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Tom Pelphrey Talks ‘A Man in Full,’ ‘Outer Range’ Bonkers Finales

Tom Pelphrey Talks ‘A Man in Full,’ ‘Outer Range’ Bonkers Finales

[This story contains spoilers from A Man in Full and Outer Range season two.]

Between Tom Pelphrey’s two current streaming shows, one would think that the series with the shimmering time portal in the ground would have the more off-the-wall ending. But that honor instead belongs to David E. Kelley’s A Man in Full.

Adapted from Tom Wolfe’s novel, the Netflix limited series centers on Jeff Daniels’ Charlie Croker, an overextended billionaire who owes various banks over a billion dollars in overdue loans, and Pelphrey’s Raymond Peepgrass is one of the bankers who’s tired of being stepped on by Charlie both personally and professionally. 

All season long, Raymond and Harry Zale (Bill Camp) are on the verge of seizing Charlie’s assets, but he works the system to his advantage to stave off collection. Frustrated, Raymond makes one last move to acquire controlling interest in Charlie’s life’s work — a building called the Concourse, by way of his ex-wife, Martha (Diane Lane), and teenage son. Raymond had already been involved in a surprisingly genuine relationship with Martha, and so the series comes to a close with Charlie confronting Raymond and Martha mid-copulation.

What then transpires has to be seen to be believed, as Martha leaves the room to retrieve her mobile phone and call the police, while a fully nude Raymond taunts Charlie, leaving nothing to the imagination. Charlie then grabs Raymond by the throat and strangles him to death, but not before he triggers his own fatal heart attack.

To pull off this particularly wild scene that is both dramatic and comedic, Pelphrey says that he and Daniels, along with director Regina King, applied one of Daniels’ ultimate takeaways from Dumb and Dumber, the screwball Farrelly brothers comedy that redefined Daniels’ career alongside co-star Jim Carrey.

“At a certain point, [Daniels] said that you’ve got to be brave with [Dumb and Dumber’s] style and tone. You’ve got to just jump off the cliff, and we both felt like that was what needed to happen for A Man in Full,” Pelphrey tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It would all fall on its face, terribly, if anybody was trying to be naturalistic or do their kitchen-sink acting. On the page, it’s larger than life, so we talked about commitment, and the full manifestation of being committed was trying to play this serious scene with him while I have a huge strap-on prosthetic dildo sticking out of my torso.”

At that point in production, Pelphrey knew that he and his partner Kaley Cuoco were going to welcome their first child in the spring of 2023, and the impending birth caused some understandable reservations about the climactic scene. 

“I’ve always been like, ‘Yeah, fuck it. I’ll do anything. The crazier, the better … Never say no.’ And, suddenly, for the first time ever, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do that. I’m going to be a dad soon,’” Pelphrey admits. “So I had all of those thoughts and all those conversations.”

A Man in Full may have the battier ending of his two recent series, but the conclusion of Outer Range season two is by no means tame. At the end of the sci-fi neo-Western’s first season, Perry Abbott (Pelphrey) jumped into the time hole on his family’s Wyoming ranch, and season two finds him in 1984, where he meets younger versions of his father Royal (Christian James) and mother Cecilia (Megan West). But Perry quickly wears out his welcome by exacerbating the rivalry with 1980s versions of the neighboring Tillerson family. Young Royal then decides to send Perry back down the hole, which redeposits him in the timeline of the series premiere. 

Perry proceeds to interrupt the fateful fight between his younger self and Trevor Tillerson (Matt Lauria), but rather than Perry killing Trevor in the same manner that kick-started the events of the entire series, time-traveling Perry’s distraction now results in younger Perry’s death and Trevor’s survival. So future Perry then decides to cover up the crime scene so that he can take the place of his younger self without his family noticing that he’s from the future. 

Now, the mechanics of Outer Range’s time travel have been debated since season one, as there’s yet to be a scene where a character relays such exposition. But unlike Back to the Future where changes to the past impact the future in real time, Pelphrey believes that the series follows multiverse logic where each arrival in the past or future creates a new alternate branch of time à la Avengers: Endgame

“To me, it’s multiverse. It would have to be. So there’s a strand of reality [at the end of season two] where Perry is happily with his family and not a killer, and that strand of reality exists uninterrupted by anything else that’s happening,” Pelphrey explains. “And I think there’s another strand of reality where Perry goes into the hole, and that Perry, or any version of Perry, is no longer existing in that original timeline.”

