James Purefoy and Michael K. Williams Talk Dark Themes, Haunting Backstories in Hap and Leonard: Mucho Mojo

The Sundance series stars preview new characters and more featured in the upcoming season.

by | March 14, 2017 | Comments

Based on writer Joe R. Lansdale’s novels of the same name, Sundance’s darkly comic drama Hap and Leonard stars James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams as a pair of lifelong friends living in Texas during the 1980s. The series returns this Wednesday for a six-episode second season — subtitled Mucho Mojo after Lansdale’s second Hap and Leonard novel — which picks up shortly after where the first season left off, and we got to speak with Purefoy and Williams about new developments in the series. Purefoy began by telling us that viewers will find a slightly different Hap after the events of Season 1. [Note: Season 1 spoilers below]

“He is getting over the death of his wife, Trudy. She died at the end of last season and he’s grieving that loss, trying to make sense of that loss and wondering where life is going to go from here,” says Purefoy. “I feel like, towards the end of last season, he managed to stand up straight for the first time in a long time. I think by the end of last season he found that he was respecting himself again, slightly. So at the beginning of this season, he’s able to greet the world with a little more confidence than before.”

But any sense of peace and confidence is quickly overshadowed by the trouble Hap and Leonard quickly find themselves in. The death of Leonard’s Uncle Chester (Henry G. Sanders) leads the main characters to stumble upon a string of missing young, black, male children, which is a bit darker in tone than in Season 1. Purefoy and Williams both said it was a hard storyline to balance with the comedy of the show.

“That was a very thin line to ride, the darkness of all these dead children and the slapstick humor that comes with being Hap and Leonard,” says Williams. “But when you have a vet like James as a co-worker, you hit the mark. I think we did it with dignity. It’s a dramedy, so the comedy has to be there, so I think we did it with dignity.”

Purefoy added that the comedy is a necessary component to make the tragedy stand out even more.

“I think tragedy only ever really works if you’ve got a good few laughs thrown in,” he said. “I think it’s really important to have a change of style and a change of scene, and the more you can laugh with characters and at characters one minute, the more tragic stuff that happens after that — it’s a dramaturgical idea that’s been around for a long time; Shakespeare used it a lot. You have to have a good laugh one minute and experience tragedy the next. I think it works best if you can achieve both of those things in a simultaneous program.”

The missing and presumed dead children aren’t the only dark spot in Season 2. Beau Otis (John McConnell) returns after the reveal in the Season 1 finale that he is the man responsible for killing Hap and Leonard’s fathers that fateful night when they were children. Purefoy likened it to a Greek tragedy playing out between Hap, Leonard, Otis, and the sheriff.

“The Beau Otis thing is a very Greek tragedy. The fact that Beau Otis killed both Hap and Leonard’s fathers — Beau Otis is the scion of a rich, white, Republican, over-privileged group of people in that community,” Purefoy explained. “He represents everything that Hap doesn’t like — on a personal level, on a political level, on a racial level. He is everything Hap cannot bear. There’s a real Greek tragedy element to the Beau Otis-Hap relationship.”

Williams agreed and said that it’s a story set 30 years ago, but still remains relevant today.

“To have Beau Otis come back, there’s a lot of tension there — there’s a lot of racism there, and just disrespect for one’s civil rights, basically. There’s a lot of covering up going on, and I think that was a timely thing to touch on right now, with all that’s going on,” said Williams. “Sometimes when you look at some of the decisions, particularly with the police shootings on unarmed people, who is making these decisions [not to indict]? I’m no judge, so I couldn’t begin to answer that, but it’s good that they explore that [on the show]. And the relationship between their parents and Otis, I like how they tied that in.”

Not only is there the Beau Otis tie to Hap and Leonard’s fathers, but Beau’s father, Sheriff Valentine Otis, was part of the cover-up decades ago and is still a part of law enforcement in town, making Sheriff Otis a bigger threat than his hapless son. The sheriff is played by veteran actor Brian Dennehy, who both Purefoy and Williams said was a huge addition to the cast.

“You throw the legend that is Brian Dennehy into that mix and it gets pretty explosive. Brian Dennehy is someone I’ve admired for a very, very long time. He’s one of those character actors that’s been around a long time, and everything he does seems like it’s being chipped in marble,” says Purefoy.

“Brian Dennehy is a G. He brings all of that larger-than-life to the character, to the set. He’s so lovely to be around,” adds Williams.

And Dennehy isn’t the only new face in Season 2. An attorney named Florida Granger (Tiffany Mack) comes into Hap and Leonard’s lives, in addition to a young man named Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon). Florida immediately catches Hap’s eye, but she initially wants nothing to do with him.

“Why would she? He’s a loser. He’s a loser and he’s not going to get his s— together and he’s losing his hair,” Purefoy said with a laugh. “He’s on his way out! But she represents something astonishing to him. He thinks she’s just delightful. He sees modernity, he sees ambition, brightness, fierceness, professional conduct. She kicks ass; she’s something he admires very greatly.”

He added, “The love object of Hap is the least interesting thing about Florida Granger. She has many, many sides to her. She’s a very multi-faceted character; she’s a powerful character. She knows what she wants — she’s a really cool female character, and I think the audience will fall in love with her.”

Williams had similar praise for Thurmon, whose character Ivan is someone with whom Leonard forms an unlikely bond in Season 2.

