Kyle's Career Filmstrip: TV Series and Movies

Nov 24, 2016

Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges chat about Manchester by the Sea

Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges
Kyle Chandler, the Emmy award-winning star of Netflix’s popular series Bloodline, is one of the stars of the new movie Manchester by the Sea.

He was in Toronto to promote the film with his young co-star, Lucas Hedges, who plays his son. The two got together for a round table discussion to talk to media outlets about the film and Tribute was there!
The film, which opened in New York City and Los Angeles last Friday, enjoyed the the fourth-highest per-screen average ($60,308) for any film released in 2016. It opens in more cities on Friday, Nov. 25, then expands on December 16, 2016.

When you were first approached to be involved with the film, what did you think of it?
Kyle: I was in a hotel room in New York when I got the script. I had to read it twice, I was so amazed by it. Met Kenny (director Kenneth Lonergan) the next day, had lunch with him, hoped I got the part. He asked me to join on board and that’s where I am now. I’m so, so happy that I was part of it, and to jump to the end, when I first saw the film, I had no idea. I had no idea at all that it could possibly be as wonderful as it was. And that’s that. I would have never imagined that it could have been as wonderful as it turned out.

Lucas: I wasn’t approached to do the movie — I auditioned like five times. I auditioned once with a casting director, once with Kenny, once with Kenny and a reader, once with Kenny and Casey [Affleck], and then I came down and we had our session and I thought I wasn’t going to get it, because Kenny was supposed to take the same car as me to the train to go back to New York and he got in a different car and I was like, “Oh. Shoot. I didn’t get it.” And then on the train he told me I got it. I knew from the moment I read the script that this kind of a part in this kind of a project, it’s extremely rare. I’m very new to this but I’ve been around long enough to recognize a special script and a special part.

Kyle, do you think your character leaves his son to his brother because he feels it will help focus him to get over his problems?
Kyle: When I was doing the film that was a decision that had to be made, for me to figure out who the guy was and indeed he did it to save his life. Knowing that I knew my brother in ways that no one would ever know him and who he was and that he was the person who would be best suited to take care of my son and again, it would save his life in the long run so hopefully what happened in the movie would occur, so I made the right decision. Yeah, that was a conscious thought, trying to figure that out.

Kyle, you always play strong roles — your characters have wisdom and they’re stern but also give people life-changing advice or help. What draws you to these types of roles that incorporate strong masculinity but are also sensitive to the core?
Kyle: All the people in my life that know me well and have known me for years wonder the same thing. [everyone laughs] I’m not quite sure but it’s been very enjoyable. I’ve been so fortunate in the last five, 10 years in the some of the films I’ve been asked to join aboard and these little parts that I’ve been able to run with. It’s been a great experience.

A lot of your characters are people that my friends and I aspire to be like. I want to be a man like that who has integrity but also is strong…
Kyle: Well you can be! Just give it a try, man. [everyone laughs]

Something that’s really strong about the film is the balance of humor and tragedy that we see in the movie. Was that humor, that balance already there in the script?
Lucas: Completely. Totally.

Kyle: Yes. And that’s another thing that was so exciting about the script — it covered everything. And it left spaces for different actors to find different humor. The script had everything. I realized that I had to do nothing except follow what was there. Because it was already crafted. Everything was there. And sometimes that’s the hardest thing, is to not do anything. Just to trust what’s on the page. Usually I’m the opposite. I’m scratching things out, writing, this would be a better line, you know, for TV and stuff. This was written by a playwright and it was meticulously put together.

What was he like as a director in terms of his style compared to other styles you two have worked with?
Lucas: I’ve worked with several directors like Wes Anderson and something they both have in common is that the entire movie from start to finish is crafted — it’s so specifically done. Having said that, Kenny loves to be surprised, he loves it when something happens that he didn’t seen coming. But there is such a close attention to detail in his writing that is also true in his directing.

