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Bringing Hollywood home: Madison native Denny Love lands role in “Mayor of Kingstown,” will host screening June 7

Denny Love. Photo supplied.

“I’m trying to bring Hollywood home.”

So says Denny Love, who joins the cast of the popular Paramount+ series “Mayor of Kingstown” for its third season when it premieres June 2. The series stars Jeremy Renner as Mike McLusky, the de facto “mayor” of a city where the main industry is incarceration and organized crime runs rampant.

Love, 31, is better known to Madisonians as Denzel Irby, a Madison West alum and 2012 Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC) Youth of the Year. He plays a rookie prison guard in the show – a relatively major character who appears in six of the season’s eight episodes.

Love will host a local premier of the first episode of the season at 6 pm on June 7 at the BGCDC’s McKenzie Regional Workforce Center, 5215 Verona Road in Fitchburg.

“The show involves where the prison world meets the civilian world,” Love said in an interview for the 365 Amplified podcast last week.

Listen to the full interview: 

He said landing this role was “a full circle moment.”

“My father has had his bouts with incarceration throughout my life. And the Boys and Girls Club really saved my life during that time, and kept me level headed and out of the streets …  my father, at this point, has really rehabilitated his life. And he’s incredible. And of course, he’s going to be at the premiere … all of the things he’s been through in his life have actually helped me access the character and the world. And it’s been kind of fun connecting with him and being like, ‘So Dad, tell me about this. Is this true in the story? How did the corrections officers treat you?’ He’s kind of telling me what the real world was like, and it’s been really helpful. He’s in a lot of ways become my adviser.”

Love said the location also helped with his performance, as his scenes were filmed at an actual abandoned prison in Pittsburg.

“It was very easy to get into character,” he said. “You almost felt the spirit of the people who had been there in the roots of that set. So everyday pulling up to say it felt very, very real.”

Momentum interrupted

The “Mayor of Kingstown” role is Love’s largest since the 2019 teen drama “Looking for Alaska,” based on the novel by John Green, earned a big audience and critical acclaim for the streaming service Hulu. That role put Love on the map – but he was largely unable to capitalize due to circumstances outside his control.

“I was so excited because I knew my work on that show was stellar. I felt great about my performance. And I just thought the opportunities would just be like a floodgate,” he said. “But right after Looking for Alaska, the pandemic happened. So the momentum that I thought I had coming off of that show was at a standstill, because the world was at a standstill. So it ended up being really difficult, not being able to utilize that platform and that opportunity to create other opportunities for myself.”

So he turned to his other passion – standup comedy, which he’d already been doing for several years. 

“(The pandemic) really propelled me to just do what was in my control, which was to get up on that stage,” he said. “Stand up was something that ended up taking off for me. I’ve been touring a year and a half now. I’ve pretty much seen that entire country. As an artist, I’ve had to realize that you also have to find ways to be creative outside of someone giving you a job.”

He toured for most of 2023 and wasn’t even really focused on acting when his agent called with the opportunity to audition for “Mayor of Kingstown.” 

The role marks a turning point in Love’s career.

“It’s my first kind of adult role that I’m playing,” said Love, who also has a significant role in the upcoming film “The Duel” starring Dylan Sprouse. “I’m kind of in this weird space where I’m aging out of being (able to play) a teen, but I’m not yet ready to play a father or a more adult (role). I barely got facial hair. This role ended up coming at a perfect time because I think it’ll make people see me in a different light.


Love said the event on June 7 will be more than just watching a TV show.

“I want everybody to just be able to connect and talk and dance and laugh. and then screen the episode, and then we’ll continue with the vibes,” he said. “I don’t want it to just feel like a premiere. I also want it to feel like a cookout. I want everybody to get together and just be able to have fun for something positive.”

Love said anyone in attendance is welcome to make a donation to cover any costs, and any proceeds after expenses are paid will be donated to the BGCDC.

“That’s the place that made it all possible,” he said.

Love said it’s especially important to celebrate in Madison, among friends and family.

“Rarely do I get to celebrate these accomplishments at home,” he said. “You go to premieres in LA with a bunch of people you don’t know. But for me, you know, Madison, the Boys and Girls Club, that’s my home. That’s my foundation. And none of this would be possible without the people holding me up to do this.”