After previously starring for three seasons in Daredevil as superhero attorney Matt Murdock, Charlie Cox is returning to television with AMC+’s Irish crime drama Kin. Cox stars as Michael Kinsella, the quiet member of an organized crime family in Dublin with a violent past. When the Kinsellas lose one of their own, the family becomes wrapped up in a bloody war against a much larger crime syndicate — and might be totally annihilated.
In an exclusive interview with CBR, Cox shared what attracted him to the Kin in the first place and the role of Michael Kinsella. He also reflected on working with the series’ stellar Irish cast and compared Michael’s character and worldview to that of Marvel’s Matt Murdock.
Let’s talk about our mutual friend Michael Kinsella. What was about this character and project that attracted you to Kin, Charlie?
Charlie Cox: It was really the writing. I read the first two or three scripts at the beginning of COVID. I wasn’t initially available for the project and my wife works for Bron Studios and she was producing it. I read it out of interest, just to let her know what I thought. I was so moved and touched by it and it was a bit of luck, really. The show I was supposed to do fell through and this was an opportunity for us all to go to Ireland together and stay together as a family. I was just so impressed with the scripts and excited by the material that I was like, “Let’s do it!”
Michael, in a lot of ways, embodies that old proverb “beware the fury of a patient man” and he’s just worn down by his frustrations over the course of the season. How is it finding that balance of this man that still possesses a great capacity for violence?
That’s a really good point and another thing I was excited about was the idea that, as the season progresses, you learn more about Michael that is hopefully unexpected. What you just described was the acting challenge, to find a way for this man to be pretty quiet, seemingly humble, vulnerable, and broken, and yet, every now and again you get glimpses into his past to see what he’s capable of and the violent background that he’s had. Hopefully, those moments can be a bit chilling. I haven’t seen it yet so I don’t know if I was successful in that way, but that was a goal.
Was there a line that served as a bit of a cipher to get into this guy’s head that informed your approach?
Actually, the opposite, I would say!
It was the amount of times that he doesn’t say something, where you expect someone to defend themselves or to make a joke or set someone straight. A lot of times, for a guy who’s capable of what we’ve learned he’s capable of, to live a life that he’s led, there were moments that were more interesting to me in what he didn’t say rather than what he did say. There were these little moments where someone didn’t say quite the right thing and he, in his Michael way, was able to set the record straight or put you in your place. Those were fun moments to play with.
As with any family there’s a lot of secrets and tension. You get to spend a lot of scenes with Clare Dunne and it’s wild that this is her first major television gig — you’d never know, she’s so good — how was it having her as a scene partner?
She’s incredible, as soon as you get on set — even in rehearsals — and you just go, “Great, I’ll just show up and she’s going to carry this show!”
It’s her story. it’s a great role and she navigates the journey that her character goes on with such grace and subtlety. She draws you in and you can’t help but watch. I remember we were shooting a scene and it was the first time Amanda starts to take control a little bit and I was mesmerized. I was really blown away by what she was doing. I’m really excited for people to see her performance and also for Clare Dunne to become a household name.
Even beyond Clare, you have a whole murderers’ row of great Irish actors, some of the best in the business. How was it working with them?
It was really fun and, just by complete coincidence, myself, Emmett Scanlan and Sam Keeley all rented the same apartment complex. We were also in lockdown and we were allowed to hang out together in a pub because of the TV show and testing we were doing, so we became really close. We were playing a family and that was incredibly helpful. As you said, some of the best Irish actors of all time in that cast.
I was talking to Maria Doyle Kennedy and she was saying she got to work with [series co-creator and showrunner] Peter McKenna on developing her character further. How much creative leeway did you have in creating Michael?
Peter is incredibly generous. If I did have questions, observations or even small notes, he always found the time to get on the phone and listen and chat and make sure we [our] understanding of Michael and the tone of the show was the same. To be fair to him, it was all on the page for me. It was very, very clear early on and any changes were really just minor details, maybe a word or two here. Michael felt very, very well-rounded and thought through before I even had my first conversation with those guys. I was very, very lucky in that regard.
