Drug-dealing Mennonites take center stage in ‘Pure’

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Grizzled men trafficking drugs is hardly a new TV trope — think “Breaking Bad” or “Narcos.” But the twist for “Pure” is a doozy: drug-trafficking Mennonites.

The new WGN America series follows a drug ring in the unlikely setting of a community of Canadian Mennonites, a strict religious sect with a low-tech lifestyle similar to the Amish.

Alex Paxton-Beesley (“Murdoch Mysteries”) stars as Anna, the wife of Mennonite pastor Noah Funk (Ryan Robbins, “Arrow”), who reluctantly gets involved in drug-trafficking. AJ Buckley (“Justified”) co-stars as Bronco Novack, a cop who’s faced with the challenge of taking down such an impenetrable operation.

“What was interesting … was that the [Plautdietsch language that Mennonites] spoke — you can’t Google it, you can’t find much about it. It’s this unwritten language,” says Buckley, 41.

“And because the Mennonites didn’t use electronics, cell phones, etc., if you did get them on tape, what were they saying?”

The show is mostly in English, but Mennonite characters occasionally speak Plautdietsch (which is subtitled onscreen).

Paxton-Beesley dove into researching the Mennonites to prepare for her role, watching documentaries and reading books.

“I did and am continuing to do a ton of research,” she says.

“I don’t think that’s a journey that can ever have an end, especially when you’re investigating something as old and complex as this world. It’s a continuous process. We also had a consultant who has guided us on the more minute things, like … colloquialisms.”

One small detail she worked on was her physical intimacy with co-star Robbins.

“We wanted to establish a physical language,” she says.

“How much a married couple would be physical with each other versus the way they’re physical with their children. With the kids it’s much freer and easier and loving. For us, it’s more conservative in the way we touch, but it’s very meaningful when it does happen.”

Since Buckley’s character is not a Mennonite, his preparation was different, but no less intensive. Bronco goes through a redemptive transformation through the show and Buckley wanted to reflect that in his appearance.

“When you first meet Bronco, he’s in bed with a hooker and he’s an alcoholic. There’s that degenerate cop that’s never really done anything big in his life,” he says.

“Physically, I wanted to show this change of focus. I tried to put on as much weight as I could before getting out [to the Nova Scotia-based production]so I was eating bowls of ice cream and pizza before going to bed. It was awesome!”

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