Interview ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ co-creator, actor and executive producer Hugh Dillon

The Extra Mile interviews Hugh Dillon, co-creator and executive producer of Mayor of Kingstown who also plays Ian Ferguson. The series follows the McLusky family, power brokers in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. Tackling themes of systemic racism, corruption, and inequality, the show provides a stark look at their attempt to bring order and justice to a town that has neither.

In our interview, we discuss how the collaboration with Taylor Sheridan and Jeremy Renner began, and some of the most rewarding aspects of Dillon’s musical and acting journey.

The Extra Mile (TEM) : I wanted to talk about how the idea of Mayor of Kingstown even came about and the collaboration with Taylor Sheridan came together, and how you got Jeremy Renner on board and what that was like?

Hugh Dillon: I mean it’s very organic they, I mean Michelle they start with conversations really, and Taylor and I talked about it 20 years ago , I mean the genesis is I’m from a town that had nine penitentiaries when I grew up. So it’s Kingston, Ontario, Canada and it had a prison for women. Maximum medium, it had KP which was Kingston Penitentiary, and that had always stayed with me. So by the time my career had moved to Los Angeles, I‘d met Taylor Sheridan, he was my acting coach and he coached me on you know 100 episodes of TV, 30 episodes of Durham County, he helped me get that job, he coached me on 75 episodes of Flashpoint and in that time, I’d know my lines and I get it but I loved hanging out with him because we would just dream, we would just talk about what do we really want to do. What would we do if we for got the opportunity and I recognized in him his ability to take apart scenes and worlds and really be able to you know kind of explain them back to me because then I’d go you know audition and get the job and then we’d get into it and then I’d always be coming back talking about the geography of film making and he just, he was so passionate about it and he knew so much and he’s still my mentor and then one day I said I’ve got, I know I’ve got the show. Here’s the opening scene and that’s good. I brought a printer over and we started and we had the first five scripts in two months I think he had that first script in a week and we were just talking , talking and then we’d put it away and he got Yellowstone. He got Sicario first and that set him up and then he got Yellowstone we were going to come back and do this later and then Wind River. He’d written Wind River and he said come and do Wind River and we’ll get back to Mayor and I met Renner and he thought he’d be right for Mike McClusky and I went for sure he’d be right but we’re never going to get a global movie star to be in this and Renner loved it and Renner is just a really an authentic individual, very talented and funny and all the things that you would hope someone like that would be and then you know fast forward it was covid and we’d finish Yellowstone and I’d finish Yellowstone, the show’s still going and I had scouted Kingston my whole life in that Penitentiary so I was sending Taylor Sheridan pictures of the pen and by that time it was decommission and I said we could shoot here we can use it and the deal happened and then Renner got on board and then I drove to Texas and we hammered up the last five scripts of season one and I drove back to Toronto and then drove to Kingston and got ready for Production and Diane Wish and Jeremy Renner were on board and it kind of its just been a tsunami since just of creativity and life things and really supporting Jeremy with his accent to get us here to season 3

TEM : So what about you? What exactly drew you into the role of Ian Ferguson?

Hugh : Well um I created the show so that, it’s not like I was drawn to it it was like mine and why I liked it so much was the based on characters that we grew up with and people we knew, and in this case Ian Goodfellow was a good friend of mine who growing up he had passed away. He committed suicide when he was 27 and he was very funny, he was such a part of who I am that I moved parts of him that were just super funny, positive, fearless and loyal into this character and it just fits with the Renner character and Renner knows people that are like, he’s got a friend very much like the Ian character in real life and that’s kind of what it is. It’s the Renner character was also based on a guy I knew in Kingston who was very, could see right through you, just very hyper emotionally intelligent and you know had been through the ringer but still a person who was very much on the road to redemption. So a lot of it just who we know and our feelings and just finding that emotional kind of truth that we all kind of look at and making sure it lands in something that we can locate that is honest and funny and dark or whatever it is. I worked at the hospital for sick children for 5 years, so I had a wealth of experience I could bring to the party.

TEM: Looking back at your diverse career you went from music, to acting to co-creating a series. What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of your journey?

Hugh:  Just the ability to have a great relationship with my wife Midori.  That’s really that’s the thing that isn’t talked about professionally but that’s really what it’s all about and then the rest of it allows me to do what I wanted to do my entire life which is to create and spend my life in the Arts and not battle to do so and you know the battle was the band to get there and then as stepping stones and its sometimes they decades and sometimes they take your entire life to get where you want to be but to finish a season like this that was so meaningful with our friend in trouble and then with you know the love of his family and all these great people and Taylor Sheridan and everyone coming together to make this something special for him. That’s what it’s all about you know everybody wins its when you win emotionally, you win creatively, and your relationships with other people are stronger and more authentic. It’s just exceptional.

TEM : I mean I’m curious how do you see the future of Mayor Kingston evolving without giving too much away obviously from the season. Are there any particular direction or themes you’re kind of excited to explore in potential future seasons or anything that you can tell us?

Hugh: Yeah I mean this season really , really well constructed because as we were putting it together our whole goal was I want the scripts so when I go up and talk to Jeremy and he’s trying to recover and get out of his wheelchair to his walker, to his cane, I want him to see these scripts have guts and meaning and humour and they did. So when he read them, he would be inspired and what comes next, and if you can get that you’re on your way so thats how we constructed this season. Having said that, seasons 4, 5 are kind of we’ve got some explosive things mapped out and Taylor Sheridan has the finale which he says is season 7. So the finale he’s told me long ago, probably 10 years ago is crazy, and when we get there. That is the gift of Taylor Sheridan.

TEM : We’re all about going the extra mile, what’s one thing that you say you do whether that’d be in your personal life or your professional life where you go the extra mile?

Hugh : Every single thing you do, return every phone call, help people who need help, really do what you say you’re gonna do, that’s my number one thing. If you say you’re gonna do something, do it and that’s how we’ve got here. I mean Taylor Sheridan and myself thats’ a perfect example. That was a handshake deal, no agents, no managers we just looked at each other in the eye, let’s do this. ME and Renner at the front of this season at his house with his mom we’re going to get to the end and we’re gonna say we did it. It’s just, just commit, commit and really you know that’s all you have.

You can stream the first episode of Mayor of Kingstown season 3 on Paramount+ on June 2, 2024.