(CNN) — The crime thriller “Mayor of Kingstown” could not be described as light, escapist television.
The Paramount+ series, now in its second season, explores themes of corruption, racism and inequality. It follows the McLusky family as they wield power in the fictional Kingstown, Michigan, where incarceration is the town’s thriving industry.
The drama is co-created by Taylor Sheridan, who also created the “Yellowstone” franchise, and producer Hugh Dillon, whose personal experience growing up in a Canadian town with several penitentiaries has helped shape the show.
“I’m interested in the ethical drift, I’m in interested in the desensitization of both the prisoners and the guards and the world,” Dillon, who also plays a detective on the show, told CNN in a recent interview. “That’s the town I’m from. So it has, it leaves an impact and we just dive into it.”
“Mayor of Kingstown” stars Jeremy Renner as the McLusky patriarch and the town’s “Mayor.” Actor Taylor Handley plays his brother.
“You know, a lot of other shows are nice and poetic, ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ punches you in the face and takes your lunch money,” Handley quipped. “While it is dark and it is violent, there’s so much heart with all the characters and you know, you really end up rooting for all these people.”
Though Renner was critically injured in a highly publicized snowplow accident last month, his colleagues said he is as tough as the character he plays on “Kingstown,” “rocking” his recovery.
“I heard from him 24 hours after the accident and he’s on the road to recovery,” Dillon said. “He’s a fighter and he’s just so funny. In the midst of this tragedy, he just wants to put you at ease.”
Handley recently visited Renner at his home.
“It’s crazy to think how big this story is. I mean, granted, you know, Jeremy is a huge personality, huge superstar,” Handley said.
“He’s just on track. I mean, you know, Hugh kind of hit it. He is a fighter and nothing’s slowing him down. He’s from Modesto, where they raise UFC fighters and lumberjacks. The man is just, you know, has got super human blood in him … there’s no stopping him.”
Earlier this week, Renner teased an upcoming project for Disney and joked that he was “in the shop now, working on me.”
Tobi Bamtefa, who plays Deverin “Bunny” Washington on the series, told CNN he is happy to see Renner’s recovery going so well.
“When I heard about [the accident], I was terrified. I was worried for his well-being … we immediately started praying,” Bamtefa said. “I sent him messages and my whole family has been praying for him. It’s good to see he’s on the mend, and we are praying for a stronger comeback from him.”
Meanwhile, the Season 2 sixth episode of “Mayor of Kingston,” which airs Sunday, has Bamtefa at the center.
“I believe the crux of this show is about humanity,” he said. “In this show and in this world of Kingstown, we are watching people placed in very extreme circumstances, it’s a prison town and people make what comes across as dubious decisions. But, within this world, they actually make perfect sense.”
Bamtefa said he sees the goodness in his character on the show.
“My character is the head of a very notorious gang, but he comes across as someone who is actually quite caring about others and his environment, and he has to balance it with living in this world, having a record and a lot of the labels that society puts on him … someone in his position is normally shown quite hard.”
This season, which was completed months prior to Renner’s accident, is likely not the last for “Mayor of Kingstown.” Dillon said he’s confident they’ll be back for a third, although there’s been no official announcement yet from Paramount.
“We’re moving full steam ahead,” Dillon added. “Taylor Sheridan called me last Sunday. I was putting out the trash and all of a sudden my phone rings as Taylor runs down all of season three and he goes, ‘So this is what’s gonna happen!’ And, you know, once you’re on Taylor time, that’s how that works.”
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