The AMC+ hit series That Dirty Black Bag takes the spaghetti western and turns it upside down. The violence, gruesomeness and look of the western sets it apart from anything we’ve seen in a while. It’s safe to say there has never been a town like Greenvale in That Dirty Black Bag.
One of the reasons for the success of the series is the work of Ivan Shaw, who plays Kurt. Many of you may also recognize Ivan from the recently renewed FOX series The Cleaning Lady where he plays Marco.
Ivan has made appearances in series such as Insecure, New Girl, Criminal Minds, NCIS and Rizzoli & Isles. He’s also dipped his toes in the world of daytime soap operas appearing in All My Children and The Young & the Restless.
We sat down with the very talented actor to discuss his current role on That Dirty Black Bag, what it was like stepping on that set for the first time and what he’d like to see for his character Marco in the second season of The Cleaning Lady.
Pop Culture Principle – When you were first approached about this series and character, what made you decide to sign on to the project?
Ivan Shaw – Well, the notion of being a part of a spaghetti western for someone who looks like me is unheard of. The scripts were really fantastic, and this world was so interesting to me. There was also the fact that I got to work with Dominic Cooper and Douglas Booth for four months in Italy and Spain. It was just a dream job at the time.
I know it was very competitive for this role and the fact that they ended up going with an Asian American was a really interesting choice on their part. It was a bit of a rough start, but Dominic Cooper reached out to me over Instagram. I had never spoken with him or met him, and he sent me a photo and wrote a nice message to me which I thought was really sweet of him to do.
Ivan Shaw – My character Kurt is the deputy to Sherriff McCoy. He’s known as McCoy’s right-hand man on the surface, but deep down, he’s one of those guys in Greenvale who really wants to find a way out and find his path to the dreamland.
So, what he’s done in his life is hitched his horse to the most successful person in town. The person who gave him power and who can ultimately get him out of that place which is Sherriff McCoy. So, Kurt is incredibly loyal, far more fastidious than Sherriff McCoy is and always sees things in a very calculated fashion and is always several steps ahead. So, together he and McCoy make an amazing pair.
Pop Culture Principle – What was it like for you to step on the set of That Dirty Black Bag for the first time and be transported back into that time in American history?
Ivan Shaw – It was an amazing experience. It was incredibly hot and the moment you walk out of hair and make-up you are sweating bullets! When you are shooting at places like Fort Bravo, it’s difficult to not feel the weight of these places because there is so much history and so many amazing films were shot at these places. You try to just push that stuff aside and do your work, but inevitably you’ll hear story after story about some of the most amazing films being shot there. To say I was a kid in a candy store is an understatement.
Pop Culture Principle – It seems that in those days, there weren’t really those white hat and black hat cowboys, but most of the people at that time lived in the “gray” area of good and evil. What are your thoughts?
Ivan Shaw – Yes, absolutely, and especially in this world that we built. The town of Greenvale is meant to represent hell, so living in that hell, everyone is imprisoned by their own emotional or psychological shackles or their own physical imprisonment and to get out of that, it really compromises your moral center.
Pop Culture Principle – How do you think Kurt truly feels about Sherriff McCoy?
Ivan Shaw – Well, the story goes when they first arrived in the town, Kurt was working in the mines and McCoy comes to town and wasn’t yet the sheriff. So, because they were both great sharp shooters, they realized they could be mutually beneficial to each other and bonded over that. I think Kurt realized very early that McCoy was going places. He had the kind of personality to lead and to get to where he wanted to go, no matter what the cost. So, Kurt attached himself to McCoy, but in that process and in order for McCoy to flourish, Kurt had to sacrifice himself and by virtue of that, there is a huge layer of resentment, love, and disdain, but also admiration. It’s a complicated relationship.
Pop Culture Principle – One of the great aspects of this series so far is that yes, it’s violent and can be gruesome, but it also has a dark comedic element as well. Would you agree?
Ivan Shaw – Absolutely. I did most of my scenes with Dominic and Douglass and I think every step of the way, we were looking for moments like that. Also, when you have a person like Dominic Cooper who is such a vibrant character himself, you can’t help but infuse a lot of dark comedic moments in the show. 😊
Ivan Shaw – They can look forward to a lot of high stakes excitement, blood, gore and unexpected relationships and dynamics!
Pop Culture Principle – You’ve also star in the FOX series The Cleaning Lady. Can you tell us about your character on that series and how he fits into that world?
Ivan Shaw – Marco is the loving husband to Thony. He’s a loving father and he’s stuck in the Philippines in the first half of the show and arrives later. He learns that the life that Thony has been living isn’t exactly the life you want your wife to be living and he responds accordingly. All he wants is to be with his family and see his son get better.
Pop Culture Principle – It seems that your character’s intentions are good for the most part, but he can be seen as the “bad” guy. Would you agree?
Ivan Shaw – You know, that’s fine if people see him as a bad guy and I am ok with that. Marco is the kind of guy that has to be the king of the jungle, whatever jungle it is at the time. Whether it be husbandry, fatherhood, or brotherhood, he’s got to be the king of that narrative. He tries to own everything in that narrative, but to be totally honest with you, he’s that guy that is one step away from greatness all the time. He’s almost got the solution and by virtue of that, it keeps him in this hamster wheel of action and regret.
Pop Culture Principle – When it comes to playing a character like Marco and really, any character you take on, how much of you personally is actually in that character?
Ivan Shaw – I think inevitably a lot because I was taught very early on that I have to make everything very private and personal. So, from my viewpoint, it’s part of my job to infuse as much of my story into every character that I play. I had no idea how Marco was going to be perceived and it’s funny that a lot of people hate that character because I didn’t think of him as a bad guy ever. Every step of the way he was doing something that was completely justified in my mind.
The same thing goes for Kurt from That Dirty Black Bag. The entire premise of playing that character is what it takes for a guy that looks like me to live in that world. Which infused everything from the way my hair and make-up was to the way I spoke to the decisions I made from scene to scene.
Pop Culture Principle – With the events that happened at the end of Season 1 and now that we know that The Cleaning Lady has been renewed for a second season, do you have any thoughts on what or how your character progresses in the second season?
Ivan Shaw – I personally would like to see a little bit of redemption for Marco. In that last episode, he shows up in town, it’s pretty obvious his wife is cheating on him, and she is now working for a mobster, she’s not a stable mother, so he has to take his son back to a stable environment and in my mind, it is completely justified.
It’s a really good question. I have thought about what they could possibly do with my character, but I haven’t really thought about what I would like to see out of it. Doing press now, I really see how much people dislike this character. To be honest, I would really like to see some redemption and some qualifications to his actions.
Pop Culture Principle – Does knowing a character you play is looked at completely different by the audience affect how you will portray that character in the future?
Ivan Shaw – I think so. I think inevitably it will and it will be something that I will keep in the back of my mind when I go back to work on the show again. We will just have to see. 😊
Pop Culture Principle – Are there any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
Ivan Shaw – Yes. I am actually about to start a show for Apple called Dear Edward. It’s based upon the novel by Ann Napolitano. It’s about a plane crash on a flight from New York to LA where the lone survivor is a twelve-year-old boy. It will be a series that is written by Jason Katims. I am so excited to start this project and I’ll be gone in two weeks to start that. I think it will be a special series.
A huge thank you to Ivan Shaw for taking the time to talk with us. You can check out That Dirty Black Bag exclusively on AMC+!
**That Dirty Black Bag photos courtesy of Stefano C. Montesi/AMC+**
**The Cleaning Lady photo courtesy of Jeff Neumann/FOX**