Jack Huston, who was born into Hollywood royalty, stars in “The Romanoffs.” AMAZON STUDIOS
By Karen Butler
“The Romanoffs” star Jack Huston knows a bit about being part of a famous family, but he has always been determined to make his own way as an artist.
“I’m incredibly proud to hold the same name because I think what the family has achieved within this business is sort of remarkable. For generations,” the 35-year-old actor recently told reporters in New York, explaining how when he first started out, people were curious to meet him, but not necessarily eager to hire him.
“On my mother’s side, there is also quite a serious family history and lineage,” he noted. “But it can also be a big hindrance. It’s almost like this weight that’s bringing you down and you find it very hard to do something and to pull yourself out. You don’t want the name to define you, but, at the same time, the name defines you. So, it’s so strange.”
Huston is the grandson of “The African Queen” and “The Maltese Falcon” filmmaker John Huston, an American of Scottish and Irish descent who lived with Jack’s father Tony and his aunt Angelica Huston in County Galway for years. His great-grandfather was the Toronto-born Hollywood actor Walter Huston. (Walter won the best supporting actor Academy Award for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” in 1948 and John won the Academy Awards for best director and best adapted screenplay for the same film.)
Director John, screenwriter Tony and actress Angelica collaborated on the 1987 film version of James Joyce’s “The Dead” and the three appear together in “John Huston and the Dubliners,” a 1988 documentary about the making of the drama.
Born in Norfolk, England, to Tony Huston and his wife, Lady Margot Cholmondelay, Jack Huston is known for his performances in the TV series “Boardwalk Empire” and “Mr. Mercedes,” and in the movies “Ben-Hur,” “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” “American Hustle” and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.” He reportedly will soon be seen in Martin Scorsese’s true-crime story “The Irishman.”
“The Romanoffs” is an anthology series from “Mad Men” mastermind Matthew Weiner. Streaming in its entirety on Amazon as of Nov. 23, it follows various people with tenuous connections to the Romanov royal family that was murdered in Russia a century ago.
Huston plays Samuel, a method actor starring as the mystic adviser Rasputin in a trouble-plagued miniseries about the Romanovs’ final days. Samuel’s leading lady and romantic interest Olivia Rogers is played by Christina Hendrickson and their button-pushing director Jacqueline Gerard is portrayed by Isabelle Huppert.
“There are some things that you’re like, awkwardly: ‘That’s almost too close to home. I’ve seen that happen.’ Certain things like relationships, manipulations,” Huston laughed about how art imitates life here. “This is the perfect example of how bad it could get.”
He added: “You don’t want to come off, in a sense, as kicking your own business. But this is a way of you doing it where you’re giving everyone a wink and a laugh. Everyone can be like, ‘Oh, I can relate to that.'”
Huston said he loved playing two distinct roles in his horror-comedy chapter of “The Romanoffs,” particularly because Weiner was as excited as he was to bring the character of Rasputin to life in the show within the show.
“He was like, ‘Let’s go full Rasputin,'” the actor recalled. “So, we had the wig and the beard and I had these blue contacts, which were so thick and they were painted. They were beautiful. He was mentally, like, the mad monk, the man from another world. He was meant to almost be possessed. Like God was speaking through him, he saw himself.
“One side of it was great, sort of disappearing into that, but on the other side, it was the most painful experience on my eyes with these things in. With all the smoke, my eyes would literally stick open. They’d get glued open. It was horrific. It was so much fun.”