Wyatt Russell interview: ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’

It was no easy task for Wyatt Russell to try and make murderer Dan Lafferty a multi-dimensional character. He found himself able to do this by concentrating on what Dan did out of what he considered to be love. “That was one of the things that we really focused on. He loved his family so much that he was so afraid of being ex-communicated. Any questions he ever had about what life might be like in the outside world weren’t even considered,” he tells Gold Derby during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above). He also believes that Dan found true freedom in embracing a more fundamental teaching of the LDS Church and used that as a way to justify his actions. “He’s a great manipulator and a fantastic narcissist, two qualities that a lot of very evil people with a lot of power and wielding in ways that can harm a lot of people.”

“Under the Banner of Heaven,” which can currently be streamed on FX on Hulu explores how Utah detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) begins to question his faith in the LDS (aka Mormon) Church after Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her 15-month-old baby are found brutally murdered at the hands of her own brothers-in-law. As Pyre investigates the murder, he finds himself being exposed to the radical FLDS which practices polygamy and believes in the concept of “blood atonement” as well as a whole part of church history that he was never taught. The limited series, based on the book by Jon Krakauer, was created by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black.

The toughest scene for Russell to shoot was the scene where Dan and Ron Lafferty (Sam Worthington) commit the gruesome murder. What made it easier for him to shoot was how incredible he thought Edgar-Jones was in the moment. “It made doing it actually much easier just because she’s so good, but it made you feel horrible. You had to really wash that one off.” The other scene that was difficult for him to shoot is when Dan tells his wife, Matilda (Chloe Pirrie), that he’s going to marry their own daughter. “It doesn’t matter that they’re words that you didn’t write or don’t feel, you still have to say them with conviction. We got through it but those were hard.”

Bonding with Worthington on set about things like their children helped Russell to convey the familial bond between Ron and Dan. “He was able to play and do things differently and every time he’d do something different and provided you a chance to do something differently within the guidelines of what we were doing and he was very easy to work with.” He also gives a lot of credit to Perrie, his other main scene partner, for working to manufacture the intimacy of that kind of couple. “She just gives you everything and more that you couldn’t have thought you would have wanted to ask for.”

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UPLOADED Jun 15, 2022 9:00 am