Anthony Boyle Is About to Be Every Dad’s Favorite Actor

Anthony Boyle first heard of John Wilkes Booth, the actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, on “The Simpsons”. The 29-year-old Irish actor reminisces about the episode: “It’s an episode where Bart is playing John Wilkes Booth and Milhouse is playing Abraham Lincoln and he turns around and says ‘Oh no, John Wilkes Booth,’ and Bart pops a cap in his ass and says hasta la vista baby which left a real imprint on my brain.” It’s funny that years later Boyle, like Bart Simpson himself, is now playing John Wilkes Booth on Apple TV’s “Manhunt,” out on March 15. He jokes that he tried to improv “eat my shorts” a couple times but that didn’t fly.

The miniseries follows Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Tobias Menzies) after Lincoln’s assassination and the 12 day hunt for Booth based on James L. Swanson’s book of the same name. Aside from “The Simpsons” episode, Boyle dove into research on Booth reading his letters which started from when he was a teenager and at first weren’t what Boyle expected. “He started out not disturbing. He started quite funny, and he’s 15 and he’s a wayward kid. And he’s funny. He’s mooning people at fairs. By the time he’s 19, 20, he’s starting to get into pretty racist rhetoric and he’s talking about smashing sticks over people’s heads and watching them bleed. And then by the time he’s 25, he’s just gone. Reading his letters is a real sort of descent into mental illness,” he said.

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The show begins with Booth’s assassination of Lincoln and then follows him when he’s on the lam with David Herold (Will Harrison), so Boyle had to go into some pretty dark emotional places to portray Booth. Collaborating with showrunner and writer Monica Beletsky allowed for Boyle to figure out how they wanted to portray him. “We had many long conversations about Booth,” Boyle said. “Monica and I had to sit down and go, okay, well, who is our Booth? What is the Booth we want to show? I would go back to his letters. He’d written a lot about himself. So I would send passages to Monica. And then she would write something and send it to me.”

Beletsky, who has previously written for “Fargo,” “The Leftovers,” and “Friday Night Lights,” was drawn to telling the story of Edward Stanton because she didn’t want to do another “anti-hero” story. She heaps praise on working with Boyle and the pair would meet before each episode for a couple hours to talk out their portrayal of Booth. “We wanted to capture him in a way that wasn’t glamorizing him, even though anything in cinema is glamorizing to some extent. We weren’t trying to understand him, if that makes sense as a killer, but we wanted to capture him accurately and shed a light on that kind of person. We really leaned into the self-righteousness that comes across in the letters, the violence and the self-aggrandizement,” Beletsky said.


It shows in Boyle’s performance, even in smaller scenes, Booth’s capacity for cruelty and evil comes across in gestures and looks, refusing to hand a guide money because he’s Black or leering at a woman who hides him and David are stomach turning. Episode 3 has Booth and David following a guide to get them to Richmond, Virginia as they are being increasingly hunted down. When they are camped up waiting for their next guide, any small noise or sight could get them caught, including the noise from their horses. Booth first kisses the nose of his horse, then shoots it. In the aftermath, he’s gleefully wild eyed when handing David the gun for his turn, egging him on to shoot the other horse while telling a story about how his mom said he would become a hero. Booth’s delusion says volumes in the one sinister laugh he lets out. Boyle, who is all swooping hair and thoughtful eyes, says that might have been one of the hardest scenes to shoot. “I think it was easier to shoot Lincoln than it was to shoot the horse. I think that was a rough day for not just me, but everyone on set. With Lincoln, you go, he’s the founding father and he’s an actor, but the poor horse, you know what I mean? I didn’t feel great about myself going home after that.”

Playing Booth also had a very physical aspect to it — throughout the 12 day manhunt Boyle’s Booth has a broken leg while on the run and is constantly on a horse. Beletsky mentions that their Booth needed to be someone who clearly was comfortable on a horse—something that Boyle had never done. “He did not know how to ride a horse three weeks before we started filming and was, I would even say slightly timid around horses at that point. We had the most incredible wrangling team teaching him, but also he just took to it so courageously. I was really astounded by Anthony’s talent with doing hairpin turns on a horse three weeks after he had learned to ride,” she said. Boyle went to what he calls “cowboy camp” where he learned how to ride. He jokes that he’s now a bonafide “horse girl” and that he’s still riding horses now. “I loved the horses. I was riding horses a couple days ago since that job. My mate’s, Uncle Jim, tried to sell me a horse three days ago,” he laughed.

Before he was known as the man who murdered President Lincoln, Booth was a stage actor with famous family members—and he was usually stuck playing the sidekick—something that Beletsky wanted to tease out in Boyle’s performance. His wanting to be more famous and well known comes out in the desperation constantly under the surface in Boyle’s portrayal. But at the same time, Booth needed to draw people in. “Anthony is just a super charismatic person, very charming, and I needed that in Booth because obviously someone who could convince a bunch of young men to be co-conspirators has to have some kind of really special appeal as well as his stage persona being so popular,” Beletsky said.

Boyle’s charisma echoes from the Zoom, constantly laughing and joking, and watching his other Apple TV show, “Masters of the Air,” a nine-episode series about the 100th Bomb Group during World War II, the same charm is easily noted. Boyle plays Major Harry Crosby, serving as the heart of the show, where he plays the skilled navigator who is the first to arrive at the base and narrates the entirety of the series. While many of his other co-stars are locked into war, Boyle’s Crosby gets to explore other facets including a sweet romance with Sandra Westgate (Bel Powley) that also highlights his rizz (as the kids say). That’s off the charts especially when he does a Spencer Tracy impression.

Combine that aura with that hair, and it’s safe to say that Boyle is going to be the internet’s new favorite Irish boyfriend soon enough. Having two Apple TV shows within mere months of one another would already be a big year, but Boyle’s 2024 television run is just starting. He’ll have the FX drama “Say Nothing” and the Disney+ Tudor murder mystery “Shard Lake” alongside Sean Bean, who he loved working with and was relieved to be able to have his regular accent. “It was one of my first times doing a Belfast accent again, not having worked in my own voice for years,” he said. “I was always playing Americans or British people, so it was a good crack to do that in a Belfast accent. The majority of the crew were from Ireland or Belfast and all the actors were. So it was a real joy.”

He jokes that he blackmailed Tim Cook to have both “Manhunt” and “Masters of the Air” come out at the same time on Apple TV+, but working on “Manhunt” he did a lot — he learned he could ride a horse, grow a mustache, and got accidentally punched by Tobias Menzies on their few days of shooting together. “The scene, I think it’s in Episode 2. I jumped forward because it was a dream sequence and started shouting at him and he just clocked me by accident,” he said. “That was our first scene we shot together. So I don’t let him forget about that every time I see him.”

He knows he’s, at least at this moment, in his Dad Show-making era, but that’s fine with him. “I’m only ever going to make period pieces for Dads. I only want men above the age of 50 to be fans of my work,” he laughed. “TikTok edits for the over fifties. A lot of Bruce Springsteen, a lot of me on motorcycles. That’s what I want.”

“Manhunt” premieres on March 15 on Apple TV+. “Masters of the Air” also airs on Apple TV+.

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