Neal McDonough didn’t make any friends on the set of FX’s “Justified” during his stint as the season’s villain, Robert Quarles.
“I didn’t even talk to people. I didn’t want that camaraderie. I wanted them uncomfortable around me,” McDonough says. “When I did the first scene with Tim (Olyphant), it was so tense and awkward. He knew, and (director) Jon Avnet knew, we were chipping away at gold.”
Quarles was the dude in the suit, coming from Detroit to take over the drug trade from the hicks — a carpetbagger with a penchant for torturing male hookers.
When a “rent boy” comes seeking justice, the intense scene is calmly played out by the actor as Quarles draws the young man in with his own tale of being pimped out by his heroin-addicted father. Later, there’s a chilling shot of the terrified guy gagged and chained to Quarles’ toilet as a stripped Quarles enters.
“All I was thinking about was brushing my teeth. You’ve got to keep it simple,” McDonough says. “If you try to go too far, that’s when the problems set in. I did the scene with no malice, and it was scarier that anything we could have shown him doing.”
As the season progressed, the tightly wound Quarles goes off the rails, naked and freebasing with whores in a trailer. McDonough, who teamed with producer Graham Yost
on “Boomtown,” says simply, “In Graham I trust.”
“As people know, there are certain things I’m not comfortable doing,” McDonough says, “but Graham lets me dance around it.”