Emmett was saying —
— don’t listen to anything Emmett says, he’s a liar. I just saw an interview where he said that he beat me in pool. You can see in the show, there’s a pool table in the basement so we would play pool all the time and I would destroy him. I just saw an article where he said he won and, let it be known if there’s a Season 2, there’s a family rift over pool. [laughs]
Emmett was saying he hadn’t learned who his character was yet by the end of the season. Was there any surprises you found with Michael by the end of the season?
After the first few scenes with Emmett — similarly to Clare, Emmett is tremendous in this show — but something interesting happened. After I had done a couple of scenes with Emmett, the dynamic of these two brothers, with Michael being the younger brother, the dynamic emerged based on what Emmett was bringing to the table. [It] helped me understand Michael in a whole new way and helped me understand the relationship to our father, who is off-screen and we don’t initially meet.
That was unexpected. I had an idea of how their dad might have been like and the relationship Michael might have had with him, as opposed to Jimmy. When I did a few scenes with [Emmett], it suddenly became very clear to me what that dynamic was and why the younger brother had been charged with being the family enforcer and given that hard task over the older brother.
This does remind me of Boardwalk Empire, with its look at the history and consequences of violence. What do you find fulfilling as a storyteller and actor painting with those colors in this genre space?
There are similarities between Boardwalk, Daredevil in this. There always feels like there’s enough difference to me where it doesn’t feel like I’m rehashing anything but, in terms of the tone of the pieces, there’s similarity. I don’t know if I’m drawn to that or if people see me as someone who can do that or interested in that — I certainly enjoy it! As an actor, I love the subtle side of the performance and the opportunity when you get to tell a story with not many words and not much to say.
I found that a really enjoyable challenge to see how much you can convey without much screen time and that was something I was certainly interested to explore with Michael because he says so little, especially surrounded by a family of people who are very outspoken and have a lot to say and want to be heard. Michael seems to have this gravitas and power despite not really needing to puff out his chest.
In speaking about Daredevil, Matt Murdock is a known quantity whereas Michael is a bit of an enigma. How is it taking on a character that can surprise you as a performer and surprise the audience?
A fundamental difference between the two for me is that Matt Murdock is finding ways in which he can satisfactorily engage in how he can affect people and society and make a difference. Michael is the opposite, he’s looking to disengage. He’s very passive and looking for ways to not be seen and not be held accountable, make a difference or make an impact. There’s a similarity that they’re both trying to hide in some respects but it’s more about the levels of engagement in the world that they live in, that feels significant to me.
And the capacity to surprise!
Yeah, and we’re dancing between spoilers here, but he’s got these secrets, in his mind and in reality that are so debilitating and so frightening, I don’t think that he has yet learned how to navigate his life with these secrets and these obstacles that he has.
Now that this is done, what are you excited about getting to share Kin with the world and your performance as Michael Kinsella?
It’s a funny time, interesting time, and amazing time in television. There’s so much content and it’s so exciting as a consumer, but, as a consumer, I also find it overwhelming. I can sit in front of a TV and I don’t even know which platform to start on. I’ve got fifteen different subscriptions or something. [laughs] It’s easy for good shows to go unnoticed and easy for not such good shows to get a lot of attention. Gone are the days when one good show would rise above the rest and then stay there. Now, you hear a show get amazing reviews and there are breakout performances and everyone is talking about and then a week later it’s old news and there’s another show.
I say all that to say I’ve been able to let go of the results of the show a little bit and not sitting here hoping that it gets a record number of viewers and things like that. It’s a lovely story and I love just being an actor and doing my job seeing all the other elements come together and hope that it strikes a chord with people and reaches the right people and people enjoy it, and, in a selfish way, that we get to go and do it again. I’m very proud of it and the performances and I’m excited for people to see some of the actors that they perhaps don’t know as well. Let’s just see if it gains a bit of traction!
Created by Peter McKenna and Ciaran Donnelly, Kin is streaming now in AMC+, with new episodes released on Thursdays.
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Kin’s Charlie Cox Compares His Character to Matt Murdock