The 'Mad Men' star's latest role explores love, justice, and faith

By Oliver Gettell
Updated January 21, 2016 at 01:31 PM EST

The Free World

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Considering the buzz surrounding Netflix’s true-crime series Making a Murderer and the firestorm ignited by Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from traveling to the U.S., the timing feels fortuitous for Elisabeth Moss and Boyd Holbrook’s indie drama The Free World.

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival (which kicks off today), the film is a character-driven love story at its core, but one that explores topical issues of justice and faith.

Written by Jason Lew (Restless), who also makes his directing debut, The Free World stars Holbrook as Mo Lundy, a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder and emerged a changed man — including his religion. He takes a job at an animal hospital while trying to put the dark time behind him, and it’s there he connects with Doris (Moss), a woman with her own skeletons in the closet.

“It’s these two lost people who are trying to change their lives and make a new start for themselves,” Moss says, choosing her words carefully so as not to spoil a key plot point. “They find themselves in this highly charged, highly stressful situation and then have to fight their way out of it, and sort of end up fighting their way out together.

“It’s kind of a Bonnie and Clyde, but both people aren’t really criminals,” the Mad Men alum adds with a laugh.

While The Free World wasn’t informed by Making a Murderer — it was shot before the docu-series debuted — Moss acknowledges a thematic resonance: “The idea that when someone is accused of something, even when they’re quote-unquote acquitted or they get out of jail, there’s a stigma. There’s a black mark on them for the rest of their lives.”

As for the religious aspect of Holbrook’s character, she says, “It’s very rare to see a young, white, well-built Southern man praying [as a Muslim]. … It’s certainly not the main focus of the film, but it is definitely an interesting thing that makes you look at this guy a little bit differently and asks the audience to drop your preconceived idea of this person.”

Holbrook, who is best known for his role as a DEA agent on the drug drama Narcos, says he appreciates “an opportunity to actually talk about current and relevant issues.”

“I think it’s your job as an artist,” he says, “in any medium.”

The Free World, which also costars Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, premieres in Sundance on Jan. 26. See exclusive photos above.

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The Free World

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