While “Black Bird” tackles heavy subject matter, it’s easy for Paul Walter Hauser to list the reasons he agreed to play real-life serial killer Larry Hall on the Apple TV+ crime drama.
“All the elements were there. The writing was impeccable, the character I’m playing is going to be a challenge – which I prefer – and it’s exciting to do something that’s kind of brooding and gritty,” said the Golden Globe-winning actor. “I think a lot of silly things. It was nice to think of something that felt like (Darren) Aronofsky or (Frank) Darabont, or in this case, Dennis Lehane would do.”
However, as Greg Kinnear shared with Hauser during the IndieWire Awards Spotlight series, the first day of filming was far from relaxing. “This couldn’t be built any worse. Do we start day one where Larry (Hall) sits down to cross-examine my character? I was just like, ‘Oh my God, we’re so unprepared for this,'” said the actor who plays Det. Brian Miller in the limited series. “But I felt like Dennis, who writes so strongly but is actually very funny and relaxed, was on set that day and took the pressure off us and it went surprisingly well. ”
“It went really well,” Hauser said. But I definitely wasn’t thrilled that it was the first scene, because I really thought if I didn’t nail it on that first day—it’s Larry Hall’s intro, so if you don’t nail that, it’s almost like an audition where you mess up the first sentence, then you just keep going. It’s like, “Yeah, this isn’t going to be good.”
But then the pair nailed it, showing how the show explores the implicit misogyny that helped Hall get away with murder for years. “I think it worked well, it’s great for your character because you were in a little bit of a different gear at that moment,” Kinnear told Hauser. “But in that moment you had to be in a slightly different speed than all the scenes you developed with Taron (Egerton).”
Hauser agreed. His character descends noticeably into madness as he and Miller move from the interrogation rooms to the prison with Jimmy Keene (Egerton) trying to coax a confession out of him as he brags that he’s likely to win an appeal of his conviction. The actor, who recently won a Critics’ Choice Award for his performance in the series, added that the first scene with Kinnear “strangely worked out really well because (Hall) is incognito. I am still a citizen. And he did not turn to the abject comforts of prison. So in a way it really worked and I was glad we did it the way we did because I kind of had to keep it small and honest,” Hauser said. “And I didn’t have to make too many big swing decisions like I did in Episodes 5 or 6.”
Watch the full Awards Spotlight conversation between Hauser and Kinnear in the video above.