Garrett Hedlund: Sylvester Stallone's mob boss brings 'danger, intrigue' to 'Tulsa'

Garrett Hedlund stars in "Tulsa King." Photo courtesy of Paramount+
1 of 5 | Garrett Hedlund stars in "Tulsa King." Photo courtesy of Paramount+

NEW YORK, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Triple Frontier and Country Strong star Garrett Hedlund says the lives of Oklahoma locals -- including his saloon owner character Mitch -- are forever altered by the arrival of Sylvester Stallone's mob boss Dwight in the Paramount+ drama, Tulsa King.

Season 1 of the series from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan and Sopranos writer-producer Terence Winter wraps up Sunday.


The show, which already has been renewed for a second season, casts Stallone as Dwight "The General" Manfredi, a New York mafia capo looking to resume his career after serving 25 years in prison, but surprised to find the crime family he always loyally protected exiling him to Oklahoma to see what he can establish and earn there.

The first thing Dwight does when he gets into town is assemble a crew of outsiders and ne'er-do-wells to work for him, particularly Mitch and cab driver Tyson (Jay Will.)


"They're local to Tulsa. They're putting in the good fight to provide and survive," Hedlund told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

"They see this man walk in with this confidence, who exudes a little bit of danger, a little bit of intrigue," he added.

"He might spice up life here in Oklahoma and he might possibly lead to a better future for my character and definitely for Tyson, as well. We see a little opportunity and then, episode to episode, you see if those opportunities come to fruition."

Newcomer Will sees Tulsa King as an exploration of good and evil from the point of view of mostly young men looking to either forge their own paths or get a second chance at life.

"I wanted to tell a story about when it is in one's life that they start to live for themself, make decisions for themself and take full responsibility for the actions they've done in the past," Will said. "This is where that happens. Tulsa King is in that time for Tyson."

The money and lifestyle Dwight offers are alluring to Tyson, who was raised by loving, middle-class parents who taught him to be honest and work hard.


"Tyson is just conflicted the whole time because he hasn't seen money. He hasn't seen opportunity. He has seen the mundane, everyday, getting up, going to work, going to school, coming back, repeating that loop," Will said. "Before Dwight, Tyson couldn't break that loop."

Understandably, Tyson's father Mark (Michael Beach) wants him to steer clear of Dwight.

"It's an honor, actually, for me to play a role like this," Will said.

"It's rare that we see a Black family where the father is still in the household and wants the best for their son or daughter or child. You've got the full unit in the house," he added. "[Tyson] grew up the right way in a decent home. ... He makes the decision to do his own thing now."

Mitch is at a different place in his life. He is an ex-bull rider and ex-convict caring for his aging veteran father when Dwight walks into his bar.

"It grounds everything in realism. It makes everything relatable," Hedlund said of the connections Dwight develops with the locals. "It makes you want to root for them. It makes you see yourself within these characters. That's the essence of what makes a really wonderful, exciting show."


The actors were thrilled to act opposite Rocky and Rambo legend Stallone in Tulsa King, Stallone's first full-time TV gig.

"It's important for me to see and work with people who really care about the work, honestly, who are in the business of telling the truth," Will said. "To be around that company keeps you sharp."

Hedlund has known Stallone for about 20 years. They first met when they were training at the same gym for action sequences in separate movies.

"We've been buds ever since. It felt like it was due time to go share the screen together," Hedlund said.

"It was awesome. It was collaborative. It was really damn enjoyable. The man is the world's hero and has been for a long time. It was an honor to work with him, an honor to be a part of this with him and see where it goes from here."

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