PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATINA GOULAKOS
Known for playing “bad guys”, this self-proclaimed good guy is finally getting roles that show his softer side.
Chris Coy from Castle Rock and The Deuce chatted with us and let us in on what its like being a father an actor and what it feels like to portray the leader of he Aryan Brotherhood.
Imagista: Where are you from?
Chris: I was born in Kentucky and lived there until I was about five. Then, my grandparents retired, I grew up in their house, so when they moved to Florida, I moved with them and that’s where I spent the rest of my childhood.
I was in South West Florida until I was 17 and then I moved to LA.
Imagista: Did you move to LA for acting?
Chris: I moved out there in the pursuit of more. I grew up obsessed with films and movies and I knew that LA was the mecca. I got into music and sort of fantasized about being a rock star. I don’t want to give myself too much credit and say I was focused on a vision because I wasn’t. I wanted to be in Hollywood, I didn’t necessarily know why.
Imagista: Subconsciously it is almost as if you knew you belonged there.
Chris: When I was a kid in school, if the teacher asked me where I was born I would lie to the teacher and the rest of the class and say Los Angeles. As a grown man, I still don’t know what made me do that but I did that for years as a kid.
Imagista: So when did your love for acting start?
Chris: The first time I ever seriously considered it was in high School. I ended up in a drama class and auditioned for the lead in the play and I got it, which I wasn’t expecting. I was horrified, but then when I started learning the scenes and going over my lines and thinking about it, not only did I feel like it was coming naturally to me, but it was also so much fun.
I realized that I was thinking about it all day every day. I was always thinking about how to play the character and what would be the most fun or best ways of portraying this person.
I remember thinking that this is what it must feel like to be doing what you are meant to do, like this is really easy for me to work on.
When I got to Los Angeles, I had a roommate that was acting and auditioning for stuff and I would go over the scenes with him at night. He would go to bed and I would be in my room or the living room still going over the scenes even though I didn’t have an audition.
That was when I realized that it was what I wanted to do.
Imagista: Were you a big fan of movies, theater and television?
Chris: Absolutely, I am from a small swamp town in Florida so there was no theater to speak of. I’m an only child and I spent a lot of time in my room watching movies and being somewhere else in my mind. I am still that way to be honest. I am helplessly fastened to film. I drive my wife crazy because I will watch the same movie twenty times and have the same reaction as when I watched it the first.
Imagista: You have played some pretty awesome roles recently on shows like Castle Rock and The Deuce, what have those experiences been like?
Chris: So humbling and exhilarating! Castle Rock came out of nowhere. I was at home and got a call that they were sort of in a bind and needed an actor last minute to fly to Boston and start filming the next day. I asked what the role was and they said “it’s hulu, J.J Abrams and Steven King” and I said, “who are those guys”….
They told me I would be playing a guard at Shaw shank Prison and the rest is history. I hadn’t seen a script or anything like that I was just so excited to play this role and work with these incredibly talented people.
The Deuce is kind of the opposite. I went after that role with a vengeance and wanted that role so bad. I had just finished two years of Banshee where I played a menacing, horrible, violent creature, the leader of the Aryan brotherhood. I was really anxious to play someone more positive.
Imagista: How was playing such a negative character, how did that impact your personal being?
Chris: Early on in my career I played a lot of bad guys here and there but Banshee certainly made clear to me that when you play a bad guy you are all the more motivated to leave that negativity at work. When you come home, you are almost more present because you are appreciative of that positivity and getting to feel warm inside. I think it does have an impact on you, in a way it helped me let out some anger. As humans we pretend like we don’t have anger and we pretend like everything is good. However, when you are playing the bad guy you have to stop judging and let those things come to the surface. It also forced you to feeling good and being nice when you are home.
When I would come home from work on Banshee I was so tired or being an asshole that I was just the kindest, most patient, husband and father I’ve ever been. In some weird way it’s like therapy.
After Banshee I was really consciously going after “good guy” roles and of course that role presents itself. Not only would it give me the chance to go from the leader of the Aryan brotherhood to a sweet gay guy but beyond that there were very clear challenges that I was going to have to overcome if I were to play Paul on The Deuce. I am a straight man with a wife and two kids and I would be playing a gay man. Although his sexuality is not a huge part of the narrative, it is a huge part of who he is and because its an HBO show being produced by David Simon about the origins of pornography I knew they were not going to shy away from his sexuality. I knew that those sexually charged scenes would be between me and another man and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do this character justice.
If something scares me I have to do it so this was just the perfect role for me. I wanted somebody sweet and gentle and Paul was that. I also wanted someone who had a mission and the drive to accomplish that mission which Paul has and I also needed to be challenged and Paul offered that in a number of ways.
It was really like a dream role, not to mention being able to work with some of the best in the business.
Some of the best times of my life are happening right now.
Imagista: I know you are saying how different all of these characters are but do you find that these characters have any similarities to one another?
Chris: I mean there always are because I bring me to every role. I sometimes find that what I am really doing is taking stock from what my ingredients are and from what ingredients as necessary to play this role and which one of my own ingredients I want to bring up to best represent this person.
When talking about Banshee vs. The Deuce I think its tricky to speak in a positive light about a Nazi of any kind but what is interesting about my character on Banshee is that he is a monster but he is also a family man who cares deeply about his people and his mission is to better their lives. Paul, ironically, has a similar mission. He cares deeply about his community and loved ones and he wants to work hard to make their life better. He is an ambitious man and so was Calvin Bunker on Banshee.
To get more topical or more recent with my roles, I have a movie called The Front Runner, which is coming out soon and the character I play is just an unstoppable force. I play Gary Harts press secretary from 1987-1988 his name is Kevin Sweeney. I got to play this incredibly ambitious person with a clear vision and focus locked in on what he wanted to accomplish.
I don’t want to toot my own horn and say that I have those traits also. I try really hard to stay focused and get what I want to get done. I’ve been lucky recently that I have been able to play better men than myself.
Paul is so much more positive and present and sometimes I feel like he has a way better handle on his life then I do and my character in The Front Runner is so much smarter than me that I sometimes didn’t feel worthy to be playing him.
Imagista: You seem to have such a busy schedule, how do you manage to find time for yourself and your family?
Chris: Priorities. My family comes first no matter what. Then, another thing is that its not all me. My wife is so supportive and is such an inspiration to me. Her ability to put me first while I’m trying to put her first and she grabs me at times and tells me “we are okay, go do you.”
If it wasn’t for her doing that, I probably wouldn’t be able to manage it as well. I would be trying to juggle it more. She steps in and takes the reigns for me sometimes.
Imagista: What advice would you give to a group of teenage boys in today’s society?
Chris: I would say something that my grandfather said to me when I was a young man. “You wont always be right but you don’t have to be wrong” meaning in your heart, if you listen, you always know what the right thing to do is, so chose to be a good man and you will me.
The other thing I would say to any teenage boy is stay away from my daughter.
Imagista: Can you tell me one fun fact about you that not many people would know?
Chris: No less than once a week both of my girls cover me in makeup and made me wear my wife’s dresses.