Taylor Handley finds rich role in ‘Mayor of Kingstown’

Rick's Reviews

Taylor Handley stars in the new Paramount+ series “Mayor of Kingstown.” (Photo courtesy of Paramount+)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Getting to act alongside the likes of Jeremy Renner, Dianne Wiest and Kyle Chandler was enough to make Taylor Handley happy he had landed a role in the new Paramount+ series “Mayor of Kingstown.”  He plays a member of a family in a small town where the only booming industry has to do with the prison system. The 10-episode season launches Nov. 14 on the streaming service.

There was a bonus for Handley as the series comes from writer and director Taylor Sheridan. He co-created “Mayor of Kingstown” with Hugh Dillon.

“I have been a fan of Taylor ever since I saw ‘Sicario.’ I was like ‘Who wrote this? What are they doing?’ The man is a machine and I believe one of the most prolific filmmakers in the last decade,” Handley says. “To be involved with a Taylor Sheridan project is the top of the top.”

The main reason Handley was so excited about working with Sheridan was that he knew that all of the elements – from story to characters – would be rock solid. Sheraton has already displayed how he can create projects with those strengths having created “Yellowstone.”

“Mayor of Kingstown” executive producer David Glasser is in awe of the way Sheridan writes. He has seen Sheridan get an idea on Friday and have a full draft of a script by Monday. But, there is never any quality sacrificed for speed.

Glasser says, “He has a phrase he always uses, which is, ‘We’re not making TV.  We’re making a 10—hour movie.  And if we can operate making a 10-hour movie, then we will give audiences something special.’”

Handley learned that although Sheridan creates strong scripts, he always makes sure there is plenty of room for his actors to be creative. Handley loves that Sheridan allows actors the ability “to play within a scene.”

All of that creative freedom was necessary because of the dark nature of “Mayor of Kingstown.” The McLusky family – which includes Handley’s character of Kyle McLusky – are power brokers in Kingstown, MI, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry.

Handley says, “When I saw this character, there was a dynamic I saw in the script between my character and myself personally that I can just really attach to and bring truth and authenticity to.

“But as far as Kyle McLusky [being] a local detective.  That’s this big push and pull, and this big debate that’s going on with Kyle through the first season.  And that push and pull is the family business can breed such tragedy and bring such tragedy, and sees how corrupt this town is.”

He describes the difference between Kyle and his two older brothers is that his siblings want to fix this town and Kyle is not sure whether or not he wants to cut his losses and move away. Handley explains that there is an inner conflict that he is going through where the character wants to uphold truth and justice however when his brothers call on him to operate in the gray, he is bound to them by blood.

Renner – who first worked with Sheridan on “Wind River” – has also found the writer/director’s work to be a treat. He compares the way Sheridan creates characters and situations to the writings of Greek mythology.

“I was probably more surprised by how good he was as a director.  How great he was as — a phenomenal writer.  I mean, how I am — I’m surprised by his writing more than I’m surprised by anything.  How the porosity of it,” Renner says. “Also, with the underlying of the delta scene, the poeticness of human behavior he describes.”

Handley understands the positive nature of getting to play such a complex character and the chance to work with good writers, directors and actors because of his more than two decades as an actor. His work includes television projects such as “Southland,” “The O.C.,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “Hidden Palms.” His film work includes “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” and “The Standard.”

“Mayor of Kingstown” is one of the most textured projects in Handley’s career. Sheridan has created a production that deals with the prison system and yet even those outside the walls are in some type of personal or emotional jail of their own making.

“The weight of Kingstown does not go unnoticed and does not go unfelt by any of the characters inside the walls and outside the walls,” Handley says. “That’s because there is danger around every corner in this town.

“Walking outside every day, you don’t know what to expect. I think that is what’s so captivating about this show.”

The cast of “Mayor of Kingstown” also includes Emma Laird and Tobi Bamtefa.

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