Kodi Smit-McPhee on his character’s quiet confidence in ‘The Power of the Dog’

“I tend to kind of approach things in a very underplayed manner … So for this, I really got to bask in the glory of underplaying something so subtly and really internalizing everything,” explains Kodi Smit-McPhee about his nuanced character in Netflix‘s “The Power of the Dog.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Smit-McPhee above.

“The Power of the Dog” tells the story of Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), a rancher in 1920s Montana who torments his new sister-in-law Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her son Peter (Smit-McPhee). “I always love to dive into the deepest avenues of research when it comes to my character’s interests and the life that they had before we find them in the script,” says Smit-McPhee. “So there was quite a bit to pull from with Peter. But I think a really beautiful part about him is that he flourishes in isolated territory.”

Peter’s quiet temperament and gentle demeanor make him a target for Phil’s aggressive bullying. But in not conforming to the pressures of toxic masculinity, the young medical student shows a “courageous spirit.” He’s a bit of a loner, but “he doesn’t mind that, he doesn’t want to change that.” He’s “unwavering in the presence of judgment … It’s a really great feeling to be in his shoes. To completely accept who you are and to not care about what others think is so empowering.” He adds, “I spent a lot of my life worrying about the way that people viewed me, or the way that I sounded, or the way that I looked, or the things that I was interested in. And it was only when I fully embraced who I was as an artist, as a person, and love myself that certain things started to manifest for me.”

Among the things currently manifesting are awards notices including a New York Film Critics Circle prize and a Critics Choice nomination. “I’ve been doing this since I was eight years old. My dad got me into it. So it’s something that was not only close to me, but it’s a family story and a family journey … So it’s really showing me the value of time and what passion and dedication can do,” he says. “There’s so much to say about it, but it’s hard to put it into words. I guess at the end of the day, I’m just absolutely humbled.”

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