Taylor Kitsch on diving into the fascinating role of ‘KOZ’

Taylor Kitsch
Taylor Kitsch behind the scenes on ‘KOZ’

Taylor Kitsch is no stranger to playing roles where he admires the people he plays. And ‘KOZ’—a new Audible Original following the life of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms special agent—is certainly no different. 

The scripted podcast tells the tale of how ATF agent Darrin “Koz” Kozlowski helped pull off one of the largest organized crime busts after he worked his way up undercover through the ranks of LA’s notorious motorcycle gang, the Sangres. Utilizing real audio from Kozlowski himself telling the story, listeners are also brought back to some of the exact harrowing moments in Koz’s time spent undercover, acted out a la Kitsch and a few other noteworthy names (such as Kate Mara and Chris Diamantopoulos.) 

It’s truly the character of Koz, or more so, the actual personality of a real man putting his life on the line multiple times that first drew Kitsch in to the project—and it’s probably what will keep listeners intrigued as well. Audible has mastered the immersive listening experience, and ‘KOZ’ is a reminder of that.

To chat more about the scripted podcast, Kitsch sat down to discuss his character, recording without scene partners, and why listeners should tip their hat to the people at the center of these stories—which sound almost too intense to believe.

Taylor Kitsch
Audible Original

What attracted you to this project in the beginning?

I think it’s more, what wasn’t there to attract me to it? You know what’s funny just being a part of—and not to make it about ‘Waco’ at all—but just getting to know the ATF on that side of ‘Waco’ was interesting. And then a [producer] friend of mine approached this as here’s another true story for you to engage in if you’re up for it. 

I think any time you can do that and there’s a story that’s enthralling to you… I mean here’s a guy that not only infiltrated the Sangres, but also, two other motorcycle gangs. [He’s] the only guy to ever do that, and I’m just fascinated by that. You’ve got a guy who’s trying to balance the best he can while having a kid and then also, literally living two lives. One in LA, and then another a couple of hours outside. That’s fascinating to me to deep dive into that as much as I can. 

What makes this story a good fit for an Audible scripted podcast?

We did the best we [could] with this podcast to make it entertaining, and it’s original. Especially the way we did it, having the real KOZ come in once in a while. That was cool. Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to f*cking work because it could just confuse viewers by hearing me as KOZ and then all of a sudden KOZ comes in. But they did a good job, and it actually works really well, so I was excited about that.

Everything was so fluid from the sound effects to the conversations. What was the recording experience like for you?

Obviously being an actor, you’re reacting off of somebody. So, it’s interesting to be sipping on your f*cking vanilla latte at 8:30 in the morning and trying to figure out the energy for these scenes, you know? Of how big you go or what not. A lot of times, obviously, if you’re in a scene with somebody, it’s just an energy thing. With this, you’re just in a little room fabricating this energy — no one’s actually grabbing me, there’s no gun to my head. So it’s a good exercise.  

How would you describe KOZ as a person?

I met him the first time in person when we did a little promo shoot I think a couple of months ago—so, I had no idea what to expect. I just heard he was this very sweet guy, and I think that’s the beauty of Darrin. He’s kind of just under the radar, and I mean that in the best way. You’ve gotta have ice in your f*cking veins to do that three times—to keep going back into that. A lot of those moments are real. There was no backup, no gun, you’re just in it.

You’re taking these trips, and you’re seeing sh*t and being [in those moments] where [they say] do drugs with us, or the women…everything. He just worked his way around that, and I can’t even imagine that to be honest. How you wouldn’t succumb to those moments… And not just out of vain, but to keep your cover going, you think you would have to do it. He found his way around it and still did an amazing job. 

Did anything stand out to you from the conversations you had with Koz?

It’s funny, the way he talks about everything is more a matter of fact. He’s just like yeah man, this happened and I had a moment where I thought I was going to die, but I kind of just had lucky timing where someone else walked into a room or something else happened… So, I think it’s kind of an amalgamation. 

There’s this moment where he’s being the guard in the club and he goes to that fence and he gets these guys to do a drive-by and he doesn’t get shot—I mean, they were feet away from him, so these are the moments where you are like man, you’re just testing luck… if you want to call it that. But, he’s a really genuinely sweet guy and I think those are the guys that can do that. They can get through it, they’re not abrasive guys, they’re kind of just there and they’re the sneakier guys, you know?

Oh yes, and with everything he does it really makes you wonder what goes through a person’s mind, or what traits they possess to accomplish what KOZ has.

And that’s my job, to break down whatever it is that I’m playing. So I think that’s the main reason why I signed on [because] this is actually pretty f*cking fascinating. It’s crazy, I met him for that shoot and he had all these pictures of Waco—he was an ATF agent during ’93. He was in his late 20s doing that so, I feel it was kind of like oddly, ironically—whatever the way you want to put it, we were meant to kind of meet.

Overall, what do you hope people take away from the series?

I think it’s that you’ve got to tip a hat to a guy that’s done this and brought down a lot of people and you know, saved a lot of lives in that sense. I just respect KOZ immensely. I hope it’s entertaining, and I hope you enjoy the ride. And, I think what stands out most is that there are guys still out there doing this and sacrificing being a part of these kinds of stories.

KOZ drops on Audible Sept. 15.