Kyle: He’s very meticulous in all the best ways. And sometimes to work with someone like that is the worst experience in the world because as an actor it’ll drive you nuts. We rehearsed a lot and we rehearsed in a lot of different ways and the material was explored. When we got to the set, we knew what was going on. He let off the reins a little bit and let us fill in the spaces so everything came together. But it is his mind. You’re living in his mind and he’s getting what he wants. And you want to be part of that because he sees everything. He sees what’s underneath everything and he knows to present that. It was very interesting watching the final product with everything put together — the post-production music, the whole thing and then it was a revelation at the end. “Oh, that’s what he was doing.” I’d never worked with him before. Another thing I said to him was, “Please, can I work with you again?” [everyone laughs]

Lucas, what was it like working with Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck?
Lucas: For me, it was incredibly intimidating. Once we really got into the filming, that faded away and it just felt like we were just in some weird town in Massachusetts and I mean, Casey was just some guy. But it really was intimidating at first especially because we were using Boston accents and I’m from Brooklyn and I’m not a Boston actor, which Casey is, and so it was intimidating at first. But probably for very superficial reasons that I got over.

Kyle: It’s the same for everyone. You meet the actors and everyone’s a little nervous when you get together but once you get on the set, then it’s full contact sport. Then you’re playing the game. That’s where everyone’s an equal — that’s where it’s fun.

Lucas: Do you remember when I came up to do the readings and you played the hockey coach? Do you remember Kenny had you play a bunch of different roles in the movie?

Kyle: Oh yeah, that’s right. I was the barmaid, too. [everyone laughs]

Lucas: You were? That’s right!

Kyle: And actually, he was so specific in the rehearsals that I was the barmaid, pretending to do the bar, and there was no dialogue. I was the quiet barmaid, which I was really good at, as well. I liked that role. [everyone still laughing] But yeah, I forgot about that. We rehearsed a lot.

Lucas: [laughing] Yeah, we did.

That’s fairly unusual for a film, often people don’t give you that much time to rehearse.

Kyle: It was great that we did it because once we got on the set, there’s not much time to get things done so the time that you do have left over you can tweak it. It was a great experience. It was like rehearsing a play.

This takes place in winter — Kyle, you’re used to filming in very cold temperatures, having starred in Early Edition. What are some tricks an actor can use to try not to look so cold on camera?
Kyle: To not… look cold? [Long pause] Uh, maybe a fifth of whiskey in your back pocket. [everyone laughs] That would be number one. I think most actors would agree to that.

Manchester by the Sea opens in select cities November 25, 2016.

Nov 6, 2016

Drama King

Actor Kyle Chandler muses on turning his beloved Coach Taylor persona upside down and his latest dramatic role in the indie film Manchester by the Sea

  Drama King
Photography by Miller Mobley

It's a rare moment when fate and chance meet and destiny takes its course. Such was the case when Kyle Chandler, a young student at the University of Georgia, was “bumming around” the town’s Five Points neighborhood. “It was two points of light that struck each other in the middle of absolutely nowhere when I bummed a cigarette from these four characters at 3 a.m.,” he reflects. It turns out the characters in question were actors who suggested he try out for the Shakespearean farce “The Comedy of Errors” at the university’s local Cellar Theatre. “I can’t imagine why I did it to this day, but I studied it, auditioned and got the part as one of the Dromios. I loved the camaraderie, enjoyment and applause at the end,” he says. “And so many odd, strange characters!”

He never looked back. While still in college, Chandler and a buddy took a train up to New York to audition for a talent showcase for ABC. Chandler was offered a development deal on the spot, and he packed his bags for Hollywood. Jobs as a bartender and a bouncer followed, but it was roles on the dramatic television dramas Tour of Duty and Homefront that first placed him in the spotlight in the 1990s.

While a memorable guest performance as an ill-fated bomb-squad expert on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy earned him his first Emmy nomination in 2006, it was his career-changing role as the principled Coach Taylor on NBC’s Friday Night Lights that made the actor a household name. A cult favorite, the binge-worthy series follows a high-school football coach and his players as they navigate life in a rural Texas town. “I started out in comedy, played the kid next door, and the nice gentleman that would always do good, and then Coach Taylor came along. I blended my experiences into that with a little W.C. Fields thrown in.”

For research, Chandler looked to the life of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick for inspiration, along with sage advice over a barbecue dinner with a local high-school football coach. “I was standing out on the back deck, holding his 6-month-old, and after a lot of conversation — and it gives me chills when I say this — he said, ‘There is really only one thing you have to know: You have to love the kids.’ It gave me a freedom to do what I wanted to do, if I wanted to be a tough coach and realize if I loved these kids, I could push if it was justified and still be fair.” Chandler took the advice to heart, molded it into his character and won an Emmy award as Outstanding Lead Actor for the performance in 2011, beating competition that included Jon Hamm for Mad Men and Hugh Laurie for House.

