TORONTO — Hugh Dillon, lead vocalist of the rock band Headstones and co-creator of the TV series “Mayor of Kingstown,” doesn’t mince words when asked about his recently injured co-star Jeremy Renner.
"He's a family member. I'll tell you, I'd never been so shocked. He's like a brother," Dillon said during an interview ahead of Sunday's season 2 premiere of the Paramount Plus series, which he was supposed to be promoting alongside 52-year-old “Avengers” actor.
“I completely forgot about the show; I only cared about Jeremy.”
On Jan. 1, Renner suffered orthopedic injuries and blunt chest trauma as a result of a snow plow accident in Reno, Nev. At the time, the accident left the actor in stable but critical condition, leaving his fate up to speculation.
Dillon said the news felt like a world-stopping moment, rendering every other thing in his life insignificant by comparison.
After Renner was airlifted to the hospital for treatment, he posted a photo on social media, thanking everyone for the “kind words,” though not before reassuring his friend Dillon that he was in good health.
“The news was so public and I just wanted to go to the hospital, find him, and figure out what’s happening,” said Dillon, adding he was nervous wreck in those initial 24 hours.
“But the next day, he sends me the most profane, comical, ‘eh!’ video, and I’m like, oh my God; I’m relieved, he’s OK.”
The immediate concern by the artist speaks to the Kingston, Ont., native’s personal and professional friendship with Renner, which dates backto their acting roles in the 2017 neo-Western “Wind River," and is further cemented with their work together on "Mayor of Kingstown," in which Renner plays the lead.
“This is a passion project for me and this is a dude who gave everything to this show," said Dillon.
"Mayor of Kingstown,” co-created by Taylor Sheridan, who is also behind “Yellowstone,” revolves around a mayor and his power broker family who live in a blue-collar community in Michigan that houses seven prisons — partially inspired by Dillon’s birthplace, Kingston, which is also known for being home to several penitentiaries.
Season 2 takes aim at the prison-industrial complex, playing on the themes of corruption, oppression and systematic racism.
Following a prison riot that capped off the show’s first season, it becomes the mayor's responsibility to be a mediator and restore peace in a war between local prisoners and law enforcement.
Dillon plays a hard-nosed homicide detective who finds himself entangled in the escalating tensions in Kingstown.
He said the show's themes were informed by his and Sheridan's understanding of the prison system, as well as his personal experience. The script was penned more than 10 years ago.
“I’m no saint — I’ve lived a couple of different lives and that’s why I’m interested in the ethical drift and what makes people do what they do,” said Dillon. “I’m interested in the formal economy of drugs and crime. I mean, that’s something I was involved in.”
Before joining the rock band Headstones in 1987, Dillon spent time in London squatting and working odd jobs, and said he had occasional brushes with the law.
“My experience with the system was different, I even had the great Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter help me with my charges at one point,” said Dillon.
“Why do we do the things we do? It’s what we’re trying to do with our storytelling, and I was lucky that I followed my impulse as an artist, and it was stronger than my impulse to self-destruct.”
Although the Canadian Screen Award winner credits the fruition of “Mayor of Kingstown” contributions from the entire cast and crew, he couldn’t envision any of it without his pal, Renner on board.
“We wouldn’t do this show — I can’t even picture it,” said Dillon. “I’m a musician, so if I’m playing guitar, then you hand it to somebody else who is a master — it’s always fascinating to see how he works and how he plays.
Renner, who spent his 52nd birthday in the hospital on Jan. 7, is still on the road to recovery and has been sharing a few updates on social media since the accident.
“The crew loves him, we all love him because he treats everybody well and he cares about people and he’s unstoppable," said Dillon. "I love that guy.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2023.
Noel Ransome, The Canadian Press