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Wyatt Russell on Lodge 49 and working with Thunderbolts director

Wyatt Russell discusses comedy TV series Lodge 49, which is now coming out in the UK, as well as his role as John Walker in the MCU

Wyatt Russell in Lodge 49

Wyatt Russell has proven himself to be a versatile actor. He has gone from playing John Walker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to portraying a real-life murderer in FX’s Under the Banner of Heaven. However, one of his most memorable performances harks back to 2018 – when Russell introduced the world to the wholesome injured surfer and alchemy enthusiast, ‘Dud’, in the TV series Lodge 49.

Written by Jim Gavin, Lodge 49 follows the laid-back Dud, who, after his father’s death and injuring his leg, finds himself adrift and looking for purpose. By fate, Dud finds his way to Lodge 49 – an ancient fraternal order that embraces him with open arms despite holding some dark secrets. Although the series originally came out in the US in 2018, season 1 of the show is now set to finally premiere in the UK exclusively to BT TV customers come July 31, 2022.

To celebrate Lodge 49’s big UK outing, we sat with Russell to ask him about his character and experience working on the show. In our interview, we discuss how he feels (after working together on Lodge 49) about Thunderbolts director Jake Schreier. We also break down comparisons between Dud and the Big Lebowski’s The Dude, and finally, we learn what about Lodge 49 attracted the star to the project in the first place.

The Digital Fix: It’s really nice to see Lodge 49 get this resurgence. But I want to talk about your character Dud. He’s really different from the action-heavy roles that many now know you from. What made you want to be a part of this project?

Wyatt Russell: Yeah, it’s funny, because now everybody’s experiencing over there [in the UK], the project that I had done before all the action roles [laughs]. Lodge 49 was done before any of the stuff I’m doing currently or have done in the past couple of years.

So, when I read the script, and I read it a while ago – I can’t even remember how long ago it was, it was maybe four or five years ago. It just struck me as the most different thing that I’d read. And I had been sent TV stuff before. And TV always seems to end up lending itself to a soap opera structure just because it kind of inevitably goes that way. And this didn’t have that structure to it.

Lodge 49 just had such a unique tone, a unique voice to the writer; it was so his own world; it allowed the actors to play so many different things and be kind of true actual normal people. Regular, regular folk. And that’s something that’s not done very often; they’re usually used as a prop just to say, ‘look how regular these people are’.

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Lodge 49 was just truly the life of somebody in Long Beach, and going on this existential journey with a guy who finds a ring at the lowest point in his life, that leads into a lodge where a guy opens it and invites him into this place where people accept him for who he is. And he feels like he belongs somewhere for the first time in a long time. That just, I just thought, was so unique and special. And I wanted to be able to play it, and I couldn’t believe AMC just greenlit it and said, ‘Yes’, you know?

I knew that it was going to be the most different show on TV. Whether or not people watched it was another story. But what’s been great about it is that it’s lived on for a long time. I think it really is one of those kind of few things you watch that, if you do connect to it, you understand the existential journey that everybody individually is on. You can connect to every person in their own way. That’s the special thing that Lodge 49 is able to do. Wyatt Russell in Lodge 49

I know you used to play ice hockey, but I wanted to know, did you ever surf to get into Dud’s mindset? Obviously, you don’t see him surf much in the series, but water and the sport are still a huge part of his character in season 1.

I know! [laughs] But, because I was always playing hockey, I never surfed. It was always going to the rink in the morning and not to the beach. You don’t want to get hurt doing something else other than playing hockey. You have enough risk with playing hockey and getting hurt. I didn’t need to add to that risk.

So, I never did surf until maybe I was like 27-28. I went surfing in Hawaii one time, and it was just like… I was like, ‘I’m so bad at this so, horrible’. I never really tried it again – oh wait, no that is not true. I tried it in Costa Rica, I had a lesson, and I actually got up on the board, but I never did surf. I honestly never really connected to it at all. [laughs] So no, I truly never did, even for Dud.

You mentioned earlier how you originally worked on Lodge 49 years ago. The series came out in 2018 in the US, so watching it back must be a surreal experience. As an actor, how was it different filming Lodge 49 pre-Covid 19 versus your later work, such as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier?

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier we filmed before the pandemic and came back during the pandemic. So, we did that during both time periods. But like nothing on a movie set in terms of the process of actually doing it, nothing changes. You’re still coming up with the best thing on the day, sometimes working on it beforehand, trying to get the best version of it, trying to understand what you need to do to get a storyline across or a point across. It’s all the same.

And the only thing that really changes is everybody’s wearing masks. Even when we came back, it’s impossible to actually social distance on a set. You can’t do it. Like the focus puller, and the cinematographer and the camera operator, they have to be next to each other. So, it was oddly not different at all in that way. But like everybody’s wearing masks and trying to do their best.

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You know, you’re testing every day, and it sort of broke up a little bit of the flow. Hopefully, it goes away soon, because we’re getting to the point now where it’s kind of like, okay, ‘what?’ Even some of the Covid-19 officers are like, ‘we’re not here to protect you for your health anymore. We’re just here to make sure you don’t get Covid’, and we are wondering, ‘well, what are we doing then?’

Because all this does create distance, and that distance it’s not beneficial to a creative process at all. It’s just not. Being in the same room, face to face, when you have an issue or you have a concern, when you voice it over Zoom – it doesn’t come through the same way. When you’re in a room together, there’s nowhere to hide. So you have to be able to explain your point, concisely and clearly and articulately so that they can understand you. When you are on Zoom, there is sort of this firewall that goes up where you can explain yourself the best you can, but once you turn off that computer, it’s sort of out of sight, out of mind.

