Kenneth Welsh, who plays Larry on AMC’s Lodge 49, discusses why Larry punched Dud, his love for Ernie, and what is really going on inside his head.
Q: What aspects of Lodge 49 stood out to you when you first read the script?
A: I thought it was very tender and moving and funny. The writing was particularly imaginative. It seemed like this great story about the interaction between these people at this lodge and their ups and their downs and tribulations. I particularly liked the complexity of Larry’s character.
Q: How would you describe Larry at this point in his life?
A: Larry’s at a point where he’s starting to lose connection with the world around him and even with himself. He’s had a very difficult time in his life, starting with when he was a child. He’s had several heart attacks and he’s weak. Mentally, he’s slipping away into melancholy and yet he’s determined to carry on and make sure the lodge continues this new wave that he realizes Dud is at the center of. He wants to keep his energy focused on keeping the lodge going. I feel he’s crumbling at this point and that was fascinating to play because it was a gradual process.
Q: As we see in the Episode 6 flashback, Larry grew up in and around the lodge. What does this place mean to him?
A: It’s like he was born into it. He was very attached to his mother, who was very much involved in the lodge. For Larry, it was like a second home. A lot of the people he grew up with became family because he was an only child. It became a place of safety for him. Eventually, it just became his whole life. He worked in the outside world, but the lodge is the place he was always attached to and had great relationships in. It’s the only thing he’s got. He went through so much with his mother having an affair with Wallace Smith and him being teased and bullied as a child. He’s had a rough time, but the lodge was always there. He talks about when he was over in Vietnam and how they would send him these tamales. He appreciated that more than anything. All these people cared about him and would send him things over there in the jungle. It’s so deeply embedded in his life. It’s the most important thing to him.
Q: How would you describe Larry’s relationship with Ernie?
A: He says, “I told you the lodge would give you a gift and it also gave me one. It gave me you.” That’s indicative of this great relationship he has with Ernie. He’s like a brother. He’s the only person he really confides in. He knows he has to leave soon – we know what he’s talking about; he’s going to die. He knows it’s not long and he just wants to tell Ernie how much he loves him. I’ll tell you a little anecdote about my connection with Brent [Jennings]. When I was cast, I’m walking into my house and thinking to myself, “I hope somehow Brent Jennings will be playing Ernie.” Brent and I go way back, and, lo and behold, Brent is playing Ernie! I thought, “Oh man, this is a sign!” and of course, the lodge story is full of signs. There were several. Wyatt [Russell] plays Dud, and I worked with his dad a few times. It was one coincidence after another. It turns out Eric Kramer, who plays Scott, went to the same university I did, which is odd because it’s in Alberta, Canada. There were a lot of cool coincidences. I love it. Ernie and Larry are inseparable. That was great fun.
Q: Is Larry happy that Ernie is succeeding him as Sovereign Protector? Do you think Larry wants to step down?
A: I think it’s both. He’s losing his grip and it’s time for him to let go. No better person to hand it over to than his buddy. In many ways, it’s been a burden to him throughout the years. It seems casual when he does it in the trailer to get it over with, but that’s just Larry’s way. He’s been planning this and he tells him from Episode 1, “You’re going to take over.” He’s the only guy that Larry trusts. There’s no one else that he would even consider. Nobody. Ernie is a dedicated, sensible guy who can lead the lodge into its next phase.
Q: Why do you think Larry punches Dud when he first meets him?
A: Dud is going on and on about who he is and what Larry hears is that he was bitten by a snake. Of course, this harkens back to Fritz Merrill who fell into the snake pit and finds the scrolls and gets bitten by snakes. That’s what Larry is responding to. It’s a mysterious thing that happens in his mind. He has a premonition a few minutes later and he says, “We are not the true lodge.” It’s this weird recognition that this guy has been sent. He believes Dud is the messenger to transform the lodge into this new level. He truly believes Dud is destined to change the lodge and bring something fresh to it.
Q: In Episode 5, Larry walks into the succession ceremony completely naked. Was that a nerve-racking scene to shoot?
A: I never do any nudity in filming. I don’t expose myself. They hired a guy to be a stand-in, but I know his butt wasn’t as good as mine. [Laughs] But that is definitely a turning point. Something has snapped. He looks around and he falls into Ernie’s arms and he’s lost. He’s in a different world.
Q: In Episode 6, Larry tries to explain the alchemical mysteries to Ernie. Do you think Larry truly believes what he’s saying? Does he understand why his friends are concerned by his erratic behavior?
A: No, he doesn’t. I don’t think so. He thinks they’re crazy. He has no idea what has just happened to him. He thinks everything is normal. He totally believes everything he’s telling him. He believes all of this is true. It’s a brilliantly written scene. Ernie is so doubtful and constantly has to be reassured. What seems like exposition is this glorious story that Larry is either making up or not. I believe he totally believes. When Ernie doubts, he has to explain further. He has to unravel the whole story of the lodge and his life in one big moment with Ernie. It was one of the most incredible scenes we played together.
Q: Larry obviously doesn’t get to make that last trip with Ernie after all. What do you make of Larry’s death? Do you think he was at peace?
A: There’s a birdhouse and that’s what Larry sees from his youth. He sees this broken-down birdhouse and maybe it’s the original one – who knows? He’s in the company of the two people he loves the most in this world and he just dies happily. He’s at peace. I tried to show just a trace of a smile. A tranquil moment that it’s all over and there’s no more pain. There’s no more confusion. I thought it was very sweet. Of course, I had to hold my breath so long because these guys were getting so emotional outside of the car. [Laughs] I die a lot. I’m very good at it. … He’s satisfied. He feels like[the lodge] is in good hands. That’s the way I felt.
Q: Larry could be misunderstood as a crazy old man. How did you find a way to ground him?
A: It’s in the writing. It’s so well-written. [Creator/Executive Producer] Jim [Gavin] doesn’t let him just descend rapidly. It’s subtle. Little weird things happen, but the last thing he talks about is taking a sh—t with this guy in Vietnam, which seems like a very straight-up story. There’s nothing made up about this. I don’t know why he’s telling Ernie, but it’s a sign that he’s not necessarily insane. He’s shedding parts of his mind that he no longer needs. The writing is just so good.
Q: Do you have any particular favorite memory or moment you’ll take away from the experience?
A: After Brent and I had gone through that long scene, the crew broke into applause and actors love that. Jim came over and said, “You guys, that was like watching a master class.” I took that home. It was great fun being in that group of people and being surrounded by that much positivity. It made the whole experience a really good one. I’ll remember it so fondly.
Read a Q&A with David Pasquesi, who plays Blaise.
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