He may be relatively new to the business, but Chris Coy has already cut a striking swath into the Hollywood cloth, and his impressive chops are growing and becoming incredibly honed with each fabulous career move he makes. The 26-year-old Louisville, Kentucky native has starred in a good variety of television shows, such as CBS’ “CSI” and FX’s “Justified,” as well as films like the Sundance favorite “Little Birds” and he’s had recurring roles on the HBO hit series “True Blood” and FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.” Recently, Coy became a regular member of the cast of HBO’s award-winning drama series “Treme” in its highly anticipated third season, which premiered in September. Coy plays L.P. Everett, a character based on real-life journalist A.C. Thompson, whose investigative reporting surrounding the Henry Glover case in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina helped uncover a string of crimes against unarmed citizens that were shockingly linked back to police officials.
In early November, Coy found himself happily back at work in New Orleans about to start filming the five-episode fourth and final season of “Treme”—although life away from home in Los Angeles just got a whole lot tougher now that Coy has to leave his wife and their newborn baby girl! But it’s for a good reason; “Daddy” feels proud of his work in helping to tell an important story through his character on “Treme,” which continues to explore the life and culture of New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. “New Orleans Living” caught up with Coy in between his shooting schedule and time spent with his precious little girl, Veronica, for a cool conversation right before he embarked for New Orleans to film, and invariably enjoy, more of all that this decadent city offers.
Hey Chris! How was the reception for you as the only new regular cast member working on “Treme” with this gang that has been together for several seasons
It was scary for me because of exactly what you said: not only are you going into a job where everyone’s been working together really tightly for years, but it’s also a show that’s full of incredibly talented actors. Here comes little 25-year-old me who’s only been working professionally for four years now. I was terrified! I was also pleasantly surprised; I showed up and was welcomed with open arms. I don’t think they knew that I was a Southern boy, so I showed up and they were like, “You want us to show you around and tell you what the south is all about?” I was like, “C’mon baby, I grew up down here!” It was a lot of fun.
Being a southern guy, had you spent much time in New Orleans before you worked on “Treme?”
I had been there a bunch; my older cousin played baseball for LSU so we’d go there for games all the time and, of course, stop by New Orleans. It’s a totally different place before you’re 21. All the times I had been were when I was in high school. It was a different atmosphere; I wasn’t able to do what New Orleans encourages you to do, which is to let loose and get down. But I came to New Orleans to do a movie called “The Culling” a month or two before “Treme.”
That’s the horror movie out next year … What is your role in “The Culling?”
The movie is about a group of kids who are on their way to South by Southwest, the music festival, and they get sidetracked and wind up on the outskirts of New Orleans. I play one of the kids, Hank, who’s kind of the level-headed one. In the script they describe him as being “too smart to be hanging out with these kids, but they’re the best he could find.” I’m the one who, when there’s someone banging on the front door and the lead guy is like, “Let’s go upstairs,” I’m like: “What? No! Upstairs where there’s no way out? Let’s run out the back door!” Of course I’m ignored, but I had a lot of fun. We shot that in St. Bernard Parish at an old plantation home where “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was shot, and a couple of other really good horror movies. The house is supposedly really haunted. Fortunately I didn’t have any scares!
That’s a good thing! So the writers on “Treme” created a fictional point of view for your character L.P. Everett, who is based on the actual journalist A.C. Thompson, even though the arc of the character is consistent with his work …
Yes, exactly. A.C. consulted on the show and with the writing, but I’ve never crossed paths with him. I don’t know if it’s just bad timing, but there would be days where I would come to set and say, “When am I going to get to meet this guy?” and they’d say “Oh, he was here yesterday … just left an hour ago!” I was told that they didn’t want me doing an impression of A.C.; they wanted me to make the character based on the information they were giving me in the script because it’s loosely based on him. That being said, I still looked up interviews with him and read every piece he’s ever written and tried to put as much of it together on my own as I could, but I didn’t really have to do much. The writing is so good and they pay so much attention to detail, especially when it comes to character development. The work was done for me and I’m just kind of a talking head and now I’m gloriously getting all the credit, which is awesome! (Laughs).
Take that and run! (Laughs). You are passionate about this particular role you play and the work you’ve done on “Treme.” It really is an amazing story about uncovering the heinous acts that happened in the Henry Glover case.
Exactly. And it’s sad that they’re only now being uncovered. I speak for myself as well; I’m a self-professed Southern boy and my family in Gulfport was affected by Katrina, but I didn’t know about A.C. Thompson and I certainly didn’t know about the Glover family. I knew about the Danziger stuff, but I didn’t know anything about this family or the numerous other families with members who were just classified as “missing” or as “undetermined deaths” or weren’t even classified one way or the other—just no investigation whatsoever, they’re just gone, vanished off the face of the earth. As human beings, we need closure, one way or another, and it’s awful that a lot of these people were denied that. And you’re right, I’m extremely passionate and proud of something that brings those things to light.
You’ve only been working for about four years as an actor, so you may not get much choice with roles, but I’m guessing you were probably naturally drawn to this particular role on “Treme.”
Oh, absolutely. This is the type of work that I want to do. I want to do action stuff and fun stuff too, but maybe the most important job of an actor or a filmmaker is to be a storyteller. Some stories really need to be told, not just to inspire people to do better, but also to spread the word and connect us, like me who didn’t know the story of these people and the atrocities that happened, as well as the positive things that have happened on the show. I think it’s important to connect us with that. We’re all students of human nature; that’s why we watch television and movies, because we want to see things happen to other people and imagine them happening to ourselves.
