While discussing Mr. Mercedes season 2, the AT&T Audience Network series adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, over the phone with star Brendan Gleeson, an ice cream truck surprised the Irish actor.
“Oh geez,” he exclaims. “An ice cream truck just went by while we were talking here, which is a little bit eerie. I suspect Brady would have tried to stick his little head out the window and do something nasty. That was honestly quite bizarre.”
The “Brady” Gleeson refers to is Brady Hartsfield, the show’s titular serial killed as played by English actor Harry Treadaway. Mr. Mercedes season 2 picks up right where season one left off, with, Gleeson’s character Bill Hodges suffering a heart attack and Treadaway undergoing an invasive hospital procedure as a result of their final confrontation. While the retired detective turned private investigator endures physical rehabilitation, the killer remains comatose.
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And this is where things take an interesting turn, because Gleeson has previously said he’s “not big on the supernatural.” Unlike most Stephen King-inspired fare, like the 2017 film adaptation of It and Hulu’s Castle Rock, the first season of Mr. Mercedes is entirely devoid of the more fanciful story elements typically associated with the author. Mr. Mercedes season 2, however, is not.
Brendan Gleeson talks Mr. Mercedes season 2
“I was a little worried that we shouldn't stretch too far away from the original themes. That was my main take on it, as long as we could keep it anchored to the real world,” Gleeson explains. “I think we've done that in this series. Yes, there were those typical aspects of the King books, and I was a little afraid it would take off into a place that became removed from the everyday that we understand.”
“I think Bill Hodges became a little bit of a mouth piece for that,” he continues. “I fulfilled that function in the second series, of kind of grounding it, and saying there's only so much I would believe without absolute evidence. So that was a really interesting start of a journey, because it reflects Bill’s own sense of being prepared to believe anything when the evidence becomes overwhelming, but always waiting until that point.”
Hence the ice cream truck. In an early scene, Bill imagines having a conversation with Harry not unlike some of the more fanciful, and striking, visuals other King adaptations have produced. The white-suited villain taunts his adversary in a graveyard, popping from behind grave stones and, at one point, riding what looks like the same ice cream truck he traversed in last season.
Thankfully, as Gleeson notes, show creator and television producer extraordinaire David E. Kelley is there to reign things in. “The great thing about David is that when he writes the human condition, he writes it like nobody else. So as long as we could get the right framework, then I was happy as a lark to take whatever he could throw at me. But there's a temptation to make anything possible, because it’s essentially fiction.”
That it is, though this doesn’t mean that adapting King’s three-book series to television was an easy task. For not only did the second and third books delve deeper into more supernatural facets, but the way in which King wrote about Bill and Harry’s eventual reunion doesn’t necessarily meet Gleeson’s real-world requirements. So the creative team improvised.
“The adaptation is almost word-for-word from the books, thought it was mixed up a little bit because it had to be,” says the actor. “The nature of the books made it imperative that we didn't just stick to the script. Some readjustment was necessary. And we needed to be careful, because it can be fun, but I was still trying to hold onto the practical credibility of it all.”
Mr. Mercedes season 2 premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on the AT&T Audience Network.