Log In

Reset Password
  • MENU
    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    Billy Magnussen takes on leading role in HBO Max dark comedy ‘Made For Love’

    Billy Magnussen plays tech genius Byron, who thinks he can control everything, in "Made for Love." (John P. Johnson/HBO Max/TNS)

    Billy Magnussen has gamely played his share of secondary hunks and dopes over the years, but now at age 35, he gets one of his biggest leading roles in the dark comedy series “Made for Love” on HBO Max.

    His Byron Gogol is a quirky Elon Musk-like tech titan who implants a tracking chip in his wife’s brain. Magnussen provides the character an intriguing blend of pathos, neediness and innocence.

    In the second episode, Byron tells his wife Hazel (Cristin Milioti) why he wanted both of them to have chips in their brains, which would allow them to read each other’s minds. His quixotic goal: the ultimate in marital intimacy.

    “Together, we will become a singular living God!” he proclaims. “You agreed to this!”

    With perfect comic timing, Hazel retorts: “I thought those were metaphors!”

    Hazel, who Milioti plays with impetuous bewilderment, said her character is simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by her husband.

    “Byron is so desperate to be loved,” she said. “So is she. That’s what makes their union so toxic and fascinating.”

    But Milioti’s personal feelings for Magnussen himself are not complicated at all.

    Milioti, known as the mother in the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and Andy Samberg’s delightful love interest in the 2019 award-winning Hulu comedy “Palm Springs,” said, “He’s game for anything. He’s uninhibited. He’s egoless. It’s such a joy to create with him.”

    In the first four episodes, Byron’s background remains a mystery. He had built his own “Hub,” a sequestered virtual world he refuses to leave, and when a journalist compares him to Willy Wonka, he draws a blank. He is also confused by doughnut holes.

    “This boy has some issues,” Magnussen said. “That’s the fun part of it. I wanted to dive into the weird construct of reality and mess with it. He is so out of touch with reality. He made his castle in the sky separate from the real world. But he has this human quality. He comes from a world of code and structure, but love is not that way. He can’t control it, and he’s confounded.”

    “Made For Love” showrunner Christina Lee said they did not want Byron’s character to be a pure control-freak villain. What they liked about Magnussen is his fundamental likability “both in real life and on-screen. You feel empathy for him even as he’s giving this chilling, scary performance that leaves you with a lump in your throat,” she said.

    Magnussen feels the story is more than techno gimmickry: “At the base level of our show, it’s a story about love and forgetting love and what’s important. It’s based in such a beautiful human experience.”

    Magnussen was born and raised in Queens, New York, until the age of 11 when he moved to Georgia. After college, he returned to New York City and set his sights on acting professionally.

    One of his first TV credits was a staple for any NYC actor: a bit part in “Law & Order.” But he quickly landed his first regular paying gig on the soap “As The World Turns” as hottie Casey Hughes. His big Broadway break came in 2013 in the comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” He got to work alongside acting vets David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver playing the often topless boy toy of Weaver’s character. The result: a Tony nomination.

    “Working with such elegant people opened my eyes to the type of artist I wanted to be,” he said.

    Soon after, he got to play Rapunzel’s prince in the film adaptation of “Into the Woods” starring Meryl Streep as the witch. “That was a whirlwind,” he said. “I remember showing up at the table read with Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick and wondering, ‘How did I end up here?’” But he said he realized quickly that even the seasoned actors were nervous, that they made mistakes and that he belonged.

    In 2018, he got to return to Atlanta to shoot the hit comedy “Game Night” starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. “It was just so exciting,” he said. “To be home was crazy. My 18-year-old self wanted to run away as far as he could from my own life. When I came back, it felt like a new chapter. I got to share this with my family and the people I grew up with. I realized how much I loved growing up here."

    Magnussen’s next big role is in the upcoming “No Time to Die,” Daniel Craig’s final appearance as James Bond that was meant to come out a year ago but was pushed due to the virus. It’s now set to come out stateside Oct. 8. His role in the film is a guarded secret, but Magnussen understands the enduring appeal of Bond as a franchise the past five decades.

    “He’s a fantasy action here,” he said. “Be braver than you think you are. It’s an enduring fairy tale.”

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.