With creator Brian Watkins’ cool new series, Outer Range, now streaming on Prime Video, I recently spoke with Josh Brolin about making the mystery thriller. In the series, Brolin plays a Wyoming rancher struggling to keep his land, while also trying to keep his family together after dealing with a painful loss. One day while riding, Brolin discovers a mysterious black hole that doesn’t seem to have a bottom and everything changes.
As you can easily deduce, the hole plays a huge part in the story, and it’s one of those the less you know the better situations. I’ll just say I watched the first two episodes before talking to Brolin and I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here. For more on what Outer Range is about you can read our review.
During the interview, Brolin talked about why he wanted to make this series after not doing TV for almost twenty years, how he’s been describing the series to friends, why he loves episodes seven and eight, the unusual and cool cinematography, how streaming allows them the freedom to change how many episodes are in each season and the run times, and reveals (covertly) how many seasons the series might last. He never actually says it, but when I asked him the question, you can see him quickly hold up three fingers with a smile. In addition, he talks about what someone should watch if you’ve never seen his work, the status of Dune 2, what role caused him to get Bell’s palsy from stress, and if he knows anything about Deadpool 3.
Watch what Brolin had to say in the player above, or you can read the conversation below.
COLLIDER: I’m going to start with this, because it’s a frustrating thing for me. So I’m curious, how can a film win six Academy Awards, get nominated for 10, but the director not get nominated?
JOSH BROLIN: It’s the most asinine bizarre … I mean, that’s why snubs are such a thing and that’s why we all talk about them, but that’s a snub, of a snub, of a snub that I just thought was an impossibility. But given everything about the Academy Awards, there are many impossibilities that actually materialized. So it’s all part of the game right now. I don’t know.
Is it post pandemic mentality? Whatever it is, I don’t understand it. He helmed the whole thing. It’s his creation. It’s his interpretation. And I love how he dealt with it. And then I’ll shut up. But how he dealt with it was all he did was go right into praise for the 10 people who were nominated. And good for him. I don’t have to do that on the other hand.
Dude, neither do I. I think first of all, Dune is my favorite film of last year-
BROLIN: Right on.
… by a mile. Denis is a genius. Everything he did with that movie is amazing. So obviously, if you’ve never seen Dune, for the love of God, push play on it. It’s phenomenal.
BROLIN: And we can’t wait to get into the next one, which comes in July, which will be fun.
Which leads me to my next thing, which is … know you’re a part of Dune Part 2, but can you confirm for people that you are a part of Dune Part 2?
BROLIN: I am a part of Dune Part Two, to the ridiculous extent of when somebody mentioned to me that it wasn’t on IMDb, I actually went out of my way to call Liz and say, “Can you please put that on IMDb?” Because it’s a proud moment for me, man.
And by the way, Javier and I had a similar thing that we both admitted to each other at the Oscars, because we both have a little bit of paunch right now. And we talked to Denis. We hadn’t read anything, and we talked to Denis the week before. He was like, “You guys are fighting the whole time. And you’ve been in the desert with the Fremen and all that.” And we fucking panicked. We looked down and saw this little friend that we’ve been holding on our abdomen.
So we were both on full diet mode at the Oscars, even though you absolutely couldn’t tell. We were already in diet mode, in panic diet mode.
That’s funny, but it will pay off when you are filming in July.
BROLIN: It will. It absolutely will.
If someone has actually never seen anything that you’ve done before, what is the first thing you want them watching, and why?
BROLIN: These are good questions, dude. Why? How many films do I have that I can say? Three?
I’ll give you two or three.
BROLIN: Two or three? I would say Flirting with Disaster. I would say No Country. I would say … God, what after that? No Country… I don’t know what after that. What I would intend to do is create enough diversity that they felt like I had a talent to play different characters.
What is the most you’ve ever prepared for a role?
BROLIN: W. I actually got so stressed out, I got Bell’s palsy. And we had to postpone production for six weeks.
That’s definitely prepping.
BROLIN: That’s commitment.
Which of the films you’ve been involved with, do you think changed the most in the editing room?
BROLIN: Wow. That’s a good question. Jonah Hex, which just only got worse. What else? Not No Country at all. I think what was being put together along while we were filming, and I saw dailies, was pretty much exactly what I saw, but even with more impact. What’s another one?
Probably Avengers 2. Your intention and your experiment while you’re doing it. And then what they came up with was surprising to me. I thought very effective, but surprising.