In 2015, when the Jersey native turned heads on Cinemax’s critically acclaimed yet criminally underseen action series, Banshee, there was an expectation that he’d have a shot at becoming one of the next great American action stars. Instead, he’s mostly gone the way of prestige drama on the big and small screens, landing an Emmy nomination for his guest role on Ozark season four after widespread acclaim for his lead role on season three. He also played Herman J. Mankiewicz’s brother, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, in David Fincher’s Mank (2020). 

However, shortly after Banshee, he co-starred on two seasons of the then-Netflix Marvel series, Iron Fist, portraying Ward Meachum, the codependent CEO of Rand Industries who struggles with addiction. The series was always considered “MCU-adjacent” since it technically took place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only Marvel Studios had no creative involvement and always kept Iron Fist and its connected series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones at arm’s length. 

In 2018, Netflix canceled all of their Marvel series, and once Disney eventually reacquired the distribution rights, Marvel Studios took a very circuitous route to officially declaring them MCU canon. Marvel Studios’ head of streaming Brad Winderbaum recently confirmed their canonized standing to THR, which means Pelphrey’s character is now eligible to reprise his role, something he’d “of course” love to do.

Below, during a recent spoiler conversation with THR, Pelphrey — who’s currently shooting Brad Ingelsby’s Mare of Easttown follow-up for HBO — also discusses what’s next for Perry Abbott and his existing connection to the actor who plays Perry’s estranged wife, Rebecca.

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Well, I don’t think I’ve seen you this bearded before.

Yeah, no one has. This is my new all-time record [for beard length].

Is it for Brad Ingelsby’s upcoming HBO miniseries?

Yeah, it’s all part of Philly filming for Brad. 

Tom Pelphrey as Raymond Peepgrass in A Man in Full.

Mark Hill/Netflix

From Banshee’s Kurt Bunker and Ozark’s Ben Davis to Iron Fist’s Ward Meachum and Outer Range’s Perry Abbott, you’ve been very fortunate with the TV characters you’ve been able to play. What piqued your interest about the vindictive poindexter that is Raymond Peepgrass?

(Laughs) The scripts were fantastic, and the tone was really strange in a way that made me lean in, but I didn’t fully understand how the world would be. I kind of had a similar feeling when I read [Tom Wolfe’s] novel, but I knew it all worked. I just didn’t know what to compare it to. And, obviously, it was about getting to work with David E. Kelley again [after Love & Death]. I just love his writing. David’s got a sense of humor that’s very specific, weird and quirky. It’s very much his own. So, David adapting Tom Wolfe was a good marriage. Raymond was also a kind of character that I never get to do, tonally. Nobody lets me within a mile of anything comedic, usually.

Diane Lane as Martha Croker, Pelphrey as Raymond Peepgrass in A Man in Full.

Mark Hill/Netflix

He’s a banker who wants to take down Charlie Croker (Jeff Daniels) by any means necessary after years of belittlement, so did his relationship with Charlie’s ex-wife, Martha Croker (Diane Lane), start out as another way to get even before becoming genuine?

I think it was always genuine. Oddly, what could have been seen as his most calculated move probably ended up being the most sincere attachment that he was able to find, and it was thwarted by his own plans. He is a lonely dude. He is somebody who has been trying to be somebody that he’s not for a very long time, and it’s taken its toll on him. So everything with Martha and her ability to see past what’s superficial about both Charlie and Raymond is what keeps him there.

A Man in Full came out 24 hours before Unfrosted, so the Netflix synergy of Raymond eating a Pop Tart in episode one was really well timed. 

(Laughs) That was something that we reshot. There was an entirely different scene there, and it was one of my favorite scenes to film, actually. I filmed it with [director-EP] Regina King, and it was one of the first things that we did, but it was so dark. And in a show that obviously has a very complicated tone, I think the tone of that scene was almost misleading as it was, and I think they found that it was leading the audience down the wrong path in terms of what we were going to do here and what the rules are of this world and how we are going to watch this show. So David rewrote that scene for us, and then I went back and did the Pop Tart thing with Regina.

Pelphrey as Raymond Peepgrass with Jeff Daniels as Charlie Croker in A Man in Full.

