Emma Laird interview: ‘Mayor of Kingstown’
“I was petrified,” admits rising star Emma Laird about her initial trepidation about working alongside Jeremy Renner on “Mayor of Kingstown,” “I truly think he’s one of the most incredible actors ever, and so I really had to make sure I said hi to him, getting all that nervousness out before I stepped on set with him,” she shares, adding for our recent webchat, “he was really my mentor in a way, whether he knows it or not, and I have so much love for him and I’m so excited that I get to go back and work with him.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
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“Mayor of Kingstown” was co-created by “Yellowstone” creator and Oscar nominee Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”) and Hugh Dillon (who also co-stars on the show as sardonic Detective Ian Ferguson). It follows the McLusky family, power brokers in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry in a town overrun by the grim reality of corruption, systemic racism and violent crime. Two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (“The Town” and “The Hurt Locker”) stars as Mike McLusky, who takes over as the unofficial “Mayor” of Kingstown in the aftermath of a bloody family tragedy in the pilot episode.
Laird co-stars as Iris, a smooth-talking escort who works for the Russian mafia to seduce and bribe government officials. She’s joined by double Oscar winner and double Emmy winner Dianne Weist (“Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Road to Avonlea” and “In Treatment”), who portrays family matriarch Miriam, alongside a strong ensemble cast including Tobi Bamtefa, Taylor Handley, Derek Webster and Aiden Gillen as Iris’ Russian mob-boss Milo, who is calling the shots from behind bars.
Iris is originally ordered into Kingstown by Milo in an attempt to control Mike, but a series of bloody events sets her on an unexpected path with Mike as she is placed into hiding in order to keep her safe from a near-certain violent death. As we learn more about Iris’ tragic backstory, we see glimpses of her fragility and vulnerability bubbling underneath her external confidence and apparent resilience. Laird agrees that this dynamic was difficult to calibrate from scene to scene, but ironically it seemed to come across naturally because the newcomer was proverbially thrown in the deep-end on the show, her very first project. “This is my first ever role, so I spent three months prepping and I was able to really externalize myself from her so to completely step into someone’s shoes and feel empathy for her,” she explains. “It was great, it was such a such a different role to who I am, which I think I really enjoyed playing this vulnerable but strong woman.”
It just so happened that Laird shot her scenes in a seedy strip club set on her first day in production, where Iris waltzes in as a cocky and beguiling escort, but is quickly dressed-down both figuratively and literally, learning quickly that she’s landed in a dangerous and misogynistic world of mob violence and corruption. “The first scenes we shot were all the strip club scenes, which I really struggled to watch, because it was my first ever day on set,” she reveals. “But it worked well because I was putting on an act, like Iris was; this was like my cover up. I’m all happy, but that wasn’t really who she was, so the fact that we shot all those scenes first actually really worked.”