Another cool role you’ve played is Barry on “True Blood …”
That was actually my first job ever. Before that, all I’d done was a small role on an episode of “Numb3rs,” and after I finished filming it, I left for a meeting for “True Blood,” and I booked it. That was another one where I was terrified going into the room; of course I walk in and there sat Alan Ball! The guy created “Six Feet Under” and “American Beauty,” one of my favorite movies ever … No one told me, “One of your idols will be sitting there so make sure you entertain him!” (Laughs). I was really shaky but it all ended up working out. I’ve been really fortunate; I don’t know that I was the best actor to walk in there, but I was certainly the most nervous, and that just happened to be the kind of character they were looking for. They wanted Barry the bellboy to be kind of a coward, but then in time he becomes a hero of sorts. Things just worked out, and I haven’t looked back. I try not to think of it too much. I’m worried I’m going to wake up!
(Laughs). And you are so young in your career, that’s wonderful. The world is your oyster! Plus you just got to work in Hawaii filming “Hawaii Five-0;” how fabulous!
Aw, thank you, Christine. And then Hurricane Sandy pushed the airing of my episode of “Hawaii Five-0” because they were covering the storm. Like we were saying, some stories are more important than others!
You played David Riley in “Little Birds,” which will be released in January on DVD.
Yes, that’s a beautiful movie. It went to Sundance. It’s tragic, too, but it’s a great story and one that should be told. I play a street kid. They don’t really touch on this much in the film, but David was an orphan and kind of bounced from foster home to foster home until he ran away to the big city of L.A., where he was just another kid on the streets, trying to survive and doing what he could to appear strong and to be as strong as he could be. As lots of us do, he made some bad decisions, but … I don’t want to dive too deep into it. I’d really love for people to see it and see what happens. It’s the story of our director, Elgin James, who also wrote the film.
You have plenty scenes on “Treme” with Oscar-winner Melissa Leo. Your character has helped her character, Attorney Toni Bernette, with the Henry Glover case. How is working with Melissa?
Oh, what’s a good word … educational? She’s so quick on the uptake, and she can come in with clearly polished character choices and the whole scene rehearsed the way she thinks it should be approached, and then a director has a very clear idea of how he or she wants that scene played out and will throw that out at her, and it can be the exact opposite of the way she was thinking, but she’ll take a minute and then it’s done. I’ve never seen anybody who can work that way. So it’s kind of mind blowing working with an incredible actor like that. It was an education—you know you better step up your game! (Laughs).
Have you become a Saints fan yet?
Of course! If you’re in New Orleans for more than a couple of days, it’s hard not to become supportive of the city in every way possible. I definitely became a Saints fan, which is something I needed to do. I had gone a while without really having a team I was completely devoted to, and there’s nothing like Drew Brees to motivate you to get behind him!
Have you loved chowing down on New Orleans food while working here?
I grew up on Southern cooking, so it was a reminder that this is what food is supposed to taste like. I can’t wait to get back and eat! You can’t find anything like it in L.A. It’s not that I don’t like Los Angeles’ approach to dining, but dare I say, it can be a little pretentious. New Orleans has got the right angle on it: throw everything but the kitchen sink in there, spice it up and it’ll be delicious! (Laughs). When my wife and I were pregnant, I was in New Orleans shooting. She gained 25 pounds and I gained 40! (Laughs). I don’t know whether to blame it on New Orleans food or hormones!
Your self-description on your Twitter profile, @MrChrisCoy, is “Risk-takin’, baby-makin’, booty-shakin’, make believer” (Laughs). Let’s break this down … and tell us all about your little girl!
(Laughs). Yeah! My wife came up with that description of me; it’s pretty much all I do. Our newborn is three months old but she’s going on twelve! It’s happening way too fast. She’s my little angel. She smiles and melts my heart. She’s starting to giggle, and she’s just amazing. It’s so hard to even talk about her—I just turn to mush! Her name is Veronica. She’s a little beauty. It’s just a new motivation. There’s no turning back; I have to work hard. I have more to worry about than just myself. The booty shakin’ is really my grandmother; she instilled in me a bunch of soul growing up, and we danced all the time and I’m a lover of good music. If you walked into my house, nine times out of ten, I will be dancing! (Laughs). Especially with the baby, you do whatever you have to to keep her calm and happy. A lot of it has been just holding her and dancing around the house—she loves it!
No doubt you’ll pass on your love of music and dancing to your daughter …
I love every style of music. I grew up on old soul and blues and R&B—Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Fats Domino. We had Fats Domino on one of the episodes this season! It was so awesome, all of us in his house. It was just … surreal. We’re talking to Fats Domino, and he’s singing “Blueberry Hill” for us! I watched that episode with my grandma and my mother via Skype. I could hear my grandmother singing and laughing, she just couldn’t believe it. Did you see it?
Yes! I was wonderfully shocked to see Fats singing on “Treme!” It’s cool that the show captures live music, which is rare in film and television. That must be great to witness that sort of stuff as part of the “Treme” cast.
It’s unbelievable. I’m not in that scene and I wasn’t even working that day, but I was up at 6 a.m. to catch the van from the hotel to the set because you just have to get up early and go watch Fats Domino play live when you have the opportunity to do so!