Q: What drew you to this role?
A: The writing. It was just an amazing role for a kid my age. Eli’s got a wide range of emotions and experiences in that one season.
Q: How would you describe Eli’s relationships with his mother and siblings from what we see in Episode 1?
A: He’s the man of the house. The responsibility falls on his shoulders, and he’s the one that’s supposed to put food on the table and make sure everybody’s safe. He’s got a pretty playful, happy relationship with his family, just like any 15-year-old at that time would.
Q: Do you think Eli feels responsible for the deaths of his mother, sister and brother?
A: Slightly. There’s definitely a part of him that does, that feels responsible, but at the same time, I think that’s kind of how Eli was made. He realizes you can’t change anything, and you’ve just got to keep going, so that’s what makes him who he is. You can see it more in Pierce [Brosnan]’s performance. As he gets older, nothing bothers him. Everything just rolls off his back.
Q: How would you say the experience of watching his family being violently killed has shaped Eli?
A: It’s turned him into who he is. He’s seen the worst of the worst, and he’s living it now. That’s where the ruthless part of his personality comes from.
Q: How do you interpret the actions that Eli’s brother, Martin, took that led to his death?
A: That was Martin’s stand. That was showing that he wasn’t the coward everybody thought he was. He can stand up on his own. He’s not scared to die. He’s showing them they can’t hurt him.
Q: How does Eli feel when his brother is doing things that will ultimately kill him?
A: He feels very helpless, I know that. There’s nothing he can do. It’s the worst feeling he’s ever had probably, next to watching his mom and sister be killed.
Q: In preparing for this role, did you and Pierce Brosnan discuss how you’d play two versions of the same character? Did you watch any of his scenes as the adult Eli McCullough to inform yours?
A: I don’t think we’ve ever actually had an in-depth conversation about our character. It’s always just been hanging out and getting to know each other. And I never got to see him act. When I was working, he was working. I never got to see him until we were already done. But you can definitely see some similarities in the character.
Q: Did you already know how to shoot a bow and arrow before this production?
A: I’ve shot some compound bows. I never shot a recurve, an actual wooden bow, before. For this, I actually got to learn how to shoot a bow like a Comanche. Me and Philipp [Meyer, author of The Son and Executive Producer of The Son] practiced at his house for like two days straight and got to where we both felt confident enough in my ability to do the scene. That was a lot of fun actually. We had a really good time and shot a bunch of arrows.
Read a Q&A with Pierce Brosnan, who plays Eli McCullough.
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