Scoot McNairy on ‘Sleepless’, ‘Halt and Catch Fire’s Final Season, and ‘Fargo’
The action film Sleepless, starring Jamie Foxx as an undercover homicide detective seeking revenge on his son’s kidnappers is available on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on April 18, with deleted scenes and a Making Of featurette that delves even deeper into the intense, fast-paced story. In the film, a heist goes wrong and a crew of homicidal gangsters, led by the unhinged and dangerous Novak (Scoot McNairy), kidnaps the teenage son of undercover police officer Vincent Downs (Foxx), who is trying to get his son back while evading an internal affairs investigation into a web of corrupt cops.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Scoot McNairy (who’s amassing a wide array of varied and interesting to watch characters in his career) talked about the appeal of Sleepless, how much he enjoyed working with director Baran bo Odar, what inspired this bad-ass bad guy, and what stands out for him the most, when it comes to making the film. He also talked about how grateful he is to AMC for the opportunity to wrap up the story and characters in a final season of Halt and Catch Fire, the incredible experience of working with Noah Hawley for Season 3 of Fargo, the appeal of the Netflix Western mini-series Godless, and doing the Jody Hill comedy The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter.
SCOOT McNAIRY: It was a challenge and something I hadn’t done before, to play someone this sick. That was part of the draw to it. Also, I had seen (director) Baran bo Odar’s previous film, the German movie Who Am I, and I thought he did a really good job with it and that he’s a really interesting filmmaker. That was part of the draw to it, as well.
What did you enjoy about working and collaborating with this director, Baran bo Odar?
McNAIRY: When you talk to him, he’s like a kid in a candy store. He cracks a lot of jokes, and we have a lot of the same humor, so we really got along, in that regard. He’s also just really talented. I really liked his pacing and his tone, and how he moved the camera around and the speed of it. He likes the pacing to be really fast. All of those aspects of his filmmaking are interesting to me, and I felt like I hadn’t really done a film like that yet.
One of the things I really liked about this film is that it moves fast and it gets right to the point without any fat, at 90 minutes. Was that evident in the script, or did that come out of the editing?
McNAIRY: For sure, it was the way that [Baran bo Odar] intended to make the film. It wasn’t necessarily that apparent in the script. However, when we were shooting it, you could tell based on how many cameras we were using and how many pieces of each shot he needed, that the thing was going to be cut together with a whole bunch of pieces, which usually means the film is going to be pretty choppy. It’s definitely a summer action popcorn flick. It’s a film for entertainment.
This guy is unquestionably a bad guy and a bad-ass. Did you have to get into a specific headspace for that, and did you take inspiration from anyone, in figuring out who this guy was?
McNAIRY: When I was trying to come up with who the guy was, I talked to [Baran bo Odar] a lot about messing with the character on the page and the character that I wanted to play. Oddly and weirdly enough, I went to this car auction in Carmel one year, and there was this farmer next to me with a huge beard, drinking a bloody Mary, and he bid $800,000 on this ‘60s car. My point is that I based it off of that guy, and what if that guy was your dad. I thought about what it would be like to be his son, and then I went from there. And from talking about it so much, we incorporated the father character into the film.
Carrying such a high-powered gun must also inform the character and how you want to carry yourself while using it. Did you have to prepare to make sure you looked comfortable holding and using that?
McNAIRY: Sure. I grew up in Texas, so I was around a lot of guns, growing up as a kid, but absolutely, there are always people on set that are specialized in those fields, that help you out. And I’m always willing to listen to anyone who’s there, offering any sort of advice.
When you think back to the production for this film and your time playing this character, are the moments that stand out the most for you, whether it was stuff that happened on set or things that happened when you weren’t filming?
McNAIRY: Yeah, Sala [Baker], the guy standing next to me during the whole movie was making me drink juice. He’s a big juicer, with natural juices. We were always cutting up about juicing. He would say, “No food, just juice.” So, I cut up a lot with him. We had a lot of good times, and a lot of good times outside of work.
You’ve had such an interesting and varied career. Is there anything specific that you look for, when it comes to possible projects or characters, or do you just feel very lucky?
McNAIRY: I would say that it’s probably both. I’ve been really lucky to even have a career and be working, and that doesn’t go unnoticed from me, every day. On the flipside of that, I’m always looking for really good stories that are really good on the page. I’m looking for really good scripts that are really interesting and different stories, and within that, I’m always looking for a challenging or interesting character to play. I am striving to always try to change it up and do something different and not repeat myself.
