Kitsch plays a Brooklyn cop sent to post-War Berlin in the period crime drama, which premieres at the CanneSeries TV festival.
For a fan of Friday Night Lights, it’s hard to sit across from Taylor Kitsch and not picture high-school bad boy Tim Riggins, the character — part womanizer, part wounded man-child — Kitsch played for five seasons in the acclaimed, Emmy-winning NBC drama.
But Kitsch has spent the last decade of his career carving out a darker path, with stand-out roles in Ryan Murphy’s TV movie The Normal Heart, on the second season of True Detective, and as cult leader David Koresh in Paramount Network’s Waco.
For his latest role — as Max McLaughlin in Shadowplay — Kitsch has again gone deep and dark. The period crime drama, from the creators of Nordic noir series The Bridge, sees Kitsch playing a Brooklyn cop assigned to set up a police force in the chaos of post-World War II Berlin and to take down the Capone of post-war Berlin, “Engelmacher” Gladow (played by Sebastian Koch). Max is also on a mission to save his brother Moritz (Logan Marshall-Green). Both siblings share a common, childhood trauma, but have taken very different paths. Moritz, who served in World War II, has returned to Germany and begun to hunt down unrepentant Nazis, killing them in increasingly brutal ways.
Michael C. Hall, Nina Hoss, Tuppence Middleton, and Mala Emde co-star. Kitsch spoke to The Hollywood Reporter’s European Bureau Chief Scott Roxborough while on a break from shooting Shadowplay in Prague. The series, from Studiocanal’s Tandem Productions and Canada’s Bron Studios, premieres at TV festival CanneSeries.
There have been a lot of movies, and TV series, made about World War II, but almost nothing from when Shadowplay is set, the immediate aftermath of the war.
I had no idea what things were like in ’46. I don’t know what I thought but it wasn’t this. The violence didn’t stop after the war. Everything just went rogue. I got here a few weeks before we started shooting and went to Berlin to see all the sites for myself. I took a week and went to Auschwitz to study that. You can look at these pictures all day but being there you have a sense of the gravity of it all.
This series seems much bigger, and more ambitious than much of the television you’ve done in the past.
[Creators Mans Marlind’s and Bjorn Stein’s] vision is so big. Even shooting-wise, we have huge action set pieces but then also very beautiful scenes. Today we have a huge scene, where we blow up the police station. It looks unbelievable. Dust rising like a huge cloud before the firefight ensues. It’s the biggest action sequence we have in the whole series. But it’s the heavier stuff, the emotional stuff, that is going to drive the show. And that’s what I find most challenging. Me and my brother Moritz go through trauma, our mom is shot in the kitchen by our father and we see it. My character, Max, deals with that trauma completely differently from Moritz. So every time we have a scene together, the stakes are so high. I was talking to [Shadowplay co-star] Nina [Hoss] yesterday and was saying how the scenes I struggle with are exposition. I hate exposition, talking to drive a storyline. In the scenes that are black and white, where it’s clear what’s happening and what the stakes are, those are the scenes you live for. Waco was like that: it was clear what I was doing in every scene. It’s similar here.
Head over to The Hollywood Reporter to read the rest of the interview!