TORONTO — In the 30 years since he last portrayed a suave thief turned private eye in the '80s TV drama "Remington Steele," Pierce Brosnan has been eyeing a return to the medium that helped chart his path to stardom.
"I'd been actively looking to go back to TV because it's so fertile," Brosnan said in a recent interview at a downtown Toronto hotel. "I was watching everyone having such a good time on TV, I wanted to be a part of that fabric of culture."
AMC's new western drama "The Son" proved to be the ideal vehicle for the veteran actor, as he takes on a role far removed from his past big screen persona as super-spy 007.
The former James Bond star portrays Eli McCullough, the strong-willed patriarch of a Texas family struggling to retain wealth and power.
"The Son" is based on the Pulitzer Prize-nominated bestseller of the same name by American author Philipp Meyer, who is a co-creator of the TV series.
Brosnan said he was a fan of the grand historical scope and storytelling in Meyer's novel; but the actor's love of stories centred in the American Old West dates back to his childhood in Ireland.
"There were two theatres in the town, and they just showed westerns, so it was very much ingrained in my young psyche," said Brosnan.
The debut episode shows Eli in two parallel stories contrasting his past and present lives, including a glimpse into a harrowing childhood that had been marred by violence.
Young Eli (Jacob Lofland) is snatched from his home by a Comanche slave-trading party. The scene then shifts to 1915 where adult Eli (Brosnan) is trying to cement his legacy by transitioning from the cattle business into the burgeoning oil industry.
Storylines addressing land disputes, indigenous peoples and resource extraction seem to mirror current headlines — a fact not lost on Brosnan, who described the project as "an embarrassment of riches" for storytelling.
"(Eli) is a forward-thinking man, and knows that he's at the end of a certain era in society and life and has to move forward — and oil is the way," said Brosnan. "Whose land is it? The Comanche? The Mexican? The white man?... I think it has great relevance to today's society. And the landscape was born of people like this, and an ideology that still mangles the society and mangles other cultures."
Eli's turbulent childhood clearly transforms him as an adult, as he employs a ruthless, unflinching approach to pursuing and securing power. Despite his tough persona, Brosnan sees something deeper beneath the veneer of Eli's hardened exterior.
"There's a sorrow in the man's heart. There's a great pain, there's a great anger," said Brosnan.
"His youth was ripped from his heart, his soul. But he's a survivor. He's an archetypal, mythical American hero."
"The Son" premieres with back-to-back episodes Saturday on AMC.
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Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press