the deuce

The Deuce’s Gary Carr Got to Keep His Pimp Costume

Gary Carr as C.C. in <em>The Deuce.</em>
Gary Carr as C.C. in The Deuce. Photo: HBO

Spoilers below for Sunday’s episode of The Deuce.

Even streetwise, sharply dressed pimps can push people too far, as Gary Carr’s C.C. discovered in last night’s misleadingly titled episode of The Deuce, Nobody Has to Get Hurt.” Having cashed out of Lori’s porn contract to mobsters who would’ve been happy to knock him off rather than pay him off, the menacing mack daddy refuses to stop smack-talking Bobby’s (Chris Bauer) wife. So the parlor boss stabs him with a screwdriver. After Frankie (James Franco) finishes him off with a few hammer blows to the head, he asks his brother-in-law what happened. “He talked too much,” Bobby says.

Happily, Carr — who prior to pimping was best known as Lady Rose’s favorite jazz singer on Downton Abbey — was just as effusive when Vulture caught up with him on the phone from Los Angeles. Nothing would please him more than knowing he disappeared so deeply into the preening street hustler that you didn’t recognize him from the British costume drama. “The most important thing for me is to do as many roles that are as far from each other as possible,” he says.

As for C.C.’s unexpected murder, the 31-year-old London native says his death has been on the calendar since day one. “Originally, he wasn’t supposed to make it beyond the first season. When that didn’t happen, I actually forgot about it,” Carr says laughing. “But I always had an idea of his arc.” Here’s what else the classically trained actor — whom sharp-eyed public TV viewers might also remember from the import Death in Paradise — had to say about C.C.’s fatal power play, his waning influence with women, his wild wardrobe, and why the up-and-comer still lives with his mum and dad.

Here’s what else the classically trained actor — whom sharp-eyed public TV viewers might also remember from the import Death in Paradise — had to say about C.C.’s fatal power play, his waning influence with women, his wild wardrobe, and why the up-and-comer still lives with his mum and dad.

The irony of C.C.’s death is that he’s unknowingly avoided being bumped off by Rudy and Matty the Horse, thanks to Kiki. Why does he insist on pissing off Bobby? Is this a last-gasp power play after losing Lori? Did he underestimate Bobby?
To be honest with you — [laughs] — I have no idea. I’m just as baffled and shocked as C.C. I don’t think anyone would expect it to escalate to the point where he gets killed. C.C.’s whole thing is that he underestimates everybody. He’s just not taking into consideration that this would be his end. I think he’s very much like, Look, here’s what I need, here’s what I want, and I’m going to go and get it. The Bobby thing is very shocking, but I think it’s supposed to be that way. It really does come out of nowhere.

As for Lori, it seems like the more successful she’s become, the more violent and dehumanizing he is towards her. But the problem was that he wasn’t smart enough to focus on her long-term career management.
It’s quite disappointing that C.C. couldn’t do that. I always thought that he would adapt. There’s a nice contrast between him and Larry Brown [Gbenga Akinnagbe], who’s doing his best to make a transition out of the world of pimping and exploiting women. It’s funny that while he’s looking at his survival and neglecting his girls, C.C. is focusing way too much on his girls, and how they’re going to be under him rather than accepting the reality that Lori has actually outgrown everything they built. She really does not need him. But another thing not to forget is C.C.’s narcissism. The whole world revolves around him, so it just makes sense that so much has gone over his head when it comes to Lori.

Then there’s Dorothy/Ashley, whom he controlled and abused, who’s now confident in her new role advocating for prostitutes. Doesn’t her presence make him look bad to the other pimps?
Definitely. [Laughs.] In that scene where they talk about what changes C.C. might make in his life — what he wants to do now that Lori is this big movie star — there’s a discussion about how they should deal with the women talking to her too much. Even though Ashley does make him look bad, don’t forget that at one point, this was the love of his life. Or they shared something that was real, even though it may seem messed up to the outside world. So if he wanted Ashley killed, he could have done it himself a long time ago

Let’s talk about C.C.’s clothes. In this season’s opener, he says, “If you can’t show, what’s the point?” and he’s wearing a purple velvet suit and carrying a jeweled walking stick. One recap said you looked like Prince or Dave Chappelle doing Prince. Was the way C.C. dressed part of the character from the beginning, and how did it affect your performance?
What C. C. said was right — a lot of pimp game is the aesthetics of it, the visual. The better looking you are, the better dressed you are, the more people assume that you’re really great at your job and think they should fear you. That definitely helped me in terms of my playing him: the level of confidence and self-assuredness that comes with that.

Did you get to keep any of his clothes? Maybe a walking stick?
The costume department was super lovely. When I left, they gave me some cool accessories: a chain watch that C.C. wears quite a lot, and some hats and stuff. I don’t know that I’ll ever wear any of it. [Laughs.]

How did you shake off playing such a monstrous guy? I read that while you were filming, you had a warehouse apartment in Brooklyn and a bunch of people ended up staying with you. Anyone we’d know, and did that help?
It definitely helped me stay sane. But to be honest with you, I never let the character overtake me. I wasn’t ever in fear of becoming this horrible or dark person. It’s really fun when you get to play someone that’s so far from yourself. It’s very challenging, but at the same time — you can just jump all the way in [since] it’s so far from yourself. As for the people staying with me, that’s for a photography project that I’m working on. I was working with a small team.

People will be surprised to learn that the man who played a menacing pimp still lives with his parents. In a recent article, you said you want to live with them “forever.” Doesn’t that cramp your romantic style?
[Laughs.] London is home for me. I have my parents’ place, but I also have a hundred different other spots that I could be at. I’m usually bouncing between cousins’ houses, and friends’ houses, and a friend’s spare room. When I was in a relationship in London, I was staying at my girlfriend’s house. But I’m hardly in London. So the few times I am, I just want to be around family and friends. My parents, my brother, my sister just happen to be my best friends. I was serious about that — I want to live with them as long as possible. [Laughs.]

I also read that you trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and that you’re a trained dancer with a background in musical theater. So are you really a song-and-dance man?
I love music. I am a huge musichead and fan. My love of music influences my love of dance. I hear music and I get into it so strongly, that I can’t help but feel something and it manifests itself. I was born in ’86, grew up watching MTV, and pretty much imitated everything I saw. Street dances, that’s my training — literally learning to dance on the streets. As I went to college, things became more technical: contemporary dance, ballet, and other styles.

In 2014, you said that you wanted to meet Shonda Rhimes. Did that happen? Who else would you like to work with?
Did I say that? I think at the time I was watching Grey’s Anatomy, ’cause in our house, my sister and my mum, that’s their show. I got into it as well because it has great writing. But no, [I haven’t]. I want to work with the same people I’ve always wanted to work with. When it comes to film, I love Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson, Michel Gondry’s work as well. And as far as TV, David [Simon] and George [Pelecanos] were at the top of my list, so that’s one box ticked.

So, what will we see you in next?
I’m in Los Angeles right now working on a few different projects: an indie film with Chadwick Boseman called 17 Bridges, and then I start shooting a pilot series called Modern Love with Anne Hathaway; and then I’m doing a guest spot on The Good Fight, a show I really like with great writing. I’m doing a few different jobs that will take me into next spring. And then hopefully, I’ll be staying in the States to do more.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

The Deuce’s Gary Carr Got to Keep His Pimp Costume