Warning: This interview about the “Day Most Blessed" episode of Outsiders contains spoilers.
Well, that’s gonna make some things happen. If Sheriff Wade hadn’t already been shocked back into the real world by surviving his fall down a mineshaft, the shocking death at the end of “Day Most Blessed” would have done it. Wade’s brother-in-law, Breece, the voice of reason among a group of townsfolk that’s ragin’ against the Farrells because they see them standing in the way of their employment and because they’re selling their dangerously potent moonshine to the townies, was killed — with his dead body dropped in Wade’s path.
And the fact that’s going to turn Breece’s murder into even more of a far-reaching drama: it came at Big Foster’s hand, as the Farrell leader shot Breece in the head after refusing to believe Breece’s explanation that he had only come up the mountain to try to stop his hotheaded friends from provoking the mountain clan.
For viewers, it means the loss of not just one of the show’s best characters, but a scene-stealing actor. Breece portrayer Jeb Kreager talked to Yahoo TV about his character’s death — it came as a shock to him, too — and shared his view of Breece’s complicated relationship with Wade, his favorite moments for Breece, and how he’s such a fan of Outsiders that it helped him get past his discomfort of watching himself on screen.
Breece has been one of my favorite characters, and I was shocked and very sad to see him go.
I’m glad you were shocked, and I’m glad you were sad to see him go. I was shocked, too.
You didn’t know from the beginning this was the character’s arc?
No, I didn’t. I was actually laying on the couch that I’m sitting on right now, and I was reading the script, and I sat bolt upright. I actually really enjoyed it, and as soon as I read it I thought to myself, “This really stinks that I’m going to be killed off the show, but it’s such great storytelling.“ The first thing I thought was, “Damn!” And the second thing I thought was, “Wow, what a great storyline that is. It’s a great overture at that point of the show.”
He really is a much needed voice of reason in the middle of all this chaos. He’s the moral center of a lot of it, too, especially among his group of friends, fellow miners.
He’s in a tight, tight spot. Because you know, at the end of the day, he’s trying to put food on the table just like all these guys are, but he’s trying to do it in a way where no one gets hurt, where the damage is as minimal as possible. So for him to have this family history and all that on one side, and then the sort of urgency that these guys around him create… it’s been fun and interesting to play. He’s literally the man in the middle.
I wanted to know more about him, too, because he does stand out as the guy who represents both sides of things very well.
Yeah, you know, I sort of feel like the way that [series creator] Peter [Mattei] handled the development of that character is emblematic of the way he handles the whole show, in that it would have been really easy to sort of write Breece with a big broad brush, make him kind of an archetype, but the best part of a lot of these characters, Big Foster, Asa, Wade… they all do things that are at odds with what they know they should be doing. In an overarching sense, I guess I just mean that he’s avoided the easy broad strokes and gotten really detailed with all these characters who otherwise could have been figures that you just move around in the story.
It creates this great dynamic where, depending on the scene you’re in, any side of this [conflict] is sort of the enemy, you know what I mean? To [the people in town], the Farrells are the outsiders, to the Farrells, we’re the outsiders, and the coal company is the outsider to all of us. You sort of get a different version of the story from every angle. Who you decide the enemy is sort of depends on what part of the story you’re watching at the time.
Did you find that to be true yourself as you were seeing other parts of the story unfold?
Yeah. There’s so little interaction between [Breece’s] world and the mountain, it was interesting to see all that stuff pretty much unfold as I’m watching the show. I’ve become a fan because I’m not privy to a lot of that stuff during filming. I get to see it every once in a while, some of my stuff on stage will line up against something, one of the interiors up on the hill. So I’ll get to see some of that character development happen while the show’s being filmed, but for the most part, I’m enjoying the fact that I get to watch it as this finished product, and not get to pick it apart like I would my own performance. “Why’s my outfit crooked? My beard looks weird in that shot…” That’s about as normal actor as I get. I find it difficult to watch myself on camera sometimes. I don’t know whether it’s perfectionism or some sort of knee-jerk reaction about not seeming overly proud or something. There’s some deep-seated psychology there I’m sure [Laughs]… but on the surface it manifests itself as getting kind of squeamish when I watch myself. It’s a testament to the way the show is shot and the way the show is written… it looks like I imagined it was going to look, truly. The camera guys did such a great job… they’re all such pros. And I’ve been able to watch a lot of this sort of squirm-free and thought to myself, "Oh, actually, that came off really well, I enjoy watching myself in that scene.”
Have you seen “Day Most Blessed” yet?
No, I haven’t. What happened?
Oh, just this little death thing. But what you just said about not criss-crossing with the characters in the other groups… that adds to the shock of Breece’s death, because it’s jarring just to see him on the mountain, then at Big Foster’s wedding, then trying to reason with Big Foster.
And I think that the best part about it is that it gives you a renewed sense of the ruthlessness and the callousness of Big Foster, and it also gives you the sense in town that nobody is safe. That Asa was right when he said, “Any of y'all come up on that mountain, you’re not going to come back down.“ Basically, the deliverance of my body to Wade’s doorstep kind of forces his hand as well.
And he obviously needed that. Wade is almost certainly going to be propelled into some sort of action, reaction, after his brother-in-law’s murder.
