A new season of Hap and Leonard starts on SundanceTV March 7. The third season is inspired by the third novel in the series by Joe R. Lansdale, TheTwo-Bear Mambo. There are six episodes in the season.
The show is about the friendship between a couple peculiar guys in East Texas. Hap Collins, played by James Purefoy, is a straight white lothario, and Leonard Pine, played by Michael Kenneth Williams, is a gay black man.
Williams, who played Omar Little on The Wire, calls the characters “walking contradictions.”
“You have a heterosexual white man, joined at the hip with this openly gay black man, a cowboy and a Republican who likes country music,” he said. “They’re brothers, and they would kill for each other.”
Purefoy says the new season is particularly timely, as it examines white supremacy in the U.S. “There’s so much fear and ignorance and hatred for people who are not the same,” said Purefoy, who is English. “It’s something that surprises me every time I see it.”
The season was shot outside Atlanta, and Purefoy said the Confederate flag hanging outside houses was a fairly common site.
John Wirth is showrunner and executive producer for season three, and Jim Mickle, Nick Damici, Jeremy Platt, and Linda Moran are executive producers.
The new season has drawn some big names as guest stars, including Louis Gossett Jr., Corbin Bernsen and Andrew "Dice” Clay. Both Williams and Purefoy describe Clay as “a character.” He plays a disk jockey, a blues guy looking to share his music in East Texas. “Dice is someone who brings his own thing,” said Purefoy. “He’s very good at riffing on the script.”
Both Williams and Purefoy were struck by Gossett’s presence on the set. “He’s an American treasure,” said Williams. “Aside from the professional accolades he garnished over the years, to have a black man that age—he was alive when these stories were very prominent. To have his energy there, his input on the story and what was then and what is now, is very humbling.”
The actors say the guest stars are attracted to the show for its sharp writing. “Our writers give respect to the characters,” said Williams.
Purefoy explains how a bad guy is never exactly a bad guy on Hap and Leonard. “It’s not just the run of the mill, white sheriff, big hat, big badge, he’s gonna be a racist,” said Purefoy. “With Joe [R. Lansdale], it’s more complicated than that. People have different things going on in their lives.”
Williams and Purefoy first worked together on NBC’s short-lived drama The Philanthropist, which aired in 2009. They recall being in a hotel room in Prague when President Obama came into office, hugging each other and crying at the historic moment.
Eight years later, they found themselves in a room in Georgia while working on Hap and Leonard, watching President Trump come into office. “We were hugging and crying for a different reason,” said Williams.