“The storyline between Leonard and Ivan, that’s the relationship. That’s a love affair; it’s just not sexual. It’s true love. That’s the first time Leonard has expressed that for another human being — the first time he’s truly expressed unconditional love for another human being is in Ivan,” said Williams. “Lonnie, the actor, he gets some performances out of me that I didn’t see coming. He’s a beautiful kid, and you immediately want to take care of him. He got some s— out of me that I wasn’t expecting.”

Though Hap and Leonard hasn’t yet been renewed for a third season, both Purefoy and Williams were excited for it to continue on Sundance.

“I’m a middle-aged British actor who lives in the countryside in England most of the time, so to go into this world for three months every year, it’s really interesting for me,” said Purefoy. “We don’t see a relationship like Hap and Leonard on TV very often. A lot of men have a friend like Hap or Leonard, and we rarely see a relationship like this on television, and I often wonder why not? For me, getting into this world for three months every year is strange and alien to me, but one I’ve grown to love and cherish. It’s really valuable to me.”

Season 2 of Hap and Leonard premieres Wednesday, March 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Sundance.

Tag Cloud

APB spinoff Calendar television cars finale Musicals cops Food Network Cannes kids Academy Awards quibi science fiction independent RT21 Toys Endgame dramedy south america Fantasy screenings disaster renewed TV shows IFC boxoffice reboot Horror aliens MTV Warner Bros. TCA Winter 2020 History stand-up comedy Sundance Creative Arts Emmys casting BBC America book biography TIFF See It Skip It Rocky Ovation Character Guide anthology Grammys Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Amazon Studios hist Turner Emmy Nominations cinemax Holidays 007 TCM space docudrama HBO Max Crackle crime thriller cartoon Thanksgiving Disney Plus psychological thriller screen actors guild Extras robots Acorn TV Opinion X-Men miniseries Star Trek Trophy Talk The Walking Dead YouTube Spring TV YouTube Red Television Academy Holiday PBS 24 frames children's TV Pet Sematary adaptation CNN politics Epix Schedule Mystery LGBTQ TCA 2017 cancelled television TV RT History singing competition 45 dceu social media batman award winner BBC police drama SDCC Mindy Kaling harry potter VICE Reality Nickelodeon mutant Spike Comics on TV based on movie Sci-Fi Brie Larson what to watch Awards Tour E! Comedy Central Best and Worst FXX series Captain marvel Comic Book Rock Superheroe E3 Cartoon Network Music President Ghostbusters DC Universe indie GLAAD spy thriller YouTube Premium Columbia Pictures 2018 Marvel Studios teaser streaming First Reviews Women's History Month adventure slashers Photos ABC OneApp Fall TV Esquire The Arrangement Nat Geo USA Network Premiere Dates A&E Freeform Apple TV Plus TruTV Film Festival Black Mirror name the review natural history diversity 2020 Turner Classic Movies joker MSNBC Stephen King 2015 Crunchyroll Disney streaming service Red Carpet serial killer Pixar Sneak Peek VH1 elevated horror Bravo Amazon Prime Heroines Polls and Games Certified Fresh Hallmark Christmas movies 20th Century Fox Elton John Winners ITV Marathons documentary DirecTV BET Musical Universal crossover First Look Ellie Kemper Mary Poppins Returns Marvel Television movies The Purge Pop HBO breaking bad Pride Month Lionsgate Teen TCA 21st Century Fox sports American Society of Cinematographers 2019 spain Oscars Family Hallmark cooking Peacock canceled TV shows video zero dark thirty sitcom Showtime Classic Film Pirates latino Rom-Com CBS All Access TNT richard e. Grant FX Star Wars CW Seed DC Comics toy story Adult Swim Awards WarnerMedia NYCC Dark Horse Comics Film rotten movies we love christmas movies El Rey Shudder Amazon Prime Video Comedy Biopics Writers Guild of America SXSW SundanceTV Masterpiece The CW sequel jamie lee curtis Country mockumentary romantic comedy spanish language Starz ratings Vudu Reality Competition canceled Logo spider-man zombies Baby Yoda facebook DGA Apple Western movie Sundance Now Tomatazos Superheroes war Disney game show free movies political drama Syfy Rocketman witnail psycho comiccon supernatural binge technology Hulu DC streaming service TBS Disney+ Disney Plus travel WGN AMC justice league vampires game of thrones New York Comic Con historical drama Mudbound LGBT Countdown Interview Chernobyl Lucasfilm dragons Winter TV 2017 Trivia Netflix Christmas movies GoT Trailer FOX Video Games Discovery Channel festivals Infographic Cosplay Tubi Mary Tyler Moore Marvel Britbox doctor who Shondaland cancelled TV series Lifetime The Witch 2016 Sundance TV Drama IFC Films Spectrum Originals CMT blaxploitation CBS Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Tumblr TV renewals ESPN unscripted discovery Action transformers YA Kids & Family Avengers Watching Series Mary poppins TV Land Apple TV+ NBC golden globes Amazon revenge 71st Emmy Awards cats Box Office USA Summer Tarantino Valentine's Day Quiz dc crime drama Arrowverse Podcast cancelled TV shows sag awards TLC PaleyFest MCU Binge Guide Super Bowl blockbuster ABC Family A24 halloween nature hispanic thriller Walt Disney Pictures OWN cults romance Fox News Disney Channel Christmas period drama werewolf animated anime Emmys National Geographic Lifetime Christmas movies crime Song of Ice and Fire composers comic medical drama comics Netflix talk show Nominations strong female leads Set visit foreign GIFs zombie versus true crime San Diego Comic-Con Anna Paquin directors Martial Arts Year in Review Paramount Network ghosts Animation Sony Pictures theme song Paramount green book Election cancelled tv talk