Kingstown From ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ Isn’t a Real Place (2024)

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan's Yellowstone is probably best known for its stunning visuals—frequent shots of the gorgeous Montana sky and numerous mountain ranges make it a nice show to look at even at times when nothing is really happening by way of plot. And while Sheridan's Yellowstone empire will continue to expand later this year with the spinoff 1883, and rural Americana ranching drama, he's looking to start another world too with Mayor of Kingstown, a show that puts Jeremy Renner at the center of a working-class prison town. Sheridan here chooses to trade in those regal sunsets and horseback rides for concrete walls, mid-tier office buildings, and sedan rides to shady back room business meetings.

Sheridan is expanding his footprint yet again. While his best work at this point must be either the first Sicario (directed by Dune's Denis Villeneuve, exploring futile violence a the U.S./Mexico border) or Hell or High Water (a slow-burn Western focusing on various socioeconomic issues of the modern day), Sheridan keeps looking for modern conversations to find his way into. And with Mayor of Kingstown, his main focus seems to be mass incarceration, and he finds his way in through a story centered on a Complicated Family with roots in the criminal world.

Renner plays the leading role as Mike McLusky, the middle of three brothers who operate in the titular Kingstown, Michigan. As his narration in the opening moments explains, Kingstown's entire being is based on its status as a prison town: 7 prisons, housing 20,000 people, within a 10-mile radius. And as most of the first episode explores, Mike's older brother, Mitch (Kyle Chandler) is known as the "Mayor." He doesn't hold any official title, but he's the most well-connected criminal in town, solving problems for law enforcement officers, guards, criminals, and everyone else in between. He's the guy people go see when they need help getting something done. And Mike is, in essence, his muscle.

To complicate things further? Their third brother, Kyle (Taylor Handley) is a police officer in town, and their mother, Mariam (Dianne Wiest) teaches about subjects like the global slave trade and the true meaning of the Civil War in the town's women's prison. While Kyle lives with Mariam, she wants nothing to do with her two oldest sons and no connection to the corrupt business they take part in.

It's quite the complex set-up, and the first episode of Sheridan's new series takes some time really establishing it. But as you're watching, too, you might be wondering if such a city really exists. And the answer, as you may have suspected, is a complex one: kind of.

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Is Mayor of Kingstown's Kingstown, Michigan a real place?

Kingstown, Michigan is not a real place. Having said that, the Kingstown depicted in Mayor of Kingstown is based on the town where co-creator Hugh Dillon grew up, Kingston, Ontario.

Dillon, who fans of Yellowstone may know as that show's Sheriff Donnie Haskell, came up with the idea for Mayor of Kingstown 10 years ago along with Sheridan, when both were actors trying to get by. Except Kingston, Ontario actually had nine prisons within its confines as opposed to the seven that the fictional Kingstown does. “Growing up in a place like that does something to you,” Dillon said to TV Insider.

According to the Kingston Herald, the town was actually even called King's Town when it was originally named in 1787, in honor of King George III. At its peak, it had 10 prisons in town, and remains to this day one of the highest populated prison towns in all of Canada.

Kingstown From ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ Isn’t a Real Place (2)

The show aims to make the topic of mass incarceration into its primary talking point, and it argues that when life is centered on business dealings around prison—whether that's doing business around it or being incarcerated in one—it can be hard to get away from. Its star understands that.

“He doesn’t want to f*cking be there,” Renner said in an interview with Paste. “[But] there’s the bleakness of the thing, and you don’t know what else to do. This is all you know, in your life, right? When you grew up in a town of prisons where everything in the town is about incarceration… you know, it’s like, what else do you do? Where else do you go?”

As Mayor of Kingstown goes on, it will continue to explore that. Where can Mike go? What can Mike do? We'll have to see.

Kingstown From ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ Isn’t a Real Place (2024)

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