On the intriguing new eight-episode Cinemax series Quarry, created by Michael D. Fuller & Graham Gordy and based on the best-selling books by Max Allan Collins, U.S. Marine Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green) returns home to Memphis from Vietnam in 1972, only to find himself demonized for the actions he witnessed and took part in while he was there. Struggling to make ends meet, Mac, who evolves into Quarry, is lured into an underground killing network of powerful criminals that turns his life upside down.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, which took place in the HBO offices in Santa Monica, actor Logan Marshall-Green (who truly gives one of the best performances of the new fall TV season in this show) talked about playing this flawed anti-hero, the complex relationship between Mac and his wife, Joni (Jodi Balfour), the unique dynamic between Mac and fellow hitman Buddy (Damon Herriman), modeling his performance of the character after his own father, and shooting the series as one long movie. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: This is such an interesting character to watch because there’s a duality between what he’s saying and everything that’s going on inside of him.
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: I’m glad you responded that way.
As an actor, does that just give you so much to play with?
MARSHALL-GREEN: Yeah, there’s a lot of flaws and there’s a lot of potential for hero, but more potential for anti-hero. There are just different worlds colliding, be it Vietnam, America, domestic, or the underbelly of violence. And then, there’s a love story, as well. Everything is hopefully earned. I hope that everyone responds how you responded. That’s great.
This is not a good guy or a bad guy. He’s just a guy who’s trying to get through each day, which seems like such a struggle, in itself.
MARSHALL-GREEN: Yeah, there’s so many different levels of frustration with these guys who came back. And then, you throw in an affair with a guy who’s trying to do right, and who was a leader of men in a foreign country, only to come home and be called a murderer and baby killer. And then, he’s just trying to get a job and he’s manipulated through his best friend to become a contract killer. More than anything, he’s just frustrated with his country. That’s the big difference between that war and all the other wars. And that’s the big difference with that time, as well. In the early ‘70s, we were chaperoning in the feminist movement and a whole new attitude and relationship to what the white male is in America. This is a guy who I needed to be flawed and stuck in the morality of the ‘50s. He would seethe at his wife, daring to pay for dinner, but is the first to stand when she leaves the table. That kind of gallantry and that kind of gentleman is somebody who my dad was, and that’s who I based this character on. That’s what I love about Mac. Like it or not, he’s not a sensitive New Age guy. It’s your job to find the flaws and to judge him for them, and it’s my job to keep you interested and emotionally invested.
The relationship between Mac and his wife is really sort of tragic because she has tried to move on, over the years, and he wants to just pick back up where they left off.
MARSHALL-GREEN: She has a lot of frustration with him. He was drafted, and then he re-enlisted. It was his choice to go back, to be with his best friend, Arthur, so there’s a lot of frustration there. Obviously, she has her own information that she’s withholding. She knows the man that she married, and he is a bit of a ticking time bomb. He should constantly be on edge and ready to pop because that’s what these guys were. But the thing that they have, which is really rare, is a purity between them, and they are constantly searching for it. Mac and Joni’s journey is to find each other again, within this first season. And he’s now withholding information, so there’s a bit of a flip-flop.
The dynamic between Mac and Buddy is such a unique one. What was that like to explore?
MARSHALL-GREEN: He’s a unicorn, figuratively, to Mac. I think that’s a great dynamic. I think Damon [Herriman] is so beautiful in that role. His approach is a perfect example of what we sought to do, every day, with the emotional stakes and earning every single second of violence. Damon did such a great job. You see a man dealing, who’s trying to get out, and every hit hurts. He has the switch, just like Mac. That’s why he’s the oldest hitman in the group. He’s been The Broker’s go-to, for a long time. I’m sure The Broker sees him trying to get out, and he’s bringing in Mac to take the reigns. But what Damon did is an example of earning that violence, which right now, we have no choice but to do, in this climate. If we are glorifying it, it’s over and done. That is last century. This social climate is not going to take it anymore. It’s up to us to always be invested, emotionally, and to have a spiritual punishment, and constantly earn everything. These men are doing these horrible things, but they’re not invested in the killing. They’re invested in something else. They’re trying to get by. I just love Damon’s Buddy. He’s my favorite character.
Do you think Mac is a guy who would have come home and stepped right back into his life, if he could have, or do you think he just didn’t understand the extent of the gravity of the situation and how different things would be when he got home?
