Words by Ms Anna Peele | Photography by Mr Daniel Jack Lyons | Styling by Mr Grant Woolhead.
You’re safe in Mr Murray Bartlett’s arms. A hug from the Australian actor is warm and assured, as comforting in places where physical touch is common as more apocalyptic settings. For example, in The Last Of Us, HBO’s latest hit, a big-budget, fungi-zombie video game adaptation, Bartlett plays opposite Mr Nick Offerman in the series’ virtuosic third episode. It’s a gutting two-hander that took a month to film and runs for nearly 80 minutes. “When we finished [a scene], he would smile and clap his arms around me and make me feel like I wasn’t a jackass,” says Offerman before evaluating Bartlett’s cuddle. “With me, his style is muscular and satisfying.”
The comedian Mr Rory Scovel experienced it for the first time outside a Beverly Hills bathroom at a cast dinner for the second series of Physical, the Apple TV+ show in which he and Bartlett starred, but had never met. “It truly just blew my mind,” he says. “I was like, really? Wow, we’re hugging. We’ve never said hello to each other. We’ve never spoken. And yet here we are in this embrace. There’s these hugs that make you feel kinda like a kid again. You’re protected.”
As we leave the MR PORTER photoshoot, Bartlett envelops a member of his PR team and says, “Love you, bye!” This is not the Bartlett we’ve seen on screen. His breakthrough performance was as Armond in The White Lotus, a hotel manager so fixated on maintaining control that a petty snipe with a guest escalates to total, self-induced ruin. For his work on the series, Bartlett was honoured with an Emmy, Critics Choice Award and an AACTA Award, the Australian equivalent of a Bafta.
Subsequent roles were brilliant variations on the magnetic-but-potentially-dangerous theme. In 2021’s Physical, Bartlett played an aerobics guru with energy somewhere between the flamboyant fitness personality Mr Richard Simmons and Mr Mark Wahlberg’s character in Fear. In Hulu’s true-crime series Welcome To Chippendales, he portrays Mr Nick De Noia, the cocaine-motivated choreographer and producer who took male stripping worldwide, but goaded his business partner until the relationship deteriorated to the point where contract killers were called in to mediate the conflict.
“I was definitely a people pleaser earlier in my life,” he says. “And I just…” He pauses. “I feel like I’m much… I do a much better job of saying what I feel and think when I’m not afraid of digging a little bit… It’s weird that we think of silence as uncomfortable or awkward.”Murray Bartlett
Murray’s greatest (and certainly recent) roles are disruptors. They come into an environment – a fitness studio, a hotel, a strip club – and alter the space. Without spoiling anything, in The Last Of Us, Murray fundamentally changes a situation from “surviving” to “living”.
After 20 years of living in New York City, in late 2019, Bartlett moved with his partner and their lab-border collie rescue, Bo, to Provincetown, a small town on the Massachusetts coast. He wanted to be close to the natural world and he says his partner had a pre-pandemic prophecy: “I feel like something big is going to happen and I don’t want us to be living in the city.” Every day, Bartlett takes Bo for long walking meditations.
“There’s a simplicity to him,” Offerman says. “He has found the answers to what makes life enjoyable in a lot of ways. And those are simple. He lives in a beautiful place near the ocean. He loves books and his dog and his relationship. We always have to remember that everybody’s a human being and we all have to combat the same voices of dissent when we look in the mirror. But he’s made his mirror look awfully attractive.”
Read more mrporter.com / @mrporter
Talent Murray Bartlett @murray.bartlett
Photography Daniel Jack Lyons @danieljacklyons
Styling Grant Woolhead @grantwoolhead
Art Director @material_sam
Fashion Assistant @gerardouzc
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