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Actor/Musician Hugh Dillon Discusses Season 3 of ‘Mayor of Kingstown’

Actor and musician Hugh Dillon joins us to discuss his role in creating and co-starring in the hit Paramount+ show ‘Mayor of Kingstown.’



Hugh Dillon ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ season 3

Mayor Of Kingstown follows the McLusky family – power brokers in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. Tackling themes of systemic racism, corruption, and inequality, Mayor Of Kingstown provides a stark look at their attempt to bring order and justice to a town that has neither.

Currently in its third season, the Paramount’s series was co-created and executive-produced by Hugh Dillon and the Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water, Yellowstone). Alongside Jeremy Renner, Hugh stars in the show as Detective lan Ferguson and is also a credited writer. Mayor of Kingstown premiered on Paramount+ in November 2021.

Dillon’s ability to capture honest and realistic portrayals of complicated characters has been his calling card. The award-winning actor starred in the dark and twisted serial Durham County, leading him to his breakout role in the CBS/CTV co-production, Flashpoint, which aired for five seasons. Dillon then joined AMC’s The Killing and appeared on Showcase’s drama, Continuum, and Showtime’s Twin Peaks. In 2017, he starred alongside Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in Taylor Sheridan’s feature film Wind River. Dillon also appeared alongside Kevin Costner in four seasons of Sheridan’s critically acclaimed Yellowstone.

In between Season 2 and Season 3 of Mayor Of Kingstown, lead actor Jeremy Renner suffered near-fatal injuries in early 2023. Then Hollywood strikes ground production down, beckoning questions about the show’s future. This past Sunday, the first episode of Season 3 aired, picking up after Season 2’s wild confrontation with Milo Sunter (played by Aidan Gillen).

Ten minutes into the show, it’s clear that Renner’s Mike McLusky is back with a vengeance! The stage is set for another hyper-violent season. Tune in and catch yourself up on some of the best episodic characterizations out there, airing exclusively on Paramount+.

We thank Hugh Dillon for taking the time to field a few questions for V13 via Zoom this week. The audio and video are available here if you’d prefer to hear Dillon’s answers in real-time.

Can I say how great it was to watch a new episode of Kingstown last night?!

Hugh Dillon: “Great.”

It was awesome.

“Yeah. I mean, no, I appreciate it. We’ve worked so long and hard on it; having it come out and everybody love it is awesome.”

Now, how do you stick handle a show when you’ve got a writer strike in Hollywood and a lead actor laid up for an indefinite time?

“Yeah, no, I mean, that is the question. But it is; you can’t quit. Once I knew Renner wanted to do it, the next day after his accident, he sent me a text, and it had profanity in it. So I knew he was ok because he was not dead, and he was making fun of shit. And then Taylor called and said, at any cost, we protect Renner; it’s not if the show comes back, but when.

“And then I went to see him, and you could see it in his eyes. He was in a wheelchair, and his mom was there, and I was like, I promised his mom, ‘We will look after him. If he wants to do it, I’ll do everything I can.’ And then it became; all I can do is he was up in the hills, and we were working on it in Los Angeles and off Sunset. Actually, I think it’s called Las Palmas. It used to be Francis Ford Coppola’s studio.

“And we were sitting down there and then coming up with ideas. Taylor gave us some great ideas, and I had a few, and we had the intro. My whole thing was that we needed to get him scripts that we are writing for an audience of one – for him. Because with the state he’s in, he needs inspiration and to plug into it. And so it was all about writing these scripts.

“So when he read it, he was like, ‘Oh fuck, I want to do this.’ And so it built on itself. Then the writers’ strike hit, and then the actors’ strike hit. And then the double-edged sword of that; it gave him more time. But also, it pushed us into shooting in the winter. And for me, in the old days, it was originally conceived to be Kingston, Canada, where we shot the first season in the winter.

“And so the winter didn’t scare me, but now Jeremy had titanium in his legs and face and was getting better. I watched him go from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to thinking he could do it. He was worried about his walk, but I said, ‘We’re going to get there.’ And I knew we had the scripts. And then it was all about landing in Pittsburgh in January and ensuring we were super safe. We got the Pittsburgh Penguins physio guys on it and had a hyperbaric chamber or whatever the hell that is that helps the blood flow. Whatever he needed, we did. And thank God we had Taylor Sheridan, 101, and Paramount behind us because he was our guy! And we’re loyal and driven.”

Hugh Dillon ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ season 3

Hugh Dillon ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ season 3

I don’t feel like season 3 started any later than it would’ve had any of that stuff we just talked about happen. It’s a year, right?

“Yeah. And it was just really well constructed. We knew the city, we knew the characters. We had certain things on our side. And we had certain advantages, but more than anything, we were emotionally driven to do it right and not leave anything on the field. And really it’s to lean into these intricacies of character and human emotion and things that now are even more open to us. Yeah, it’s great to be back home. It’s just been a tsunami.”

Can you talk briefly about your lengthy working relationship with Taylor, how you initially met, and what keeps you engaged?

“It’s like time has collapsed to be here, but this was always the dream. We go back 20 years. I had done a movie called Down To The Bone that got me to Sundance. And what got me there was those directors who saw Hardcore Logo and said, ‘Who’s this guy? And well, he’s Canadian,’ and I refused to audition. They said, ‘Oh, how can he refuse to audition?’ And I was like, ‘Because I don’t give a shit, and I’m playing in a band, and I’m playing in Buffalo this weekend if you want to come there?’

“They were in New York, and they went, and I think what took them aback was that nobody ever said no. So they showed up at my gig, and we’re throwing beer cans around, and I played a Headstones show in Buffalo. And they came back and had me read the script, and I went, ‘The guy’s from Kingston; oh, he was a heroin addict; Oh, he worked at a hospital!’ And I had done all those things. And also, working with Bruce McDonald, I knew I could do it. It’s just it wasn’t on the agenda.

