Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) joins the cast of Audience Network’s Mr. Mercedes for the show’s second season which debuts on August 22, 2018. Huston plays Brady Hartsfield’s ambitious doctor and during the 2018 San Diego Comic Con he talked about the appeal of the series and of taking on the role of Dr. Babineau.
The series is based on the books by Stephen King and features Brendan Gleeson as Detective Bill Hodges, Harry Treadaway as Brady Hartsfield, Jharrel Jerome as Jerome Robinson, Scott Lawrence as Detective Peter Dixon, Breeda Wool as Lou Linklatter, Justine Lupe as Holly Gibney, Nancy Travis as Donna Hodges, and Holland Taylor as Ida Silver. In addition to Huston, new season two cast members include Tessa Ferrer as Felix Babineau’s wife, Cora Babineau, and Max Hernandez as Assistant DA Antonio Montez.
Jack Huston Mr. Mercedes Interview:
How do you describe Felix Babineau?
Jack Huston: “Felix Babineau is a brain surgeon – a neurosurgeon – who has the rather impossible task of operating on Brady after his head has been caved in. He not only saves his life but sort of takes on the task of keeping him alive. Without giving anything away, maybe he takes it a little further.”
Is he evil?
Jack Huston: “I don’t think he’s evil in any way. I think he’s ambitious. I think it’s really interesting. Whatever profession you are in, you want to take it as far as you can, do the best work you possibly can. It’s interesting when you’re in the medical profession when you have certain things like FDA approved or certain drugs that you can or can’t use but you know it can save millions of lives, something you would maybe see as unethical but if it did do well on a thing like that, suddenly it would be ethical. It’s like the same question one can ask themselves in anything. It’s like, ‘How far are you willing to go?’ In his eyes, to save millions at the detriment of the few…I don’t know.”
It seems like Felix’s wife is really the one who’s pushing him.
Jack Huston: ‘Yes. We say ‘Lady Macbeth.’”
Can you talk about that relationship?
Jack Huston: “It’s lovely with Tessa Ferrer as well. At least we were coming onto the show as newbies – me and Tessa together – so we got to build those roles together. But you can very quickly fall into a rather arch relationship when you’ve got a wife saying, ‘You must do this.’ But because we have the amazing Jack Bender who was always trying to find the reality of the situation, keep it grounded, and not go too far into the psychological, the supernatural, he was like, ‘Listen, this is just a young, ambitious couple who are driven, trying to do right by them, trying to further themselves.’ (Laughing) Weird shit happens.”
Did you do any research before taking on the role?
Jack Huston: “I mean, I’ve done research on doctors. I had a wonderful (doctor) – I feel awful I can’t remember his name now because I should be giving him credit because I actually do a couple of surgeries in it. I was like a little wiz kid with it. But, yeah, I had to do quite a bit of research on what the hell I was saying. The medical jargon was like (gibberish) and if I didn’t research it, I would literally just look stone-faced. Like, ‘I have no idea what I just said.’ An audience might not know either, so I might look like I know what I’m saying. I did as much as I could without actually becoming a doctor.”
What did you know about Mr. Mercedes when you joined the series?
Jack Huston: “I’d seen the first season. I read the first book. I spoke to Jack Bender who called me to ask me to play Felix. We had a great conversation. He told me he was doing a documentary on Leonard Cohen so I was like, ‘I’m in!’ He’s just cool as hell. Jack’s brilliant. As far as pedigree goes for a show when you’ve got David E. Kelley, Dennis Lehane, Jack Bender, Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway…all those people, you sort of hedge your bets and I felt like this was a pretty good bet.
It was fun. It was a good one to sign on to. And it was quite nice coming into something a bit further down the line when you’ve seen how good it is. It’s always lovely when the originator is Stephen King and you find out that he’s a big fan of the show, too. So, you must be doing something right. It was a cool one to be a part of. It was a bitch to get to Charleston from LA and I’ve got two kids so I was having to fly a lot. But, what do you do? (Laughing) The things you do for your work.”
What is Dr. Babineau’s relationship with the District Attorney who also wants to keep Brady alive?
Jack Huston: “Yeah, Max (Hernandez) plays Montez and we have quite good stuff. I think initially we’re on the same page and then we veer off from that. We butt heads.”
Can you tell us why?
Jack Huston: “No, no, no. Not really. I can’t I’m afraid. He wants him alive to prosecute him. I want him alive because that’s my job to preserve life. That’s my oath is to do what you can completely blind to what the person is or what they’ve done in their past. That’s what you are as a doctor. That’s the interesting part of it. Initially we have the same ambitions for Brady and when things go a bit AWOL, we maybe butt heads.”
How many Stephen King books have you read?
Jack Huston: “I’ve read quite a few Stephen King books. When I was at school every other person was reading a Stephen King novel at a certain point of my youth. And it’s so funny because it wasn’t just the books but like all of those really freaky movies were coming out at that time. And now I’m like, ‘Man, I grew up,’ because now they’re remaking those movies.
Normally, I’m at the age when it’s like, ‘Oh, this is a remake,’ and now I’m like, ‘I remember that movie. I remember the original.’ So, it’s kind of funny. I’m growing up. When my kids say, ‘Have you seen It?’ I’m like, ‘Which one?’”
Who would you say he shares most of his scenes with? Is it his wife or at work?
Jack Huston: “Me and my wife, me and Brady – not that there’s much interaction as he’s in a coma. I still like to think me and Brady were in a lot of scenes together. And Harry’s so good. I tell you what, it’s a hard task to lie there completely still with your eyes sort of half-mast staring up. It sounds like a great role. ‘Oh, you’re in bed not doing anything?’ But it’s amazing because there’s something behind those eyes that you have to portray and get in there. Harry’s wonderful. He had a very difficult task this season with what he did and he goes for it fully. I wouldn’t be that easy.
And then me and my wife, Tessa Ferrer, who is brilliant. We have most of our stuff together and that was always good. She’s great. She’s a brilliant actress. She really pushes. We were always out for the truth. We were always taking the scene and that’s what so great about Jack is if the scene’s not working, you don’t have to go up and say, ‘The scene is not working.’ He’s right there with you. He’s like, ‘Well, let’s make it. Let’s get it right.’ It didn’t feel precious. It felt very collaborative and that’s the best set to be on when you feel like it’s a real build together.”