What was your contribution to Boyd's evolution?
It's been a real collaboration from the very beginning. Now I feel a kind of ownership over him, because I have so much invested in him and it's not just a job for me. It really is like an extension of my creative self.
You helped him evolve from a white supremacist stereotype to something more layered.
In the beginning, I said, "I'm not going to play a racist," and it was just for the pilot. I don't think that's who this guy is, and I'm going to encourage us to take him in the direction of making him smart and well read, a man who's self-taught and a lover of words. He was a messenger without a message, and he just needed people to follow him.
So when crime writer Elmore Leonard, whose work inspired the show, said of your character, "There's never been a more poetic bad guy on television in the way he sees the world," he wasn't talking about his conception of Boyd, he was talking about yours and the producers'?
Can I get a T-shirt made with that? My face is as red as the bougainvillea growing on the fence. I look for how a character can evolve over time, where are they starting from, and Boyd starts from a real deep place of pain. He's a wounded guy, and he vacillates between extremes. And I think his journey will be one of equilibrium.
Was he inspired by anyone you actually knew growing up in the South?
He's an amalgamation of a lot of people I met in the South, yeah. And then probably some of my own insecurities. I'm a lover of words. I left college to move to Los Angeles when I was 19 years old, and I for the longest time regretted that decision. I regretted being a part of conversations where people were making references to literature that I hadn't had the luxury to read because I was hustling when I got here. And I longed for that sustained period of reflection and curious exploration that a young person can have during college.
So I set out to expose myself to as many things as I possibly could, from religion to authors to art to music. I wanted to participate in a real way and have a real opinion and know what people were talking about. And that's somebody I've always wanted to play. I wanted to play a guy who was able to articulate his self-taught experience, and I was given that opportunity with Boyd.
Now that you have a 2-year-old, is that going to clip your wings?
Oh, no. It's the wind beneath them. In maybe three years, hopefully, maybe [when he's] 6 or 7 — I'm not that educated on when you can begin scuba diving — he'll have his license and we'll be on the road as much as we possibly can for summer and winter. We'll just go wherever the journey takes us.