Irreverent: PJ Byrne Talks Peacock Series, Character Empathy & More

PJ Byrne is one of the busiest men in Hollywood. In just over 20 years in the industry, he's already amassed nearly 120 projects as an actor across TV and film. His persistence and hard work show how well his versatility has paid off in his robust career, which includes several high-profile projects like Cobra Kai, The Boys, and the upcoming Babylon. The actor spoke to Bleeding Cool about his latest project in Peacock Irreverent, playing the original Reverend Mackenzie "Mack" Boyd. The drama series follows Chicago criminal mediator Paulo Keegan (Colin Donnell) as he flees the United States after a mediation gone wrong and assumes the identity of the reverend. "Mack" (Paulo) finds himself trapped in Clump, Australia – a small, eccentric beach town hundreds of miles away from civilization and phone reception. To stay alive, "Mack" must keep the wool over the town's eyes and play the role of devoted Reverend while desperately searching for an exit strategy before his past catches up to him.

Irreverent Star PJ Byrne Talks Peacock Series & Character Empathy
IRREVERENT — "The Lord Giveth, and the Lord Taketh Away" Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) P.J. Byrne as Mckenzie Boyd, Colin Donnell as Mack/Paulo (Photo by: Scott Belzner/Matchbox Productions)

How PJ Byrne Became a Natural Fit for 'Irreverent'

What intrigued you about 'Irreverent?'

Byrne: The writing by the showrunner Paddy Macrae was so genuine. I found out he grew up in a religious family, and his father was a reverend. It felt so honest and real to me, and I like that. This is a show about community, especially during COVID. People were going through so much, either losing people or family. As we come out of COVID right now, we still live in a world with a lot of conflicts. I like the idea of letting people know that everywhere around the world, even though our show takes place in a very remote part of the world, people are still struggling and going through a lot. I like the idea we understand that, and we're a warm blanket for you.

As far as my character Mac, I like starting from the first moment you meet him and where his wife left him. This is the first time in his life that things have gone off the rails after she's left him, and that gives him a crisis of love like, "Oh, my God," which leads to a crisis of faith. So he is so lost. His two tracks with the train are gone, and he's just a lost little puppy. He's also a guy who is innately curious, and if he sees a red balloon, he will follow it. That kind of character to me was fascinating, and I knew I was allowed to play it everywhere. I wanted to make sure there was comedy, heart, and drama. You're going to see me be challenged and tested.

Irreverent Star PJ Byrne Talks Peacock Series & Character Empathy
IRREVERENT — "Lotus & Fishes" Episode 102 — Pictured: P.J. Byrne as Mckenzie Boyd– (Photo by: Scott Belzner/Matchbox Productions)

Was there anyone in your own life you drew inspiration from that helped guide your performance as Mack?

I grew up being an altar boy for a long time, so I'm a Roman Catholic kid. I grew up in the church, knowing the church, and also had friends whose families had a father as a reverend. I like the idea of love and community, and that was important to my character. He constantly needs a relationship. The fact he steals Paulo's money but still wants to have a relationship with him is so fascinating to me. I mean, I did the worst thing to him I could, but can justify in my mind that we're supposed to be best friends, and we're destined to be together. This was something a bigger power that put us together. It's like growing up with nice, lovely people, being lucky and blessed to have that in my life. I modeled so many beautiful people I've grown up with for this character. Also, I like being nice and engaging with people as well. A lot of it sometimes is me.

Irreverent Star PJ Byrne Talks Peacock Series & Character Empathy
Cr: Peacock

What was the chemistry like on set? Can you break down the rapport you have with your cast mates?

I wanted to let you know that episode ten, the last shot of the entire series, was my first shot of the entire show. I shot the last shot of the ten-episode series first. I never had to do that before in my life, so I had to prepare the entire show in my mind and guess. I'm like, "Where is this character going to be by episode ten in the last shot?" I gave them multiple options because I wasn't sure. That's kudos to Kylie [Bracknell] and Colin for being there for me and certain other characters in the show. They're just pros, ready to show up and crush it. That doesn't happen all the time, and they're so present and ready to be there for you. "On the first day, I just met you, and we have to pretend we've had an entire ten-episode relationship." That was a magical moment, and that's kudos to all the actors in the show because everyone was solid.

Irreverent is available to stream on Peacock.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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