‘Irreverent’ First Look: Colin Donnell Introduces His ‘Funny’ & ‘Dark’ Fake Reverend (PHOTOS)

Colin Donnell in 'Irreverent'
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Scott Belzner/Matchbox Productions

With his new Peacock series, Irreverent, Colin Donnell had the opportunity, as he puts it, “to sort of do everything.”

Donnell stars as Paulo Keegan/Mack, a mediator for the mob who’s forced to flee Chicago and ends up, through a series of events, posing as a reverend in a small Australian beach town called Clump. “It’s very different from what I’ve gotten to do in other roles on television shows,” he tells TV Insider. “He’s extraordinarily funny and he has that dark, sort of dangerous side to him. It was a joy to be sort of given the reins and told, ‘Alright, we wanna see you do everything.’ And I was like, ‘let’s give it a whirl. Let’s try it.’”

Colin Donnell in 'Irreverent'

Mark Rogers /Matchbox Productions

Here, Donnell introduces us to Paulo, as well as his life and troubles in Chicago and Australia. Plus, check out exclusive first photos of Irreverent above and below (and be sure to scroll down for all of them).

Something that strikes me is Paulo is living in a drama and then brings that with him when he is dropped into this comedic world in Clump, which makes it so much fun.

Colin Donnell: It’s definitely riding a fine line between a dramatic thriller of a piece and all that stuff that he brings with him from Chicago — and you’re totally right — but then the other side of that coin is the hilarity of being a total fish out of water in this really strange, wild place that is Clump. It’s bright. The people are weird. The setting is bizarre — beautiful, but totally bizarre and dangerous, obviously, when preachers are getting eaten by crocodiles just moments before.

Set up the trouble both in Chicago and then in Australia that leads Paulo to that life in Clump.

When we meet Paulo, he is doing his job as the mediator for the mobs of Chicago. And after a deal goes wrong and some bad stuff happens, he ends up having to flee for his life and chooses the furthest point away from Chicago that he can possibly get and ends up in Australia. Along that trip, he runs into an actual preacher, who has had a crisis of faith himself, and then some more stuff happens and he finds himself impersonating that preacher in the parish that he was supposed to go to, which is a tiny little reef side town in the far north of Queensland.

P.J. Byrne in 'Irreverent'

Scott Belzner/Matchbox Productions

Speaking of that preacher [PJ Byrne’s Mackenzie Boyd], what can you say about that dynamic? It’s so much fun.

That’s such a huge credit to PJ Byrne. He’s so hilarious and so funny and such a wonderful actor. They are the yin and yang to each other and you see it throughout the season that they hate each other — or at least Paulo hates Mackenzie — but at the same time, they sort of need each other because in order to do what he’s trying to do in Clump, Paulo, in order to be Mack really, he needs the advice of Mackenzie to get him through the day-to-day of being a believable reverend in this church.

Is it easier for him to do that because they’re just so happy to have a reverend who’s alive?

[Laughs] I think they go back and forth. He’s not exactly what they expected him to be — for all the reasons, the most glaring one being that he seems to have no idea what he’s doing. And we all know that he actually doesn’t. But yeah, I think they’re so excited to have him there and they have all this expectation of what he’s going to do for their town, especially Wayne Blair’s character Peter, he’s invested so much in the church of this town and he’s invested so much in the idea of Paulo/Mack, that it’s a really hard thing for him to live up to.

What does Paulo think of the locals?

At first he’s just completely thrown off. He’s in a place where he doesn’t understand the jargon. He’s confused by what people are saying all the time. He likes the fact that he’s sitting on a beach in the middle of nowhere where hopefully nobody will be able to find him. But all the responsibilities that got dropped into his lap and all the expectations that come along with being the reverend of a small town church sort of get heaped onto him immediately. And then we see him get involved more and more and he starts developing the relationships.

Wayne Blair in 'Irreverent'

Kane Skennar/Matchbox Productions

I think that’s one of the things that’s so beautiful about our story is the fact that really it’s a story about community and how all of our relationships, whether they are previous relationships or brand new ones, like all of the ones that Mack is dealing with in Clump, they can’t help but affect you. And so what happens to somebody when they really allow themselves to integrate themselves into a community? How does that community bolster them or change them? In Mack’s case, is it a redemption story? We’ll see.

