The first few times I interviewed Scoot McNairy, I got a little aggressive with rampant questions about his righteous mustaches. In my defense, these discussions of facial hair often lightened the mood as we discussed his recent heavy roles on True Detective‘s third season and the most recent round of Narcos: Mexico. Scoot’s always a good sport about answering the most bizarre of inquiries, but for his latest project — an HBO Max dramedy, Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick — no such lightening was required.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that there isn’t a mustache present with this Scoot project. There is one, although it’s not as plentiful as those that he sported in the above two projects and Godless. So, the Halt and Catch Fire actor was off the hook (this time) for any facial hair talk. Fortunately, he’s still gracious enough to discuss this latest role (a wealthy entrepreneur and slightly older man who plays a key role in helping Kendrick’s character develop) with us, including how much of a relief it is to step into the shoes of a less-stressed-out character. I also wished to discuss the latest Narcos: Mexico season finale, which ended with a fantastic, fictionalized, and quiet confrontation between his DEA agent character, Walt Breslin, and the drug lord (portrayed by Diego Luna) that he put behind bars, and Scoot was game for that, too.
Love Life is a nice piece of an escapism. Would you characterize it as a romantic comedy or dramedy?
I haven’t seen the project as of yet, but after reading and talking with [showrunner] Sam Boyd, it feels like it’s more of a dramedy, and also a sort-of slice-of-life over the course of ten years, well, basically a decade.
Even though it’s not 100% cheery, this role’s definitely more lighthearted than anything you’ve done lately. Did that feel like taking a load off?
You know, it was a lot of fun. I started in this business twenty years ago, and for the first ten years, mostly what I did was comedy, and I haven’t been able to do that in eight or nine years. So, I was really looking to try and find something to do, comedic-wise, and Sam had this project that I really liked. So yeah, I really enjoy doing comedy or dark comedy, so this was really fun to step back into that — a lighter role.
Whenever I think about artists switching up genres and entering different phases, I think of an old Ethan Hawke interview, where he expressed his surprise at how shooting horror movies was a lot more silly and less terrifying than he expected. Was making a romantic comedy the same or different than you expected?
That’s a really great question, but you know, it just felt familiar. Comedy is something that I’m somewhat uncomfortable with but obviously very, very scared of and stuff, and it’s also about challenging yourself with something that you haven’t really done in a long time and something you really enjoy doing. And also just moving around, switching it up, and trying not to get pigeonholed into a sort-of genre, just to stretch your wings, I guess.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but one of the Love Life promo shots zeroes in on your character, Bradley, with a martini. You’re playing a character who drinks martinis!
Yeah! He’s a New Yorker, really into art and very motivated and ambitious. That being said, there’s also a lighter side to the character. I just hadn’t done comedy in so long, so I was really itching to do it. And Anna Kendrick is genius, and incredible at what she does, and I was really looking to work with her on something that was comedic and in her wheelhouse. She’s incredible in this, and it’s such an amazing project for her and role for her, so I was really excited to just be a part of that.
And the writing feels realistic and without too much reliance upon clichés.
Sam Boyd, the creator, he’s a really really smart guy. He was incredibly great to work with and collaborative and all that, but he wrote an incredible story. Really heartfelt and funny and sad at times, so I think it should be a really fun, wild ride.
Do you have a favorite romantic comedy?
Some of the older ones like When Harry Met Sally and Richard Linklater’s earlier stuff, including Before Sunrise. I loved those movies and the big, broad comedies like the Will Ferrell stuff.
Producer Paul Feig’s helming of Bridesmaids might bring a lot of curious eyes to this project. There are some similarities.
Yeah, definitely, I hope so. It’s really special and unique and also brings us back to movies like Reality Bites. It’s kind-of like a version of that for the newer generation.
That newer generation has been embracing romcoms on Netflix. Do you have any take on why those movies are doing so well there?
I don’t, to be honest, I didn’t know that. But as of right now, in the position where people are in quarantine, romcoms are movies that make you feel good, so maybe we’re seeing a lot of that just because of the times we’re going through.
Talking about your Love Life character any more would lead to spoilers, so do you mind if I ask you about the Narcos: Mexico season finale?
Nope. You mean the one we last finished?
Yes, and specifically, the conversation between Walt Breslin and Félix Gallardo. I’ve been comparing it to other great confrontations like Pacino and De Niro in Heat and FX’s Justified ending.
Did you draw inspiration from any movies or TV shows, or was it solely about those two characters to you?
Oh, I was terrified to do that scene, to be honest to you. A lot of what you’re seeing is just terror, but I know that there’s always, in these sort-of male-driven shows, there’s always this reference back to Heat. You know, Carlo Bernard, one of the creators of the show, he worked with Michael Mann and actually worked on Heat, so we’re always throwing that around and stuff, so yeah, in so many ways, it’s going to resemble that scene. But I don’t speak Spanish, and that whole scene was in Spanish. It was a long one, so I am very glad to hear you say that it turned out so great because it was a very nervous one for me.
Aren’t you a Texas native? I grew up in Oklahoma, and Spanish wasn’t required but strongly encouraged. I can’t imagine going into that scene dry.
I learned a little bit in the time that I had, but even as a kid, I never picked up much Spanish living in Texas.
So when you think about Walt and Félix, do you sense any admiration there as well as contempt? Or was I reading too much into that?
Oh for sure! You develop, in law enforcement, when you’re going after a case for X amount of time, I’m sure you develop a relationship with that person, and you know so much about them that there is a sense of admiration and respect when you’ve kind-of got your guy. The very thing I think about that scene is that, like, there’s this idea that Walt got his guy, and he’s won. And throughout that scene, he [realizes] that’s he’s only created a worse problem. And I love the sort-of dynamics that shift in that scene. And him going through what is to come because of what [he’s] done. Like, [he] didn’t do anything but cause a worse problem.
And on a personal level, Walt didn’t even get the closure that he wanted.
Yeah, neither one of them. It feels like they both lost.
Have you heard anything about another season?
No, I would gladly be open to doing more. I had a wonderful time on the show and loved working with the crew down there and all the people on the show, executives and Netflix. It was a dream job, so I would happily jump back down there.
The first three episodes of ‘Love Life’ premiere on May 27 with the launch of HBO Max.