‘Lodge 49’s’ Wyatt Russell follows his own low-key journey, on screen and off

Much like its warm, welcoming fraternal Lynx lodge, AMC’s “Lodge 49” is a unique respite from the propulsive, constant stakes-raising state of the TV landscape. And even as its central character Dud Dudley, a surfer played by Wyatt Russell, wrestles with various existential challenges, the show delivers more of a soak-in-it mood through its everyday dramas and modest secrets.

“The reason I like the show is because it’s difficult to pinpoint one aspect of the show that I enjoy most,” said Russell at the Television Critics Association as the show prepared to bow its second season. “And it’s sort of like when someone asks you, “What was your favorite part about last week?” You’re kind of like, “Well…”

“For me, it’s a feeling, it’s a vibe,” he said. “It’s a way of getting into something that you wouldn’t normally see on TV.”

Dud’s journey of self-awakening from drifting in a daze following the death of his father to finding an increasingly more focused path forward, largely through the fellowship of his eclectic lodge compatriots, has had more of an effect on Russell than he expected, the 33-year-old actor admitted.

“I internalize a lot of it,” he said. “You do some movies where you play a serial killer, or you play something that’s totally not [you]. It’s just a character…[But] this does deal with all the questions that you have in your real life, about life and death, and, ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘How long am I going to be here?’ and ‘What do I want to do when I’m here?’ and ‘Who do I want to be with when I’m here?'”

“It does circle in a bit more, just because of what the show’s themes deal with,” Russell added. “So yeah, I’d like to think more like Dud sometimes, where it would just be free and easy, walk through a door and just hang out. But like we all do, I can overthink things, and you can stress yourself about stuff.”

Since the series premiered last year, Russell has had opportunities to sample the sort of bonding that happens within local lodges across the country.

“There’s a brewmaster in Colorado that I’m friends with who’s a member of the Elks — it’s not the Lynx Lodge, but it’s the Elks Lodge, which is a popular lodge around the United States,” he explained.

Having recently attended a bingo night, he came away impressed with the sense of community and giving back that’s constantly nurtured within the lodges.

“There’s always a charitable aspect to the lodge that we don’t know about a lot, and it is really nice,” he said. “The people that I’ve come across, it’s all been in that capacity of charity, which is good.” And he’s taken with the straightforwardness he’s discovered with the lodge walls. “It is very similar to [the show],” he explained. “It’s just people living their normal lives. It’s a lodge. They come together, they socialize. They’re carpenters and plumbers, and they have normal jobs and normal lives. So it’s a working class social club.”

As the son of Hollywood icons Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, the actors grew up with a taste of a sort of Malibu mysticism that nevertheless remained grounded (“That was their magic, being able to keep it normal”) and he says his avid pursuit of hockey, which he played professionally until a career-ending injury, helped him carve out his own space in the world.

“It did give my own identity,” he reflected. “Just being known as someone’s kid, for anybody’s kid, is a strange thing when you’re five and six, and seven. If you’re an aware kid and your parents make you aware, you’re going to be aware of that. So that was something I was good enough at doing, where I could create my own life.”

He insisted that despite an ever-rising Hollywood profile, he’s still keeping fame at arm’s length. “I don’t think it’s changed that much, to be honest,” he laughed. “People recognize me more, but I do think it’s the way you engage with your life outside of your home. You give off the feeling that you like other people to give you. My dad was good at it, they were both good at it…I’m not famous. There might be one out of 50 people that come up and say, ‘Hey, I like that thing you do. What was the thing you were in?’ But it’s not like that — I haven’t done anything that makes me famous, so my life hasn’t changed at all.”

Russell tries to keep his life as normal as possible, and particularly enjoys going off the grid with his partner, actress Meredith Hagner.

“We went on a big three week van vacation, where we go around the United States,” he recalled. “We lived for almost a month in our van…And that to me is a special way of disconnecting. You go to a lot of places. There’s just no service. I’m not a big phone guy anyway, but it’s nice to be out of contact. So then I really have a good excuse not getting back to anyone.”