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Actress Dianne Wiest on Her Character Miriam McLusky from ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ [w/ Audio]

Actress Dianne Wiest speaks with Mike Bax about her character Miriam McLusky from the hit show Mayor of Kingstown (Paramount+).



The first season of Paramount+’s hit series Mayor of Kingstown arrives on Blu-ray & DVD on September 27th, with over two hours of bonus content. Produced by MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios, the original drama series hails From Yellowstone co-creator and Academy Award® nominee Taylor Sheridan and Hugh Dillon. Season one features an all-star cast, including Academy Award® nominee Jeremy Renner, Academy Award® winner Dianne Wiest, Emmy Award® winner Kyle Chandler, Hugh Dillon, Taylor Handley, Emma Laird, Tobi Bamtefa, Derek Webster, Hamish Allan-Headley, Pha’rez Lass, and Aidan Gillen.

Yellowstone co-creator and Academy Award® nominee Taylor Sheridan and Hugh Dillon offer their take on the prison system with Mayor of Kingstown. The series follows the McLusky family, power brokers in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. Tackling the themes of systemic racism, corruption, and inequality, the series provides a stark look at their attempt to bring order and justice to a town with neither.

The original drama series first launched in November 2021, with TV’s #1 show, Yellowstone, serving as a launchpad airing a special simulcast event for the series premiere on Paramount Network. The premiere of Mayor of Kingstown was the #1 original scripted drama on Paramount+ since the rebrand and cable’s biggest new scripted premiere since Yellowstone in June 2018 with 2.6 million total viewers.

Combining top-notch writing, directing, cinematography, and acting, Mayor of Kingstown is impressive on all levels. It’s a harsh, often brutally violent look at the U.S. penal system, offering numerous stand-out moments for all the talent involved with the project.

We thank Dianne Wiest for taking a piece of her afternoon last week to field a few questions for us via Zoom. The audio (via SoundCloud) and video (via YouTube) are available here if you’d prefer to hear Wiest’s answers in real time.

We’re going to talk about the Mayor of Kingstown, which is not a show for the faint of heart.

Dianne Weist: “Oh, well said. That’s so true. It is not for the faint of heart. It is really filled with gang violence; it’s really rough. And even the family part, which I kind of represent in one way, has just been torn to shreds. I don’t think Miriam, my character, even believes in family anymore after her husband was shot and her oldest boy was shot. She just, for whatever reason, can’t stand her other two live sons. I think he’s too afraid she’s going to lose them in this incredible prison system that’s going on.”

And you perform with so many strong characters on this show. It was really amazing, the writing that went into all of the people that are in the show.


You play an educator on the show at a women’s prison. What interested you about taking on a role like that?

“Well, I have been interested and active in a very small way in the prison system in America, which is really abysmal. So I was immediately drawn to Mayor of Kingstown because that’s what it’s about. The racism, the horrible racism, the poverty, and the constant injustices in our justice system. So I was very, very interested.

“And interested to try and reach by teaching, to try and give these disenfranchised souls a spark of something other than what they’ve always known. Which is cruelty and violence and poverty, and to say there’s something out there that you can latch on to if you allow yourselves, that will make your perspective change. You give it a wider view, and maybe from that, you can heal a little bit.”

One of the scenes that stuck out for me; you were in class telling a story about dogs trying to jump into the water and get to their owners. That can’t have been much on a printed page, and it’s just one of the scenes that really stuck with me; when the series ended, it was one of my favourites.

“Yeah, that haunted me. That still haunts me. And I believe it’s true. Taylor didn’t make that up; he heard it from a Native American and did write it to put in the show, but it’s heartbreaking. Just an example of random cruelty.”

A still from ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ (2022)

And you deliver that scene right before you find out that one of your sons is no longer with us. It just felt like foreshadowing, for lack of a better word.

“It felt like a foreshadowing to me too. A loss of something so deeply cherished.”

Do you find that happens a lot? When you’re reading scripts where you’ll look at something and not know how it’s going to come off, but then when you see the finished cut, you are impressed by it, or you see something magical in it?

“I don’t know if I see – I can’t look at myself very well anymore. I used to be able to just look because I wanted to learn and to look at what I was doing wrong. So I had some kind of objectivity that I have certainly lost as I age. Maybe it’s just listening to the sound of your voice, how that can be so irritating to the person who owns the voice.

“And likewise, looking at yourself can just be so really terrible. So I don’t know anymore. I depend on what other people and what you would say about it. Whether it was any good or not, does it move people or not? I can no longer judge. I know when I’m doing it if something is right or wrong. I know if it’s false or true when I’m the moment doing it. But I can’t tell you afterward whether that was wonderful or whether that was not so interesting.”

I’m curious if there are moments during the filming of the show that sticks out for you. Something that happened or something you felt translated really well and that you are proud of?

“Yes, I think the moment where Jeremy (Renner) comes over, I think it’s in the first episode, although I’m not sure. After my son, my older boy, has been shot and killed, Jeremy comes over, and I tell him to please leave this town because the exact same thing is going to happen to him. It has happened to his father and has happened to his brother. And that sticks with me, that scene sticks with me in large part because of Jeremy also, who’s such a remarkably truthful actor.”

I like the colour palette used in the show; it’s very cold and metallic looking. It suits the content of the show so well.

“Yes, I wore red lipstick once, and nobody said anything in advance. I said, ‘Oh, let’s have red lipstick when I went to teach at the university,’ and everybody who saw the rushes had a fit because the color red was in the series. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t even think about that.’ So it’s interesting that you say colour palette.”

What is your favourite thing about playing Mariam?

“The fact that she’s free to say and do things without respect or regard for how they might fall on another person. She just says whatever she’s thinking. Luckily, she’s bright. So you can argue she could be wrong, she could be right, but she usually has a valid point. That’s very freeing not to be concerned about how the other person is going to take it, which I’m overly concerned with in life and other ways of acting. To be able to say, ‘just buzz off, buddy.’ It’s nice.”

And lastly, can you talk a little bit about what it’s like to be a part of a show that has elements of violence, coldness, and systemic criminal undermining? Do you find that you take that home with you, or do you just walk away from the set and go back to your regular life?

“You try and walk away, but it casts a pall over all of us, over everything. It’s not a jolly make-up and hair trailer. It’s not like that. We do try and make other people laugh just for relief from it, but it’s a dark world; it’s a dark, dark world. And somebody is always getting shot, somebody’s getting beat up. So make-up is always making up blood bags and saying, ‘here, squeeze the blood bag now,’ and a lot of stunt people come in to help you. Thank God. So yeah, it definitely casts a pall.”

The Mayor of Kingstown Season One three-disc Blu-ray and DVD sets include all ten uncensored episodes from the inaugural season, along with more than two hours of special features:

  • Behind the Story segments for each episode
  • Perdition: Making “Mayor of Kingstown”
  • Zero Sum Game: The Finale
  • Inside “Mayor of Kingstown”
  • Character Spots
  • Cast Favourite Scenes

Artwork for the Blu-ray of Season 1 of Mayor of Kingstown