It’s been a long while since we’ve seen Pierce Brosnan starring in a TV series. Usually a movie man, Brosnan has grown a wicked beard (no more smooth, suave James Bond look) and returned to the small screen, helming new AMC show The Son.
Based on the book of the same name and actually created by the book’s author, Philipp Meyer, the show follows the multi-generational story of the McCulloughs, a family that lives through the Comanche raids of the 1800s, the slow development of the western states and the oil boom of the 20th century. Starring as patriarch Eli McCullough, Brosnan is truly in his element as the gruff, no-nonsense businessman, who grew from an intensely tough childhood into a feared tycoon.
Strangely relevant to today’s world events — the rise and fall of a mogul, and along with that the intrinsically tied ideals and dreams of the United States — Brosnan was mesmerized by the book and the show material and found himself fully consumed by the role. He lauds his castmates, some of whom are children, for helping him deliver the best possible performance. (Interestingly, fellow actor Sam Neill was cast as Eli first, but due to personal issues was then replaced last minute by Brosnan.)
Global News sat down with Brosnan in Toronto to discuss the power of Eli, his beard (of course) and the echoes of modern events that ripple throughout The Son.
Global News: The beard. Let’s talk about the beard.
Pierce Brosnan: [Laughs] As soon as I read this, I started growing facial hair to try to find the character. I thought: well, they had a lot of facial hair in 1915! I just kept growing it throughout the 10 episodes, so by Episode 10, it’s a fairly heavy piece of shrubbery.
Did it add a lot to your character?
Oh, it definitely adds to the physiognomy and the transformation. You have the beard, you put the hat on, put the heavy clothes on. I came to this project really late in the game, at the eleventh hour, so I had to make strong decisions very fast.
What was the most challenging part of becoming Eli? You’re obviously adept with horses, guns…
Nothing was more complex than the accent, really. I knew how to ride a horse, I knew something of weaponry, I’d read the book already, so I was familiar with the landscape. The first five scripts they gave me were so well rendered, and that was a great attraction. The other great attraction was that Philipp Meyer was helming this piece and writing it. That was just money in the bank as far as I’m concerned … to have the actual author there on set.
Anyway, with the accent, I had the help of two amazing vocal coaches, and I listened to many different people, from Waylon Jennings to Rick Perry to Willie Nelson. I walked onto the set and found my voice … actually, it just happened. He was there, he found me.
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The scenery on The Son is spectacular. Did you ever have moments on-set where you’d look around and be enamoured by it all?
Oh, that was constant, every single day. Every day was transportive. Every day was stepping back into 1915. You’re in costume, you’re surrounded by your fellow actors. The heat beats you up and slows you right down. Wool pants, the vest is wool, the collar is a stiff collar. The hat is big and heavy. The boots come up to your knees as you walk. Lots of rattlers in the sand, cacti that can rip you apart. In the first scene you’ll see [of the show], with young Eli, it was hot.
The young actors in The Son are particularly impressive.
They’re so good. Jacob Lofland, who plays the young Eli, is remarkable. Stars will be born, and that’s exhilarating to see. While shooting Season 1, I stopped and looked around, and I thought, “Wow, this old man came up fast.” This patriarchal life force, man of years, bearded, Biblical, medieval, kind of prototypical American mythology hero. The kids helped make him real.
This is your first big TV project in a while. How has that transition from movies been?
Simple. Easy. No problem. It’s got a bit more of a pace to it, which I very much like. I was born of TV — Remington Steele — very fast-paced, 22 episodes per season. You work your ass off on those shows. These have the same ingredients … but I have days off, which I revel in. That’s the old adage of Robert Mitchum: they used to ask him what he looks for in a script, and he said, “Days off.” [Laughs] It was a mighty summer, it was a great summer to be in the company of such a wonderful group of actors.
Do you think The Son is pertinent to the American public? Does the show and/or book deal with issues that Americans need to see right now?
We’re in a very precarious time, and one of emotional upheaval. It’s a country that’s being ripped apart by the politics and by this presidency, which is very unsettling. The tonality towards immigrants is brutal, savage and unnecessary. Yes, The Son has great relevance to the divide in the climate today. It’s just happenstance that it’s come this way. It’s serendipitous. It’s always been there, this conflict. Boundaries, borders, lines drawn in the sand. Walls built.
There are many scenes involving the Mexican immigrants and the Mexican families, which couldn’t be more relevant today.
Everything’s changed, but we haven’t moved very far from the savage roots of our upbringing. The United States was born from immigrants.
In some instances, Eli is almost a figurehead for America itself.
Oh, yes. There’s a speech I give in one of the later episodes, and I couldn’t help but [imitates Donald Trump’s hand gestures] gesturally defile myself. I thought, “Why not?” If anybody gets it, they get it. [Laughs]