10 Questions with Hap and Leonard: Mucho Mojo‘s John “Spud” McConnell (Judge Beau Otis)
The finale of HAP AND LEONARD: MUCHO MOJO served up a big twist involving Beau Otis, the town judge responsible for the death of Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard’s (Michael K. Williams) fathers. We knew Beau was bad, but it turns out the guy is downright evil.
We spoke to John “Spud” McConnell about how he got into the character of Beau Otis, the many twists the season took and how Beau’s scene with Hap in the woods was originally intended to play out very differently.
Q: Beau is a killer in two ways: He was the driver that killed Hap and Leonard’s fathers, as well as B.B.’s murderer. Do you think Beau deserved to meet his tragic end?
A: It’s certainly more interesting than just him running off or getting in a wreck or having some self-loathing realization and offing himself. Frankly he’s a coward, but he’s not enough of a coward to commit suicide. You don’t recognize the depths of [Sheriff] Valentine until he comes at [Beau] with that cane. The highs and the lows — the love that he had for [B.B.], and the hatred and the disappointment that he had in Beau. When we did the scene [Brian Dennehy] was like, “I don’t want to hit you with this cane.” And I was like, “It’s fucking rubber, Dennehy. Come on.” And then, boy, once he got into it, he was smacking me pretty good with that stick.
Q: It must have been pretty amazing to work with Brian Dennehy. What was that like?
A: Yeah, it was. I was telling him backstage he ought to write an autobiography. And he was like, “I ain’t gonna write no goddamn autobiography.” And I said, “Son of a bitch, you ain’t gonna write nothing. You’re gonna sit down with a bottle of single malt, and just start talking and somebody else will write it for you.”
Q: What was it like playing the scene in the woods with Hap?
A: On a technical end, they decided not to use the tube that was up my pants leg and made me piss my pants. [Laughs] We went to a lot of grief to measure how long the thing was for them to put the tube in. So I was doing the whole scene with this rubber tube wrapped about my balls. We had a discussion about how to play somebody who has an epileptic fit. [James] Purefoy was telling me he saw somebody have a fit and they started screaming this deep “Rawwwr!” scream. I saw somebody have an epileptic fit on my school bus when I was in the 7th grade. He was gasping, he had snot coming out of his nose and he was spasming all over the floor of the school bus. We sat on him so he’d quit banging his head into the seats. How do you play that? Do you play it gasping and such? They had me do two or three different ADR things [in post-production] to see what worked better. And it ended up being a combination of the old and the new with the gagging and all the rest.
Q: How do you think Beau would describe his relationship to Hap and Leonard?
A: I think he wishes he had the courage to kill them. Since he killed their fathers, he wishes he would’ve killed them too because then there would be nobody to remember. His dad paid off the cops, everything was fine. He took it out on the little boy because of his father. I think Beau wishes he had balls. How much courage does it take to kill a little boy? It takes a lot, and yet it takes none. That argument he has with his father right before he gets killed…”The way you treated me like I was nothing…” He’s always trying to make his dad look up to him. And frankly, if he would’ve killed Hap and Leonard and left the little boy alone — I mean, I don’t think he would’ve had too much of an opportunity unless he was a fucking sniper or something — but if he would’ve killed Hap and Leonard, and then in the investigation he had gone to [Valentine] and said “I did it,” his dad would’ve never turned him in. He wouldn’t have looked at him with the respect he wanted, but he would’ve covered it up. But killing the little boy, that was just too much.
Q: Do you think Beau was running for office to prove something to his dad?
A: Yes, and I also think it was because he still had the guilty conscience. He knew all along who Hap and Leonard were. He knew he ran over their fathers. He knew he did it. Look at the arrogance of it. With his father being the sheriff, and then he’s got the stroke to be a judge, which means he’s got all the say-so in his courtroom which he takes advantage of when Leonard comes in there. That’s the best way for him to stay out of trouble is to be the guy who determines who gets in trouble.
Q: Did you expect Beau to be behind B.B.’s murder when first reading the scripts?
A: I knew there was something going on. But I didn’t see it coming that it was me.
Q: Were you surprised that Reverend Fitzgerald was responsible for the other missing kids?
A: That one caught me too. My respect for the writers certainly grew.
Q: What was your favorite part about playing Beau this season?
A: One of my favorite scenes is when I come driving up [to Hap] right before he takes me into the woods. When he punctures a hole in the radiator and I’m drinking and come up like, “You cross me…” There was one take where some of the beer I was drinking went down the wrong pipe and the whole time I was coughing at him. That scene was one my favorites. Wheezing through an aluminum beer can at a guy who’s got muscles galore.
Q: Did you do anything special to get Beau’s accent?
A: My wife is a dialect coach and an actress too and I was ready to sit down and work with her. But they went, “You know what? You’ve got enough. You don’t need to focus it on East Texas.” I guess they liked my own half-assed Southern dialect. We live in New Orleans and New Orleans sounds more like the Bronx. I didn’t have to focus on [the accent], and that let me focus more on the depth of the character and that led where the dialect went from there.
Q: Does Beau Otis have any “mojo”? What would you say it is?
A: No. He doesn’t even understand what mojo is. He just thinks he’s a badass because his dad got him off. He’s the son of a sheriff. Beau can basically do what he wants. He doesn’t even know what mojo is. That’s how lame Beau Otis is. He doesn’t have a clue. If he would’ve had a clue at any time in his adult life from the time he ran over Hap and Leonard’s dads until he ends up getting killed himself, if he’d have had a clue he would’ve had that respect from his father. He’s just the swaggering asshole who’s the son of the king of the hill.