American Rust Season 2: Billy Poe’s Journey – Alex Neustaedter Interview

by | May 23, 2024

Dive into our exclusive interview with Alex Neustaedter as he shares insights on Billy Poe's transformative journey in American Rust Season 2: Broken Justice. Explore themes of resilience, redemption, and the powerful character development that define the new season.
In the highly anticipated second season of American Rust, subtitled “Broken Justice,” fans are reunited with Billy Poe, a character whose resilience and determination are put to the ultimate test. Our Feature and Talent editor, Sofia Deus, had a chat with actor Alex Neustaedter to discuss the profound transformation Billy undergoes after a life-altering coma. Four months post-coma, Billy’s struggle to regain his physical strength mirrors a deeper, soul-searching journey. As Billy embarks on gruelling rehabilitation and reconstructs his life, viewers can expect a season filled with emotional depth, renewed relationships, and an inspiring quest for redemption. Neustaedter shares insights into Billy’s evolution, the challenges of portraying such a multifaceted character, and the rewarding experience of working with a talented cast and crew, all while highlighting the powerful themes of hope and resilience that define this season.


Photography @Storm Santos


SD – Congratulations on the upcoming see second season of American rust, Broken Justice. How has your character Billy Poe evolved since the first season? And what can viewers expect from him this time around?

AN – In the second season, we catch up with Billy about four months after he comes out of his coma. The time really took its toll on him physically. When he wakes up, he’s shocked to find himself so weak, and his right side isn’t responding like it used to. It’s a long road to get back on his feet, literally. He’s in for serious rehab to just do the basics like walking again. He dives headfirst into surgeries and pushes through the grueling rehab process. It’s not just about getting his body back in shape; he’s doing a lot of soul-searching during this downtime. He starts to realize just how much he sacrificed for his buddy Isaac, risking it all to help him chase his dreams.

As he gears up for a fresh start in the new season, Billy’s feeling hopeful. He’s surrounded by his loved ones again, including his true love and some newly rekindled friendships. Regaining his mobility isn’t just about physical recovery for him; it’s a sign that he’s getting back on track with his life’s purpose and ready to chase after his dreams with everything he’s got. Throughout the ups and downs, we see Billy’s resilience.

SD – American Rust Broken Justice delves into complex themes and characters. What drew you to the role of Billy Poe and how do you relate to him?

AN– Billy’s character has been an interesting journey for me right from the start. What drew me in was the underlying goodness beneath that fiery exterior, especially in how he relates to his loved ones, versus those who test him. Exploring Billy’s growth across the two seasons has been incredibly fulfilling as an actor. His storylines are a rollercoaster of emotions, showing his evolution from intense passion to vulnerability and resilience. Being someone who shares his passion for football and understands the weight of responsibility it carries, I definitely felt a deep connection to Billy.

Growing up in a smaller town like Billy did, resonated with me, even though our personal backgrounds differ. The authenticity of the setting added depth to the role. However, portraying Billy’s physical transformation from a strong football player to a frail man in the second season posed a new challenge. It demanded commitment to capture both his athleticism and his struggle with mobility. Delving into Billy’s psyche and portraying his journey has also been incredibly fulfilling as an actor. It speaks to the depth of storytelling and character development in the series. Getting to portray such a multi-dimensional character has been both challenging and rewarding, pushing me to explore the human experience through Billy’s eyes.


Photography @Storm Santos


SD – Working alongside acclaimed actors, like Jeff Daniels, and Maura Tierney must be a fantastic experience, what has been the most rewarding aspect of collaborating with such seasoned performers on set?

Working alongside talents like Maura Tierney and Jeff Daniels has been incredibly inspirational for me. I’ve admired both of them from a young age, whether it was Jeff’s work in “Newsroom” and in “Dumb and Dumber,” or Maura’s in “ER” and her indie film work. Being on set with them, I become like a sponge, soaking up every bit of insight and expertise they offer. “ER” was a big part of my upbringing, a show I shared with my mother, so collaborating with Maura holds special significance for me. Seeing their dedication and focus on set inspires me. They have a knack for bringing out the best in everyone around them, creating an environment where creativity thrives. Whenever I get the chance, I try to ask questions and learn from their wealth of experience. Working alongside such greats not only improves my craft, but also motivates me to push my boundaries.

SD – Philip Meier’s novel serves as a foundation for the series. How does the adaptation process influence your approach especially in the context of the setting?

