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‘Black Bird’ Star Paul Walter Hauser Talks How Sobriety Has Changed the Way He Decompresses From a Challenging Role


After garnering Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards this year for his performance as serial killer Larry Hall in the Apple TV+ limited series black bird, Paul Walter Hauser also earned his first Emmy nomination for the role. He is nominated along with his late co-star Ray Liotta in the supporting actor category, an honor he says is “a huge creative swan song to let people know how great[Liotta]really was.” Chatting the morning his nomination was announced, Hauser says THR how he entered (and exited) the mind of a killer, whether he would ever take on such a dark role again, and his desire to balance comedic and dramatic endeavors.

What does it mean for Ray Liotta to be recognized alongside you in that category?

It’s completely overwhelming to be in a category with people like Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, and Jesse Plemons, who I’m also a huge fan of. I really think that category is a heavyweight group, and I feel very lucky. I’m celebrating Ray, his career and the legacy he leaves behind, and I really hope people see that Ray was good to the last drop. Some actors, as they get older, don’t put in the same amount of work; maybe they can’t or maybe they’re just collecting a paycheck. Ray was never that guy. Ray was always interesting and specific and nuanced, and he can be funny, he can be scary. We lost him too soon, but this is a great creative swan song to let people know how great he really was.

It’s been about a year since the show came out. Now that some time has passed, what stands out about your experience doing it?

I look back and I’m very proud of the creative team behind it. I think when he was doing it, he wasn’t in a good place and in some ways that may have helped the character, but I never want to put that into the atmosphere. That whole idea that you have to be tortured to give a dark performance, I don’t subscribe to it at all. Looking back, I wish I had been in a better place while he was doing it, but to be in a good place now, sober with a new baby, life is good. I feel like we can celebrate it.

Paul Walter Hauser as convicted serial killer Larry Hull in the Apple TV+ true crime limited series Black Bird.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Have you seen the roles they offer you change since the success of this one?

I wouldn’t say darker, but I would say I’m getting some offers or interest from more prestigious people. That’s not exciting because of the reputation, it’s exciting because you know it’s going to be a great creative team. There are people I really want to work with. Due to the success of a show like black birdI could get to work with some of those people, and that’s exciting.

Would you ever play such a dark role again?

I wouldn’t play another serial killer, but I would definitely play a dark character as long as it’s well written. I don’t want to play a dark character unless the writing is up to par with the stuff I’ve already done. (Showrunner) Dennis Lehane doesn’t write dark for dark’s sake, there’s a lot of purpose and idiosyncratic choices there. And I need that, I need it to have texture. Maybe I’ve been spoiled because I’ve worked with the likes of Charlie Kaufman, Steven Rogers, Billy Ray and now Dennis Lehane. I have been spoiled by good writing; it’s hard to go back

Was there something you did to get in and out of character, or something you had to do to get rid of this character at the end of the day?

I was really just trying to numb the pain with some weed and an episode of control your enthusiasm, that was the kind of deal. I have now discovered through sobriety that I can have much healthier, more beneficial, and more productive versions of that, which is usually binge-watching TV with my wife, swimming in my backyard, or working on a script with my wife. friend Julian (Sergio).

What was your most challenging scene or most difficult aspect of the character?

Having to think the thoughts that the character thinks to then translate the truth in my eyes and what I said. It was acting, but it was also a level of emotional immersion that is not very fun to experience. I did something similar in blackKkKlansman, where I did a piece of racist shit for Spike Lee. There were times where we had fun making that movie, but there were also times where you feel like you need a shower. He just feels gross.

I’m glad you did the after party to lighten things up after his recent string of projects.

Yeah, it’s nice to be able to do some comedy in something like After the party either cobra kai. The guys I looked up to, tried to be like, were people like Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Those guys played both worlds all the time, so that’s what I’m trying to do.

Is there any other show or nominee that you are supporting this year that you particularly liked?

I have so much love for jury duty and Bear. I would jump at the chance to work on either one, and I bring them up as often as I can because that’s the kind of shows we need: stuff with heart and humor and a set that lets you know how important community is in our world. . . We are so prone to isolation, especially in the digital age. Bear and jury duty (they’re) almost like The Muppets: they have this collection of different types that are a bit quirky, but also necessary. I really think those are shows worth celebrating.

Interviews edited for length and clarity.

This interview was conducted prior to the launch of the SAG-AFTRA strike on July 14.

This story first appeared in an independent August issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, Click here for subscribe.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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