The beautifully crafted part of the story is that it’s kind of Wade at his most proactive. He comes out of the mine shaft, and he’s getting stuff done, he’s not taking any crap off of Breece. He’s like, "Okay, I can play…” People forget Wade’s a cop, and I think Breece sort of doesn’t respect him as a law enforcement official. I think a lot of people in town don’t, because they feel like he’s just so hamstrung by whatever that history is with the Farrells all those years ago. [But now] he’s finally clear-eyed, literally and figuratively. Relatively so. He takes Breece in, he makes an example out of me, he’s back to being a cop again, and for his troubles, he gets a dead brother-in-law brought to his doorstep. It’s beautiful. I’m just super impressed with the way the whole show has been laid out. I feel like it’s giving people a reason to keep watching.
It’s super intense. And that makes those moments of levity all the more appreciated. One of my favorites of the season so far is in “Demolition,” the scene where Breece is at his desk job, and Wade comes in to return the gift basket. The looks between the two of them — you just perfectly conveyed all the frustration and boredom and what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here-ness of every person who has ever sat at a 9-5 they hated.
Thank you. It’s funny, TW [Wade portrayer Thomas M. Wright] and I talk about that scene a lot in terms of it being one of our favorite scenes of the whole show to shoot. It was a very busy day on set, and the third character in the scene is the receptionist, who is so great, and the fourth character in that scene is the silence. It’s the space between. I just remember it being a very busy day and then feeling very much ready to do the scene, because everything got so quiet so fast.
Doing that scene, like I said, Thomas and I were talking in between takes, like, “I’m having so much fun doing this scene,” and he goes, “Yeah, this is one of my favorite scenes so far in the whole show.” I think a lot of people will go back to those sorts of scenes after they see what happens in [“Day Most Blessed”] and maybe take a little bit more stock in what that relationship was, in why that relationship was the way it was, now that they’ve delivered Breece’s head on a plate to Wade. That’s sort of how I watch TV. I watch scenes and think to myself, “Oh, I wonder if that’s a precursor to something?” and then sure enough, two episodes later something happens, and it’s like, “Yep, they laid that in perfectly two episodes ago.”
How would you describe the relationship between Wade and Breece? Breece was very frustrated with Wade, he was disgusted by him at times, but he obviously loved Wade’s son, Caleb, and was willing to take care of Caleb.
I think it was about brokering good feelings between Wade and his sister, Breece’s wife. It’s about us all being a family, but first and foremost, it’s really about Caleb. I don’t think Breece is privy to a lot of [their family stuff]… the sleepwalking, all that. I don’t necessarily know that Breece is completely up to speed on that, but it’s very easy for him to step back and say Wade is just the father who can’t hold it together on any level. Before 9 and after 5 is just as bad as when he goes to work. [Thomas and I] talked quite a bit about how long they’ve known each other and how inlaid that history is and whether they were better friends before, because obviously something very drastic changed in Wade when his wife died.
I think a lot of the frustration for Breece could come from his Marine background, just wanting to be a more practical thinker. It’s been three years [since Wade’s wife died]… three years to some people is a long time to grieve, three years for some people is no time at all. Some people are crippled for the rest of their lives by traumatic experiences like that, and some people aren’t. That was something I brought up, because Breece has probably seen a lot of horrible things, he did two tours in Iraq and I don’t think he was a computer programmer over there. I think he carried a gun and wore a helmet and led people. So I think there’s sympathy there, but to a point, and that point sort of gets laid down at the part where Wade becomes a completely dysfunctional father. The scene in the kitchen [in “It’s Good to Be King”) where Wade comes over and he sort of yells at Caleb and Breece says to him, “Man, you’re not right, what’s up with you?” — the thing I loved about the way they shot and edited that scene was it really does show that Breece has an emotional investment in this kid.
There’s also the practical aspect: we need Wade to lead us up the mountain. Not like a lynch mob, but we need him to spearhead the efforts to get moving up there. For better or for worse.
And the fact that Wade has a healthy fear of the Farrells could be helpful. He won’t be a hothead with them, the way Breece’s friends were.
That’s true. And Wade has good reason to be scared. That’s the thing, it’s a real threat. They cause havoc when they come to town, and people don’t go up there. I grew up in a small area in Virginia, and I’m certainly not saying that what we had would parallel a mountain clan, but there were certain people who others treated with a mythic quality, because when you don’t know, you project. So stories that probably weren’t so crazy the first time they were told become these incredible tales… it’s like a game of telephone, where it becomes something completely different and outlandish by the time it reaches the 10th person. While there is certainly just the basic mystery of, “We don’t go up there, they don’t come down here, what do you think goes on up there? I hear they marry their sisters, I hear they make wine…” all of a sudden it becomes this thing that everyone becomes scared of. I think that while Wade’s fears are very founded in terms of the way his father died and the way that they wanted to interpret that, it’s also boosted by a real feeling of fear from the town in general. Sometimes it’s as much about what they don’t know as about what they do know is going on up there.
They fill in the blanks a lot.
Exactly. It’s like anything, going on an audition and not hearing anything for a couple of days, and you’re like “Oh, they must’ve hated me.” It becomes this thing, and then you find out they went with someone shorter than you, or they went with a woman… it just becomes something completely out of the control you think you have of the situation.
Speaking of that, what’s next for you? Where will we see you next?
Good question. I’m sort of riding the unknown wave at the moment, with a couple of little theater things in the mix; my background is in theater, so I try to keep working on that. Since I’ve been in New York, I’ve done television for the most part, but I’d love to do a play next. I’m sort of in search for the next thing to be honest, just auditioning for stuff. [Outsiders] is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in terms of storyline and just purely in the amount of work. I started out playing a lot of police officers and story movers, and it’s such a pleasure to work with Peter Mattei and Peter Tolan and really get to sink my teeth into a character whose decisions affect the arc of the show. So it’d be great to find something else like that next, because this was a valuable experience, and also just great fun.
Outsiders airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on WGN America.