SDCC 2017: The ‘Mr. Mercedes’ Cast & Crew Discuss Adapting Stephen King’s Detective Novel for the Audience Network

Things get heavy quickly when talking with the cast and crew of Mr. Mercedes. It’s understandable given the source material: Stephen King’s book of the same name (and the start of a trilogy that Jack Bender hopes to see realized), which starts with a shocking and horrific crime that remains unsolved years later.

While he wasn’t in attendance, his colleagues had nothing but praise for Brendan Gleeson, who plays the hero of the series, Bill Hodges. Forced from retirement when a madman begins taunting him via email, Hodges sets out to solve the one crime that’s haunted him.

We did get to speak with Harry Treadaway, who plays the villain to Gleeson’s cop, about his character, Brady Hartsfield, and the complicated relationship he has with his mother, Deborah Hartsfield, played by Kelly Lynch. Both of them, as well as the other actors and director Jack Bender, talk about Mr. Mercedes as a show that really looks at the monsters inside of people.

If anything, the cast expressed very strong feelings about having empathy and compassion for fellow human beings – a message they’d ultimately like audiences to take away from the series. Keep reading for everything that they had to say about the show at the roundtable interviews at San Diego Comic Con this year.

Mr. Mercedes premieres at 8 PM tomorrow, August 9, on Audience Network.

Jack Bender secured the rights to Mr. Mercedes because he gravitated towards Stephen King exploring the detective genre and writing about the monsters inside of people. When he spoke to King about the series, he always envisioned Brendan Gleeson as Bill Hodges and thankfully the casting worked out.

He describes the series as a character-driven piece surrounded by the mystery. It’s differentiated by the fact that it has no action score. When music is presented in the series, it is tied to Hodges’ record collection or the music blasting through Brady’s headphones. It was important to him that the show portrayed the events depicted in the book and series as serious and horrific.

For those who aren’t aware, and a minor spoiler as it is the first scene in the series, Mr. Mercedes gets its title from an event in which Brady Hartsfield uses a Mercedes to drive through a crowd at a job fair. The incident is modeled after a real incident that occurred, “long before it became the M. O. of terrorists’ according to Bender. There’s no slow mo in the portrayal or action music, it’s not glorified, but Bender recognizes that people could critique the show on that alone if they wanted.

It’s a dark show that looks deeply at humanity’s monsters within and Bender is grateful that the Audience Network is supportive of the show and the story they’re trying to tell. He plans to make the show three seasons, after the trilogy book series, and is hopeful that a second season would mean exploring the repercussions of the very first scene of Mr. Mercedes. Watch the whole video above to hear Bender talk about it.

Holland Taylor became involved with the project after being approached by David Kelly, someone she’s worked with numerous times in the past. After doing her own research and finding the other names attached to the series, Stephen King and Jack Bender, she agreed to take on a completely original character for Mr. Mercedes the television show.

She felt like the addition of Ida Silver as Bill Hodges’ neighbor was necessary because of how things change from page to screen. Without the nosy neighbor nagging him to take better care of himself, it would have felt like the hero of the story was living in isolation. It also means that nearly all of her work on the series was solely with Brendan Gleeson, with a few scenes with Jharrel Jerome.

The video above is worth a watch to see Taylor talk about her most scandalous scene, which involved a body double and acting out the lead-up to Ida dropping her robe for Bill!

Jharrel Jerome plays Jerome Robinson, another one of Bill Hodges’ neighbors who mows lawns and is going to Harvard. Jerome describes his character as very intelligent and wise, but also naive to some of life because he’s so young. He’s driven, trustworthy, and Jerome felt like a superhero portraying this character because when Hodges needed help, it was always him who was there.

Reading the book was a welcome challenge to Jerome, who took over a month to get through it, because it was detailed and served as a road map to his character. If he had questions, he could reference the book – which is good because he missed Stephen King’s visit to set! He had a ton of questions to ask him about the character, but also praised King’s ability to break stereotypes in creating Jerome – a young, black teenager who is best friends with a cop. Jerome would also be interested in talking to other actors who have brought King’s characters to life.

