Big Sky star John Carroll Lynch takes us behind his surprise return in season 2
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Big Sky season 2 premiere.
We haven't seen the last of the Legarskis in Big Sky country.
In season 1, it seemed pretty definitive that John Carroll Lynch would be leaving the breakout ABC crime drama when his character, state trooper Rick Legarksi, was brutally murdered with a hammer to the head by his put-upon wife, Merilee (Brooke Smith), in an act of retribution for his role in a sex-trafficking scheme.
But in the season finale, viewers learned that Legarski had a twin brother — opening the door for Lynch's return under the guidance of new showrunner Elwood Reid.
And return Lynch did at the close of the season 2 premiere, as Wolf Legarski, a guy who seems decidedly more free-spirited than the buttoned-up Rick, what with his 1960s tunes and groovy ponytail. But this Legarski has secrets of his own, namely the fact that he currently has Ronald (Brian Geraghty) chained up in his barn and is feeding him bacon and eggs.
Big Sky launched several new mysteries in the premiere. Besides introducing Wolf, it set up a new central case circling what seems to be a drug deal gone wrong, a car wreck, and a group of teenagers who get in over their heads when they witness the crash and make off with bags of drugs and money.
Jenny (Katheryn Winnick) and Cassie (Kylie Bunbury) are back at it again, with Jenny surviving being shot and jumping back onto the force, as she takes Sheriff Tubb (Patrick Gallegher) up on his offer to reclaim her badge. Meanwhile, Cassie is still determined to nail Ronald, and pursues a lead with persistent federal marshal Mark Lindor (Omar Metwally), investigating the shadowy syndicate that helped Ronald evade them.
But Cassie's snooping seemingly results in the death of their source, and we're pitched right back into the thick of it. While we wait for answers, we called up Lynch to get the lowdown on Wolf, what his connection is to Ronald and the syndicate, how he differs from his brother, and whether or not he's the "evil" twin.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After you were killed by hammer last season, did you ever expect a world in which you'd be returning to Big Sky so quickly?
JOHN CARROLL LYNCH: Not really, no. I didn't expect a time that I would be revisiting this show. I had such a nice time with the people I worked with, and it was fun to create that crazy dude. I just never expected to return. It's a nice surprise, and it's a real joy to join this year's Big Sky world.
What brought you back?
There's a traditional thing that people have done where you get to play a twin; I've never done that. I thought that was an exciting challenge, to create someone in the same world that's very different than the person who left it. I look for things that scare me for a variety of reasons, and that one did. Because sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle, and Legarski was definitely that, in terms of the relationship I had to that character. I don't know why it was so clear to me what his poor worldview was, but it was pretty clear. I just wanted to see what would happen if we did something different, and [Reid] sold me on that idea.
We got this hint that Legarski had a twin brother, but tell us more about Wolf. Is he more or less formidable than Rick? How are they alike or different?
They're very, very different people. They took different paths from the same trail. The primary thing that you get from Wolf is that the damage done by the Legarski family to those children was pretty severe, and they're playing that out in the world. But Wolf has gone more off the beaten path. I would describe the difference, to my understanding, this way: Rick thought the law would work until he thought it wouldn't, and Wolf never thought the law would work. You're not going to win the battle by outlawing things, you win the hearts and minds. That's the difference between the two brothers in terms of their point of view. But both of them got a clear indication of the fact that they were supposed to try to figure out how to change the world from their parents — and how badly they took that lesson.
The first sight we get of you this season is of your new ponytail. Whose idea was that, and how are you liking it?
The questions of how Wolf was different than Rick started at the very beginning in my mind. [I wanted] to create a character that was like the bizarro Rick in some ways, like Bizarro Superman. We're really working hard to go through all aspects of the character in that, and one of them was that his brother was nothing if not buttoned-down. You didn't see Rick out of uniform, except for twice, and in flashbacks and in the hospital gown.
[With Wolf], it was interesting to think about a person who'd gone off the grid and had lived an alternative lifestyle. I started flipping through images online of people, and I sent images of people with ponytails to Elwood and to the other creators. That made sense to me in terms of somebody who had made a different choice. I've never had long hair; I barely had hair. But one of the things that long hair takes is care. It takes intention and care. And it also usually takes someone else with intention and care to help you with it. One of the things that is a very bizarro Rick choice is to have a loving relationship, no matter how damaged it is at the core of the being. That is true in this new iteration of one of the Legarski brothers. He has found a partner that gets him completely. In some ways the ponytail was the beginning of that journey for me. You really need help with that, you can't do that on your own, and I liked that a lot. I liked the idea of playing the brother that had found a real true partner that knew him completely, that he would trust completely with who he was, which Rick couldn't. And it cost him.
This Legarski also has some sort of connection or tie to Ronald. Can you tease how Ronald came to be chained up in his barn?
Clearly Wolf searched him out, and he has decided that there's a need for the Legarski family to atone for the sins of Rick Legarski. Wolf feels charged with that responsibility, and Ronald as an agent of that sin. That's where the connection starts.
Ronald and Rick had a fairly adversarial partnership. Is this relationship worse or better?
Yes. [Laughs] They have more in common in some ways than Rick and Ronald did. They share some damage in the past, I'll just put it that way, and in that way Wolf understands him better. But just like his brother, Wolf is misguided by a sense of self centeredness and narcissism that he's playing out in his own way. I think that the fun for the audience, and certainly the fun part for me, has been working in a different way with Brian than I did in the first season. Getting to work with Ronald and seeing Ronald evolve or not based on the pressure that Wolf is putting on him.
Is it fair to assume he has some role or connection to this shadowy syndicate?
I don't know if it would be fair to assume that. I think it would be logical to assume that he did. One of the great parts about the show is that it constantly keeps you guessing, and this year's commitment to a single mystery allows the storytellers an opportunity to deepen and broaden the entire world that you see in a way that's really amazing and exciting. You get to meet a variety of characters, both from and not from the environment. What happens when you do that is you get to start unfolding surprises over a series of story lines, and the syndicate is a major part of that. You'll see different faces and aspects of it in every single story line, and that is also true of the parts with Wolf and Agatha, and Scarlet [Anja Savcic] and Ronald. What the connection is, I'm not going to tell you.
Merilee went to jail for killing Rick, but does she know this brother exists? Might we see Brooke Smith return in some way?
I would love to have Brooke return and and play Merilee. If that were to unfold and happen, it would be logical to me that Wolf and Merilee might have a lot to talk about. Part of the joy of seeing these kinds of story lines where the same actor gets to play a different character in the same world is that that character gets to interact with the same group of people, and it's fun for the actors to do that because they know each other well as actors but they're playing a different relationship. There's no doubt that Marilee would know about Wolf. Although I have a feeling that Wolf didn't show up at their wedding. I think Wolf and Rick have been estranged for a long time.
How would you describe Wolf Legarski in three words?
Disciplined, loving, and deluded.
Can you tease next week's episode?
All of the pieces of the car wreck begin to unfold. Also,Wolf and Ronald get to know each other.
A twisty crime thriller set in the remote climes of Montana, from TV legend David E. Kelley.