Meet your favorite director's favorite actor.

Over the past decade, it's hard to find someone in Hollywood who's worked more than Scoot McNairy: He's appeared in back-to-back Best Picture winners with Argo and 12 Years a Slave. He's been hired by such distinguished filmmakers as Ben Affleck, Steve McQueen, David Fincher, Zack Snyder, Gus Van Sant, Karyn Kusama, and Quentin Tarantino. He served as one of the leads on the tech drama Halt and Catch Fire, a critical darling that concluded four years ago but is finding a much-deserved audience on Netflix. He's popped up in high-profile TV hits like Fargo and True Detective. And beginning Friday, he can be seen starring on the third and final season of Netflix's Narcos: Mexico. McNairy attributes his nonstop career to how long it took for him to actually get these jobs he once dreamed of.

"I should spend more time looking back, but I mostly look forward," he admits to EW. "I was obviously super-excited for everybody involved — and to be involved — with Academy Award-winning films or Academy Award-winning directors, but I didn't do very much celebrating back then. People would always ask, 'What's your dream role?' and I was like, 'It's whatever my next job is.' I'm just so happy to be working and continuously working, because for a decade I was doing commercials and wanting to work that you finally get the opportunity and some people are like, 'Slow down, hold on, be picky.' And it's like, well, damn, I've been waiting a decade to work and now you're telling me not to work? It was a real tough struggle for me that it just became, 'I don't care, if it's a great director and I like them, I want to work with them.'"

Scott McNairy on 'Narcos: Mexico'

Ahead of McNairy returning with one last addictive ride on Narcos: Mexico, the prolific character actor reflects on some of his most memorable projects.

Killing Them Softly, 2012

Audiences showed up to the reunion of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford director Andrew Dominik and star Brad Pitt expecting another Pitt vehicle, but he doesn't appear until 24 minutes in, as McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn initially ignite the story as small-time criminal buddies Frankie and Russell. It's their robbery of a mob-protected gambling operation that leads to the arrival of hitman Jackie (Pitt) and his memorable introduction to Frankie.

"God, so much happened on that job. Meeting Ben, we really hit it off and ended up living together during the shoot. But that was my first big job. I auditioned for it three or four times; I remember after the last casting, they were like, 'You got the job,' and I was like, 'Yeah right,' and they're like, 'No, do you want it?' And I was like, "Yeah, I want it, but what about the studio? I'm never going to get approved.' And they're like, 'No, you got the job.' And even then I was like, 'Whatever, call the studio, tell them you want me, and then call me back, but this is premature,' and they're like, 'No, you got it.' I just didn't believe it, like, there's no way that they're putting me in this film. I was super-stoked, and then we were off to the races on shooting it. In all honesty, I'm nervous on every single job that I do and I don't think I ever really get super-comfortable with it. But with that scene in the bar with Brad, I opted to not meet him or see him or talk to him or anything before that scene — and he went for it. I wanted to put all that nervous energy into that scene. It took us two days to shoot it and I think we went a whole day with us not talking, and then the second day after lunch he slapped me on the back and was like, 'Scoot, I can't do this, I want to hang out with you!' So we stopped it then. He was just so incredibly nice and lovable and, like everyone knows, the coolest guy in Hollywood."

Argo, 2012

McNairy's breakout 2012 continued with Ben Affleck's Argo, which would go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. In Affleck's third outing as a director, McNairy stars as Joe Stafford, who, along with his wife, Kathy (Kerry Bishé), was one of six Americans diplomats rescued during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

"The Town had just released right around the time that they were casting Argo, and I'd been a huge fan of Ben for years and grew up watching his movies. The Town had such a resemblance to Michael Mann's Heat, and I was like, oh, finally someone made a bank robbery that rivals Heat and has some of the same sort of characteristics. The guy's an incredibly smart, talented filmmaker, so I was incredibly stoked to work with him. But I shot Killing Them Softly and Argo and they didn't come out for a while. I shot Killing Them Softly and Andrew edited for two years. Around that time I had quit doing commercials, because I was like, 'I don't want any commercials running by the time these movies come out.' Well, they didn't come out for so long that I eventually quit the business and moved to Texas and got my contractor's license and started building homes. I didn't think these movies were going to come out — and then they did. I had no idea the splash that Ben's movie was going to make. It wasn't until after those came out that I was sitting in Texas, mowing my acreage, and I was like, 'Wow, I guess this isn't the end.' And 10 years later, it was kind of the beginning to something."