Yeah, it’s not a great process. But, you know, just in terms of all that’s gone on, at the end of the day, when you get to just doing it, it’s still the same. You’re still making a show, or you’re making a movie. Everyone’s trying to make it the best that they can, and that’s where everyone still connects.

Wyatt Russell as John Walker

Speaking about your past in the MCU, I read a few weeks ago that you still hadn’t received the call from Marvel for Thunderbolts. Has that changed yet?

No, I’m still waiting. I know they’re doing it. I know that they’re planning it. I gotta imagine that there’s something in there for me. But yeah, until you get that true actual prompt, like, ‘Okay, this is your start date. And this is when you’re coming, and this is when you rent your house, and this is when logistically you need to start setting up to do these things.’ That’s when I shift my mindset to going to do that, you know? Other than that, before you get that call, things can change on a dime; you never know.

Yeah, it’d be pretty cool if you did get that call. It’ll be kind of like a Lodge 49 reunion because of Jake Schreier.

I know! Because Jake is directing it. It’s so hard not to call Jake and be like, ‘so what’s going on?’ Yeah, you have to hold your tongue, because Marvel has their process, and their process is great. You respect it for how they do it. And they’ve had so much success doing it that you want them to do it the way they know best, and so that’s the way that it works, and I’m happy to be a part of that process and fit into their world that way.

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So, Jake Schreier directed 6 episodes of Lodge 49; having worked with him on this show, how do you think he will be now leading a big Marvel movie?

Incredible. Amazing. (laughs) I’ am so biased, but like you couldn’t have dreamt of a better person. He has such a tender quality to who he is as a person. But I think in all of his movies, like Robot and Frank, like his way of dealing with relationships is always great. I think his structures are always on point.

He’s professional. He’s amazing at filtering ideas, listening to opinions, making the best decisions for the movie, listening to all the voices in the room, but holding power as the filmmaker. He needs to make the film that he needs to make. I just don’t think they could have picked a better person. Wyatt Russell in Lodge 49

The one thing I really loved about Dud in Lodge 49 is that he was unique. But he also felt very familiar as a character. I want to know when you were prepping this role, did you have any influences or maybe real-life acquaintances in your mind?

That’s a good question. I honestly can’t remember exactly what I was thinking at the time. But I remember knowing that it was going to be compared to The Dude from The Big Lebowski a lot.

Ah Yes! I can see why that may have happened.

Yeah [laughs]. You know, of how I look number one. Number two, the setting, California, kind of a surfer laid back surfer dude, sandals, shorts, funny shirts, simplistic view of life and a complex set of circumstances. But honestly, most of that ended up with me being like, ‘well, how do we make this not that?’

To me, Dud was always like The Dude before he gave up. The Dude never was an active searcher in his own story. But he wasn’t an active searcher. He wasn’t the one going to do all the stuff, and coming from him. He was the one that stuff was happening to. And he was the one that the story was filtered through, but he wasn’t an active participant in his own story. So that was a part of Dud that was very different.

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One of the things that we tried to make clear was that Dud actually wasn’t a stoner; he never smoked weed or drank. At one point, Champ (David Ury) offers him some sort of drug in a golf cart when they’re in Orbis in season 1, and he doesn’t take it because he doesn’t do drugs. Because if he did, it would undercut and undermine the whole story. And these visions that Dud has in Lodge 49, his existential journey, was from a place of innocence.

It wasn’t from a place of, you know, taking a substance to get to that spot. So yeah, it was playing against that a little bit. And then, just parts of it were things that we kind of came up with and created on our own; we wanted to make it unique. I never like taking things from other characters too much, because you’ve kind of seen it before. I’m always looking to create something unique. That was what that was, what the goal was. Hopefully, we did that. Wyatt Russell in Lodge 49

You seem to have a habit of playing characters that are vastly different from each other. I mean, looking at Dud, and then looking at your work with Marvel, and now you’ve just finished playing a murderer in Under the Banner of Heaven. Do you have a particular genre or type of character in mind that you want to play next?

Yeah! I mean, look, it’s more fun to be on set when you’re playing, and having fun and accommodating. And, having a humorous day, like, it’s just better for your mind. So, you come home a little bit more fun, a little bit in a better mood. But I always say, ‘I just want to do stuff, that’s good’. You just want to do good writing. Good writing makes life so much easier. And Under the Banner of Heaven was such good writing, that it was like so easy.

It’s easier to do; it’s easier to play; it’s easier to find the nuances, character, and easier to figure out relationships. You have a clear path, and you’re not torturing yourself the night before going like, ‘how am I going to do this?’ Like, ‘what am I going to do? How am I gonna make this believable or real? And that makes truly the day better than anything.

So hopefully, I would like to do something fun. You know, I’d love to do something with my wife, who’s the funniest person on planet Earth as far as I’m concerned. But you know, things come along, and you have to do certain things. I’ve taken a lot of time off with my son; that’s the most fun thing to do in life so far.

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How I approach work has changed since having a child, so anything that now makes me able to do that more and experience life in its truest sense is what I want. Something that is not on screen and on camera and waiting for four hours in a trailer alone while people ask if you would like another hot dog. Because that’s what I’m trying to do more of now. Balance the good work with the work that allows me to spend more time with my family.

Lodge 49 is set to hit the UK on AMC (BT TV) on July 31 at 9 pm.