Josh Brolin grew up on the central coast of California knowing men like Royal Abbott, the laconic and emotionally distant rancher he plays in “Outer Range.” The actor is glad not to be one of them.
“They are very loyal and helpful neighbors, but they really like having their own space,” Brolin said. For Royal, the mistaken belief that he protects his family from him by “the selfish act of not wanting to talk about things” is what threatens them.
Brolin, a husband and father of four, says he’s so open with his family that it’s like “Jello.” But he was curious about Royal and the series’ focus on a central element of the modern western.
“I like being able to behaviorally delve into (the consequences of) something that’s been so praised for so long…the Marlboro man, being the last great cowboy,” the actor said.
He was also drawn to the hybrid nature of the Wyoming-set drama, which combines a “supernatural and metaphysical aspect” and a classic trope, a family’s fight to keep their land. (Extensive views courtesy of New Mexico, where the series was filmed.)
Its creator and executive producer, Brian Watkins, says Brolin was a perfect fit for the role of a man with “an unimaginable secret.”
“Watching his performance, you can always see that secret simmering deep inside, tearing him apart, which speaks to Josh’s remarkable ability to create such nuanced demeanor in every moment, both below and beyond what that’s on the page,” Watkins said in an email.
“Not only is he an actor who has shaped our imagination of the American West, but he has unearthed the lesser-known and complex inner lives of people who inhabit that particular part of the country,” he added.
More details would trigger spoiler alerts for the eight-part series, which premieres Friday on streaming service Amazon Prime Video, with two new episodes a week. Lili Taylor (“Perry Mason,” “American Crime”) stars as Royal’s wife, and Imogen Poots (“Vivarium,” “28 Weeks Later”) a visitor on a mission.
Brolin and Taylor cleverly play a couple who lead already complicated and demanding lives when outside forces intervene.
“She’s not only one of the most skilled actresses I’ve ever worked with, she’s just an incredible human being,” the actor said. “So it’s fun, and she’s also open to experimenting, which is something I’m very interested in once we get on set if I feel like something isn’t working.”
Nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in 2008’s “Milk,” Brolin has been acclaimed for his performances in films that also include the President George W. Bush biopic “W.”, in which he starred, and “No Country for Old Men” (“No place for the weak”). In 2020, he traveled back in time, to the beginning of his career, in a virtual reunion with his fellow cast members from 1985’s “The Goonies” to benefit pandemic relief efforts.
Making that movie “was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “Maybe there was a 20-year period where I thought, ‘Is that all people are going to think? Is that the guy from ‘Goonies’, the older brother?’ But now I treasure it.”
The actor was affable and candid in a recent interview at the end of a promotional day for “Outer Range.” At one point, he mentioned his initial reservations about Watkins, a playwright coming to TV for the first time.
“The best thing about working with great directors is that you are protected, because they know how to put on performances, they know what to throw away. They know the clearest line of storytelling,” Brolin said.
I had not seen Watkins’ plays, including “Evergreens,” “High Plains” and “Epiphany,” the latter about to open at New York’s Lincoln Center. But Brolin did his homework reading them, saying they reminded him of his close friend, the late playwright and actor Sam Shepard.
“There are some people, writers and movies that I’ve always gone back to when I need inspiration, and Sam’s stuff has always been that for me,” Brolin said. He felt that Watkins’s work harked back to Shepard’s “early and more experimental” works.
Royal Abbott has a granddaughter. Not the case for Brolin, who admitted that hearing about his character as “grandpa” took him by surprise, especially given a scene in the movie “Dune” in which the character of Leto (played by Oscar Isaac) calls Brolin’s Gurney “old”.
“So they gave me everything in one year and I don’t care. I obviously care enough to talk about it more than I normally would during this interview,” she says with a laugh. “But, man, I am 54 years old, it is reality. I don’t dye my hair anymore, I don’t do any of that (expletive), it just is what it is.”
More worrisome to him is the excessive ego that can result from fame in Hollywood. She tries hard to avoid it and generally prefers not to deal with it from others, except in the occasional, cathartic case.
“I have been very lucky the last 15 years. I usually find that the ego comes from an experience or this power play, and I don’t see how that lends itself to work at all,” she said.
He didn’t seek the advice of his father, veteran actor James Brolin (“Pensacola: Wings of Gold,” “Marcus Welby, MD”), or his stepmother Barbra Streisand, who rose to fame during what Josh Brolin calls “a very different time.” ”. He also points out that he doesn’t remember discussing acting or his trappings with his daughter Eden Brolin, who stars in the series “Yellowstone.”
Self-aggrandizement and its risks are both inspiring and troubling for Brolin: He has written an untitled television satire on what he calls “celebrity-ism” that he would like to bring to the screen.
“Any time you think you’re at your peak or you’re untouchable… you’re going to be savagely humiliated, and it’s usually a sad humiliation,” he said. “I have no interest in that humiliation because I want to be humble now. I don’t want to learn that lesson.”