MARSHALL-GREEN: I think he would have. There’s one thing Mac is not short on, and that’s pride. His pride fucks with him, constantly, and gets in his way. But, I think he was savvy with the climate. He hadn’t experienced it, first hand, but he’s had two tours, so there was already an antagonistic relationship between America and the soldiers. So, I think it’s a little bit of both. Absolutely, he wanted to come back and get to work, so you’re seeing a constant approach to him trying to get a job. That’s just what happened. These guys could not get jobs and his last resource was taking the money that he could. But, I can’t say that he was ignorant to the social climate. I think he knew. I just don’t think he saw it affected him the way it did. And then, throw in an affair and throw in his best friend being killed over here, after years in Vietnam. To make it back, only to be killed here, is absurd.
Does he feel responsible for what happened to his best friend?
MARSHALL-GREEN: I think he absolutely takes on ownership of his death because he’s hiding it, as well. Of course, that manifests itself in a duty to his family, which his family does not necessarily want, especially the boy. He’s constantly trying to be there for Arthur’s son, which is part of the aggressive, passionate, righteous Episode 6. But, that boy doesn’t want him as his dad. That boy wants his dad back. That’s Mac banging his head against a wall and beating a dead horse. I absolutely would not have been doing my job, if I didn’t carry Art with me, throughout the entire season. When we originally shot this pilot, four years ago, it wasn’t written, but there was an idea that was floated, between all of us, about Arthur haunting Mac. So, 100%, he takes responsibility and is haunted by Arthur. It’s what drives him, not just money.
When you were figuring out this character, was it more important for you to delve into the time period and who someone like this would be, or did you want to look at the books, as well?
MARSHALL-GREEN: I’ve heard they’re amazing and all respect to Max Collins, but I’ve never read the books. My seed was my father. I went all out with my dad, sans moustache because he didn’t wear a moustache. My dad was an older dude, who was actually even older than the morality of the ‘50s. He flew in WWII. So, I started with him and went after him, in accent, cigarette choice, whiskey choice, attitude, and the relationship to the birth of the sensitive New Age guy in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which he is not. There was so much potential with Mac, seeing him butt up against this new era. He’s like, “Why isn’t everyone standing when a woman leaves the table? How could you let that woman pay for you?” He’s hard, and that’s part of the frustration. But, that’s what I used. It was my father, all the way, from top to bottom, except for the moustache.
How hard is it for Mac to realize that he’s not even welcomed back into his own family?
MARSHALL-GREEN: He’s realized, at this point, that his country didn’t want him, but at least he had his family. Once that door was readily shut in his face, too, while it wasn’t so much surprising because there’s a large history between he and his dad and his stepmother, it is disappointing. It’s the final rampart that goes down, and then the castle is stormed and he has nothing left. And then, he finds out that his wife has cheated on him. He’s left alone with a gay hitman being his closest family. What do you do with that? You take it day by day and hit by hit, and you earn everything.
How does Mac feel about The Broker?
MARSHALL-GREEN: Michael [Fuller] and Graham [Gordy] wrote such incredibly nuanced and multi-layered relationships. So, whereas dad does not fulfill, The Broker does, paternally, and The Broker knows this. I think it’s important for you to understand, as an audience, that The Broker is manipulating that relationship and is there for him when his dad is not. In a way, that is a form of brainwashing. He’s stepping in and handing the mouse a little bit of food, and then letting go. The mice go crazy, not when they’re not fed and not when they’re overfed, but when they don’t know when the food is coming. That is part of The Broker’s manipulation and his dad’s, but The Broker doles it out correctly, whereas the dad doesn’t. The Broker is doing it solely to manipulate. I think Mac is aware of it, by the end, but whether or not that makes him stay or leave, you’ll have to watch.
How do you feel about where you leave this guy, at the end of these episodes? Is he somebody you’re looking forward to delving deeper into?
MARSHALL-GREEN: No, only because it’s hard and dark. I loved the man. I loved shooting it. It was not shot episodically, though. We cross-boarded the entire show, so we shot a 500+-page movie. We never were finished with an episode. We just finished the series. We were shooting multiple episodes, the first day. So, I was not just conscious of the emotional baggage that I needed to shed before I took it home, but I needed to come to work being prepared to make choices knowing that they would land later in the shoot, and I needed to pick them right up again. It was a tremendously ambitious shoot, but I think we actually did okay, in tracking the emotional journey, the physical journey, and all of the relationships.
Was it crucial than to have the same director (Greg Yaitanes) at the helm of every episode?
MARSHALL-GREEN: Absolutely! I don’t think you could have done it otherwise. I pressured Greg early to come in and do them all, knowing that that’s what we wanted to go after. It’s very tough. You could cross-board two or three episodes together, which a lot of people do nowadays, but for all eight, it was essential that Greg was there throughout them all.
Quarry airs on Friday nights on Cinemax.