Boyd Holbrook walks through the door of La Colombe in Tribeca, NY, runs his fingers through his bed head of blonde hair, and sincerely asks me what I was reading as I waited for his arrival. He is softer in nature than is expected of someone whose broodingly handsome, strong-jawed face served as a one-way ticket out of his home state of Kentucky and onto the New York runways of designers like Marc Jacobs, Moschino, and DKNY over ten years ago.
Although Holbrook still participates in modeling projects, like the recent film he starred in for the Dior Homme Fall 2015 campaign, his good looks are secondary to his talent as an emerging actor, budding filmmaker, and practiced sculptor.
He calls ahead to apologize for being late—a rare act in New York, where everyone thinks their time is more valuable than that of the person they are meeting—and innocently asks if I was running late too in a smooth, slightly southern drawl. After he arrives and charms the barista at the counter with his sheepish demeanor, we chat for five minutes at a noisy corner table before deciding that the location I chose is too loud to think.
We walk outside and the early fall afternoon winds sweep our clothes and hair to the east as we settle onto a stoop directly outside the coffee shop. Holbrook is unfussy about sitting on dusty iron grates and chivalrously offers to place himself to my right, a danger zone where the chances of him getting hit by multiple doors are high. Possible injuries are avoided as we people-watch the passers-by of New York Fashion Week. Holbrook comments that “the dream is over here” for optimistic artists who move to the city to feel welcome, create work, and pursue their passions. The city has become a haven for the rich and those who might benefit most “can’t even afford to have a studio.”
This real estate reality check, paired with his upbringing in a rural mining town, has led him to firmly decide he belongs outside of whichever city he chooses to settle near next, after finishing the second season of the highly praised Netflix show Narcos. The original series dives into the world of the South American drug cartel in the 1970s–80s and is narrated by Holbrook’s character Steve Murphy, an American DEA Agent who assisted in tracking down Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Until filming in Bogotá wraps in spring 2016, Boyd will continue living out of his luggage, an experience he says has taught him about the insignificance of material goods. “I have a banjo, a guitar, a dog, and all of my possessions are in two suitcases. I think that’s amazing,” and one can’t help but be impressed by his nomadic abilities.
In the last two and a half years, Holbrook has worked on projects in Belfast, New Orleans, and Bogotá, and prior to that spent significant time in Berlin, Paris, and Los Angeles. Constantly on the move, Holbrook is ready to settle in solitude and give himself some much needed brain space to think about what’s next after his time in South America. “I’m tired of the grind. I want space to think about work,” he says, preferring not to constantly worry about questions like, “How can I afford this? How can I do this?” with every pursuit.
One such initiative Holbrook hopes to figure out is his next filmmaking attempt. He made his directorial debut with festival-favorite Peacock Killer (a short film adaption of the even shorter 250-word story of the same name by Sam Shepard) with his New York-based production company Madbrook Films. He considers the film his “calling card” and reflects that “it was hard as fuck to make a film in a week, in the snow, with peacocks, and dog wranglers. I’m surprised that I made it, but I tried to add my vision to it.”
Holbrook plans to add the same original vision to Uncle Sam, a screenplay he wrote about a crime family from the Appalachian region. He hopes it will become the first feature film he directs in the next few years. A fictional tale based on true accounts he grew up with, Holbrook describes how the characters have “a lot of similarities to the mob and crime families in Boston and Brooklyn, but Appalachia is geographically more isolated, so it turns out a breed of its own.” Although he is intimately familiar with the area and the narratives in the screenplay, Holbrook does not want to fit the film in between other projects. “It’s so important to me to live in Appalachia, make the film, and be there, not just go down for a week here and there and then bust the film out. I don’t have any interest in that—it’s not the right set up.”
Being present is a running theme in all of Holbrook’s activities, whether they are personal, professional, or a balance of both. In an age of constant contact and social media updates, where actors are just as active as their fans, Holbrook chooses to eschew this form of the spotlight in favor of adventuring without online documentation of his travels. After finishing the first season of Narcos, Holbrook went on a motorcycle trip across Chile and neighboring Argentina, and he will be returning to the area to visit El Chaltén, a small village in Argentina, on an upcoming camping trip this winter. “I fell in love with El Chaltén and just want to hang out for a while” to contemplate next steps.
In addition to directing Uncle Sam, Holbrook might have a Stephen King film in the works, which he says, “would be a very big deal.” Likewise, Holbrook himself has the potential to be a very big deal.