Colin Hanks On MLS’s Fan Culture And The LAFC/LA Galaxy Rivalry

When you talk to Colin Hanks he makes it pretty clear which side of the Los Angeles Football Club/LA Galaxy rivalry he’s on. The actor and director didn’t even have to mention the Galaxy’s name in comparing it to the three-year-old club he calls his own. But on Wednesday night, players from “Carson,” as he called them, will play with his squad’s All-Stars in the MLS All-Star Game.

It’s an opportunity to come together as a league in a competition that, in years past, was simply a warmup exhibition match for a big European club. This time, however, MLS will take on the Liga MX All-Stars, the top league in Mexico. Hanks will be at his home team’s stadium for the match on Wednesday night, and he talked to Uproxx about all things soccer, the rise of fan culture in MLS in recent years and how the Hollywood star picks what projects to work on in between matches at The Banc.

Uproxx: I just saw the trailer for Impeachment: American Crime Story so let’s start there. I’m not sure exactly when you filmed that but was it odd to be working on an impeachment project in the middle of two other impeachments?

Colin Hanks: Well yeah, luckily — I don’t know if luckily is the word — but I started filming in January of this year. So I wasn’t really filming during an impeachment, but it was a really interesting experience. It was my first job out of COVID, which was in and of itself strange. But I had a really great experience and I got to work with some really talented, very, very cool people. So I’m very excited for the series to premiere.

Yeah, I was kind of going through the things that I remember you from in preparing for this. Mad Men, I think, is the first one that that stood out. You have a really long list of very interesting things that you’ve done that have really stood the test of time. I wondered if that’s something you, as a performer, do you look back on that and think like,’Wow, that really held up.’ Or is it not something you really get a chance to look back on?

Well hell, I’ll be honest it’s just nice to hear you say that. It means someone is paying attention to all the tough decisions I’ve made. No, you know, more than anything else I think I’ve always really wanted to try to challenge myself and be part of shows or movies or anything. I just always kind of trusted my gut and thought well this would this would be an exercise that I think would be worthwhile and hopefully would be engaging to anyone that sees it. And you never really know what’s going to connect, you know. You hope that people do, you know. We didn’t make this season of Fargo thinking that people were going to, you know, understand exactly what it was that we’re trying to do. But you hope and luckily, they did. And so I’ve been very, very fortunate to be able to work on, you know, a bunch of different projects that somehow have been able to sort of withstand that time and people have been able to discover on their own and say ‘Oh, holy sh*t. This is actually really good.’

So I’m really happy when that happens and I just try and find stuff that is engaging and excites me and I hope that, you know, when we’re finished making it that it’s also exciting to to whomever gets a chance to see it.

Yeah, similar vein. I wanted to ask you about the 30 for 30 you did about the Giants’ Crazy Crab. Admittedly that’s not something I saw when it came out, but watching it this week it occurred to me just how perfect an idea it was. An anti-mascot like that feels like something that would happen right now with the sort of cynicism that’s in society but it happened, you know, nearly 40 years ago. What drew you to that story other than your Giants fandom?

Well yeah, the Giants fan certainly helped. You know, I’m a big sports fanatic obviously and when the 30 For 30s were were on, I devoured all of them. And when I found out that they were starting to make shorts, the opportunity came up to us to start sort of developing some ideas. And it just so happened that Stephen Leichhardt, who I was working with on my Tower Records documentary, at the time he had done a story about the whole anti mascot Crazy Crab thing that the Giants did. And I just thought ‘Oh, well that’s a fascinating story that would probably work perfect for those 30 For 30 shorts. And it just so happened that it also involved this incredibly talented, you know, classically vaudevillian trained mime who was also in Scarface, of all things. You know, it just seems like such a great sort of story that was this great cross between this odd, odd time in sports. But then also performance and acting and all that sort of stuff. So, it just sort of seemed like this great story to tell.

I was very fortunate because it was one of the first things that we were able to — it was not one of the first things I directed, it was one of the first things I’ve directed that actually came out. We directed the short, you know, somewhere in the middle of shooting the Tower doc. So it was exciting and you know, obviously, any time you get a chance to make a movie, you know, your baseball team’s home stadium, that’s a pretty fun day too. So I’m very fortunate.

I really found it fascinating because you definitely picked the right people to talk to. Like, Ray Ratto had really great quotes. I know you’re on the other side of an interview right now, but when you interview people and they give you really good stuff, that feeling really is when you know that you have something here, right? It seems like that must have happened here right away when you started working on it.

Oh, absolutely. And in fact, I think that connection you make is really one of the reasons why I felt like I can get into the documentary films. You know, having been on this side of an interview, I understand how it works. And I understand sort of how the game is played, if you will. And you know when you’re trying to tell a story and you’re trying to tell it through the mouths of other people and it’s not necessarily planned and it’s not scripted, you want to be able to try and move the pieces, so to speak, so that it gives you the best chance to be able to tell the story the way that you hope you’re going to be able to tell it.

And so, obviously, you know, having read Ratto for years and knowing what a character he is, it’s like, ‘Well clearly we have to get Ray Ratto’s take on the Crazy Crab.’ I mean, we have to do that. And then you try and, you know, you dig in and you find out who are the people that responsible and who are the people that, you know, did this and might be able to help tell that story. You spend a lot of time getting to know and trying to get them to to feel comfortable with you and hopefully, you know, you’re able to find the way to draw that stuff out of it.

