boyd holbrook

The Carpenter that Could

Words: Vanda Gyuris
Photo: Jeff Vespa

The multi-talented Boyd Holbrook straddles sculpture, music and acting while continuing to make his mark on Hollywood with Netflix’s latest original series Narcos. But not before remembering his humble roots and taking time out for himself to meditate on what’s important. 

Boyd Holbrook couldn’t have been further from the Hollywood child star tenure track growing up. Small town Kentucky life with its lack of artistic inclincations and resources left Holbrook’s ambitions unsatisfied. He’d find outlets on his own, spending countless hours drawing houses, sculpting and practicing the banjo, but the opportunities for greater growth were limited. After dropping out of college and getting a gig as a model in New York, his career took off and has been expanding ever since.

The actor got his big break with a small part in the Academy Award nominated film Milk in 2008. This past year he’s straddled TV and film with roles in The Big C, TV mini-series Hatfield’s & McCoy’s and in notable movies, The Skeleton Twins, Gone Girl and Run All Night.

His latest role as DEA agent Steve Murphy in new Netflix show Narcos alongside Pedro Pascal and Wagner Moura sees the actor in a next level role that could send his career into the big leagues. Holbrook on Narcos, motorcycles and why suffering makes sense.  

Watch the official trailer for Narcos.

© YouTube / Netflix

THE RED BULLETIN: You’re from a town in Kentucky with little arts exposure. What made you want to get out and how did you get into acting?

BOYD HOLBROOK: I was in some programs in school for drawing, but in high school arts got cut. I met an actor named Michael Shannon from Vanilla Sky after I dropped out of college and he got me a job as a carpenter in a theater company. Some girl came by and asked if she could take my photo. I had no idea what it was for, but I said yes because I had no money at the time. I think I was making like $200 every two weeks for the theater company. They flew me out to New York and then I travelled for two years, saved up money and got into film school.

boyd holbrook

Holbrook as Steve Murphy with Pedro Pascal as Javier Peña in the first season of Narcos.

© Daniel Daza/Netflix

What did the preparation period for your role as DEA agent Steve Murphy in Narcos entail?

I was in Quantico [FBI training site in Virginia] for a week and got to train with cadets.  We were in full armour and facemasks, the whole thing. I got killed in an undercover scenario because I failed. It shows you how real stuff is. It’s life and death. That was extraordinary for me. 

boyd holbrook narcos

Maurice Compte, Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal in Narcos

© Daniel Daza/Netflix

You did a big motorcycle trip after wrapping Narcos…where did you go and what did you get out of the experience?

“Suffering is a relevant thing.”

Yeah, my best friend and I rented motorcycles in Santiago, Chile and drove down all the way to Punta Arenas where people take off to Antarctica. It was 3,000 miles and we did it over two weeks. I always used to go on shorter motorcycle trips to Blue Ridge Parkway with my dad near the Smokey Mountains. I’m from Kentucky so it was easy to get to. Being on a motorcycle is like a meditation because you physically have to control something, but it puts you in a hypnotized situation. You’re on the road and your mind clears out. You’re just with yourself riding a motorcycle.

You’ve said that characters who are “f**ked up and trying to get it together” really resonate with you. Why?

I’ve had a lot of learning to do in my life. I’ve done a lot of things wrong. I think that’s a good thing at the end of the day. I don’t know anybody who has had an easy life. Suffering is a relevant thing.

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09 2015 The Red Bulletin

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