As his Tinseltown star rises, Wyatt Russell thanks his ice hockey training more than his Hollywood pedigree.
A dollop of Goldie Hawn’s sun-kissed airiness. A dash of Kurt Russell’s rakish, rugged charm. Their son Wyatt Russell puts those potent ingredients to work as Dud, the breezy but troubled ex-surfer seeking mystic bliss among the fraternal brotherhood of AMC’s new series Lodge 49. Critics raved about the slightly fractured but indelibly buoyant mojo he brought (think The Big Lebowski with a philosopher’s soul) to the addictively arcane quest for both empowering self-improvement and comforting camaraderie over cold brews.
“There’s a magical element to the show and to fables that I like being a part of,” says the 32-year-old actor, who related to Dud’s sudden life upheaval. After successfully launching a career as a hockey goaltender, Russell suffered an injury that required him to rethink his path. “I only knew how to really do one thing, which was hockey,” he says. But his mentors had constantly reminded him to absorb life’s lessons as they happened. “At some point, I was gonna have to draw on those experiences, even if I played hockey until I was 35—to better myself in whatever my second career would be. Because playing sports, there’s always a second career.”
Rather than languishing and feeling sorry for himself (“All it does is slow your life down”), Russell threw himself into the family biz. “I approach acting like I approach hockey. How dedicated to yourself are you gonna be... how much better can you get? I called on everything I ever learned, because hockey is a microcosm for life.”
His career launched with ease, then stalled for a year and a half. “I realized, ‘Okay, it’s not gonna be as easy as you thought—because nothing is.’” He began enjoying acting for acting’s sake and won praise for winning turns in Everybody Wants Some!! and Ingrid Goes West. Next up: the D-Day drama Overlord, Joe Wright’s adaptation of the bestseller The Woman in the Window, and pursuing a low-key existence that doesn’t resemble the trappings of Hollywood royalty. “I live a very normal life—probably too normal for most people’s liking,” he says with a laugh. Apparently, Hollywood disagrees.