‘Parish’ Bosses Preview Bradley Whitford’s New Baddie

“Gray, it’s been a long time.” That casual greeting – delivered with a menacing edge by Bradley Whitford in his first appearance as a new character, Anton, a powerful Louisiana businessman with strong criminal ties – will give you chills when it caps off the taut third episode of AMC’s six-part crime-thriller Parish.

“Anton is probably the most dangerous of all the characters because he knows Gray [Giancarlo Esposito] better than anybody. Ask yourself, who are the people that can get under your skin the most? It’s the people who know you the best,” says Eduardo Javier Canto who executive produces and writes the series with Ryan Maldonado.

TV Insider checked in with the duo to see how the charming and wily Anton will add to stoic Gray’s pile-up of miseries. The family man is grieving his son’s death and fighting the failure of his luxury car service business. To win a payday that could stave off bankruptcy he agreed to return to his lawless past as a getaway driver to help his ex-con friend, wayward Colin (Skeet Ulrich). That led to becoming a driver for Zimbabwean crime family boss The Horse (Zackary Momoh) and getting tangled up with the warring Tongai clan.

Giancarlo Esposito on 'Parish

Alyssa Moran/AMC

No surprise: suave, well-connected Anton isn’t there to help — he’s there to threaten Parish unless he does him a deadly favor. “Anton presents one way but is quietly deceptively dangerous. He’s like a snake lying in the grass that’s equally comfortable playing in the gutter as he is in the halls of power,” Canto says.

What ensues is many scenes between the two lauded TV veterans. “Bradley and Giancarlo have a tremendous rapport. They’ve been friends for a very long time, and they approached every take like they were going to play,” Canto says.

The producers loved Whitford for the role because of the complexity he could bring to a baddie. “Bradley has a likability to him,” Canto says. “He’s someone that you feel like you know because you’ve seen him in all these shows [The West Wing, The Handmaid’s Tale] so when Gray comes home and sees him, immediately the audience brings a relationship to it as well. That’s cool to undercut that by making him the villain.”

Anton’s deadly demand is woven into Gray’s gig with the Tongais, which isn’t exactly a cushy job either. He’s under suspicion from some in the family as the person who set up The Horse for that assassination attempt in the season premiere that nearly killed him. (The fourth episode’s title, “Impimpi” is used in South Africa to mean “traitor”).

“Gray has been walking a fine line for the first three episodes thinking that he can control the situation and his life and how things are going to play out. He realizes that’s not possible,” Maldonado says. “Everything you’ve seen is going to come back plus new information and new relationships. He’s not going to be able to run from his past and that side of himself anymore.”

Not everyone will live to see the season finale. Says Canto, “If Gray thought that he could make it through this story without lives being lost, he’s wrong.”

Parish, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC

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