The actor, who stars in Netflix’s ‘Painkiller,’ tells THR about his time away from the spotlight — spent building a healing retreat for veterans and people battling addiction.
When Taylor Kitsch signs on to the Zoom call to discuss his new charitable endeavor in rural Montana, he looks very much the part. The 42-year-old, clad in a T-shirt, is perched in the driver’s seat of his adventure van, fresh from a supply run for the geodesic dome he’s building. It looks like the kind of setting where it might be a miracle to even have a cell signal.
Two years ago, after selling his onetime dream lake house in Austin, Texas, the actor drove this same van 20 hours north to Bozeman, Montana, where he rode out part of the pandemic. He was attracted to the area because of his interest in wildlife photography and a yearning for more serenity, but once his real estate agent showed him a particularly stunning piece of land (which he first visited in waist-deep snow), he had a vision of a nature retreat that could offer healing to people in need. He got to work.
Now, he’s deep into building an A-frame house (which will serve as the central meeting space), as well as cabins and that dome on the property. Kitsch’s excitement about the project is palpable, and he’s prone to giddy non sequiturs about his plans. “I’m just rambling,” he says with a laugh five minutes into the interview, after chattering fervently about everything from baby fox sightings and a new idea for an outdoor shower to the ice baths his crew has been conducting in the soon-to-be wood-burning hot tub. “I’m just really excited about this, about it being a base camp for people to empower themselves.”
Kitsch is interested in helping all sorts of people, but his plans revolve around the veteran and sober/recovery communities. He has been focused on veterans’ issues since he became close with retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell while collaborating on a film a decade ago, and has even recruited several of the Marines he met along the way to help during the building stage. (“With my limited skills, I’m more of a runner,” Kitsch says with a laugh. “Consider me sort of the first AD.”) His desire to help those dealing with addiction comes from a personal place: It runs in his family, and he took time away from the spotlight last year to support a close relative’s sobriety. “The stakes were very life-and-death, and Marcus was one of the few people I called for help,” he says. “When you get into that community, it’s like you’re a brother for life, and it’s really beautiful.”
So far, “every fucking nickel” of the project’s budget has come out of Kitsch’s own pocket, but he feels grateful to be able to contribute. He says he feels lucky that he found a charitable passion, and a place to call home that is far removed from Los Angeles. “I got a later start in the business, and I was able to have a sense of who I was and what I needed,” says the Terminal List and Friday Night Lights actor. “Being in L.A. was never a great thing for me, and I love being out here — there’s just so much peace to grasp. That’s what this place represents to me: It’s not going to solve every problem, but hopefully it will help at least one person work toward what they need.”