Matt Bomer and Dominique McElligott on "The Last Tycoon" Social Commentary and Character Journeys

Photo: Jenevia Kagawa Darcy

Matt Bomer and Dominique McElligott star as romantic interests in the new Amazon Prime series The Last Tycoon which brings a highly classic spin to their love story that isn't often portrayed in contemporary content. Monroe Stahr is a hot-shot film producer with enormous charisma to endear people to his ways, while Kathleen Moore is an Irish waitress-turned-actress that becomes swept up in Monroe's dashing efforts to not only woo her but make her a star as well.

Getting to play an actress was a new opportunity for McElligott, as well as getting to thicken up her original Irish accent for a role. "With Kathleen, the part that I love about her is the survival aspect of her story. Being in the economic depression and coming from where she came and on a bus to Hollywood, and I just love that idea of her getting off the bus in Pasadena and being greeted by this manager and having that experience and not being able to meet and having no money and going on this journey. It was a very different perspective, the triumph over adversity and what she had to go through, I think that I related to that aspect I guess in terms of being a struggling actor. I never thought I'd play an actor. It never occurred to me that I would actually have the opportunity to do that. I really loved that aspect of it and I really enjoyed it. I love Kathleen, I just love her. I'm Irish, my accent's a little hybrid. I was four years in London, and I was seven years in LA, but I lived in Dublin till I was twenty-one. So I thickened the accent up for the Irish part but my own accent is a little hybrid."

Another pillar of Monroe Stahr as a character is his struggle to cope with the loss of his wife, Minna. "Poor Kathleen, Monroe just can't give up the ghost," says Bomer. "He's still so, whether he is even aware of it or not, he is still so devastated by the loss of Minna that he's willing to project her onto Kathleen without even really knowing that he is. So much of him in this piece is about trying to achieve immortality, trying to put his stamp on the world and a big part of that was being able to create a star, being able to make something immortal, something permanent, even if his heart condition takes him out of the world early. So when that fell through with Minna, he sees another chance to do that but it doesn't really start out on a fair playing ground. It's only when the relationship gets deeper and deeper that I think he starts to really understand who she is and love her for that on top of just the qualities she has that are similar to Minna's."

The Last Tycoon is also set on a backdrop of an America struggling with the Great Depression while the Nazi's are rising to power in Germany. The series touches on a number of sociopolitical topics ranging from sexism, racism, antisemitism, and economic disparities across social classes. The weight of this relevance to today's world began to sink in even more as the series was filmed.

"It was really revelatory to me that as the show went on, the social commentary became more and more appropriate to now," states Bomer. "It could've taken place in 1936 or 2017 seamlessly, and I knew that that was something that Billy and Chris were going to try and integrate into the show but it was wild to me. We've talked about this a bunch but there was so much going on in 1936 with the height of the Great Depression and the Spanish Civil War and Germany on the move and all those things. There was a tension in the air and I felt like there was a palpable tension, is a palpable tension in the air here and now that they were able to tap into."

"Hollywood provided this big escape from all of that, which it still does in today's climate so it's an escape, as is TV and all the content that we have on offer today," adds McElligott.

"I'm not gonna lie, I was watching Shark Week on my lunch break," interjects Bomer. "Straight up."

"Escape from the filming?" asks McElligott.

"No, no, just now, today," responds Bomer. "'Matt! We need you on set!' Michael Phelps is about to race a Great White shark! I will be out when I'm ready!"

After all jokes about sharks have passed, McElligott addresses her favourite aspects of portraying the period elements of the series. "I liked the romantic aspects. I like the handholding and the fact that we didn't kiss on the first date and all that aspect of it. I think the building of the tension and the formality of intimacy with another person, the courting and the wooing and all of that that goes with it, the old-school style of dating, I really loved that aspect of it cause I guess maybe I'm old-school myself. I loved that, I think that's romance. Then on top of that, obviously the costumes were just stunning.

Bomer echoes McElligott's praises for the costume design. "There were moments when it all came together and it just was completely immersive and we really didn't have to push it too hard to be in that time. I think actually we filmed the Oscars in the same room they filmed it in, in 1936."

As The Last Tycoon managed to cram a rigorous filming schedule of all nine episodes into roughly sixty-five days, Bomer was well prepared for the challenge from his years starring on White Collar. "White Collar, we did an episode in seven days and we shot sixty-something page scripts that would get whittled down and for the first three seasons we got our revisions the morning of and I'd have monologues about art history. I would just be flying by the seat of my pants. How could you not be? But I think it was a great training and a good way to prepare for other things. American Horror Story is a little different because it's an ensemble, really, so there are times you might work till four in the morning three days in a row and then have a week off."

But whether the challenges arise through time crunches on filming or by wearing thick, wool suits tailored to one's rib cage to authenticate the period setting, Bomer remains enthusiastic about the project. "This is stylized dialogue as well but it's fun. This is why we act. We get to do all these different things and we get all these challenges thrown at us and sometimes in the medium of episodic one of those challenges is time. I think it probably is on every medium. Gotta roll with it, baby!"

The Last Tycoon is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.


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