Scott McNairy Role Call
| Credit: Everett Collection

12 Years a Slave, 2013

McNairy quickly went from semi-retired from acting and building houses in Texas to starring in consecutive Best Picture winners. In this period drama from Steve McQueen and Pitt's production company Plan B Entertertainment, McNairy played Merrill Brown, who tricks violinist and free man Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) into going south to Washington, D.C., on promise of a job, only to deliver him into slavery.

"I caught Brad murdering someone in the alley and he saw me and we locked eyes and I said, 'From here on out, it's on.' I remind him of that all the time so he's sort of forced to hire me so I don't let out the bag on his past crimes. [Laughs] Man, Brad, Dede [Gardner], and Jeremy [Kleiner], all of Plan B, they make amazing movies and they're there to make movies to spotlight things in the world. I couldn't be more lucky to be in their company. They've been really good to me and brought me on multiple jobs, and so I'm super-grateful for that. And when Hunger was released, I was like, 'Who is this guy?' I think I emailed my agent and I was like, 'I found this amazing director that I want to work with,' and they were like 'Scoot, Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender are huge, you didn't find anybody.' Steve was so much fun to work with, and there's so much control but yet so much freedom working with him. He does very, very little takes and the guy is so precise on what he wants that he doesn't overshoot things. But he gives you this freedom of the space to play in. My jaw drops at the list of filmmakers I can't believe I'm getting to work with. I'm well aware that I'm incredibly lucky and blessed that I was able to get a job with these filmmakers that I admire and respect. I'll take one line in their movies."

Non-Stop, 2014

No one is better at killing bad guys on various modes of transportation than Liam Neeson, and McNairy got to experience that firsthand. This airplane-set action thriller finds Neeson's air marshal Bill Marks spending a transcontinental flight trying to figure out who's murdering passengers and setting him up. The late reveal is that McNairy's Tom Bowen is the mastermind — prompting Marks to eject him from the world of the living.

"I was a huge fan of Liam and his movies. He was definitely on a bucket list of people that I really wanted to work with. And it was interesting that the whole thing was going to be taking place on a plane. I think what sticks out the most was that it was cold, it was in New York, and we were in a metal tube. Every day we came to this shell of this plane, and I thought the cinematographer and director did a really good job of not making the camera static. I'm like, how do you do a whole movie in a plane without getting bored of your location? They had all these different gizmos and rigs and new camera equipment to shoot in there, which I'm always fascinated by."

Scott McNairy Role Call
Scott McNairy in 'Non-Stop'
| Credit: Everett Collection

Gone Girl, 2014

McNairy's sole scene in David Fincher's hit adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel served as an onscreen reunion with Affleck. With Affleck's Nick Dunne seeking to prove that he didn't kill his very alive wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), he meets up with her ex-boyfriend Tommy O'Hara (McNairy), whose life she ruined after falsely accusing him of rape.

"I probably wasn't the first, but I had been following David Fincher since I had an interest in the entertainment business. Somebody who I was really dying to work with. I heard so many things about David and the way he works, and I wanted to get on set and have my own experience with that. Again, I was in the company of great talent and incredibly smart people. So I just felt so lucky to get that call and even have the small role that I did. Working with him was everything that I thought it would be and more."

Scott McNairy Role Call
Scott McNairy in 'Gone Girl'
| Credit: 20th Century Studios

Halt and Catch Fire, 2014-2017

Shortly after their collaboration as husband and wife in Argo, McNairy and Kerry Bishé reteamed as a new married couple: talented computer engineers Gordon and Donna Clark. The critically beloved '80s-set AMC drama, which also starred Lee Pace and Mackenzie Davis, was so little-seen while on the air that when told he's speaking to someone who was a fan from the start, McNairy jokes, "You were the one!"

