Readers of the Joe Lansdale book series know the characters well.
For those who don’t, Hap and Leonard are a study in contrasts.
“The simplistic view is, like, Hap is a formal war resister. He didn’t go to Vietnam. He protested against it. He is heterosexual and liberal and lives in east Texas,” Lansdale told NPR “Fresh Air” host Dave Davies recently. “His best friend is Leonard Pine, who is black, gay and conservative and was a Vietnam War hero.”
Lansdale visited NPR to discuss the new SundanceTV drama series “Hap and Leonard,” shot in the Baton Rouge area last year, and his newest book installment on the duo, “Honky Tonk Samurai.”
While Hap Collins and Lansdale share a good many qualities, Leonard is a richly layered amalgam.
“Leonard comes from a number of people — both white, black, gay and heterosexual. I mean, it’s a mixture of people. You know, I always disliked that anytime you had gays represented in — and there were some exceptions certainly — but represented in popular fiction, they were usually the goofy neighbor next door, you know?,” Lansdale said. “And I just thought, well, I know a lot of gay people, and they’re just as varied as the heterosexual people I know. And there were a lot of tough gay people that I encountered when I was, you know, as I’ve done martial arts over the years. And I wanted to represent another side of it, and I thought that this was a way of doing it.”
In the six-part original series, Hap (James Purefoy, “The Following,” “Rome”) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams, “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Wire”) are trying to get by and stay out of trouble. Then they get roped into a get-rich-quick scheme by Hap’s ex-wife (Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”). But just as in the books, things get messy, and bloody, pretty quick. Adding to the eccentric character mix is the off-the-rails Soldier (Jimmi Simpson, “House of Cards,” “Date Night”).
Set in the late 1980s, Baton Rouge and surrounding communities stood in for the East Texas setting of what the network describes as a “darkly comic swamp noir story.” Studio work was done at Celtic Media Centre, and other shooting sites included the old Woman’s Hospital, Johnny’s Superette in Watson, a house in Central, and as many filmmakers tend to visit in Louisiana, the swamp.
“It’s quite hairy filming in a swamp or just filming in very rural Louisiana,” Purefoy told Entertainment Weekly. “There are copperhead snakes, alligators. We had men with guns on the set making sure alligators didn’t nip our ankles.”