Lodge 49’s Wyatt Russell on the Exhaustion of Acting Happy and His Love for Genre Movies

"You can make thrillers, you can make psychological thrillers, you can make horror movies..."

Lodge 49 (AMC), photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Odds are you know Wyatt Russell, even if you don’t watch Lodge 49. He’s the good looking guy who’s popped up in horror movies (Overlord), dramas (Blaze), comedies (22 Jump Street), indies (Everybody Wants Some!!), and Black Mirror episodes (“Playtest”).

(He’s also the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.)

However, if you do watch Lodge 49, you love him. As Long Beach surfer Dud, Russell brings an uncanny optimism to a show that often feels like having brunch on a Tuesday morning. It’s balmy, it’s strikingly palpable, and Russell is oft the source of sunlight.

That’s why Consequence of Sound‘s Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman was so stoked to talk to the guy ahead of the show’s second season. Together, the two discussed the timeless nature of the series and the struggle of conjuring Dud’s unique aura.

Lodge 49 Season 2

Part of the allure of Lodge 49 is searching for marvels in mundanities. But also connections. Why do you think that speaks to today? Do you share Dud’s intrigue in the mysteries of the world? “The other map waiting down below” as Blaise suggests. 

What I like about the show, and what I liked most about it when we started, is that it connects to today, but also every time period. We all strive to have some sorta form of community. Everyone wants to feel supported. Today, specifically. I think if you notice, no one in the show is really on their phones. Nobody really uses technology. It’s not part of the world we live in — that the show lives in. So that, in its own way, takes on its own fantasy and I think it really does make you have to live with these people in a way that you don’t live your normal life.

It’s a fantasy that way. You literally don’t see anyone in the show use their phone. So, there’s some sort of escapism in the reality of where these people are living, and it reminds you of a time that wasn’t that long ago. We can feel nostalgic and nostalgia for, you know, 15 years ago. I remember feeling nostalgic for 10-15 years ago when I wasn’t so connected to my phone. I think the show does a really good and fun job playing with that, and making us feel nostalgic for like 1998, which is kinda a weird time to feel nostalgic for, but it does.

I think that’s part of it and part of the fun.

Lodge 49 (AMC), photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

No, it totally is. The timeless nature of it really speaks to me. It makes me hunger for that sense of mystery. Of not knowing what’s going to be there. You know, like when we would go to a store and try to find something as opposed to finding it immediately on the phone. I think that sense of discovery is such a crucial facet of the show, not only surrounding the mysteries of the lodge, but the transitive nature of how that applies to everyday life. How we wake up and often know exactly what is going to happen each day because the phone too often dictates that. But Dud is so ambivalent towards that; he’s fueled by mystery and intrigue. Do you share that sense of wonder? Do you have a hunger for that sense of timelessness?

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, but I think I do. It’s probably what drew me to the show most. The way the story is told is very timeless itself. It felt like we were living in this kingdom of Long Beach in this mythical universe that sorta doesn’t really exist, but at the same time, portrays very, very real actual, normal life. It’s really a show for people who don’t get a show in a way. It’s about honest people, there’s nothing special about what’s going on in their life, except for all the things that go on in someone’s own life which are innately special because we’re all just unique people trying to figure out the best way to do it.

Lodge 49 Season 2

But for me, I definitely share the want and desire to be a part of the mystery of the universe. Like “What does that mean?” “What a coincidence.” I’m just way more, as a human being, linear than Dud. I think about everything. I need detail. I overthink everything. I’ll think about it for a week, then I’ll think about it for another week. I like to plan things out. I can be spontaneous, but I’m not like Dud in that sense. I’ve said it before, but like, he sees an open door and he goes through it because it’s open. Whereas, I’ll look in and see what’s on the other side and assess the situation.

So I think that’s where we differ. A lot of people I talk to say it would be nice to be a little more like Dud in that regard. I don’t know if we want to be exactly like him, but maybe specific qualities.

That’s what I was going to ask. Dud is such an optimistic character and I think that adds to the sunny cadence of the show. I watched the first season during the worst parts of winter in Chicago, and I was so depressed when it ended because I needed Dud’s optimism. Does playing Dud have a positive affect on your own day-to-day? Are you a little more optimistic when you’re done playing his character?

Sorta, but kinda not. Because everything I did last year, or how I thought about approaching a scene, was all based off of the fact that his dad was dead and that he didn’t know. So, the comedy, the fun stuff, the optimism all came from a place, or started from a place, that was really fucking shitty and not fun to be in. But this year saw a different way of approaching it.

Lodge 49 Season 2

It does definitely bleed onto the screen, and there were some days that were difficult because it was really fucking cold, and it was just miserable for weeks. I was in shorts and a t-shirt and I had to remind myself when I was on set like, “You’re on a set, it’s fun, you’re Dud, be Dud.” You know, you don’t want to come on set and bring everyone else down around you because you’re not feeling your best.

You have to go out and put on an optimistic face. And if you do that, smile, laugh enough, force yourself to be that happy person. So, you do come around to feeling that way more than you would have if you would have just given in to the shitty feelings. But a lot of that comes from creator Jim Gavin reminding me “Be happy! Be Dud! Be happy”, and I would be like, “Right, gotta be happy!”

Right, so that, was going to be my follow-up question: Does it get exhausting being that happy?