Mark Hill/Netflix

Back in 1994, when your 12-year-old self went to the movies to see Speed and Dumb and Dumber, you clearly knew then that Jeff Daniels would someday catch a character of yours in a compromising position and then strangle him to death as part of a murder-accidental suicide.

(Laughs) While my character has a massive fucking hard-on.

So where do we even begin with this scene? What’s the story behind putting it together?

God, I mean, God. (Laughs) Jeff has obviously got so many amazing stories about Dumb and Dumber. He really went for it there, and at a certain point, he said that you’ve got to be brave with that style and tone. You’ve got to just jump off the cliff, and we both felt like that was what needed to happen for A Man in Full. It would all fall on its face, terribly, if anybody was trying to be naturalistic or do their kitchen-sink acting. On the page, it’s larger than life, so we talked about commitment, and the full manifestation of being committed was trying to play this serious scene with him while I have a huge strap-on prosthetic dildo sticking out of my torso. (Laughs)

So there were a lot of long conversations, and it was around that same time that Kaley [Cuoco] was pregnant and I knew that I was going to be a dad. I’ve always been like, “Yeah, fuck it. I’ll do anything. The crazier, the better, if it makes sense. Never say no.” And, suddenly, for the first time ever, I was like, “I don’t know if I want to do that. I’m going to be a dad soon.” So I had all of those thoughts and all those conversations, but Regina was hilarious. There were so many surreal moments filming that show, but what was equally surreal was the hour-long conversation I had with Regina King about that scene. I did not envision spending an hour on the phone talking about dick with Regina King. (Laughs)

After Raymond disrobes, you delivered one of the greatest medium close-ups of your career where your head is tilted with this prideful smirk on your face. I truly hope it becomes one of those ubiquitous memes. 

Thanks, bro. Filming that whole thing with Jeff and Regina was hilarious and fun, and they’re both such pros. So it really was a blast, and both my projects with David Kelley’s writing have had that in common.

I originally thought Outer Range season two would be the craziest thing we talked about today, but I was very, very wrong. 

(Laughs)

When we last saw Perry Abbott, he had jumped into the time hole, and we pick back up with him upon his arrival in 1984. He then tracks down young Royal (Christian James) and young Cecilia (Megan West) on the Abbott Family ranch, and he takes on the name of Ben Younger. Is there a particular reason why they named you after the director of Boiler Room?

See, I just thought it was a cheesy play on the words “been younger,” but I don’t really know. I didn’t get into the whys and wherefores of my 1984 pseudonym. 

See Also

Young Royal Abbott (Christian James) and Young Cecilia (Megan West) in Outer Range.

Courtesy of Prime

I liked that you guys cut to the chase and told young Royal the truth in season two’s second episode. A lot of shows probably would’ve delayed that reveal for a while. 

Yeah, there’s so many tropes and clichés in trying to do anything like that, and yes, I was relieved that we talked about it upfront. We could then explore this idea in a way that maybe hasn’t been done before or at least a little bit differently. 

In season one, if something wasn’t working, Josh Brolin would throw away pages on the day and have everyone improvise. Was there less of that for you in season two since you mainly only worked with him as a director?

Yeah, my season two was a very different experience, because I really didn’t see the cast from season one much at all, really. I saw them sometimes outside of work, but a lot of my season two was with some great new cast members. So I didn’t really have a bead on how things were going in the present day.

Josh directed you and his character’s younger self in 206. Was it pretty interesting to watch him interact with Christian James’ version of Royal Abbot?

One of the things that’s most endearing about Josh is that he gets so excited. He was so happy to be directing, and he was so fucking pumped up. He’s always so positive and into everything, and it was just really cool to watch him direct. Knowing him at work and knowing him privately, I feel like I saw the most childlike version of him that I’ve ever seen when he was directing. So it was a cool vibe to be around. 

The actor who plays Perry’s estranged wife, Rebecca (Monette Moio), happens to be your real-life partner’s (Kaley Cuoco) stunt double. 

Yes! Yo, babe! (Pelphrey laughs and calls out to Cuoco in the other room.) I’m literally trying to get Kaley’s attention, but she’s probably got her headphones on. She’s going to be so excited that you caught that. I’m filming in Philly right now, and 90 minutes ago, we were stuck in traffic inside the Holland Tunnel. So we talked about how I was going to talk to you today, and no joke, Kaley was like, “You should talk about Monette,” as the most random thing I could do. And I was like, “Okay, okay.” (Laughs) And you fucking caught it. 

