For many, First Cow will be an introduction to John Magaro. In Kelly Reichardt’s sensual western from the 1820s, the actor – whose previous credits include Oscar-winning actress Carol and the Netflix prison drama Orange Is the New Black – plays Cookie, a gentle soul with a knack for baking sweet, nostalgic treats. When he meets King-Lu (Orion Lee), a sailor on the Lam, the two develop a friendship that forms the heart of the film.
Speaking to NME about the film’s release, Magaro shared his introduction to milking cows, why cooking is more relaxing than smoking weed, and details on his next film: David Chase’s long-awaited prequel to The Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark .
Hello Johannes! Critics rave about First Cow – did you always know it was going to be a hit?
“When I got the script for First Cow, it really jumped off the page. I don’t think much has changed since I first read the script; [director] Kelly Reichardt’s vision was always there. [From watching her early films]’I noticed the courage she has as a filmmaker. She is ready to have all of these scenes shown from a distance where the dialogues are almost whispered. I thought, ‘Jesus, this director has courage.’ I was really excited to just sit down and talk to her. “
How would you describe your character Cookie?
“He’s an outcast. He lives in a rough, difficult world where ultra masculinity seems to prevail, and he doesn’t belong there. But he doesn’t have many options, and there is a chance to make money and maybe a chance to find something new. So he takes the risk of going out there, and luckily he finds King-Lu, another outsider to connect with. “
Magaro alongside Orion Lee in the new western. CREDIT: A24
How committed are you to the Cookie lifestyle?
“I’ll say I’m not too methodical, I think this term is used too liberally with actors. What brought me to Cookie was cooking. During the shoot, I cooked in the style of this world. Before that, I worked my way through 19th century cookbooks.
“We were also very fortunate to film in these pristine forests in the Pacific Northwest. Much of the forest up there is less than 100 years old. So if you step into this world right away, you will be put back in cookies time. We saw deer that were not afraid of people and they came right up to us and let us touch them. “
How would you describe your milking skills?
“I’m a city boy so I’ve never milked a cow before, but it’s pretty easy. Other people have said it was difficult, but luckily [bovine co-star] Edie was a very sweet and gentle cow. We built a really nice bond, mostly through bribery. I would give her apples and carrots, things like that. “
John Magaro in “First Cow”. CREDIT: Allyson Riggs / A24 Films Film
How is your relationship with food?
“I think if you’ve been on set for weeks or months, cooking is a meditative way for me to relax instead of coming back and smoking some weed and getting drunk. So I’ll come back and prepare a meal. “
What do you like to cook best?
“I recently made homemade ramen and tonkotsu broth. But my wife would say Italian because that’s my roots. I can make a pretty mean pasta. “
Michael Gandolfini as the young Tony Soprano in the new prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark”. CREDIT: Alamy
You play a younger version of Silvio Dante in Soprano’s prequel The Many Saints of Newark. What can we expect
“I was and still am a huge Sopranos fan; I had the poster on my wall in high school and I looked at it every Sunday night. At the time I was like, ‘Wow, this is a cool mob show’ but now I see that it’s obviously so much more.
“Then I met David Chase in a film we made a few years ago about rock and roll from the 60s [Not Fade Away] and we got very close. He’s like a father figure to me. I know it was hard for him to get back into the world of The Sopranos, but the script brings a lot of the dark humor, silliness and sociopolitical commentary of the show to this film. “
What happens in the film?
“It’s partly about Tony Soprano’s roots – Michael Gandolfini plays one of the versions of young Tony, and he’s great at it. The real focus, however, is on Dickie Moltsanti (played by Alessandro Nivola), the father of Christopher Moltisanti [one of the series’ main protagonists].
“I’ll say that for those of us who have had to play established characters, that was a huge burden on our shoulders. We know how much these characters mean to people. I think anyone who plays these characters is really doing a favor, and I hope the fans don’t feel let down by this. “
‘First Cow’ is now in UK theaters and on the MUBIBI streaming platform starting July 9th