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Prime Video 'American Rust' star Alex Neustaedter on 'fresh start' for character in Season 2

Neustaedter talked about working with Jeff Daniels and going on camping road trip to prep for upcoming movie "It Ends with Us," also starring Blake Lively

Alex Neustaedter returns as Billy Poe for American Rust Season 2 on Prime Video, American Rust: Broken Justice, starring alongside Jeff Daniels and Maura Tierney.

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While the first season of the series saw Billy in prison for a crime he didn't commit, facing violence and resulting trauma, Neustaedter teased that Season 2 of the show is a "fresh start" for Billy.

"I think what was really exciting was this new lease on life that Billy has for Season 2," Neustaedter told Yahoo Canada. "He knows that he's about to have a fresh start and I think that's something that's really energizing to play, and really exciting, because it kind of opens up the world."

"We saw Billy in such a dark place at the end of Season 1 and to have some hope and light to start the second season was really exciting."

For Neustaedter, something that stood out to the actor about Billy from the beginning of his time with the character is playing someone who does have empathy for people, and a big heart.

"A lot of times I've played guys who are not the nice guys, are not the most caring, and I was really excited to play somebody who's so empathetic and so aware of himself, and courteous of other people," Neustaedter said. "I think we get behind that as an audience."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 26: Leon Addison Brown, Alex Neustaedter, Julia Mayorga, Maura Tierney, Jeff Daniels, Luna Lauren Vélez, Kyle Beltran and Rob Yang attend the New York screening of
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 26: Leon Addison Brown, Alex Neustaedter, Julia Mayorga, Maura Tierney, Jeff Daniels, Luna Lauren Vélez, Kyle Beltran and Rob Yang attend the New York screening of "American Rust: Broken Justice" at The Whitby Hotel on March 26, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Jeff Daniels 'leads by example'

When it came to continuing his work alongside Daniels, Neustaedter said he was an "awesome" actor to work with.

"I think what I love most about the way he works is he leads by example," Neustaedter said. "When he's there, he's bringing his A game every single take, and I think that just elevates everybody around."

"I personally follow leaders who don't need to speak much, they just do, and I think that's the strongest way for a leader to act. And that's really how he carried himself and how he brought it on the show, and it translated. ... His range is just through the roof. I don't know if there's many other actors with a range like him."

At the core of the American Rust series as a whole is a story about this community, in Buell, Pennsylvania, the good and the evil, and struggles ranging from economic issues to more personal tensions.

"At the end of the day, we're all human and we all have so many similarities," Neustaedter said. "When you see people that are struggling, that are trying to make the right decisions, even as flawed as they are, I think that's something that everyone can get behind."

"And I think what's also being echoed in this season, from last season, is how far you're willing to go for people that you love, and I think that's a really strong message. ... This season, it's kind of moved to Pittsburgh, so the world has expanded a bit, but it's still focused on the people and the characters that make it meaningful. And I think that's why people are are drawn to it."

Alex Neustaedter (Storm Santos)
Alex Neustaedter (Storm Santos)

Alex Neustaedter teases upcoming movie 'It Ends with Us' with Blake Lively

In terms of what it is about characters, or projects, that particularly excite the actor, Neustaedter said he does need to feel a connection, in some capacity.

"I've always felt that I've been a part of projects and attracted to projects that somehow are meant to be for me, in that part of my life," Neustaedter said. "Obviously, something that's going to be a challenge is always something I look for, because I don't like to be complacent, ... but oftentimes I feel like I'm drawn to roles that are speaking to me, just in the course of my life and where I am."

"I think deep down, that's always what I'm looking for in a project, is something that I can really connect with deeper than just what's on the page."

Looking to the future, and with American Rust being quite dark, Neustaedter is looking to hopefully add a bit my humour to body of work.

"I would love to do like a comedy of some sort," Neustaedter said. "They don't really make comedies as much anymore, ... but I would love to try and do that."

"I would also love ... a biopic, [playing] a real life character. I think that would be a really exciting challenge."

Notably next in his career, Neustaedter will be in the upcoming film It Ends with Us, based on Colleen Hoover's novel, alongside Blake Lively, Jenny Slate, Justin Baldoni and Brandon Sklenar.

Moving to working on this film shortly after Season 2 of American Rust wrapped, Neustaedter stayed on the East Coast and tried to really get into the headspace of his It Ends with Us character.

"I'm playing young Atlas, who I can say is homeless when the story finds him, and I have a little camper that I was camping out of, and I just went on a like two week long camping road trip to Maine, which is where the story takes place," Neustaedter said. "Just see what Maine is like, I've never been over there."

"I wanted to kind of check off the rest of the northeast that I hadn't seen, ... and was just kind of getting in the headspace of being on the road all the time, and not really having a proper home situation, kind of in preparation [to filming]. But the filming took place in two weeks ... and it was really fun. Everybody is super awesome that I got to work with."