In the first season, we stayed pretty close to the book’s storyline, which was a big draw for me, especially when it came to Billy’s character. The book’s ability to dive deep into each character’s mind allowed for a rich exploration of their perspectives and emotions. Every chapter gave a different angle, shedding light not just on the character in focus but also on how others see them. As an actor, this approach was gold. It helped me grasp not only how my character sees himself but also how he’s viewed by others. It added layers to the performance and gave a fuller picture of the character dynamics. But even though we stuck close to the book in the first season, there were some differences. These variations opened up avenues for exploration and interpretation, making the character development even richer. The second season was a whole different ball game. The writers had complete freedom to break away from the book. That sparked new ideas and opened the story up to unexpected plot twists. Building on the book’s foundation, the second season took us into uncharted territory. Going from the structured framework of the novel to the creative freedom of the second season was a wild ride for everyone involved. It showcased the adaptability and versatility of storytelling, all while paying homage to the amazing source material that set the stage for the series.

SD – Transitioning from American Rust to your role as young actor in the patient of Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us, is quite a shift. Can you tell us about your experience working on different projects and challenges each presented?

AN – Starting a new project feels like wiping the slate clean, ready to fill it with new experiences; different people, places, and characters, each with their own unique story to share.

After wrapping up season two, I took some time to unwind before diving into my character, “young Atlas.” Set in Maine, a place I’d never been before, I saw an opportunity to go on an adventure while preparing for the project. Living out of a teardrop trailer, I went on a road trip through the Northeast, soaking in the beauty of the coastline and delving into the heart of Acadia, absorbing the landscape and essence of the region. This process of soaking it all in fueled my creativity and allowed me to fully immerse myself in the world. At the same time I found myself deeply empathizing with Atlas’s struggles, especially his displacement and the toll of ongoing violence on his life. Witnessing young Lily’s resilience in the face of adversity was a powerful reminder of the beauty that can blossom even in the darkest of times. Working on this film wasn’t just a creative endeavor; it was a journey of empathy and understanding that left a lasting impression on me.

SD – Your journey in acting began at an early age. You’ve worked on various projects across film and television, how has your approach to acting evolved throughout your career, particularly in your portrayal of complex characters?

AN – What really motivates me in acting is the journey of discovery it brings. Each character I dive into lives by that motto; there’s never one right way to tackle a role. Acting, to me, is like a never-ending learning curve, always throwing new lessons and opportunities my way with every project.

There are times when my real life blends with my acting gigs, reinforcing my belief that things just happen the way they’re supposed to. I’ve picked up some real gems from the characters I’ve played, applying them to my own life and experiences. Through a bunch of trial and error, I’ve figured out what clicks with me best, loving the freedom to experiment with different approaches without feeling tied down to one way of doing things.

I’ve got my go-to methods when it comes to handling scenes and scripts, but I feel that each character needs a unique spark and a personalized approach to really understand and connect with them.

Teaming up with other actors is where it really comes together. Everyone brings their own flavor to the scene, you know? Being open on set is key, finding that sweet spot between the preparation and the spontaneity during a scene. Embracing the unexpected twists of the creative process is where the magic really happens. To me, the best part of acting is this back-and-forth. Where it feels like play.


Photography @Storm Santos


SD – In addition to your acting career, you have a passion for sports and outdoor activities. How does this affect your approach to acting? And do they influence the roles you choose to take on?

You know, in my life, I see a lot of connections between the stuff I love doing outside of work and the lessons they teach me. It’s this constant challenge that keeps me coming back for more. A lot of the sports I play now are solo driven, meaning its often me vs myself. Trying to get better, to push myself more, all while dealing with nature. Which is the most humbling because nature always wins.

Whether its surfing, rock climbing, snowboarding, snowboarding, fishing—all those activities. They’ve all got their own way of telling you to slow down and just be there in the moment. And as an actor, those lessons are gold. They remind me to stay grounded and not get hung up on expectations because there will always be adversity along the way. It’s all about rolling with it and growing from it.

SD – American Rust: Broken Justice explores the American Dream through a greedy lens. What do you hope viewers can take away from the series, particularly in relation to your character’s journey?

This season really dives deep into the whole idea of confronting your past to move forward—a concept that hits home for Billy and other characters. No matter how hard you try to outrun your history, it will catch up with you sooner or later, forcing you to deal with it.

Facing up to trauma and dealing with painful memories is no joke, but it’s crucial for growing and healing. Every character handles it in their own way, but for Billy, it’s a real uphill battle, one that hits close to home for me, too. This season really hammers home the idea that sometimes you have got to face your demons head-on, even when it feels like too much to handle.

What do you find when you scratch beneath rust on the surface? A lot of characters might seem all beat up and worn out on the outside, but they’ve got this inner strength and toughness deep down that just won’t quit. Even when they’re struggling, they’re still holding on to love and connection, showing that the human spirit can weather any storm. And what does it take for someone to truly reach their breaking point? This theme really taps into something deep and universal about all of us. It’s a reminder that beneath our struggles, there’s this well of strength and potential just waiting to be unleashed—a message that I hope hits home for audiences on a gut level.

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