“I was committed to the band, and we had shit to do. And if your word’s not worth anything and you just skip town and do whatever the next thing is, your band’s not going to stick with you. And we’ve been together for 30 years now. We’re playing next weekend in Calgary, Edmonton. We’ve got a new record coming out. The songs are all over Mayor Of Kingstown. You’ve got to be honourable. And so I did that movie, and that got me to Utah at Sundance. Vera Farmiga said you should go to LA and stop this alcohol and drug thing. By that time, I was trying to clean up, and I went to LA and met Taylor; he was my coach and coached me on 30 episodes of Durham County and 75 episodes of Flashpoint.

“At that time, I also liked to procrastinate, so I didn’t want to do my lines or work. So we’d talk about what we could do if we had the money? What do we really want to do that might include profanity or violence. He was into Sam Peckinpah; I had Apocalypse Now on repeat. We were just deep into those movies or French Connection or ’70s movies. And we had a real connection with rock n’ roll and music. And I mean, he also coached Maynard (James Keenan), so he really knew musicians.

Hugh Dillon ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ season 3

Hugh Dillon ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ season 3

“So he said, ‘You know what? You’re just going to go for bad guys and cops.’ And so he got me Durham first, then Flashpoint, and then he knew I was from this prison town because I’d talk about it. I’d say, ‘I think I got a movie.’ And he goes, ‘I think that it’s a show.’ And then he Googled it. He went, ‘Holy shit, there really are nine penitentiaries in that town.’

“And then we talked about characters. It’s a conversation. Characters, and what we’re passionate about, and what we would like to see, and what would be a good scene, and what’s a good scene that we haven’t seen before that’s not in one of these movies that we like. It’s got to be honest. So we played a game called ‘You got to create a scene you hadn’t seen before.’ So we do that.

“And then I brought over a printer. I knew this dude could unlock characters and worlds, and he just had this thing. I’ve been around successful people that I knew intuitively my whole life. Gord Downie and I were in high school; Gord helped me get a record deal. I knew he had a gift. I played one-on-one hockey on the same street with Doug Gilmour. So I knew he had a gift. And when I met Taylor, I knew he had something.

“And then I brought a printer over, and we had that first script in a week. I said the first scene is the ball going over the fence in prison. And he went, ‘Yes!’ And then we can have you see their boots. And he had the verisimilitude of the scene and then this, and then this… it’s like with musicians, it really is working with him, is working with a band; he’s like a really great lead guitar player, and I know I’m a great rhythm guitar player. So you set it up and let him run with it. When he slows down, you come up with another idea, and that’s how it went.

“And then we parked them, and he did Sicario, and then he did Yellowstone. And he told me, you got to come be on Yellowstone. I’m going to show you how we’re going to sell Mayor, don’t worry. But you need to learn about all the other departments, cinematography, and everything that you’re going to need. And that’s kind of the Cole’s notes of it. But it kind of happened like that. There was a lot of time in between and other things that happened, and it was gruelling, but when it happened, it took off.

“And it was a handshake deal. I mean, the other thing with Taylor is he’s loyal and honest, and we had this handshake deal; these two guys and no one got in front of it, no one got in between us. And here we are in Season 3. Also, he hired me for Wind River, and that’s where I met Jeremy. And with Jeremy, I thought, ‘This guy’s a global star. He’s not going to be in this.’ And Taylor goes, ‘He likes it. I think he likes the script.’ And then Jeremy turned out to be, just again, another loyal, decent human being, and we’ve been friends ever since. And then I have to promise his mom that he’s going to be ok in Pittsburgh (laughs).”

Mayor of Kingstown Season 3 poster

Mayor of Kingstown Season 3 poster

Can we talk a little bit about working with Kenny Johnson in Season 2? It was so great to see him again.

“A dream! Wait until you see Season 3.”

He’s in it?

“Kenny is a dream. I had conceived of those characters, Ian and Charlie. Ian’s written after my friend I grew up with in Kingston who committed suicide. And so I had that character. I know who he is, and he’s funny, loyal, and all those things. And I had this idea, and then Taylor was like, well, leave it to Season 2. I had those pages, I took those pages up to Texas, and then I started writing in Season 2, and then I wrote this 4-08, er 3-08 rather; I’m thinking too positively. And I just love this concept of taking this killer out of jail. And Kenny was great.

“As a musician, as an actor, sometimes you find this chemistry with people you’re playing with opposite. And I had it with this dude; he was great and so in – he researched the role. And when you see that come to fruition this year in Season 3 for me, we left everything on the field. It’s exciting, it’s fun. He’s just a joy. I’ve got another movie that I’ve got in development called Suffer Machine that I want him to be in. So many of these guys. It’s like rock n’ roll; they’re in your band now, so you want to continue to create with them. And he is one of them. He and Jessica Steen, I think, are on the top of my list right now. But that’s a good question. Nobody ever asks about Kenny, but I love him.”

Hugh Dillon ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ season 3

Hugh Dillon ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ season 3

I love The Shield, man. The Shield is just so underrated, and it’s 20 years old now. I think people really need to look at that show again.

“Yeah, yeah. I agree.”

So, without any blatant spoilers, what can fans look forward to in this new season?

“Well, wait until episode two comes out! This season is; you can’t look away from it. It is just so fluid, and it has a certain velocity. The acting has a little more swagger because all these actors have been here for a while. So it’s lived-in. We’ve been in Pittsburgh for two years, so we know the city inside out. So we’ve shot on the bridges, we shoot in the water, we shoot everywhere. We’ve got a great composer. This season is just a cinematic marvel.”