Jeremy Renner Says Mayor of Kingstown Is 'Intense' Compared to Hawkeye

Renner, his Mayor of Kingstown costars and the series creators give us the lowdown on the gritty drama.

by | November 12, 2021 | Comments

(Photo by Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS/Paramount+)

Jeremy Renner is having a busy November. The actor’s long-awaited return to television comes in the form of two different series, both with high-powered pedigrees. Hawkeye, the series spinoff starring his Marvel character, debuts on Disney+ at the end of the month. And on Sunday, November 14, he headlines the Paramount+ drama Mayor of Kingstown, a drama from Taylor Sheridan about a Michigan family of power brokers in a town whose main industry is incarceration.

Co-created by Renner’s Wind River writer/director Sheridan, the man behind Yellowstone (a.k.a. TV’s current No. 1 series), and Mayor of Kingstown costar Hugh Dillon, the series stars Renner, Kyle Chandler, Dianne Wiest, and Taylor Handley as Mike, Mitch, Miriam, and Kyle McLusky — a family who helps negotiate peace in a town filled with for-profit prisons.

The twisted power dynamics between law enforcement, prisoners, townspeople, and other stakeholders are at the center of this series. Below, Renner and his co-stars reveal what to know about the show ahead of its premiere.

1. So, Uh, Who’s the Mayor?

(Photo by Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS/Paramount+)

The mayor of the show’s title is an unofficial honorific — it’s bestowed upon Mike, begrudgingly, at the end of the pilot, when he’s forced to take up the mantle as head of the family business. (So no, this is not a drama about small-town government.) Does he actually want to be the person at the apex of power in a town filled with bad actors?

“The short answer is f— no,” Renner told Rotten Tomatoes when we interviewed the cast. “No, he doesn’t want to f—ing be there. When it’s all you know, there’s a bleakness of the thing. You don’t know what else to do. This is all you know in your life. When you grew up in a town of a prison where everything in the town is about incarceration, it’s like, what else do you do? Where else do you go? Yeah, you go to Florida. What are you gonna do there? All your life is known and built around this environment, and these people are products of that environment. So there’s a sadness and acceptance of this sort of thing. It’s like, I don’t know why these people don’t just get the hell out of there. But they’re in it.”

2. Who’s the Most Powerful McLusky?

(Photo by Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS/Paramount+)

Chandler’s Mitch is a fixer of sorts, while middle brother Mike (Renner) is forging his own relationships in town. Youngest brother Kyle (Handley), meanwhile, is resentful that his brothers (and his father before them) have made such a treacherous job — dealing with dangerous people — the family business. Miriam (Wiest) teaches inmates in the prisons, but holds her own power at home. Sort of. Who is actually the most powerful person in the family?

“I think Miriam would like to think it’s her, but she knows she has no power whatsoever over her sons,” Wiest said. “She can’t save them. She can’t make them do anything — even come to dinner, have a sit-down dinner with them. My youngest, his beautiful wife can’t even get a moment to tell him she’s pregnant. He’s having a son. I have no power. And that gives me a strange kind of power in a way. If you know that you’re powerless. You’re kind of a loose cannon.”

3. Who Are the Other Players?

(Photo by Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS/Paramount+)

Former Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen plays Russian mobster Milo Sunter, who continues running his operation while behind bars, and Emma Laird plays Russian mob associate Iris. Meanwhile, Tobi Bamtefa plays local gang leader Bunny, who has an interesting relationship with Mike. Series co-creator Dillon plays a local cop and longtime friend of the McLuskey family who, Dillon said, “does everything by the book, but it happens to be his book.”

4. What Kinds of Issues Does the Show Tackle?

In case you couldn’t tell, the storylines deal with power, generational trauma, wealth, and the prison industrial complex. You know, light and breezy stuff like that. The series, Bamtefa explained to Rotten Tomatoes and a small group of reporters in a virtual interview, shows how the prison industrial complex affects the society around it, from childhood to adulthood, from generation to generation.

In fact, he had a long chat with Sheridan before filming began about the prison industrial complex and what issues Mayor of Kingstown would highlight.

“For starters, you have to question why it’s even called a business, because then now we’re delving into the into the realm of what are the ethics of the people who are running these organizations? And what are they interested in,” Bamtefa said. “Are they actually interested in corrections or are they interested in punishment for money and are trying to profit off that? And then you start delving into the conversation of is that good or bad? Or is that beneficial?”

5. Was It Weird for Renner to Film Mayor of Kingstown and Hawkeye Back to Back?

Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner in Hawkeye

(Photo by Disney+)

In a word, no. Renner said that even though the subject matter of both series is vastly different — in fact, Hawkeye has a fun Christmas theme running throughout — it’s all the same when you’re on set. It’s only after when he was able to realize just how tonally different the shows actually are.

“Once you’re on set and you get the understanding of it, you fall right into it and fall right into place. You’re surrounded by different actors and different sets and costumes and all these things, and I didn’t really realize the difference until I saw the first or second episode [of Mayor of Kingstown] early on in the process. I’m like, wow, this is pretty intense compared to the Hawkeye show and the lighter fare and the happiness and the Christmas music. This is the harrowing storytelling of Taylor Sheridan, but blessed to be able to do both. Very, very, very happy to be able to do both.”

Mayor of Kingstown premieres Sunday November 14 on Paramount+.

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