PJ Byrne And Kylie Bracknell Highlight The 'Storytelling' Of Irreverent - Exclusive Interview

While the idea of starting your life over in a tiny town in a completely different country may sound ideal to those of us looking for a fresh beginning, picking up your life and moving it to an entirely new community is easier said than done. Of course, escaping a mess you've created and fabricating a new identity (as a preacher, no less) is an entirely different feat. Such is the premise of "Irreverent," the anticipated Peacock series starring Colin Donnell, P.J. Byrne, and Kylie Bracknell, dropping on the streaming service today. 

"Irreverent" tells the story of a Chicago-based criminal mediator who is all but forced to leave behind his life and everything he knows to be true for a new start in Australia after a job goes sideways. We're not talking the hub of Sydney, either, but Far North Queensland and a tiny reef community that believes Donnell's character to be Reverend Mackenzie Boyd (name and occupation a ruse, naturally). What unfolds is a comedic, high-stakes game that requires Mack to walk the line between fact and fiction — how do you act as a member of the church when all you've known is a life of crime? It's a feat that Mack embarks on in his attempt to hide from the mob.

Ahead of the show's premiere, we sat down with Byrne and Bracknell — who bring the real reverend, Mackenzie, and the charmer Piper to life, respectively — to get their take on the dynamic storytelling, hilarious wit, and heart that is at the core of the show. Comedy and situational humor certainly ravage the story, but both Byrne and Bracknell revealed that it's the duality of heartbreak and comedy that makes "Irreverent" special.

Both actors reflect on showrunner Paddy Macrae and dynamic storytelling

I had the pleasure of chatting to Colin [Donnell] earlier, so I have a bit of a sense of the community aspect of the show. Your characters are so connected to Colin's Mack in this intricate way. What elements of this twisted, turning story initially attracted you both to the project?

P.J. Byrne: First and foremost, Paddy Macrae, the showrunner, wrote this charming, lovely, fully loaded story. Things that attract me to characters I loved playing, I always say, [are] the totality of a human that has the heart, the humor, and people dealing with horrible situations. So there's no rules. We're just doing a drama. I say one of my favorite shows always was "M*A*S*H." It's wildly funny, wildly heartbreaking, all of that, and I wanted to bring that to this show. And it had it. It had that element of it. 

I wanted to see my character start. He's this lovely reverend; he's childlike. From the first moment, though, he's going to go ... be a new reverend of a new parish in Australia. And at the airport, his wife leaves him. So he's having a crisis of love, which leads to a crisis of faith, and he's completely lost. All the tools of happiness and being positive are not working for him at this moment, and he happens to sit next to a guy who has $1.6 million. And this man on some level says, "God doesn't exist. And if you see something, take it." So he takes that to heart and takes his money. I like that jumping-off point and all the foibles that are going to come with that.

Kylie Bracknell: An unpeculiar angel sent to him.


Bracknell: I loved the fusion. I loved how Paddy Macrae has fused American and Australian, and I'm so intrigued by those stories. I haven't seen anything like this before. I haven't read anything like that at this point of looking at the audition piece, going, "Wow. This is such a great role. I want to play Piper. Hands down, I want to play her. Let's go. Let's get this." The comedy [I] absolutely love. [I] love the seriousness. [I loved] the unpredictability when I was reading the scripts, going, "Whoa, I didn't expect that," [and how it] made you smile straight away and made you want to get into it.

What do P.J. and Kylie want viewers to take from the show?

I liked that you brought up "M*A*S*H." That's such an iconic show. It is such an amalgamation, as you said, of humor and situational comedy but also situational heartbreak. With that crossover, what are you hoping viewers are going to take from that dynamic?

Bracknell: I hope they take a sense of strength from our style of storytelling. Paddy has crafted something so cool. ... It's difficult to describe this. I hope that they take away some of the wonderful humor, that they take away the aspect of not judging a book by its cover, [and] that they take away the aspect of how to tell a great lie and get away with it.

That's the beauty of this and the tapestry of the writing from Paddy and the team of writers — there's something for everyone embedded in this. It permeates, and you can feel it. The frequency of it is so palpable at times. [There's] that sense of community [because] it's set in a small town; it's very close and tight-knit. Loyalty. There's loyalty and heart and humor, which P.J. has referred to a couple of times. There's so much of that in there. 

And when you're put in situations and you're put to that test, what are you going to choose at that moment? Sometimes the stakes are so high that it tests [not only] the character in the show but [also] your character as a viewer of these characters. [You're] putting yourself in people's shoes and going, "Wow. I didn't expect that." Why didn't we expect that? What are we thinking as viewers at the time when we're watching this play out? There's so much you can take away from that.

Byrne: I'll add to that, no matter where you are in the world — we're shooting in Australia; we're kids from America — I like the idea that every home has a story. Everyone is having a great time or struggling with something, and we are all so similar. That's what I hope this show — especially [with] what's been going on with COVID and people feel[ing] like they're alone or struggling with whatever they're going through — [I hope] that this is that warm blanket. If you are alone, [I hope] we're there to go, "We understand the foibles and the struggles that you're dealing with, and we're there to be that warm blanket because sometimes life is hard." 

My favorite African proverb I say all the time [is], "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." Hopefully, we're that show that can pick you up and get you through those tough times.

I'd love to get a quick glimpse of what a day in the life on set was. Rapid fire, what was it like?

Bracknell: Extreme humidity. [It's] really funny, [though it] shouldn't be, at times, watching people deal with that. [There were] tropical juices, great camaraderie, and the wonderful spirit of "Yes, we get to work after this isolation weirdness. This is so good to be back together."

Byrne: I'll leave you with, saltwater crocodiles are real, but the number-one killer in North Queensland is falling coconuts.

"Irreverent" premieres on November 30 on Peacock. All 10 episodes drop at once.

This interview has been edited for clarity.