If you've been watching HBO lately, you know that Lester Grimes on Vinyl is one of the most interesting characters on television, partially because it seems as if we've barely scratched the surface with him. The series, which has already been renewed for Season 2, introduced Lester via flashback. His relationship with Richie Finestra, the lead character played by Bobby Cannavale, is key to the series — and actor Ato Essandoh teases that it's only going to get more tense between the two.
Lester Grimes is a blues singer and guitar player who Richie meets in his early (and not jaded) years and signs to his label. When Lester tries to back out of his deal, he gets beat up by the mafia and ends up losing his voice completely. Now, after unrelated circumstances reinvigorate Richie into wanting to make amends and shake up the music industry, he approaches Lester with the desire to release his record and make things right. However, he may have started a bit of a feud by doing so.
"I try to model [Lester] as a pure musician," Essandoh says. "Somebody who is, at least in the beginning, unblemished by the nastiness of the business — or of any business. So his fall and what Richie does to him, I think, is much more devastating when it's done to somebody who is innocent and who is hopeful."
There's clearly a long history to Richie and Lester's relationship that we only get glimpses of in the pilot via flashback. As the series progresses through Season 1 and into Season 2, their relationship is only going to get more complicated. "When we meet we become friends and we bond over the music that we both love," Essandoh says. "It's one thing to betray a business interest, but it's another thing to betray a friendship; and that's what happens. So I think what you're going to see is Lester coming to grips in some way with that along with Richie and figuring out how they can go forward from here. And it's not gonna be pretty."
We've already seen the beginnings of that on the show. In a lot of ways, Lester Grimes represents Richie's past on Vinyl, while Kip Steven and the Nasty Bits (the raw rock band currently being courted by American Century Records) represent the future. So the fact that Lester chose to manage this fledgling band in Episode 4 makes things even more interesting, and shifts the power dynamic between him and Richie a bit. The worlds are colliding. Lester is savvier about the business now and taking control of his own future, despite not having a voice. He might be the real hero of Vinyl — we'll just have to wait and see as Season 1 continues to air on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Image: Macall B. Polay/HBO; HBO