Gary Carr talks pimp survival in The Deuce Season 2

Photo credits: Paul Schiraldi / HBOGary Carr as C.C. Acquired via HBO PR Rep.
Photo credits: Paul Schiraldi / HBOGary Carr as C.C. Acquired via HBO PR Rep. /

It’s hard out here for a pimp in Season 2 of The Deuce. With a time jump into a more progressive era, can C.C. survive? Actor Gary Carr breaks it down for us.

Set amidst the advent of the pornography industry in 1970’s NYC, The Deuce is a series that’s positively stuffed with nuanced and compelling characters. In Season 1, the show tried – and succeeded – in avoiding the typical stereotypes that might plague a less thoughtful version of this story by populating it with voices that amplified the issues of the time in deeply individual ways.

One such voice belonged to C.C., a scrappy pimp working the Deuce who used psychological tactics to control and corral his cache of girls working the streets. Played by Gary Carr (Downton Abbey), C.C. was playful and dangerous, often at the same time. His desire for respect and admiration was undercut by a current of quietly simmering rage. And that rage made him unpredictable. As a result, C.C. became one of the most captivating characters on screen, with several early reviews of Season 1 – including my own - singling Carr out for his magnetic performance.

This season, The Deuce takes a jump in time, moving from 1972 all the way to 1979, skipping forward from the fits and starts of the “Me” decade all the way to the auspicious beginnings of Generation X. Looking back, maybe it should have been Generation XXX, amiright?

With that time jump comes many changes. As sex work has moved from the streets to indoors, street savvy C.C. begins to find that some of his skills don’t translate well to a burgeoning world of business deals and legitimate cash. We talked to Carr about C.C.’s shift in perspective this season, how clothes inform the character, and how there’s always “something wonderful” happening in New York.

Hidden Remote: We don’t get a lot of backstory on C.C. throughout Season 1 of the show. Have you created one, or have you talked to the showrunners about his past? What’s his deal? Why has he chosen this life?

Gary Carr: With C.C. I didn’t ask many questions at all actually. Like everyone else, you have to do research and what I had decided for my character pretty much was an amalgamation. I knew where he was coming from jealousy-wise, and I knew he was from Harlem, and I started to assume what life was like at that time. And you come up with the various outcomes of the life he could have had and the directions he could have gone in.

When it comes to C.C. and his background, there are things in his life that have shaped him. For example, I considered the fact that maybe there are abandonment issues there. He grew up in a lonely household or a single parent household, and I imagine he was making money from a very young age. He probably grew up very poor, and survival was a big thing for him. He’s very good at surviving. He was definitely out there, on his own, from a very young age. And then him being from New York and Harlem with African Americans born at that certain point in time, there are lots of things that I get from the time period.

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HR: You briefly mentioned research. Did you do any research on the time period?

Gary Carr: Definitely. The first thing I do is get into the world of it. So I always sketch everything.

At that time in America, there was a lot happening with race relations in the country. I pretty much read everything from articles, books, publications that were released at that time, and any kind of visual documentary is really great. Visuals work really well, and I love any kind of documentary. And music is great at helping place you in an era or time. It’s cool. And pop culture reflects big moments. The root of all these things, you can see where they come from.

HR: It’s interesting because there are these shifts in culture, especially in New York City, around the 70’s era. And, given the seven-year time jump from Season 1 to Season 2, times are definitely changing on the Deuce. Would you say that C.C. is able to adapt to these new changes?

Gary Carr: Yeah, he has a big part in the story. His question has always been how does he survive now? How does he make the most money? And now it’s the case of how does he survive in the world where the thing he does isn’t needed anymore?

That’s the whole thing. How does he survive? You can constantly see him doing that, almost every scene, trying to adjust. Also, how is he going to make the dynamic between him and his girls work? Who is he really? What psychologically has to shift there? All that stuff comes through.

HR: And, without that guise of protection, who is he to these girls?

Gary Carr: We’ll see him make an attempt to improv and take on different roles or establish himself in a different way, but not with any success. That’s really interesting to watch.

The Deuce Season 2
Photo credits: Paul Schiraldi / HBOGary Carr as C.C.Emily Meade as Lori. Acquired via HBO PR Rep. /

HR: It’s interesting that you were saying that the external way C.C. is perceived is important because this season his clothes get really impressive. The first time we see C.C. in Season 2, he’s in this gorgeous three piece suit made of crushed velvet. How much would you say the costumes inform your character?

Gary Carr: They inform it in a really big way. Not just me as an actor, but C.C.’s actual costume is his uniform and his identity.

As a pimp, clothing is a big deal. They went all out to get a certain aesthetic and their garments represented a lot about who they were. You wanted to be the number one mack daddy, and you have to dress the best and the biggest and the brightest. Nothing was ever too much. And so when I put those clothes on, it puts me in the mindset completely. I feel like I need to step out and be the best. It really helps because it’s another layer, and it’s really cool. Great work from Anna [Terrazas], the costume designer from the show.

HR: We were also talking about C.C.’s relationship with his girls moving forward. In particular, Lori and C.C. have always had this connection since Season 1. Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, how did you and actress Emily Meade build the relationship between those two characters? You have great chemistry.

Gary Carr: We talked a lot about the characters. Me and Emily are actually really great friends. We always kept saying that either one of us could be acting opposite anyone, but it happens to be each other, and we’re so grateful for that. With C.C. and Lori, it’s like we’re hanging out. We’re so protective of each other, and we just really get along. It was just like magic from day one, and we’re really lucky to have each other on this show.

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HR: You currently live in New York City, so you’re pretty familiar with the area. The Deuce is, in essence, an historical show about a specific part of the city about 4 decades in the past. Forty years from now, what sections of NYC do you think we’ll see shows about?

Gary Carr: For some reason I definitely think areas of Queens and the Bronx. These areas have changed so much. New York is so rapid to change though. I do know that the Bronx is changing in a big way. I live in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is always changing. I feel that there’s always something wonderful happening in New York.

The Deuce premieres Sunday, September 9 at 9/8c on HBO.