Boyd Holbrook spoke with Collider to break down his Clement Mansell. He also explained why he’s been playing eccentric characters and revealed he intents to be “testing some other things out, in the near future.” More below:
Now living in Miami, 15 years after leaving Kentucky behind, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is finding that being the father of 15-year-old girl (played by Olyphant’s real-life daughter, Vivian Olyphant) can be more challenging than dealing with bad guys, ensuring that a healthy work-life balance isn’t likely to ever happen. Finding himself in Detroit with violent sociopath Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook) in his crosshairs, Raylan is hunting a killer who is unpredictable and dangerous, and who cracks his cool exterior and rankles him just enough to make him determined to see it through to the end.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Holbrook talked about his Justified: City Primeval bad guy, his recent run of weirdo characters, how he views Clement Mansell, the fun of telling a story that’s “funny and fucked up,” the peril of underestimating Raylan Givens, and embodying a walking contradiction who thinks he’s going to be the one to make it out on top.
This interview was conducted prior to the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Collider: With this kind of thing, my first question is always, why? Seeing this, it feels like Justified, and yet it also feels like something new.
BOYD HOLBROOK: It’s fresh because you get to see Tim [Olyphant]’s character in a new world, under new circumstances. It’s also a testament to the Raylan Givens character because it is an enjoyable character. We like to go on these little adventure explorations between all these straight-up wacky characters that (author) Elmore [Leonard] has created. It’s fun. I had a blast doing it, I really did.
Why do you keep playing these weirdos?
HOLBROOK: That’s a fucking great question!
You’ve played some eccentric characters, which I love. As an actor, I would imagine that is just so much fun. But are you surprised that some of these characters have come your way?
HOLBROOK: I will be straight with you on this, after this show and Indiana Jones, you’re gonna be seeing some different styles of characters. After playing Clement Mansell, I don’t know what else I could do, other than maybe play a Bond villain. I’m at a ceiling here, and I wanna be olive branching out a little bit more. But he’s everything. The guy thinks he’s a musician, which is just so cringey. He’s a hustler, he’s a psychopath, he’s a sociopath, he’s got a sense of humor, he’s oblivious. There are so many things about him that it’s like all the keys on the keyboard, and you don’t really get that many opportunities to do that. And so, I said, “Fuck it,” and I did it.
Especially after The Sandman, you definitely have me a bit creeped out. I didn’t think you could get weirder than that character.
HOLBROOK: Right, but they are very different. Back to your original question of why I’ve been drawn to this, I don’t know what normal is. I really don’t. But they are a lot of fun to play. I’ll be like testing some other things out, in the near future.
How defined was this character? This feels like a character that was very well-defined, but that there was a lot of room to play. What were you told about him, and what were you able to play with?
HOLBROOK: Oh, yeah. It’s heightened writing. It’s not hyper-realistic. The writing itself is elevated, to the point that it’s very seamlessly and almost invisibly doing things at higher stakes than the normal pulse beat in a story. The show is known for being funny and fucked up. (Executive Producer) Chris Provenzano told me that, early on. Those are the things they lean into the other shows don’t. Another actor friend of mine, AJ Buckley, said, “Is it the same team?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well, then absolutely do it. You won’t believe what comes out of your character’s mouth.” And it’s true. It’s like Martin McDonagh and Seven Psychopaths. It’s elevated, where it’s also saying something and it’s telling a funny story. It’s really great.
Were you able to collaborate on how he would look and how he would behave? What did you want to bring to him, visually?
HOLBROOK: There’s who he thinks he is, and then there’s who he is. He thinks he’s this pseudo rock star who’s got talent and can sing, but he’s really just a fucking dirtbag hustler who will probably slit your throat in a back alley somewhere. What I wanted to put into that was that I wanted to look the part. I wanted to be more gaunt. This guy is actually hungry. He’s not living the fat life. You can see that in his face, and it was about doing the physicality of that. I play music, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a musician. So, I embraced all of that about me. I don’t really think he’s clinically aware of his diagnosis. That’s not something that I really sat back and tried to understand. Obviously, he’s a psychopath, but he doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. He’s just surviving. You have to see the dark logic of the person, and have empathy for that and embrace that. It’s just a really endless rabbit hole.
No villain sees themselves as the villain. Instead, they’re the hero of their own story.
If he had to describe himself in the hero role of his story, how does he see himself?
HOLBROOK: He’s gonna make it. He’s gonna get out of the gutter. He’s not gonna suffer anymore. People will do anything not to do that, after a long period of time. That’s what his driving force is, and he one hundred percent believes it, right up until the very end. He wears his heart on his sleeve, in a way. He’s a complete contradiction of himself, in every single way.
There are times when you wonder how calculated he is, but at the same time, you also wonder if he realizes the consequences of his actions. Sometimes it just seems like luck that he stumbles into.
HOLBROOK: Yeah, it’s like, what is going on in that feral mind of his? Is there anybody home, or is this guy fucking smarter than all of us? He’s badass, in a way. There are some interesting folks out there. You can draw from anything.
What does Clement Mansell really think of Raylan Givens?
HOLBROOK: I think he really underestimates Raylan, at first. He’s like, “This guy’s some fucking Marshal.” It’s great. There was just a really good attitude that you could lean into. You saw it on the page. It’s elevated. Dave Andron and Michael Dinner were really smart about how they crafted the arc of the character, with how to keep him interesting and not have you just be like, “Wow, what a disgusting person.” You do have contempt and disgust for this person, but they’re so crafty and tricky in their writing that they keep you wanting to watch this character. I’m just painting by numbers, at that point. They’re essentially controlling and calling the shots.