[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Premise, Season 1 Episode 2, “Moment of Silence.”]
FX on Hulu’s The Premise very much springs from the mind of The Office alumnus B.J. Novak, who wrote and/or directed multiple episodes of the new anthology series (and also introduces them). Aiming to present parables about our modern age, the second half of the two-episode premiere, “Moment of Silence,” focuses on Chase (Jon Bernthal), a man who comes to work at the National Gun Lobby after suffering a massive personal tragedy, and Aaron (Boyd Holbrook), the NGL employee who befriends him despite concerns about Chase’s motivations.
Things end with a surprising and heartbreaking twist, and in a one-on-one interview with Collider, Boyd Holbrook broke down how he approached the project, what it was like collaborating with Novak and Bernthal, and why it was “one of the coolest and most far-out pieces I’ve ever read.” He also teases a bit of information about his upcoming role as the Corinthian in the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman, which recently wrapped production.
Collider: Have you gotten to see the complete episode yet?
BOYD HOLBROOK: I haven’t yet. In posts you get to see glimpses of stuff, though — there’s always going to be some line that you have to ADR because somebody’s cell phone was buzzing or something.
Are you the kind of actor who can watch themselves? Because I feel like it goes either way with most people.
HOLBROOK: Yeah, I mean, I definitely can’t watch myself in anything bad. But you know, yeah. I do enjoy it because it’s weird. It’s surreal. Because you’ve had the experience so you don’t really need to watch it. But I do enjoy … Yeah, I do enjoy watching it.
So tell me a little bit about how you ended up on The Premise. What was that process like?
HOLBROOK: I’ve been talking to B.J. about a film we actually ended up doing called Vengeance. But through timing and stuff like that this came about first, and then he sent it to me and said, “Listen, hey, I’m doing this.” It was kind of like the pilot run of it, old school. He’s doing two episodes and he sent me the script and he said, “I’m sending it to Jon Bernthal as well for you two to do it.” I was a big fan of John, and when I actually read it, I’m not lying, this is one of the coolest and most far-out pieces I’ve ever read. That I’ve ever worked on. It’s just, it’s bonkers. It’s nuts. It’s pitch-black comedy. Yeah. I was like, This is the best thing I’ve ever read in a long time. I’ll definitely do it.”
It’s a pretty daring piece of work. I imagine in doing it, having a comfort level with knowing who’s involved was a big factor.
HOLBROOK: Yeah. Yeah. But the one thing about working with B.J… He gave me this book, it’s called Truth in Comedy. And it’s about that really razor fine edge of, it’s inappropriate to be laughing at this, but it’s also uncomfortable and kind of riveting. I think a lot of heartful moments in [the episode], like very human and sort of painful, painful life events that Jon’s character is experiencing. Those are real.
This was the first time you and Jon had worked together — was this your first time meeting him? Did you guys become friendly pretty quickly?
HOLBROOK: Yeah, definitely. Jon’s great people, man. He’s a great, fantastic guy. I met him at a party and then I saw him at a UFC event. I was just like, “I dig this guy. I dig his work, I dig who he is, he’s a stand-up dude.” Similar background, similar interests. It was super easy to work with him and he’s a no-bullshit kind of guy and it just makes life easier when you’re that way.
What’s very key to this episode is the concept of gun control, and the concept of guns in the media. In between takes, after acting, while filming, were you guys talking about the subject matter that much?
HOLBROOK: I think so. I mean, it’s hard not to, right? It was pretty excessive. I don’t know the actual stats, but I’m pretty sure there’s what’s considered a mass shooting, a public shooting 355 days a year in America. I don’t know how you couldn’t talk about it. It’s invading our lives. It’s just an utter shame, civilizations behaving this way in these macro ways, and this is even acceptable. And it borders political talks or political … It’s systematic, it’s law. It’s a really hard thing to change. It’s really hard. There’s so much money and bureaucracy and lobbying done behind that affect these laws. It’s an insane convoluted process.
Yeah. From your perspective, what was it like trying to come at this character, as someone who is pro-guns and very actively engaged with gun culture?
HOLBROOK: The nuances and the subtleties of it all are so intertwined in our fabric of our society and our development of America. I grew up in Kentucky. I wasn’t a hunter. I’m particularly not a big gun person, but I’m really good at shooting skeet and target practice. That’s what we grew up doing. It’s so individualized. Where the nuances and subtleties come in and how behavior associated is with it. It’s a real modern debate or modern, I think, discussion that we need to have, and I’m happy we can have the show like this to be able for people to talk about it.
Yeah. I mean, it’s something I find myself struggling with all the time because I love watching a good John Wick movie. In the context of Hollywood, guns are cool and fun. But then you get into the reality of it, which is I think something that you tap into with this episode.
HOLBROOK: Absolutely. I mean, what part of the membrane of society stops separating Grand Theft Auto from reality? And how embedded that is and when does it start to break that barrier?
When it comes to the ending, John’s character gets shot by a lot of people in the office, but your character isn’t one of them. Was that a discussion point at all? Was it always a very firm thing that you wouldn’t have been involved?
HOLBROOK: Yes. There was a big talk. That critical moment was bounced off the wall tens and tens and tens of times of how it could go down, as it could go down in this scenario a lot of different ways. But with BJ’s direction and decisions, we sort of just walked with him on that line. And it’s a very complex moment. It’s where a lot of things transition. A lot of crossroads meet. Friendship and civil duties and safety of others and things that are really above your pay grade. And the complexity of it all and the heartbreak of it all too, really. The proving of a point that John’s character is making in this … You could call it a sick institution. The irony of it all is a bitter pill to swallow.
And maybe it takes situations like that to really have a wake-up call. Because we’ve had some church shootings, this shooting that shooting this shooting, and nothing ever really changes. You know, you see stuff pop off in New Zealand and they changed the gun laws immediately. It’s fantastic for people to be engaged in their own society that well. What does it take to really make a point? And does it have to affect you personally? In this scenario, that’s what we explored.
In general, when you’re looking at taking on potential roles, what are you looking for? What’s exciting to you at this point?
HOLBROOK: I think I’m constantly chasing the perfect performance. That’s what I’m mad about. I’m obsessed about. And it’s just how life and projects get set up, whether they explode or how the life of the project is. But yeah, I’m just dead focused on making excellent work and trying to challenge myself and hopefully ring a bell along the way.
I’m excited for Sandman — you’ve finished shooting that, right?
HOLBROOK: Yeah, we just started the post-production, so I did ADR on a couple of episodes, and yeah, all that’s starting to come together, too. Again, seeing bits and pieces of it, just rough cuts and raw footage, stuff like that. So it’s really fascinating to see, especially with that project too. Because you can see how stylized it is.
Are they doing wild things with your eyes, to match the comic?
HOLBROOK: Yeah, but really tastefully done. Yeah. It’s legit. I think so.
Well, I’ll wrap up with this: When this episode premieres, what do you hope is the question that people ask themselves?
HOLBROOK: Well, guns can fuck some shit up.
You feel like it’s a pretty strong anti-gun message?
HOLBROOK: You know, it’s not anti-gun. It’s just the excessiveness of anything can be detrimental. We’re talking about firearms that fire projectiles at 3000 miles per hour… But there’s a serious sociological impact that these mass shootings have, and we don’t have too many people telling us or advising us on how to help our common fellow brother and sister through some tough times.
The Premise is streaming now on FX on Hulu. New episodes premiere Thursdays.
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