiela Brancusi) after she was shot dead in episode one for alleged disloyalty by new Russian mob boss Konstantin Noskov (Yorick van Wageningen), who also left her infant boy in the trash bin. Another former prostitute for the Russians, Iris (Emma Laird) — who Mike saved last season and who has been living with the McLuskys, to the chagrin of his baby brother Kyle McLusky (Taylor Handley) — has been pulled over for a traffic violation and is taken into custody but refuses to give her fingerprints. The police decide to hold her until they can get a court order, leaving Mike and his family unaware of her whereabouts.

The Hollywood Reporter recently caught up with Mayor of Kingstown co-creator, executive producer and cast member Hugh Dillon (who plays Crimes Detective Ian Ferguson) to talk about taking care of a recovering Renner so he could film season three safely (including a promise made to Renner’s mother); how working and living in a town with a prison industry can impact the human condition (the series is loosely based on the city Dillon grew up in in Canada, which had nine prisons as its main industry); some insights on what’s to come with season three and his endgame: “Season seven, that’s when Taylor [Sheridan] and I will end it.”

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In this second episode, “Guts,” there is a chilling voiceover that provides an overlook on the prison industry — from the inmates to the guards and parole officers, and finally, to their families — and how it’s a business with little redemption. Do you feel that way; what is your take?

Taylor [Sheridan, co-creator] and I knew that we wanted to use the voiceover because I would talk about the city that I was from when we created the show. It had nine penitentiaries; one was closed down due to corruption. And my friends were prison guards because I grew up in that city. What fascinates me most is the prison system is hidden from society in so many ways, but what we’re really interested in is how that effects people and the intricate piece of human emotion. What type of impact does that have?

I grew up in a town where there was all sorts of crime. We would read it in the papers and see it on TV, and we were often like, “well, okay, thank God it didn’t happen to me.” But what happens is, it’s horrific crimes (elsewhere), too. For example, when I was a kid there was this serial killer — and Taylor remembers this — named [Clifford] Olson who was captured in Vancouver, and I was living in Kingston in the town I was talking about [which Mayor of Kingstown is loosely based on]. And I was vaguely aware of whatever crime it may be, and it was horrific! And the next thing you know, he is now incarcerated in your city. So now, you’re absorbing kind of the darkness of humanity, and I’m interested in that. I hope that answers your question.

Hugh Dillon as Ian Ferguson in the season three premiere of Mayor of Kingstown.

Dennis P. Mong Jr./Paramount+

And that feeds into the character of Anna (played by Paula Malcomson) in episode twoAnna is a citizen of Kingstown who goes to Mike to see if he can stop the parole of her son’s friend who murdered him just a few years ago. He is about to get paroled for good behavior, but it doesn’t give her or her family any relief or justice, right?

It doesn’t. And it doesn’t ask the question, “what the fuck is justice?” We’ve always kind of looked at our world as: No one is safe and nothing is sacred. And we are interested in exploring those stories that are kind of open-ended. We don’t, as a society, find real answers for our closure, because it’s just an age-old question, what is justice?

Mike McLusky and his family just lost their matriarch, Miriam McLusky played by Dianne Wiest. Was there ever any thought of masking some of Renner’s real-life physical limitation and emotions into the trauma Mike might feel from the loss of his mother? 

No. Not at all. That was a whole separate thing. Speaking of the matriarch, that just goes back to [Renner’s] mom, [Valerie Cearley]. He wanted to do the show, and he was in a wheelchair. It was a very difficult time, and I had gone over to his house, and Taylor Sheridan was like, “you know we’re protecting Renner at all costs, whatever we need to do,” because they are friends. And that kind of loyalty is what Taylor brings, what I’ve always had — and that’s what Renner has. And so, he wanted to do the show from his wheelchair. And his mom is looking after him, and I’m like, “We basically need her permission.” She’s a tough cookie! And she’s like, “You better take care of him!” And I’m like, “100 percent.” I mean, he’s still in a wheelchair and he still had a huge road to go.

And to get through all of that — and we get to set and start shooting — I just wanted him to be motivated. We want the story to be great and we wanted shit to rock for him. So, to get him here was such a gift! We all went to a place called Kennywood in Pittsburgh, [an amusement park] with big rollercoasters. And I said to both of them [Renner and his mother Cearley], “We’re going to get to May and we’re all going to say, we did it!” And we just had his whole family, his daughter and the whole cast and crew, we just rallied because it transcended making a television show. It became making something great for this leader of ours who endured this widely physically traumatic event in life.

And this goes back to what we were talking about before with the prisons and how they reverberate within the communities. With Jeremy, it’s about how that reverberated with his family, his friends. It was a shock. So, the journey was with his real mom.

See Also

L-R: Derek Webster as Stevie, Jeremy Renner as Mike McLusky and Taylor Handley as Kyle McLusky in the season three premiere.

Dennis P. Mong Jr./Paramount+

What is Iris (Emma Laird) hiding and why doesn’t she want to be fingerprinted?

Well, that’s just exceptional storytelling and character-driven stuff. These characters go back a long way. And she doesn’t want to get fingerprinted because if she does, it will unravel a whole bunch of shit. And then there will be a scene where I have to remind her that we are not strangers. But I will say that trust is such an incredible commodity on this show. There is very little of it. And when there is, that thing I’m talking about with loyalty, it is a currency.

Do you have a favorite season or episode right now?

Well, I’ve had this show with Taylor for years, so the whole show is a gift to me and my family. There are favorite episodes, there are favorites characters. The whole thing is the world [to me]. I will tell you, my favorite season will be season seven, that’s when Taylor and I will end it.

What else are you excited about with what’s to come in season three and after these first two episodes?

Taylor is great at putting together these great teams. There is always somebody who goes unmentioned, like writer Dave Erickson and director Christoph Schrewe. Making the show is so wildly collaborative, and yet everybody’s fine focused. That’s why I think you will tweak edits on a scene, because there’s such depth and meaning behind it. It was shot beautifully. And it’s just one of those great seasons. Taylor always says it’s 10 episodes of film, it’s not really TV. And I believe it. It is explosive! It’s got an incredible emotional velocity that is unparalleled on television right now.

Mayor of Kingstown releases new episodes for season three Sundays on Paramount+.

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