May 25, 2022

From creator/showrunner/executive producer Dustin Lance Black and inspired by the true crime bestseller by Jon Krakauer, the limited series Under the Banner of Heaven (which is from FX and can be streamed on Hulu) follows Detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield), a devout member of the LDS Church, and his seasoned partner Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham). Investigating a prominent Mormon family for the role they played in a horrific crime weighs deeply on Pyre, as he also questions his own faith in ways that he never could have expected.

During this interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, co-stars Garfield and Birmingham talked about the dynamic between their characters, how much they enjoyed spending time with each other, the good match of their Zodiac signs, finding the balance in a tricky character like Bill Taba, how privileged Garfield felt to get the call about doing this role, and just what Taba might be up to when the audience isn’t seeing him.

COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY

Collider: Tremendous work in this. I have to say that you guys are the buddy cop duo I never knew I needed, but I now love so dearly. So thank you for gifting me with that.

ANDREW GARFIELD: Oh, good.

GIL BIRMINGHAM: Thank you.

What did each of you most enjoy about that dynamic between your characters?

GARFIELD: I loved it. I had a good time.

BIRMINGHAM: I did, too.

GARFIELD: Especially the downtime when we weren’t shooting. It was a long shoot. We were in Calgary for six months. We had a lot of stuff to do together, and it would’ve been interminably impossible to get through without Gil messing around with me between takes, and me knitting.

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BIRMINGHAM: Knitting, and reminding each other of our love for each other.

GARFIELD: Yeah, it was a really sweet time. And creating that dynamic was really fun. Gil is a really easy-to-love guy, generally, so that was the access point for me. Also, astrologically speaking, he’s a Cancer and I’m a Leo, and that’s just a really good match. They are the mother and the father of the Zodiac. It’s just a good vibe, generally. Wouldn’t you say?

BIRMINGHAM: I would say, as you would say.

GARFIELD: It’s been said.

So, there were no feelings of tortured guilt and you didn’t want to strangle each other between scenes, at all?

BIRMINGHAM: No, I don’t think we had any of that kind of contention. As dark as the material is, if you don’t try to find some lightness with it, in between the scenes, it’s just gonna bury you.

GARFIELD: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

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Gil, your character is skeptical, at best, of these people who seem to just blindly hand themselves over to their belief. He’s also the one that made me laugh at some of his more sarcastic comments. What was it like to find that balance, so that he’s never crossing a line with how he treats people, but he is also never fully just accepting what they say?


BIRMINGHAM: I guess it’s probably the dry nature of Bill Taba, which is essentially myself, as well. But it’s tricky territory to maneuver, especially in the circumstances we’re dealing with, with a different culture that’s something that he’s not a part of. The realistic, emotional expression of, I see what’s going on, we’re playing these roles with this culture, and then me coming with the confidence of mine, it’s just a little levity that he has to maybe have for himself, to continue the job he does.

Andrew, your experience with this story really defines the trajectory that your career has been on for the last bit of time. You went from reading this book and wondering who might adapt it, to establishing yourself enough as an actor that when it did get adapted, you get a call from the likes of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. What is that like, as an actor, to be in a position where you can get a call like that, and you’re given an opportunity to be a part of a project that you were already passionate about?


GARFIELD: Yeah. It’s a privileged position. When I read the book, I was 23 or 24, and I was just a struggling actor, trying to get work and trying to book auditions and trying to avoid having to take another job. And then, cut to now, yeah, it’s odd, I have to say. I don’t take it for granted. I find it very humbling that Dustin Lance Black and the producers thought that I could be of service in this role and to help this project see the light of day. I’m very grateful. I always just have to give thanks and be grateful, and not take any credit for it, particularly. It’s just how the dice have fell. Yeah, I’ve worked hard, but also, there’s a great deal of good fortune in there, as well. But yeah, it’s surreal.

I think we all, as artists, wanna just make things that we feel passionate about, and this book is something that I felt just incredibly passionate about, since I first read it. And then, doing it with this ensemble, I haven’t been a part of such an ensemble cast in so long, where it’s just a real team. We’re all cogs in the wheel that are necessary to make the experience whole. It was hard work. As Gil said, we had to make it as fun and joyful as possible in between scenes because we couldn’t sustain that kind of heaviness. Thank God, it was a group of people that was so good spirited, that was telling the story together, especially Wyatt [Russell] and Sam [Worthington], who were playing those very, very dark roles, doing very dark behavior. Thank God, they’re as good of people as they are.

When you play a role like this, this brings up a lot of questions for your character, especially. Do you feel like it provides any answers for you, or does it just make you dig deeper into your own feelings about these types of things?

GARFIELD: Yeah, I think it deepens everything. That’s the idea of a story like this. It doesn’t provide easy answers, but it does provide more and more questions. Maybe one of the allegorical aspects of this story is that a questioning mind and a curious mind is vital, in order to live in reality. As soon as we stop questioning, as soon as we enter the realm of certainty, we enter a very narrow point of view that makes us do things that are incredibly dark and evil.

So, I think the more questioning, the better, and the more expanded our consciousness, the better. We’re never gonna fully comprehend what the meaning of life is, and I think it’s vital to know that we never get that. As soon as someone has convinced themselves or has been convinced that they have rock-solid answers that will lead them to a fundamentalist, extremist way of being, we’re in real trouble as a species. And evidently, we’re in real trouble as a species.

Gil, what do you think your character was doing, when we don’t see him? What did you think he was up to, in his off time?

GARFIELD: That’s a leading question.

BIRMINGHAM: I think that he’s probably watching those crime shows, like 20/20, and getting tips on how to investigate.

GARFIELD: He’s just watching YouTube going, “Hmm, that’s how I hold the gun.”

BIRMINGHAM: “That’s how I do it.”

Under the Banner of Heaven is available to stream at Hulu.


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