The quote-worthy role — (“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” is a part of pop culture lexicon) — provided the actor with another fringe benefit: While traveling solo from Los Angeles to the show’s location in Austin, Texas, Chandler says his wife suggested they take a road trip. “On the first day of driving she asked if I was happy in LA. I said this is a really big serious question you are asking and I said, ‘No, I am not.’ So she said, ‘Let’s move and change it up.’ ” The couple and their two daughters ended up relocating to a 33-acre property an hour outside of Austin. “I don’t have a farm; I have a garden with corn, okra, tomatoes and beets. I am a beet farmer,” Chandler says. “It’s a good bit of work to do here: bush-hogging land and planting here and there. In Texas they call it a quote-unquote ‘gentleman’s ranch.’ It gives me something to bitch about.”

It’s a life that suits him, he says, adding that “the whole Hollywood thing is not me.” In between acting gigs, Chandler served as a volunteer fireman, where he saw plenty of action during the record two-year drought. “It was challenging and fun and hats off to all those guys who people don’t realize are the ones putting their lives on the line.”

Serious film roles followed the 51-year-old actor, who found himself cast as a series of authoritative men: White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan in Argo, the CIA chief Joseph Bradley in Zero Dark Thirty and FBI agent Patrick Denham in The Wolf of Wall Street.

“Somehow I started getting these roles of people with this gravitas. My manager and agent said no more CIA, no more sheriffs and no more suits and ties!” One “suit” role he did take was perhaps his most serious role to date: playing the beleaguered and angst-ridden Sheriff John Rayburn on the popular Netflix drama Bloodline. Looking for a great series after FNL turned off the stadium lights, the role of the golden-boy son whose family owns an inn in the Florida Keys (along with a slew of dark secrets) recently landed him his fifth Emmy nomination. “The producers on Bloodline wanted to turn Coach Taylor upside down, and I was more than happy to do that,” Chandler says. “The show is my first dark role, it’s been a great ride and I feel blessed to get another year.” What does the future hold for John Rayburn in the show’s third and final season, due out next year? “The only one who knows what is going to happen is the #2 pencil sitting on the writer’s desk,” he replies.

This November, Chandler stars in the indie film Manchester by the Sea, where he plays a man who unexpectedly dies, leaving his teenage son in the care of his brother (Casey Affleck), a janitor in Boston. Co-starring Michelle Williams, Tate Donovan, Matthew Broderick and Gretchen Mol, the film received rave reviews at Sundance this past winter. Chandler’s role plays out in a series of flashbacks. “I read the script once, read it again, it got me and I cried. And I am not that sensitive,” he explains. “When I first met Kenny [Kenneth Lonergan, the film’s director], we rehearsed the heck out of it. And when we shot the film, I got this insecure feeling that we had created a mess, as Kenny has a particular way of doing things, and I was not sure how it would work out.”

The actor was also stricken with another insecurity: learning a Boston accent (he spent time soaking up the vernacular in the local bars). The result turns out to be one of his most passionate, favored projects to date. “I saw the film at Sundance for the first time and it’s amazing,” Chandler says. “The film is truly incredible; it’s so tight and so finely sewn together. It’s one of the best movies I have ever seen.”

Photo above Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Claire Folger/Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions
Chandler is an actor’s actor. “My favorite part of this job is the process. It’s like a runner running. I love it when the camera starts rolling, and until the time it stops, it’s like a roller-coaster ride. It’s that enjoyable.” He cites the late actor James Garner as his role model. Perhaps it’s a childhood memory of watching The Rockford Files with his father or his resemblance to the multitalented television and film idol, but he does appreciate the longevity and range of Garner’s career. He also credits the advice of his acting coach, Milton Katselas: “Know your casting,” when choosing roles. “I don’t think it’s made me too careful of choices I have made, but it’s also protected me from how I look at projects.”

While serious roles appear to dot his career path, Chandler would love a part with a comedic turn. If his dry sense of humor and playful nature are any indication, it’s just a matter of time before we see that side on-screen.