Halt and Catch Fire is not a show with huge ratings numbers, but it’s a great show with a very loyal and devoted fan base. How surprised were you when they said you could have one more season to finish telling that story?
McNAIRY: I wasn’t that surprised. I was very grateful to AMC for giving us a fourth season, just so that we could get closure to the story and to the characters, which I always feel is important. I’ve always hated TV series that just end. In that regard, it’s a huge benefit and I think everybody is really excited to have worked on the show, and we get to come back for a fourth season and close out the characters and give closure to the show. And the fans have been far and few between, but the ones that we have are really big fans and they love the show. Regardless of all that, we’ve had a lot of fun and a really good time working on it. That’s probably what’s most important.
Have you started filming Season 4 yet, and are you clued in on where the show will end up?
McNAIRY: We start shooting in a couple of weeks (This interview was conducted on March 20th), and I’ve heard treatments for where the season is going. As far as where we’re gonna end, they have a rough idea, but it’s not on the page yet.
The final episode of Season 3 left the door open for exploring the explosion of the internet and the early days of how it got started. What’s your first memory of going online?
McNAIRY: Not necessarily. I remember that my little brother, who’s much younger than me, was always online. I was an outside kid, so I didn’t really touch a computer until much later in my life. I just remember the sound of the dial-up. Also, the AOL discs would always show up in the mail. I remember having to pay $15 for a CD back then, and I was always confused about how they could afford to give away a $15 CD. That’s what went through my head, every time I saw one, and we got one in the mail, every two weeks.
You have a pretty pivotal role in the third season of Fargo. How was the experience of working on that show and with Noah Hawley?
McNAIRY: Oh, man, it was incredible. That guy’s a genius. He’s totally brilliant. The crew that he has assembled, up there in Calgary, is one of the most well-oiled pieces of machinery that I’ve seen on a set. They’re all great, they all get along really well, and they’re all incredibly creative. I feel really lucky and blessed to be able to be a part of that show. I’ve been a big fan of Noah’s since the first season, so I was really excited and lucky to go work with him. It was a blast. It’s been great.
You’ve also done the Netflix Western mini-series Godless, with Jeff Daniels and Jack O’Connell. What was it about that project that appealed to you?
McNAIRY: I grew up in Texas, watching Westerns with my older brother and my dad, my whole life. This was my first opportunity, ever, to actually go and do one, and I would never pass up going to do a six-part mini-series of a Western that takes place in the 1880s. I would have done that one for free. I’ve been dying to do that since I started.
What sort of skills did you have to learn for that?
McNAIRY: Well, I grew up riding horses and I still ride horses now, so not too much. But, the stunt guys that they had on that job and the wranglers were top notch. They’re some of the best in the business, so we were in really good hands with all of the stuff that we did. They let us do our own stunts and run the horses. Working with Scott Frank was an incredible experience. That guy is an amazing director and incredible writer. I have really high hopes for the project and I hope it turns out good.
What kind of character are you playing in that?
McNAIRY: I play a sheriff of a town that’s aging quickly, based on an event that has happened. I’m overlooking the town at a time when a tragedy is about to occur.
You’re also in the Jody Hill comedy, The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter, with Danny McBride. How did you fit in with their comedy style?
McNAIRY: David Gordon Green and Jody Hill and Danny McBride are just exceptional at comedy. With comedy, you throw yourself out there and get ready to fall on your face, and hope that Jody Hill will walk you through it. You just try different things to see what lands. I have so much confidence in those guys cutting together something really good, interesting and funny. I put so much of that on Jody. Comedy is timing, and he works a lot of that out in the edit bay. However, all Danny McBride has to do is talk and it’s funny. I know he improvises, so when I saw the lines and I thought they weren’t that funny, I figured he would improvise something. But, he doesn’t improvise. It’s how he says the lines. The guy is just hilarious.
It seems that the work you do leans more towards drama, but would you like to find more of a balance between drama and comedy?
McNAIRY: It’s funny you say that because when I started out in the business, all I was doing was comedy. I was doing mostly all comedy. It wasn’t until Monsters and Killing Them Softly that that changed. Those were the first dramas I did, and since then, it’s mostly been dramas. But, I like them both. Anything that’s challenging and that doesn’t make me comfortable is usually what I lean towards.
Sleepless is available on Blu-ray/DVD on April 18th.