Kyle's Career Filmstrip: TV Series and Movies

Nov 18, 2015

Kyle Chandler, Future Comedian, Makes His 'Carol' Villain Human

Jordan Zakarin

Carol star Kyle Chandler is a far more relaxed a guy than you might expect, given the number of serious characters he’s played on screens both big and small over the last decade. The 50-year-old Georgia native made his name as the stern-but-sensitive Coach Taylor in the beloved football series Friday Night Lights, for which he won an Emmy in 2011. Since then, he’s played an array of law enforcement types in films like The Wolf of Wall Street, Argo, and Zero Dark Thirty. (He’s also currently starring on the Netflix drama series Bloodline.) Yahoo Movies recently sat down with Chandler at a hotel in New York, where he was playing against his screen image by joking and nursing an early beer, to talk about his new movie Carol.

In director Todd Haynes’ period romance (opening in select theaters Friday), Chandler plays Harge, the desperate and controlling husband of the title character (Cate Blanchett), a WASP-y housewife who falls for a younger woman named Therese (Rooney Mara) in 1950s New York. Based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by The Talented Mr. Ripley author Patricia Highsmith, Carol — which has been earning strong reviews since its Cannes premiere in May — follows the women’s fraught love affair as Harge rages about his disintegrating marriage. In the novel, he’s a paper-thin villain, but as Chandler explained, he worked hard to create a more human version who audiences rooting for Blanchett and Rooney’s characters could still understand.

The character in the novel is pretty thin. How did you create something more real for the movie? [Highsmith] is a great writer, but there wasn’t much. So of course I had to go off the script and fill in the lines in between. As I usually do, I create a backstory, and then I look at it and create an idea of what I wanted to do. You work with the director, and if it matches up, you’re in good shape.

Harge is definitely more sympathetic than he is in the book — even if he’s blackmailing his wife and trying to take full custody of their daughter.
This was a hard part, because if I came to the set to play it straight up — a stereotypical guy who says, “I’m pissed off, my wife wants another woman, you’re destroying the house, f— you” — that probably would have been a problem once I got there, because Todd had other ideas.

But it’s not very realistic, either. Because there’s a relationship — when [Harge and Carol] got married, they were in love. Also, in my mind, at some point, Harge had an idea that something was going on, before there were any other women. And Harge might have put on blinders at the beginning — he might not have done anything about it, because he didn’t want to destroy his world.

And then finally, it’s too much because it’s out in the open: There’s this young lady, and his wife is pulling away at that point. That’s where he starts going toward the point of, “What can I do to stop this from happening?” He doesn’t become violent, per se, but I think there’s always that chance that he could.
His heart is broken, he’s losing his family, he’s losing his child, he’s losing the woman he loves. But what can he do? The woman does not love him anymore.

It’s also the early ‘50s, so maybe he didn’t totally get it.
I didn’t think that. The script does lay it out. It is out there. And that’s what led me to the idea that in some way, Harge is letting this go — he’s able to let parts of this exist in his world, and still function if he can keep it together. I also think Harge, since it’s the ‘50s, he might have been overseas. I wrote [in my backstory notes] that he was in the war. And whatever he saw there, it also allows [him] to see everything in a different light. And I think that was part of his world. It gave him a different lens than other people might have.

You’re good at playing the conflicted patriarch. Was there anyone you knew you were basing your Carol character on?No. Harge was everything a man’s man was supposed to be during that time period. The interesting thing about Harge is he’s got this secret, and I think it’s just different from what you would imagine.

Since Friday Night Lights, people seem to cast you as an authority figure.
The last many years of my career, people have come to me, and they’ve said, 'Hey do you want to be a part of this?’ The ones I say yes to, they’ve turned out to be [authority figures]. There’s no rhyme or reason. I guess after one, people say, “Oh, he’s the guy in the suit.” For some reason, people see me as an authority figure — that I have a gravitas, which my friends might dispute.

The thing people don’t know about me is that I’m funny. My next project is going to be a comedy. It’s going to be one of the funniest comedies you’ve ever seen.

Really? What is it?I don’t know, because nobody’s called yet. But I’m dropping this. I’m letting everyone know I’m funny.

In the past, did you do comedy theater? Or do you just want to give it a try?
No, it’s just that the fact is: I’m funny.

So which comedians would you want to work with?I like dark, smart comedy. I even like situational comedy when it’s done right. But I’d like it to be honest.

What’s your favorite comedy?I wouldn’t want to say, because it wouldn’t be fair in the sense that people would go, “Man, that movie’s 40 years old!” I can’t explain it, but when you get out a camera, and you’re working with other people, and the writing presents a situation that has the opportunity for humor, there’s so much you can do in front of the camera to manipulate what the audience is sensing. I know it’s hard to explain, but people need to know that I’m funny out there.

You should start a Twitter or Vine account to get it out there.
I should. Or rent a plane and fly it over the city — get it out there. I am funny, man!

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