"I really loved working with Kerry, and starting that relationship with her on Argo and then carrying it on to where we got to expand on different characters, but still our relationship. I was really lucky to have her. That was my first series, and the viewership was not high. [Laughs] So it was this unnerving feeling that not very many people were watching the show and you didn't know if you were going to go back. But AMC stuck behind it, they kept pushing it, and they believed in the show. There was never this feeling of like, 'Oh, the show's doing well, we're going again.' It felt like we were trying to give closure to the show each season, just in case it didn't go again. Getting four seasons out of it, I wish we could have gotten another two, just because of the era that we stopped in. But I feel like they did a great job wrapping it up. In the pandemic everyone went through their queues and they got around to it. People comment on that show more than probably anything else I've done. I'm always appreciative of the diehard fans that really stuck with us from the beginning."

Scott McNairy Role Call
Scott McNairy on 'Halt and Catch Fire'
| Credit: Everett Collection

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2016

In slightly less-publicized fashion than his frequent collaborator Affleck, a.k.a. Batfleck, McNairy also entered the superhero world with a crucial part in Zack Snyder's epic showdown between DC's titans. After being seriously injured by Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod's (Michael Shannon) destruction of Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel, McNairy's Wayne Enterprises employee Wallace Keefe is convinced by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to smuggle a bomb into a congressional hearing, which kills everyone in attendance — except Superman.

"I was walking out of the lumber yard when Zack called, like, 'Hey, this is Zack,' and I was like, 'Who?' I never thought Zack Snyder would be calling my phone. He was like, 'Oh, this is Zack Snyder, I was interested in you for this part.' I was just like, who is this guy? Who is this person? This isn't Zack. And I remember calling my manager afterwards and saying that Zack had called, and he didn't know about it either. Then with the training we went to through, I used to do a lot of rock climbing back in my youth, and so they brought me out for rehearsal on that job and they're like, 'Hey, you need to rock-climb this wall," and I went right up and they were like, 'Well, rehearsal's done then. Go back to your hotel for three days.' And that was probably the harder part."

Destroyer, 2018

In this gritty, underrated crime film from Karyn Kusama, Nicole Kidman undergoes a radical transformation to star as troubled LAPD detective Erin Bell. As the mystery of a case unfolds in the past and present, Erin often turns to her ex Ethan (McNairy) to mend the relationship between her and their teen daughter.

"Nicole's so beautiful and talented and a movie star, but when you work with her it's like doing an independent film. All that other stuff just goes out the window, and you don't feel like you're working with this massive actor, you feel like you're just working with this incredibly talented person. She pushed for improvising and would say, 'Don't tell me, surprise me.' I thought that was really cool of her, and it lent itself for more creativity for both of us. She definitely creates a very personal sense of freedom when you're working with her, which I didn't expect, for no reason other than she's just such a massive star."

Scott McNairy Role Call
Scott McNairy and Nicole Kidman in 'Destroyer'
| Credit: Everett Collection

True Detective, 2019

Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff headlined the third season of Nic Pizzolatto's anthology series as Arkansas detectives investigating the disappearance of two young children. McNairy plays the grieving — and closeted — father, Tom Purcell, who over the years develops a close bond with Dorff's Roland West.

"I really had to fight for that job. I had to fight to even audition for that job. I was a big fan of Nic's writing and the True Detective series, and it was something a little bit closer to home to me, but still so far from me. Then having worked with Nic and getting the scripts, his dialogue is just so compelling. It's not until you really start doing it, as opposed to just reading, that you realize how great his dialogue and writing is. And it was great working with Stephen. When you have that sort of relationship and two characters, there is a bond. More than half the time you carry that relationship on. And so we've remained close friends since then, and I think that mostly came from the work that we were doing on the show."

Scott McNairy Role Call
Scoot McNairy and Stephen Dorff on 'True Detective'
| Credit: Everett Collection

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 2019

Once again McNairy was brought in by a visionary filmmaker for just one scene. This time it was Quentin Tarantino casting him in a show within a movie, with McNairy playing Business Bob Gilbert, a character on the Western series Lancer. McNairy appears in a Lancer scene alongside Timothy Olyphant and a chicken-devouring Leonardo DiCaprio.

