By Stacey Harrison
It often holds true that a fighter’s toughest bout comes after he hangs up his gloves.
That’s certainly the case with Patrick “Lights” Leary (Holt McCallany), a former heavyweight boxing champ who is the subject of FX‘s new drama Lights Out, which premieres tonight. Leary lost his title by a controversial decision following a particularly brutal fight, and retired immediately afterward because of an ultimatum laid down by his wife (Catherine McCormack). While he’s happy in his mansion taking care of his three daughters, financial troubles brought on by bad investments — including a gym he operates to make his father (Stacy Keach) happy — along with a wounded sense of pride make a return to the ring tempting. Complicating matters further is Lights’ diagnosis of pugilistic dementia, a condition similar to Alzheimer’s, which could be hastened by a few more blows to the head.
For McCallany, who doesn’t hesitate to use phrases like “a dream come true” and “role of a lifetime” when talking about playing Lights, the uncompromising drama offers him a chance to show the world he can go beyond the many square-jawed cops and military men that pepper his long resumé.
“It’s the kind of rare part in which you get to see all the different sides of a character,” McCallany says. “I’m faced with that kind of quandary that a lot of athletes face after they retire. What do you do with the rest of your life? What is the second act? You’re still a young guy. You’ve spent all of these years and all of this time training for this one specific thing, and now it’s over. But you’re still young, and you’ve got all these decades left in front of you, and how are you going to fill that?”
An avid boxing enthusiast, McCallany has been able to meld his love for the sport with his profession on a few occasions, including his portrayal of legendary trainer Teddy Atlas in HBO’s Tyson. For Lights Out, he trained with Atlas and several other boxers to make sure the fisticuffs would ring true.
“The show is really a family drama,” he says. “It’s set in the world of boxing, however. When we do go into the ring, we try to shoot all those sequences as realistically as possible. As much contact as you can do without sending guys home early.”
Photo: Credit: Craig Blankenhorne/FX