Because in his line of work, it’s hard to trust people, is there anyone that he trusts completely?

I don’t think there’s anybody that he trusts completely, but he very quickly forms a very tight relationship with Daisy [Tegan Stimson], and that was one of my favorite relationships that we got to develop over the course of shooting the season. I just think that for Mack, he recognizes something in Daisy that is very similar to how he grew up, with an absent father. He sees in her a kid who could really go down the wrong path if she’s not careful to course correct. There’s something that draws him into her and makes him want to protect her in some way. She’s not necessarily in need of protection, but at the same time, that instinct to help and foster a kid along their way is something kind of brand new for Mack.

It seems almost like she’s someone he can rely on in a way that he couldn’t anyone in his old life, which is really interesting because she is a kid.

Yeah. And I think it says something about the expectations of adults when they’re dealing with kids, that they don’t necessarily see all the possibilities of what they’re capable of. But she very, very quickly proves herself well-capable of not only seeing through his facade, but also knowing that she is really indispensable to him surviving and thriving within this town.

You mentioned his absent father — I was gonna say, you’ve played a few characters with complicated family dynamics, to say the least. What else can you say about Mack’s family?

It’s something that’s doled out throughout the first part of our season but it’s a very complicated relationship with him and his mother and his father. For his entire life, Mack has really been totally self-reliant. He got to where he got within the mob community of Chicago, really only trusting himself and Lewis [Marcus Johnson]. I should mention, Lewis is the one person that Mack fully trusts with his life. Unfortunately he’s on the other side of the planet back in Chicago, but aside from Lewis, the only person Mack ever could rely upon is himself.

Cop Piper’s (Kylie Bracknell) probably the one person who can figure out the truth and also someone that Mack may be getting close to. How’s that relationship?

You sort of hit the nail on the head. Piper is the most dangerous person in Clump because she is far smarter and far more intuitive than he sees anybody else being in the town, so he has to really tread lightly around her to be careful not to reveal his true identity. But at the same time, he’s totally intrigued by her. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s engaging, and there’s just something about her that those two personalities can’t help but be drawn to each other because I think that they see a little bit of similarity between the two of them. It’s just enough mystery about each person that they want to know more, but he has to be very careful not to get too close.

Kylie Bracknell in 'Irreverent'

Mark Rogers/Matchbox Productions

Does he have much of a personal life? It doesn’t really seem that way.

[Laughs] I’d say no. Especially when we first meet him, he is entirely singularly focused. He’s afraid of what’s coming after him because of what happened in Chicago. He’s landed in this place that he doesn’t want to be without any of the resources that he thought he would have. And now he’s relying on or everything that he does so well, which is basically be all the things to all the people in whatever situation arises. So he’s sort of figuring it out as he goes along.

How does his old life follow him to Clump?

There is an immediate danger. The people he stole money from are very, very interested in getting it back. But not only that, they are interested in avenging the death of their son. They have at their disposal some fairly dangerous people who are able to track him down or try to track him down. And if they were to show up, it would present a real danger, not only to himself, but to all the people that are surrounding him.

Irreverent, Series Premiere, Wednesday, November 30, Peacock

Colin Donnell and P.J. Byrne in 'Irreverent' - The Lord Giveth, and the Lord Taketh Away
Scott Belzner/Matchbox Productions

Mack/Paulo (Colin Donnell) and Mackenzie Boyd (P.J. Byrne)

P.J. Byrne in 'Irreverent'
Scott Belzner/Matchbox Productions

Mackenzie Boyd

Ed Oxenbould and Tegan Stimson in 'Irreverent'
Kane Skennar/Matchbox Productions

Cameron (Ed Oxenbould) and Daisy (Tegan Stimson)

Colin Donnell and Kylie Bracknell in 'Irreverent'
Mark Rogers/Matchbox Productions

Mack/Paulo and Piper (Kylie Bracknell)

Susie Porter in 'Irreverent'
Mark Rogers/Matchbox Productions

Agnes (Susie Porter)