"They didn't send me the script, they just sent me my part, so I walked onto a Western set and was looking around, and Timothy Olyphant saw me from a distance. He must have been like, this kid's a deer in headlights, let me go help him out. So he walked across to me and the first thing he said was, 'They didn't give you the script, did they?' And I was like, 'No, they didn't.' He goes, 'Sit down, let me tell you what's happening in the movie.' He was so kind and so nice and talked to me for about 10 to 15 minutes, got me up to speed. And then you're out there working with incredible people that you just feel really lucky to be there. I pray I get another one of those phone calls. We had a little stunt sequence of me getting shot and falling, and we did it a couple times and I remember Quentin coming to me and he was like, 'I think we got it, but I just love watching you fall. You mind doing a couple more?' So we shot a bunch of takes. It was just fun. The whole atmosphere of working with him and his energy is so contagious, and I was only on that job for a smidge of a time, but you could see why people really want to work with him. It was just a really great experience. I'm glad I got to do it, and even if he doesn't call me back again, I could hang my hat on that."

Scott McNairy Role Call
Scott McNairy and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'

A Quiet Place Part II, 2021

In a surprise cameo, McNairy showed up in John Krasinski's horror sequel to briefly terrorize audiences — and Cillian Murphy and Millicent Simmonds — as "Marina Man," the leader of a group of creepy cannibals.

"I had just recently gone through a divorce, so I was in a tough place. I remember I was driving back to my farm by myself, and Krasinski, who I worked with on Promised Land, randomly called me out of the blue and said, 'Hey, I'm doing this movie, could you please come up here and play with us for a little while?' And I was like, yes, I definitely will want to come up there and play with you guys and see you guys and just get out of this space that I was in at the time. He gave me a 30-minute verbal presentation on what was happening and it sounded a little bit larger than it was. But Krasinski's so easy to work with. It's a small part but I had such a good time; him and his wife, Emily [Blunt], are just some of the kindest, most generous people that I've met in the industry, so it was just good to be in their company."

Narcos: Mexico, 2018-2021

The first three seasons of Narcos were narrated by stars Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal, but season 1 of the spin-off Narcos: Mexico threw a curveball by featuring McNairy as the man providing the voice-over. He was heard but not seen until the final moments of the finale, which set up his now pivotal role as DEA agent Walt Breslin. For the final go-around of Mexico, he'll get to rest his voice and focus solely on Walt's mission to catch cartel leaders — and feelings.

"[Producer] Eric Newman had approached me for season 1 of Narcos about another role, and I think after us talking about it for a long time we realized that I felt like I wasn't old enough for the role and I couldn't do it as much justice. But I really wanted to be on the show because I loved the show so much. Then randomly he calls me a year later and he's like, 'I got another thing for you, take a look at this.' And that one clicked a lot more for me, and I felt like I could do it. So the deal was locked in for me coming on to the show for the second season, and then they were going to have Michael Peña do the voice-over for season 1, but they were scratching their heads as to 'Wait, hold on, he dies at the end of the season, so is he narrating from the grave?' So I think probably it just made a little bit more sense for me to narrate it, knowing that I was coming in for that second season. This season they brought in a female journalist character for the voice-over, and I thought she did an incredible job. I like that Narcos mixes things up, shakes the rug every once in a while, and I think some of the reason for the success of the show is that nothing's stagnant."

Scott McNairy Role Call
Scott McNairy on 'Narcos: Mexico'
| Credit: Everett Collection

"Going into the final season, they told me that Walt is in a relationship. I thought that was really cool because I never, ever thought Walt could be in a relationship. That was my take on the character, so to throw that twist in there and have the writers dabble with that and play with that, I thought was a challenge for me. I was intrigued by how they were going to wrap this thing up. It's not always happy endings and it's really tough because the story of the war on drugs continues, but these characters get closure. So yes, the story keeps going, but these characters don't necessarily move forward."

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