Did the two of you corner the casting directors at a Christmas party and suggest the idea of casting her?

(Laughs) No, they were just looking for someone who looked like [season one’s Rebecca actor, Kristen Connolly]. She was awesome in the one day we worked together last season, and so they wanted to find someone who had blonde hair, blue eyes and a similar height. So Monette told Kaley that she was reading for the role, which had nothing to do with me at all, and then I just flagged the fact, to the casting directors, that she looked like [Connolly]. So it turned out that she got the role, which is pretty wild.

It’s a big industry that feels incredibly small at times, and that’s a perfect example. 

It really is a small world. On the job I’m doing now, our lead camera operator was the A-camera op from the first season of Outer Range. One of our ADs is an AD I worked with on Iron Fist, and our focus puller is a woman who was a camera assistant on Banshee. So that stuff is always cool. 

Young Royal gets to know his future son before eventually pushing him back into the hole, and Perry winds up returning to the series premiere. He then interrupts the fateful fight between himself and Matt Lauria’s character, Trevor Tillerson, only Perry from the premiere now becomes the one to die. How tricky was it to recreate that series premiere scene? 

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. They were able to use a decent amount of the original footage, and because we filmed that pretty late in the game, they were pretty economical about what we needed to recapture. It’s one of those things where I was like, “Well, what would this experience be like?” It’s a brain burner on a lot of levels, but the actual physical production of it took us only five hours. I thought it was going to take us two days. 

Time travel raises all sorts of questions. I briefly wondered if we were always watching time-traveling Perry in season one, or if the mechanics were like Back to the Future where altering the past changes the future in real time. That would mean Matt Lauria’s character is now alive in the present day, while Perry is no longer a fugitive. Was making Perry a free man the ultimate purpose of that move? Or do you have another interpretation overall? [Writer’s Note: Part of the reason why I leaned toward the Back to the Future mechanics is because we see Tamara Podemski’s Joy time travel to the 1880s, and then we see her take a photo that her daughter and wife later hold in the true present day.]

Well, I came to a different conclusion. I actually think that we’re in the multiverse model because, to me, if Perry never kills Matt Lauria’s character, then most of season one never takes place, and therefore, it never would have led to Perry being able to go back. It never would’ve happened the way it happened. And so, to me, it’s multiverse. It would have to be. So there’s a strand of reality [at the end of season two] where Perry is happily with his family and not a killer, and that strand of reality exists uninterrupted by anything else that’s happening. And I think there’s another strand of reality where Perry goes into the hole, and that Perry, or any version of Perry, is no longer existing in that original timeline.

One of the first questions I had right from the first episode [of season two] was in terms of the logic of our time travel. I was like, “Yo, if I saw my mom and dad and they saw me enough before they had me, wouldn’t it weird them out that their son eventually looked like that guy and raise questions? Do people even think like that? Would you make enough of an impact that they’d even remember what your face looked like by the time the boy was old enough to recognize his face? But maybe they have a picture of you, too.” So, for my actor brain anyway, I was believing that we were in a multiverse scenario where there’s infinite potential realities coexisting simultaneously, and at any moment in time, we can diverge into two alternate realities.

Knock on wood, but have you wondered how a potential season three would work with Perry in that season one timeline?

I don’t know. In terms of the character getting what he seems to want, he sort of got it at the end of season two. So the question would then become, “What could happen that would have Perry leave that to go to the true present day?” The true present day is where the bulk of the action of the show takes place and where the bulk of the action leaves the audience in season two, so I don’t know. 

Lastly, I recently spoke to Brad Winderbaum, who’s the head of streaming over at Marvel Studios, and we talked all about how Netflix’s former Marvel shows are now officially being treated as canon within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So Iron Fist’s Ward Meachum is officially in the MCU proper now. Is that an option you’d always be open to exploring again? 

Yeah, of course. That character was a blast, man. He was a lot of fun, and he definitely had the nicest clothes I’ve ever gotten to wear as an actor. So, it’s interesting that they said that.

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A Man in Full and Outer Range are now streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, respectively

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