Apple TV+’s latest original episodic thriller The Mosquito Coast, based on the beloved novel of the same name by Paul Theroux, depicts a family’s plight to escape America amid a contentious government witch-hunt. Justin Theroux stars as Allie Fox, an inventor and all-around renegade, who is guiding his wife (played by Melissa George) and two teenage children to seek asylum in Mexico, circumventing various obstacles—often life-threatening—in the name of freedom. Throughout the inaugural season, viewers are taken on a bumpy ride as the series slowly etches away at what the Fox family are fleeing from, and whether there is something sinister informing this criminal behaviour. S/ recently spoke with Justin Theroux about adapting his uncle’s novel with utmost reverence, the complexities of Allie, and the actor’s greatest indulgence.
Your uncle is the author of the text that lays the narrative framework for the series. Does this familial association make the adaptation process easier, or is there an extra layer of pressure to impress him?
“It doesn’t add any pressure because he’s at that age where everything he does at this point just makes him happy. He’s very elated that I’m doing this show and very proud of the family connection to it. For me, as an actor, it’s fabulous because I can pick up the phone and call him whenever I want without feeling awkward. There’s an enormous intimidation that comes when you want to impress a writer of something you’re working on and you have to sort of warm up to them and get to know them—all that was already gone and dealt with.”
The Mosquito Coast, photos courtesy of Apple.
What elements of Allie led you to want to portray him?
“I love that he is complex. There’s nothing worse than committing to a character in a series if they are one dimensional and boring. I’m very cautious before choosing to do something that’s a TV show, the character needs a compelling sense of depth, which Allie is in no shortage of. He has a fascinating mind, and is very fun to play. He’s very opinionated, and loves to pontificate, jabbing a finger at people who he thinks are doing things wrong—he’s sort of a demented Henry David Theroux. Allie makes you think about your own habits, and the way in which you consume. There’s a great monologue where he talks about homeless people being broken consumers, and I think that’s a very prescient point. Allie is kind of one of those guys you want chat with, I don’t know if you’d want live with him, but definitely would want to have dinner with him.”
The show places a large precedence on the importance of family, do you share the same opinion?
“To be frank, I don’t. There’s definitely many family members that I love, but family is the friends you’re forced to have. I do find myself incredibly loyal to the friendships that I have, as well as some family members too. But Allie is a peculiar kind of character, it’s not enough to just be the patriarch of the family, he really wants to instill his beliefs into them for whatever reason—he wants his ideology to carry on. The fact this his children are homeschooled is no accident, because when you have a captive audience, they’re forced to listen to you. Allie is essentially a zealot for himself, he wants to impress those beliefs on his family, which is odd. I wouldn’t share that belief system with Allie.”
Your character is always complaining that people are spending their money on unnecessary things. What are some indulgences, that may not be 100% essential, that you like to spend your money on, and what things are you thrifty about?
The Mosquito Coast, photos courtesy of Apple.
“Well I have a dog, and while many people wouldn’t say you need one, I would spend my entire fortune on her no matter what she needs. For what I spend on her, I get enormous rewards.
“On the other hand, it drives me crazy when someone has to do something in my house, whether it’s fixing or installing something. During the pandemic I became a mini-Allie Fox on a lot of levels. I learned how to fix my dryer, because I had nothing else to do. I learned some electrical work, some plumbing, because we had nothing but time on our hands. I was able to sit there on the internet, and figure out how to clean a water pump hose out of a lint trap that was clogged. It is something I am thrifty about, I loathe having to call a locksmith or a plumber or an electrician, but I do when I have to. I recognize when something is above my talent and pay grade.”
Your resume boasts a plethora of jobs within the entertainment industry, from actor, writer, producer and director, how do you diversify the projects you involve yourself in?
“I would love to say that I get to pick things, but I don’t. I get to say yes to things, but it’s usually opportunities that present themselves based on past jobs. I’ve had a very bizarre life, sometimes I’m writing comedy, sometimes action, sometimes I’m starring in action films, sometimes comedy. But I’m a big believer in using your gut, and choosing things that may not be the most financially rewarding but are fulfilling.
“As far as characters go, I don’t put a role above what I’ve already played. It’s usually as simple as ‘would that be fun and interesting’, and ‘will I grow a little as an actor from portraying this person?’ My idea of hell is playing the same character over again. There’s definitely things I’ve been offered based off a previous character I’ve played, and once I’ve done it I don’t want to return to it.”