I wanted to ask a few questions about the MLS All-Star Game, but I wanted to first ask when you decided LAFC was going to be your team? Because obviously there’s a pretty big rivalry there in LA that I don’t think people who may not pay attention to MLS don’t understand. So lay the groundwork here for me.

Yeah, well you know, I have always been really a big fan of soccer but I was really specifically intrigued by the football culture. The supporters culture, the supporters unions, those crazy fans that are in the sections that they’re screaming and chanting and jumping up and down and waving those flags.

And that kind of environment. I always thought was really interesting and I was kind of frustrated because I couldn’t necessarily find that environment here in Los Angeles. You know, there was a version of it that was going on down in Carson. But it really didn’t feel like, I don’t know, there was something about it that didn’t quite take for me. And I was always sort of jealous of some of the other cities like Seattle or Portland and you know, even Atlanta because they were able to sort of they had that that culture that vibe there.

I had a joke that, you know, the best thing that someone could do would be to come up with a soccer team and name it, you know, the Los Angeles Football Club. But no one will be brave enough to do it. And then lo and behold, it happens.

And not only did it happen, like everything that the organization did from the get, like, from the drop, in terms of really embracing that football culture. Really, you know, bringing the community in and placing a stadium right in the heart of Los Angeles and really making it part of the community.

There’s so much about the club that is so much more than just a team for me. I actually, you know, oddly, I take pride in the club. I take responsibility for the club when I take people to matches and I hope that they have a good time. I want them to have a good time and I don’t have, you know, I don’t have ownership stake in the team. This is just something that I believe in and that’s something that the organization really strives for.

And that kind of thing, that was the piece that was missing for me in the MLS. And I don’t think it’s a mistake that you see a lot of other organizations, especially some of the the expansion clubs, really embracing that football culture and really playing to it. And realizing that that experience of going to the match. That’s part of it, you know. Yeah, you want to see your team, you know, you want your team to win. But, you know, it’s also you want to have a great experience.

And, you know, for me, the experience of going and seeing that the black and gold play at the Banc. It’s it’s one of the most fun things to do in Los Angeles, in my opinion.

I think that’s definitely something that MLS has gotten better at in recent years especially. Like, yeah they used the same naming conventions as clubs in Spain and England. But to really understand fan culture and see it kind of grow organically, and, you know, you’re seeing it in places like Cincinnati too. And nailing that, really is really an instant draw. And it’s why people in America, you know, find soccer clubs overseas like you and I do. Although I’m an Arsenal fan, so our season’s already dead the water.

Yeah. Sorry about that.

But yeah, I mean I think that’s one of the big draws for football overseas, you know what I mean? It’s really more than just some team that you support, you know, a few days out of the week. It really is part of a community. It really is part of that. The MLS I think has done a really good job of sort of realizing that that is one of the things that makes the game so special. The league has, I think, done a good job and a lot of teams across the board, including some of the original ones, have realized that that’s really what makes the game special. And that’s what’s really going to make the league become more popular.

And you can feel it. You know the league has kind of been in this great punk rock stage, but I feel like it’s about to really sort of bust out kind of wide open. And I’m excited for that because you know it’s it’s again, it’s fun. It’s a really really great experience. I’ve yet to take someone to a game where they’ve been like ‘eh, that’s, whatever.’ I take them to the LAFC matches, they really dig it and there are a lot of other clubs that understand that and do it. You know?

Carson? Not so much, but, you know, that’s why it’s a rivalry.

That’s right. I’m not sure if you’ve been to to an All Star game before but I went to the one in Chicago a couple years back and and I think it was really fun to see just how everyone rooting for these different clubs and are rivals, they just really want to see the league as a whole perform well in these exhibition matches. I know this match is against another All-Star team, but what are you most excited about seeing this week?

So this is one of the things that I love about sports, right? It’s the storylines. It’s why I like doing what I do and why I started going into documentaries and done some sports documents. It’s the storylines. I think of the things that are really a big draw for me at least, and this match in particular, I think is really unique because it is, you know, it’s the first time that the MLS All-Stars are going to be going up against the Liga MX All-Stars. And I think there’s actually a lot of pride on the line, not only just for, you know, the MLS All-Stars but I think, you know, on the other side as well.

Because if they lose, they’re gonna be hearing about it for quite a long time. So this isn’t just some, you know, ho-hum All-Star Game in which you’re just gonna see, you know the the best players from the league play each other and then they all just sort of go there the separate ways.

I actually feel like there’s real skin in the game, so to speak, here. So I’m really excited to see the two sides go at it. I think it’s going to be incredibly exciting to see it in Los Angeles because obviously I think there’s going to be a lot of supporters for both sides. So I think the environment is actually going to be a lot more energetic than you would imagine for an All-Star Game.

But the other thing is too, I think especially with the past few years that we’ve had I’m just really excited for the week. You know, I’m excited for the concert that they’re doing. I’m excited to see Big Boi perform. And then the skills competition is gonna be a lot of really fun stuff going on. I think the MLS All-Star experience is a little bit different than some of the other leagues and most of it is because the game actually matters. It’s actually important. So I’m excited.