Speaking of Marvel, have you spoken to Feige about Cable now that Deadpool 3 has been announced?
Have you spoken to Shawn Levy, or Ryan?
BROLIN: I haven’t. And I know all those guys. I haven’t spoken to Ryan. I know Shawn really well. Obviously, I know Kevin well. No, I haven’t heard word one, so I do not know.
Moving into why I get to talk to you. So, I purposely only watched the first two episodes, so I wouldn’t feel inclined to just pepper you with spoiler questions. First two episodes are fantastic and each one ends on what could be a series finale. Was that designed on purpose. Are all the episodes sort of like that, where they end on a holy shit moment?
BROLIN: You know what? I don’t know if it was particularly designed that way, but I think what you were talking about before editorially, it kind of ended up that way, where you have this connected tissue of the characters. But I do feel that when I watch it, and this is just my personal opinion, that they feel very one act-y. Do you know what I mean? They could stand by them themselves as their own story. And I don’t know if that’s a bad or a good thing. I just think it’s what exists. But yeah. I think that was partially intentional, but became even more so during the editorial process.
How have you actually been describing the series to friends and family?
BROLIN: A hybrid of a Western and metaphysical elements that could stand in… The hole could stand in for anything you want it to, whether it’s the kind of psychic block, or chaotic block that we have ongoing around right now, secrets, America. Anything you wanted to stand in for when people are confronted with something that they don’t have control over, the layers that get peeled away, of survival mechanisms that you’ve created in your life and are left with a very raw bleeding self that’s revealed. I don’t say it like that, but it’s something like that.
This is the kind of show though, that I think as people watch, they’re going to want to know, do they have the answers figured out? Do they know ultimately where this is all going? So I’ll ask you, do you guys know ultimately where you would like this to end? Do you have that sort of arc and figured out? Or is it sort of like, “We’re going to do it season by season.”?
BROLIN: I think what we’ve dealt with is season by season at this point. I think we’ve talked about a final ending and what we’re working toward. But I think the biggest thing is popping from one season, or season one to season two, because this is something that I haven’t and done in 20 plus years. So it’s an interesting medium for me to be able to explore, not just from a character standpoint, a lot of people say that it’s great to see a character go through all this stuff. But because of the sucker punch of the metaphysical elements of it, there’s so many different directions you can take it.
And what I like about it personally is it takes the typical Western genre hero, and it turns it on its ass because it’s like what I said, this construction of machismo is blown apart. It affects all his secrets. Everything that he deems his integrity is backfired. And it ends up destroying the core of what his family foundation once was.
There is some cool cinematography in the first two episodes, and unusual cinematography it wasn’t what I was expecting. Can you sort of talk about that aspect of the show, that there’s some pretty cool shots?
BROLIN: I think I was talking to somebody else who’s doing Apple show right now, and they had a lot of… A lot of the same issues came up. With this, I think this medium, I think the cinematography has a huge, huge role to play because how that tone and how that look is, really dictates kind of how you feel about what’s going on. And it’s just within that different medium. So I see some cinematographers that were better than other cinematographers. And the cinematographers that were great, why is the show better? Why does the acting feel better? You know what I’m saying?
BROLIN: I think the elements were such a major part of this show, that the cinematography plays a major, major part in how you feel about watching it.
In an ideal world, how many seasons would you like this show to last?
BROLIN: Oh, my God, dude. I could get in trouble if I answered that question. I have the number in my head, but I won’t-
Is it more than three?
BROLIN: I just did something. I just did something. So you’ll have to rewind this and you can-
I will rewind. What I like about shows like this, the high concept shows, is that it’s eight episodes, sometimes there’s six, sometimes they’re 10, and there’s no filler. Each episode is really contained and giving the audience stuff.
BROLIN: And by the way, season to season, it can change. Season to season, we could do eight episodes this season and then do six next season, or do 10 next season. It all dictates itself, which is very different than the TV that I was used to back in the day.
I was also going to say the running time of each episode could be completely different.
BROLIN: Thank God.
Yes. That’s what people don’t realize. It’s like, why are we so strapped to certain narrative structures? Now that they’re streaming and this kind of stuff, you can do anything. There’s no right or wrong. It’s just what you’re used to.
