7 Questions with Hap and Leonard: Mucho Mojo‘s Dohn Norwood (Reverend Fitzgerald)
When HAP AND LEONARD: MUCHO MOJO began, Reverend Fitzgerald seemed like just another member of the community who butted heads (and fists, in Hap’s case) with our heroes. But after the shocking revelations in Episode 5, it seems that there is much more to the reverend than meets the eye.
We spoke to Dohn Norwood (who brought Reverend Fitzgerald to life) about the twists this season took, how he prepared to duke it out with James Purefoy in the ring, and getting into the role of the murderous preacher.
Q: Reverend Fitzgerald seemed like an okay guy earlier in the season. Were you surprised when reading the scripts that he was behind the murders? And that he was using TJ as an accomplice?
A: I guess it wasn’t too much of a surprise. He seemed duplicitous from the beginning. I like the twist, because the very person who was trying to uplift the community was in fact tearing it down.
Q: Was it fun to punch out Hap in the boxing scene in Episode 4? Did you have to do any training for it?
A: Yeah we did. Taking on a boxing regiment to get in shape was fun. The training was rigorous. They gave us some great guys to shape us in proper movement and boxing skills. I loved it. On the day of the shoot, man, we must have shot six hours. I was putting myself into it as much as possible to make it believable and make it look like I had been boxing for years. That was [Reverend Fitzgerald's] background that he was a former boxer, so I wanted to be genuine to the character and be as realistic as possible. It was really warm that day, very hot and humid. I must have lost 15 pounds just boxing with Hap. It was fun though. I would do it all over again if I could.
Q: This season tackles the power of religion in small town communities. Do you think the reverend did any good in the town?
A: Like a lot of quote-unqoute villains, in his mind he’s doing good. Unfortunately, because he’s trying to force his will on other people, that’s where things crossed the line. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Q: This is your second time working with John Wirth, following your role as Psalms Jackson on AMC’s Hell on Wheels. How was it working with him on HAP AND LEONARD: MUCHO MOJO?
A: Yeah, he was our showrunner. Great leadership…John is a good people person and knows how to manage the various personalities. He did a great job midstream [this season] and was able to get the ship running in the right direction. I think the show ended really well. John has a great ability to create a family atmosphere and keep things going in a focused direction.
Q: Did you study any Bible verses to prepare for the role?
A: Not to that degree. I already have a relationship to the church myself. And unfortunately you come across a lot of interesting individuals in the leadership of various churches. I didn’t have to search very far to shape Reverend Fitzgerald in his very community-based and oracle symbolism of himself. And seeing himself as being commissioned to tend to things as he saw fit as sort of a harbinger of God.
Q: TJ getting shot by a cop is particularly relevant to similar tragedies in the US. How do you think this season addresses topical issues of police brutality and the abuse of authority?
A: Many topical elements [this season], as far as family and dysfunction of the family and how that can be misshapen that way. Obviously my character and Michael [K. Williams]‘s character were rubbing each other the wrong way because of our moral beliefs and ideologies — that kind of tension that exists in families, and how families still try to function beyond the obviously different philosophies they’re living out. Additionally, taking advantage of those who aren’t as strong-willed and able to think for themselves, as Fitzgerald did with Kelvin [Brown]‘s character [TJ]. How that speaks to the public at large — when there is no one to question authority, how authority can then become corrupt and start their own agenda instead of tending to their original duties to uplift the community. I think [this season] spoke to a lot of those issues of community, family, and how leadership — unfortunately at this time — is being scrutinized and evaluated because of corruption and that sort of thing.
Q: Since this season is called “Mucho Mojo,” what do you think is Reverend Fitzgerald’s “mojo”?
A: [Laughs] He definitely has some mojo. His mojo worked on the community; his mojo worked on the children. His mojo worked on his family members. No one knew who he really was. That was his mojo. His talent to charm and his charisma, as well as some good oratory skills allowed him to have his mojo. And then of course that was used for the dark side of the Force, if you will.