These are the savvy instincts of an acting natural, and however in need of another 40 winks McNairy may seem, there's never a sense that he isn't precisely where he should be. It's a characteristic in stark contrast to the demeanor of his "Touchy Feely" character, Jesse, the drifting beau of Rosemarie DeWitt's abruptly skin-averse masseuse, Abby.
"I think I'm incredibly distanced from a character like that," McNairy says. "I'm not somebody who's 30 or 31 and lost. I'm very specific in what I want in my life, and I'm going after it, whereas Jesse is more of [the mindset], like, 'Well, whatever happens happens. Who cares?' I personally have never felt that way. I've made decisions, and said "I want this, therefore, I'm gonna go out and get it."
"Scoot's a consistently, insanely believable actor," says Shelton, who also populated her eclectic "Touchy Feely" cast with Ellen Page, Josh Pais, and Allison Janney. "I've admired his work for years and I've longed to work with him. I think he possesses one of the most expressive and watchable faces I've ever seen on screen."
Get used to that face. In addition to "Black Sea," which is scheduled to drop in 2014, McNairy will also soon be seen in "Frank," another Michael Fassbender co-starrer that's "brilliant and weird"; "The Rover," an Australian actioner with Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson; and the aptly-titled "Non-Stop," an airplane-set thriller with Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.
"I feel like I have some really deep, interesting characters in me," McNairy says, "and I've been gaining the courage to really keep shooting for more of those."
Still, McNairy doesn't quite know how those characters will continue to be delivered to viewers. Edwards says, "I really believe Scoot's going to be one of the great character actors of our time, if he wants to be." But is that what McNairy wants? Given the company he's been keeping, surely he's felt the itch of striving to become a Pitt- or Affleck-level leading man.
"I'm not really thinking too much about that," the actor says. "I'm trying to take good scripts, with good stories, and figure out where I fit into those stories. Whether I want to stick with character roles or be a leading man isn't clear, but I think I'm gradually making steps toward being able to make that decision when I get there. Leading roles are something that I think is around the corner for me, but financing is always a very important aspect of that. I don't know if my name is valuable enough at this point that people are going to put $20 million on a film with me as the lead."
Ah, yes—that name. McNairy was actually born with the first name John, which he says his mother still calls him when she's "pissed off" at him. "Scoot" is a variation of "Scooter," a nickname McNairy's father coined when the actor was a boy. By the time he hit adolescence, "Scoot" had stuck, and there was never a consideration to nix it as his stage name. When asked if the Internet is accurate with its claim that the nickname sprung from young McNairy's habit of "scooting around on his butt," he says, "I don't know if that's correct, but it sounds like a fun little story to print."
The name, of course, suggests that McNairy isn't one to compromise. Presumably, there were some handlers somewhere along the line who urged the use of "John," perhaps aiming to shape the actor into something he's anything but: generic. The same unwavering trueness applies to McNairy's chosen digs. For instance, if and when he hits the big time a la his multimillion-commanding co-stars, will this rugged Texan with the get-up-and-go nickname still keep his home down the dirt road, among his 15 neighbors?
"Yeah, sure!" McNairy says. "I love it out there. Every time you go home you feel like you're going on vacation."