BROLIN: I do think that navigating through this new medium, people are having … I mean, it’s a learning process. And I don’t think we have learned it yet. I think it’s so new to us because back when you were talking about network TV and all that, you had to … It’s like advertising has to go here. So an hour-long show has to be exactly 48 minutes, or whatever that was. Now you’re not dictated to in that way anymore, which is great because there’s no …
It also is more pressure because there’s no reason for it to be bad, other than a bad version of storytelling. And if that’s what we’ve done, then we’ll take it like, for lack of a better word, men. But if it’s not, then all the work and all the elements that we dealt with, which were very, very difficult, was worth it.
How close did you come to doing a different TV show over the last two decades? Or was this the first thing that really got you interested?
BROLIN: No, there was one show. I won’t say what it is, because I know who’s doing it, and he’s going to be great. But there was one show I was interested in. It was the subject matter that I thought was unsustainable for me personally. I was like, “I don’t know if I want to talk about this.” If this goes more than one season, I don’t know if I want to talk about this for years to come.”
This thing is sustaining to me because it brought back a lot of things for me, it brought back Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov when I was a kid. And that was totally inspiring, kind of broke open my whole world outside of ranch life, and then let… who was my good friend, as you know, Sam Shepard. After Sam passed, a lot of times, I would do this anyway, even when he was alive, I’d go back to his early stuff. And there was a great kind of marriage between the supernatural and the Western genre. I always found that really fascinating. So I harken back to that because that was always inspiring to me. I loved exploring the idea of exploring that. So there were personal reasons too, man, that I have to look at and say … Because I know me.
If I have disinterest, that’s just not a good thing. It’s not a good thing for me, it’s not a good thing for anybody. I make sure that’s the case with every job I do, but it was particularly with this because we know I have no control of how long it will last. I mean, if this went season, after season, after season, after season, like what about it? Well, we’re out on a 10,000 acre ranch in Santa Fe, Mexico. I could think of worst things to do.
What do you want to tease about the series for what’s to come? Or is it one of these things where you would rather sort of people…like how much do you want people to know?
BROLIN: You know what? I think I’ll say this, and I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t believe it, which I think you know about me, is a lot of series, you’ll see the first two. And the first two are great. And then you continue to watch it and it kind of slips off a little bit.
What I believe about this series is it continually get it’s better. To me, seven and eight are great. If I can say there’s two episodes that are the best episodes in this show, it’s seven and eight. I think the show progressively gets better and more interesting and finds itself more as a tone that was being dictated to us that we finally adhered to.
And then once you go into a second season, if you do go into a second season, then you’re in a different place. You’re like, “Okay, we know what this is now.” But I truly think that this was an experiment that was a really fun playground of behavior that people will find dynamic, regardless.
You just touched on it a little bit, one of the things that I’ve spoken to so many showrunners and actors and directors, is that the first season of any show, you’re figuring out the infrastructure, who the characters really are, how to make it, what it really takes to make the series. What did you learn making this season that you will absolutely take with you to season two, to will make season two, even better?
BROLIN: The difference between making this series and making most movies in the last 15 years is what I’ve learned in making those movies it’s people who are really good at what they do strangely have a lack of pretense. They’re more interested in the storytelling and the skill and the manifesting and the story and the way that they see it. So, if there’s any kind of verve or anger or frustration that goes into, it’s going into the right places, trying to get the right result. And whatever that means. I think that in this medium, there’s a lot … Like I say, we don’t know if we should use filmmakers, or if we should use skilled TV people from the networks. Who has the best version of how to do this medium?
I think that there was some of that during this shoot, where people who weren’t necessarily right for that category of filmmaking, that was a learning process. And that was kind of a shuffling that would go on. As a producer, that was a very difficult thing to do. Then just keeping up morale because of the elements of working nights in eight degree weather and then working in 106 degree weather three months later during the day. So I’m more used to that more used to that than most people, but I think that keeping up morale was an important element throughout this, because it was a hard shoot. It was a hard shoot. Everybody knows it was a hard shoot.
On that note, I got to go. I’m just going to say, I’m looking forward to seeing this and a certain future movie.
BROLIN: Right on. Let me see.
This t-shirt was worn on purpose.
BROLIN: That’s great.
Outer Range is now streaming on Prime Video.
How to Watch ‘Outer Range’: Where to Stream the Josh Brolin Western Series
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https://collider.com/josh-brolin-outer-range-interview-deadpool-3-dune-2/ Josh Brolin on Outer Range and Making a Western with Metaphysical Elements