When Colin Hanks learned that he was being considered for “A Friend of the Family,” he thought, “Awesome — it sounds fabulous.”
Then the scripts arrived.
“I went, ‘Oh, this is just the saddest show I’ve ever read, so I don’t know what to think if you’ve been thinking of me,’” he recalled. “It was one of those stories that was incredibly intimidating and my first instinct was just, ‘No, I can’t.’”
But he couldn’t get the true-crime show out of his head. Debuting Oct. 6 on Peacock, Nick Antosca’s limited series is based on the real story of the Brobergs (who were also the subjects of the 2017 Netflix documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight”).
Hanks plays Bob Broberg, a stalwart Mormon in bucolic Idaho whose family implodes when Robert Berchtold (Jake Lacy) — or Brother B, to his adoring neighbors — moves to town and perverts everything they thought they believed in. He also kidnaps the Brobergs’ eldest daughter, Jan. Twice.
Before he took on the role, Hanks made it clear that he wasn’t interested in re-enacting a laundry list of all the bad decisions the Brobergs made while being emotionally and sexually manipulated by Berchtold, even as they questioned his growing fixation on their daughter. Rather, Hanks wanted to examine why they made these choices.
The Vampire Antics of ‘What We Do in the Shadows’
The FX series based on the 2015 film by the same name follows a crew of vampires and their struggles to settle down in Staten Island.
“And that was exactly what Nick was wanting to explore,” he said.
It has been a hectic year for Hanks, who played an F.B.I. agent in “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and a studio executive in “The Offer,” about the making of “The Godfather.” A San Francisco Giants fan, he has also produced a documentary about Willie Mays, out November on HBO.
Calling from London, where he’s shooting an independent film, Hanks ticked off 10 things that have kept him grounded during the hustle, including “What We Do in the Shadows,” his cast-iron skillet and the Atlanta BeltLine.
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
1. “The Baseball 100” by Joe Posnanski I’ve been slowly reading this book because I don’t want it to end. They’re really more of a character study on players from all different points in baseball’s history, as well as players from Japan and players from the Negro leagues.
2. My cast-iron skillet I’m not very skilled at cooking, not yet at least. But there’s something about the idea of using this one skillet and seasoning it and being able to cook almost anything in it and that’s all you need. In a strange way, it’s also a little bit like a baseball mitt. You’ve got to break it in. You’ve got to take care of it. You’ve got to clean it properly. It’s not something that you use and then throw in the sink and don’t think twice about.
3. “Sunderland ’Til I Die” on Netflix I’ve made a bunch of documentaries. That’s sort of my show business side hustle. I did one about Tower Records. I did another about Eagles of Death Metal going back to Paris, playing after the Bataclan attack. Recently, I got obsessed with this fantastic sports doc called “Sunderland ’Til I Die,” about an English football team that’s been demoted. That’s just heartbreak, the likes of which I’ve not seen in sports in quite some time.
4. Shaving my head I had to have a very specific hairstyle to play Bob Broberg. So half of my head has been shaved because I had a very serious wig process that I had to go through. I had to paint my head every morning and then do four layers of makeup and then put a wig on top. I’ve been wearing a hat every day since. I’m currently doing a job in which I had to have another wig made that looks like my normal hairstyle. I’m very much looking forward to about seven days from now, being able to shave my head and start all over again.
5. Tacos The perfect food. Period. Exclamation point. They can be lunch, they can be dinner and, if you’re really lucky and you’ve got a good spot, they can also be breakfast as well.
6. Discovering “new” music I find something really joyful in discovering music that’s new for you but might not necessarily be new for all. I found this record by this band called Jagwar Ma from 2013, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop walking around London. Wherever I travel, I go to local record stores, and I will label what city I’ve bought the records in. And so all of my records are sort of a memory, if you will, of where I was literally, physically, but also where I was in my life and what I was doing.
7. Fall Fall is one of those moments that I really enjoy — you see the leaves change and you feel the temperature drop and everyone gets excited, for a little while at least, to button up their coats. It also means that the Fall Classic is right around the corner.
8. The Atlanta BeltLine I live in Los Angeles, but I had to relocate to Atlanta for “A Friend of the Family.” It’s this fantastic walkway that circles the entire city. It is just this incredible conduit to Atlanta. Since I was staying right by it, I could throw some shoes on and go for a walk and see people and have dinner someplace and walk back. It’s not too dissimilar from the High Line in New York. It made me feel like I was part of the life there.
9. Soccer They call it the beautiful game for a reason. The simplicity of it — a sport that is played everywhere around the world, and all you really need is a ball. I was actually supposed to see Liverpool play and it was going to be the first time I was going to see them live in person, and the match was postponed because of the Queen’s funeral. So it was very, very sad. Hence, now a Sunday spent at a pub drinking my sorrows away.
10. FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” It’s one of those shows where you might watch the first two episodes and your instinct is to say, “OK, I get it. They’re vampires. It’s a fake documentary. Everyone is speaking in funny accents.” Pardon the pun, but that show crept up on me in such a way that I am crying laughing practically every single episode. The concept of a vampire that sucks your energy by boring you to death, I thought that was so hilarious. Oddly, you wouldn’t necessarily think that a show that broad would be able to grip you and make you fall in love with the characters. But I absolutely have.