"It sounds like bullshit when I say it," Kyle Chandler says, rearing up his internal-thought engine. The actor pauses. Suddenly we're fearful that we're about to receive a Chandler rant on how the 47-year-old, after making it through more than decades of nothing parts and then engraining himself in the collective heart of middle America as Coach Taylor on the gridiron drama Friday Night Lights, can never shake his best-known role. Nope. Not this appreciative dude. "You know," he continues, letting his mid-tempo drawl run free, "I'm just really excited to get these jobs!"
Yep, life is good for the Georgia native. "This is a dream come true to work with these types of people," he admits, praising Hollywood players like Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), and Martin Scorcese (The Wolf of Wall Street).
Chandler's carved out a nice little niche for himself as the razor-sharp intellectual with an equally pronounced jawline (that's him as the White House Chief in Argo, a CIA ball-breaker in Zero Dark Thirty, and mayoral campaign advisor in the political action thriller Broken City, out this Friday). We spoke to Chandler about how he digs deep into his roles, that time he froze up on set, and how Los Angeles looks different with a new set of eyes.
DETAILS: I take it you were pleased last week to see Argo receive so much love at the Golden Globes?
KYLE CHANDLER: I mean, look, I popped in and out of that film so quick. But I'll tell you what, I certainly was glad to be part of it and I loved working with [Ben Affleck]. The best part about that film for me was that I did research and I was able to get a hold of Hamilton Jordan, President Carter's chief of staff. He was able to share some stories with me.
DETAILS:Do you always dig so deep into a role before going on set?
KYLE CHANDLER: I try to, because that's what gives you a strong foundation to be able to walk out there and have some sense of what you're doing. It's like showing up at a crime scene; you don't know what you're gonna get or how you're gonna do it, but at least you've got the tools. The Wolf of Wall Street was the same way. I was fortunate enough to meet the FBI agent who helped bring down [stock market manipulator and "The Wolf of Wall Street" author, Jordan Belfort].
DETAILS: You're becoming the go-to actor for all things CIA and FBI.
KYLE CHANDLER: [laughs] Yeah. I now have to turn down anything that has to do with FBI, CIA or DEA. I've had a rash of those roles.
DETAILS: What turned you on to the role in Broken City?
KYLE CHANDLER: The initial thing was working with [Mark] Wahlberg. I had never met him before so I was just excited to go in and read for him. Also, when I found out that Barry Pepper was in it. I've been a massive, massive fan of his since Saving Private Ryan, and in this film I got to work pretty closely with him. When we were out one night in New Orleans after having some oysters, I said 'Hey, listen man. I really respect your work. I'm a big fan of yours. So thanks for not being an asshole.'" [laughs]
DETAILS: You weren't onscreen that much in the film, but you made your scenes count.
KYLE CHANDLER: It's a really tricky thing. It's been a great learning lesson and I feel so comfortable now compared to where I was maybe five years ago as an actor going onto these sets. On a television show you're there every day and you're comfortable. But going on movie sets for small roles, it's like grabbing on to a moving train, being on it for a half hour and then jumping off. You never really get to know anyone.
DETAILS: In a relatively short amount of time you've worked with top-notch directors like Kathryn Bigelow and Martin Scorcese.
KYLE CHANDLER: I was amazed when I was looking at the directors and the actors that I'm [now] working with. It can be pretty terrifying for any actor. And I say this in all honesty, I always consider myself a young actor. I always will. I'm always the guy who, when the job ends, [thinks] I'm never gonna work again. I think a lot of [actors] do that. But I was not nervous meeting these people. I really truly enjoyed being in their presence and taking their direction.
DETAILS:: You used to get more nervous on-set?
KYLE CHANDLER: I've locked up before. I still get nervous at auditions. I remember in King Kong I locked up on one line and [director] Peter Jackson had me going back and forth and my temperature shot up and I locked up.
DETAILS: After playing the wholesome character that was Coach Taylor on FNL, is it nice to dive into characters that sometimes blur the ethical line?
KYLE CHANDLER: I really liked the [Zero Dark Thirty] Joseph Bradley character because he probably had a more concrete effect on the physical world around him than any character I've played. He decides life and death. He is the ultimate decider at that post there in Pakistan.
DETAILS: After 21 years grinding it out in L.A. you're now down in Austin chilling on a 33-acre spread. Life must be splendid.
KYLE CHANDLER: I grew up in Georgia from the time I was 11 to 23 before I came out [to Los Angeles]. And we lived in a very rural area. Coming out to Los Angeles and raising a family there for the time that I did, it's a different pace for sure. And stepping back into something that was more familiar from when I was a kid, it's like recharging your batteries. When you get into your mid-40's you start seeing everything a little bit differently. I'm able to take a few more seconds to appreciate things. It's a great place to be. And now when I go back to Los Angeles I see things that I never saw before. 'Cause I had my blinders on while I was [in L.A.]. I was racing for the red light.
—Dan Hyman (@dshyman) is a writer based in Chicago.