Kyle's Career Filmstrip: TV Series and Movies

Jan 6, 2016

For actor Kyle Chandler, lack of a plan has paid off

Some actors — particularly those accustomed to leading-man billing — might readily reject such a role: the angry, jealous, embarrassed husband of a woman who prefers the company of women.

Especially as a supporting part in a film named after the female protagonist.

Kyle Chandler, though, didn’t hesitate to play Harge, the increasingly frustrated husband in the movie Carol, directed by Todd Haynes.

The story, set in the early 1950s, centers on the burgeoning relationship between Carol (Cate Blanchett) — a confident, well-to-do and soon-to-be-divorced wife — and Therese (Rooney Mara), a young, shy, inexperienced shopgirl.

What helps drive the drama is the threat by Harge to seek sole custody of his young daughter if Carol doesn’t end her romance with Therese and make her way back to him.

Based on The Price of Salt, a 1952 novel by Patricia Highsmith, the film is in limited release (and will open on Jan. 8 in Columbus).

You don’t say no to a project like this,” said Chandler, a familiar face from series and movies such as Homefront (1991-93), Early Edition (1996-2000), Friday Night Lights (2006-11), Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).

“There were so many reasons to want to do this — the people involved, the script, the original material and the complexity of what I was moving into with this character.”

Harge desperately wants to be married to Carol. The question, though, is whether he truly wants to be with Carol or whether he is more motivated by the idea of Carol as the wife and mother with whom a man of his status — especially in the era during which the story takes place — was expected to share his life and home.

“There’s so much going on with him and so much that varies in what his desires are, in terms of what he needs and what he thinks he needs,” said Chandler, 50. “Constantly, throughout the film, there’s movement in what he can’t have and can have, and what his expectations are. And the realities of his ‘American dream’ keep changing, too.

“Carol is not a prize to be had. I don’t think Harge realizes that he can’t have her back. I don’t think he understands the severity of her desire for this other girl or her lack of desire for him. It’s incomprehensible to him, not just because he refuses to see it or just because of the consequences of that but because there’s more than just Carol, this beautiful, gorgeous woman. There’s this little child and his persona in this community. He’s a wealthy man who gets what he wants.

“Also, in my mind, he’s a war veteran — someone who makes things happen, who survives, who will get it done.”

What can’t be done — or, in this case, undone — is something that Harge slowly and reluctantly comes to realize as Carol’s bond with Therese intensifies.

“What I appreciated was that Harge is not a fool,” Chandler said. “He understands truth, too, and reality.”

As the film title suggests, Carol is the central character, with Therese as a co-lead.
Harge represents a small but important role.

Chandler welcomed the challenge of trying to make a mark on the film, he said, without overplaying key moments.

As he does with every role, he said, he wrote a back story — a past — so the character was fully formed in his mind, even though the past isn’t necessarily discernible on-screen.

“I do that so I have a foundation to work from when I go into the room. I knew what I wanted to do in my last scene in the film, so I just made sure that all those other pieces worked up to that. I guess Todd agreed with me.

“A screenplay is written, but there’s usually space for the actors to find their characters. With Todd, there was an easiness to it. Cate has said that the silences in some scenes speak just as much as the words, and she’s right.”

Chandler’s other major partner in Carol is, of course, Blanchett.

“Who you want to work across from is someone like Cate,” he said. “She’s very intelligent. She’s got a very commanding presence. She was very, very knowledgeable about the character and the story — and at the same time, like most really wonderful actors and actresses, Cate is giving. All of those things were there.”

Besides Carol, Chandler has completed Manchester-by-the-Sea — written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

“That’s a beautiful little film,” Chandler said. “It’s really about Casey Affleck’s character, who becomes the guardian of my son after my demise. Casey plays my brother. Without going into the whole storyline, it’s a script I read almost two years ago, and it just brought tears to my eyes. Ken is a wonderful writer, and it’s a beautiful story.”

At the moment, Chandler is shooting the second season of Bloodline, a Netflix family drama on which he co-stars with Linda Cardellini, Ben Mendelsohn, Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek.

“Season one was very difficult,” he said. “It was hard work and probably the best time I’ve had in my life as an actor. Every day going to work on that show was a pleasure, and season two so far has been the same.”

The rewards start with the writing and the collaboration allowed by the writer and producers, Chandler said.
“They let us have ownership of the characters — and just the general character of the actors themselves is great. They’re just a bunch of good people. It’s a good, fun, juicy story about this family and this mystery.”

The second season will offer more of the same — sort of, he said.

“I think it’s a lot faster-paced, especially at the beginning.”

Chandler’s career started in earnest in 1988, after he left the University of Georgia a few credits shy of a drama degree to give acting a go in Los Angeles.

He made the right decision, he said, even though he knew that the business holds no guarantees.

“My pop, he passed away when I was 14 years old,” the actor said, “and there were certain sayings that he had that I keep in my back pocket. One of them was ‘Just play it by ear,’ and I’ve done that with my whole career.”

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