Oh, man, this year was exhausting, I’ll be totally honest. This year was really hard. Most of the show is shot in Atlanta, and this season was shot mostly in the winter. So, you know, I’m outside and sometimes it’s like 25 or 30 degrees, or even below freezing with the windchill, and I’m in shorts and sandals doing Long Beach, ya know, and you can’t be cold on screen. That’s not how Long Beach feels like. So, they tried to put me in pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt as much as they could, but at the same time, you can’t compromise and be wearing sweatshirts everyday. We’re still in Long Beach, so you know, I’ll admit that was really tough.

Lodge 49 Season 2

No, that sounds impossible. I always wonder about that, because sometimes you also see the reverse of that where it’s like a winter-set movie or TV show and it’s filmed in the summer…

And it’s really hot, right.

You mentioned that strong sense of community and that’s definitely vital to the show, but the center of it all is Dud. He’s the glue that holds it together. But he’s also got the beard, and he’s also something of a Messiah. Do you and Jim Gavin see him that way? Are the Christ-like allusions purposeful? Or is it just happenstance?

I think it’s partly happenstance, and part of it that is designed to be that way. You’d really have to ask Jim that question. I never really asked him that question straight out. There are so many allegories in TV, and a lot of them go back to the Bible — and innately. Like, if you have a guy who has a beard, and looks like me, and has the surfer-Jesus look going on, and use allegories that are biblical in a way — with the journey and being bitten by a snake, having to go through the gauntlet and the ringer, you know?

Lodge 49 (AMC)

All of those stories stem from the Bible, and a lot of those are used in our show, because our show goes heavy on allegory. So, I think you can make the connection, for sure, but I don’t think Jim — and I’m speaking for Jim — but I don’t think he went in thinking, Dud is this Messiah. He’s coming in and saving the lodge and taking on burdens that he doesn’t have to, but I don’t think it’s front-and-center what he’s thinking about.

You mentioned that Dud’s happiness and optimism comes from a dark place. One of the things I really love about the show is how it straddles that line between being comforting and embalming, but also realistic to the consequences of life. There’s the ensuing job security, the harpoon, the snake bite. It’s a delicate dance, but I wondered, how much is too dark for the show and does the second season take some unexpected turns?

I don’t know what would be too dark for the show. What’s interesting about the show is its ability to go really dark, but the way they’re handled, the circumstances, it’s how I view life and how I think Jim views life. There’s nothing in life that’s ever, ever worth ruining your life over, ya know? Death isn’t that bad. There’s comedy in death, and in tragedy, and in living. So, that’s the way that I look at life.

It’s a coping mechanism for me, I don’t know about for Jim, but for me, it definitely is. You see some horrible, awful things. Instead of looking at it like, “Oh my god I’m going to go down this horrible rabbit hole of what if?” — and we all do it, I do it, too — but instead, I really try and be like, “Welp” and I’ll make a weird joke inside my head and kinda laugh at the absurdities and tragedies in life. And it kinda helps you get through. Without laughing at life sometimes, you’d just be living in this vortex of hell, and you know that would be a bad place to be.

lodge 49 season 2 Lodge 49s Wyatt Russell on the Exhaustion of Acting Happy and His Love for Genre Movies

Speaking of hell, you tend to go there on screen, particularly in last year’s Overlord. In that film, you basically played the opposite of Dud: a stoic badass. What personality do you ultimately prefer playing and is horror a genre you’re interested in moving forward?

Yeah, so it’s funny, because the character I played, Ford, was two or three weeks before shooting the first season of Lodge. So, they really had to remind me like, “When you’re in a situation Dud doesn’t like, it’s not like you’re going to kill the guy. You’re not that angry, you have to keep that optimism.” And I’d be like, “Fuck, yeah, that’s right.” I’d just been so used to doing [anger] in a certain way that it would bleed over. But they were really good at being like, “Okay, that was great, but remember: happy!”

In terms of genre and what I like doing, there’s a couple aspects. One is that we’re in this interesting cycle where there has to be a marriage between the business of it and the creative of it, and I think — it’s been this way for a long time, but — a lot of the best directors will start off doing genre stuff because you can use a lot of allegories. You’re telling this big tale — it’s a tale, it’s a movie, we’re making movies — and I love that about genre.

Wyatt Russell in Overlord

You can really dive into a lot of big storytelling. big scenes, a lot of stuff that’s a lot more difficult to do when you’re just doing a straight-up story about some guy in Appalachia who can’t get his life together, and at the end of the movie you’re like, “I guess it was good, but fuck, I’m depressed. What am I supposed to get out of that?” And so there was a period of that, throughout the 2000s, that Sundance sort of thing, and I’ve been in all that stuff too, but it always seems to come back to genre.

Genre is a wide place to be. You can make thrillers, you can make psychological thrillers, you can make horror movies, and as long as there’s an elevated form of storytelling that has you leaving the theatre saying, “That was a great experience,” that’s what I’m interested in doing. And that, I think, is what coincides with what genre lends itself to pretty well.

Wyatt Russell in Overlord

And you always get the best people! Genre people always end up knowing the most about movies. They’re fans of moviemaking. They love it. There’s nothing else. Their movie vocabulary is the biggest. They know everything about movies. So, when you work with those people, they’re the most fun people to work with because they’re having a blast doing their job. It’s great to be around. So, I love it for those reasons.

Lodge 49 premieres tonight — Monday, August 12th — on AMC at 10 pm EST.