Jerome praised Jack Bender’s direction, as well as Brendan Gleeson’s ability to make him feel at ease on set. When he showed up to film, he already knew what his relationship was supposed to be like with Gleeson because of reading the book and it was made that much easier by Gleeson himself.

Watch the video above to see what else Jerome had to say about his mom instilling in him a sense of motivational drive, what other books he’s read (one features a very sparkly vampire), and more about his character, Jerome Robinson.

Charismatic and hilarious, Breeda Wool immediately confessed that she didn’t remember her audition tape at all. Once she was cast, she was able to explore the complicated feelings of her character, Lou Linklatter, as someone who is overqualified for their job and stuck there because of a number of reasons – including a large neck tattoo that Lou has.

Lou also has a definite attitude and a chip on her shoulder, though you won’t see all the underlying causes for those feelings in Mr. Mercedes. She wants audiences to come away from the experience re-thinking their actions and hopefully avoiding being a dick to other people in the future.

She acknowledges that her character and Brady Hartsfield both have been outsiders, but they take two divergent paths as a result of their ostracization. He is a psychopath that does nefarious deeds and she doesn’t. Her most emotionally challenging moment in the series, when something bad happens and Lou finds herself glad about it, she couldn’t speak on because of spoilers.

Ultimately, after a deep dive into some heavy emotional topics, Wool still wants everyone to know, “There’s only one Lou Linklatter and that’s me!” Watch the video above to hear her discuss some of the things she’s learned from this role and past roles about herself.

For Kelly Lynch, the role was so rich, the scripts were fantastic, the books were detailed, and the cast was great – making this an amazing opportunity for her and an easy job. Thankfully, her and Harry Treadaway, who plays her son Brady, almost immediately felt comfortable with each other when they met. They both built their characters on the foundation of the book.

Her preparation for a character starts from the outside in and Lynch made sure that she could believe the person she saw in the mirror was the mess that is Deborah Hartsfield. Even though she’s already skinny, she lost more weight and mentally took on the heavy backstory to Deb’s life.
The hardest thing for her to work through with her character was the incestuous relationship between Deb and Brady. As she describes it, one moment she’ll be making him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the next she’ll be touching him inappropriately when he has a migraine.

Still, Lynch challenges audiences not to be sympathetic towards her by the end of the season. Deb doesn’t view herself and her son as monsters, just as survivors who have terrible luck. Brady is smart and capable and acts out because of the situation and if audiences could take one message away from the show, it would be that we all need to be kinder to our fellow human beings. Check out the entire video to hear Lynch’s powerful words.

Harry Treadaway gave us the quick and dirty rundown on his character, Brady Hartsfield, the big bad of Mr. Mercedes. In Ohio in 2011, Brady is working in an electronics store and also on an ice cream truck. The kids love his charisma, but his home life is a mess and his desires as a psychopath cause him to feel no empathy. He taunts a retired cop, Bill Hodges, with emails about an unsolved crime, which ultimately drags the cop out of retirement.

Treadaway finds that there is something enjoyable about someone dancing between those roles and seeing different aspects of a person. Before getting the role he hadn’t read the book, but the script – the tone, the atmosphere – was gripping. After reading the book, he could see how it was primed for a screen adaptation and loved the portrayal of the two worlds: Bill’s and Brady’s.

If the scales were tipped too much in favor of one character or the other, it wouldn’t be as compelling to Treadaway. He thought that the tension, how both characters are flawed and brilliant in their own ways, made for a fairly even match between the two.

In preparation for his role, Treadaway read up on psychopathy and the upbringings of psychopaths – where he noted most had harsh upbringings devoid of love and full of abuse. They filmed in Charleston, near where Dylann Roof carried out an attack on churchgoers, and Treadaway watched police interviews where Roof could not comprehend his actions as wrong.

He noted that Mr. Mercedes is a series that looks at the monsters who exist in our world and it’s chilling how we don’t have to look far. When asked how he decompressed after such a heavy role, Treadaway admitted that he felt like he couldn’t at the time. Instead, he watched the least empathetic shows he could find: UFC fighting, Shark Tank, and Fox News. Hilariously, he could watch all of those without having any feelings. Watch the video for all of Harry Treadaway’s thoughts on psychopaths, his role, and bringing these characters to life.