You may not know Raymond Barry by name, but I guarantee you’ve seen his face countless times. In addition to being a playwright, an author, and an artist, he is a veteran character actor of film, television, and the stage. His numerous film credits include: Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Man Walking, and Training Day, and he has appeared in such TV shows as: L.A. Law, Frasier, Melrose Place, The X-Files, Alias, and Cold Case. Most recently he began a recurring role on FX’s hit series, Justified, playing Arlo Givens, the outlaw father of a US Deputy Marshall played by Timothy Olyphant. One reviewer wrote of his performance that Barry does “a masterful job showing the layers of complexity in their relationship.” Although he has played a wide array of characters, Hollywood seems to continually knock on his door with requests to play father figures. Luckily, this “go-to dad” had enough time to chat with TVgasm reporter SlifeGoesOn about his impressive 30 year career in LA and where he goes from here.
SlifeGoesOn: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Mr. Hollywood!
Barry: I feel flattered to be working in Hollywood! I didn’t come out to LA until I was in my late 40′s. I’d primarily done stage work in New York City, and I think I did something like 80 Broadway plays.
SlifeGoesOn: Hmm. According to my research, I think you’ve done closer to 100?
Barry: Did I? Maybe I did!
SlifeGoesOn: Don’t sell yourself short!
Barry: (chuckles) You lose track after awhile! I was averaging about 4 plays a year. I would do plays in the park, I would travel to Europe every year and do open theater. I even did theater workshops in prisons! But on the cusp of doing my first movie, Year of the Dragon, I felt burned out on theater and decided it was time to make movies.
SlifeGoesOn: What was that transition like for you?
Barry: I had never made a lot of money before. I had never been oriented to it. Living in New York had always sort of been hand to mouth. Then within three years after moving to LA, I went from making $35,000 a year to making a million! It was crazy! I bought a house, I put my daughter through college, I got married, and I had three more kids! So, LA has been very generous to me, and I’m grateful for living the good life.
SlifeGoesOn: So, you’d pick TV over Broadway any day?
Barry: (pauses) Not any day … I mean, I did get my start in theater. Eugene O’Neill’s play “Desire Under The Elms” was a significant role for me because I got to play the lead! If the right part came up, I would do it. Maybe King Lear?
SlifeGoesOn: You are also an accomplished painter?
Barry: Oh, yes. I love painting. I started at twenty-four, and I never stopped. Then I started writing plays at thirty-five, and I never stopped. When I do something and I thoroughly love doing it, I vow not to stop!
SlifeGoesOn: So that’s why you have so many kids!
Barry: (laughs) I love them all, but I think after four, I’m done! Four’s a good number. It’s an expensive number, too! I’m 71 after all!
SlifeGoesOn: Well, it’s no wonder then that you are Hollywood’s “go-to father.” How does that notable distinction grab you?
Barry: I have no qualms with it whatsoever! I understand fatherhood, and it means I get to work with all the stars! Benjamin Bratt, Tom Cruise, Timothy Olyphant, Kathryn Morris … they’re all great! But more importantly, they’re just great roles. I loved doing Born on the Fourth of July. And Return to Paradise was a terrific role, too!
SlifeGoesOn: People may not know your name, but they know your face. How often do you get recognized?
Barry: I just did an episode of Law & Order in New York two weeks ago, and people on the street recognized me! A guy on the subway even shook my hand! So that was really neat. A lot of people come up to me and [do my line from the movie Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,] “The wrong kid died!” And I enjoy every minute of it! I love being recognized for my work!
SlifeGoesOn: You also played Matthew Fox’s grandfather on Lost. How does it feel to be a part of such a world-wide pop culture phenomenon?
Barry: Honestly, it felt the same as any other show. I had worked with the producer before on Alias, and I think they were gonna do more with the character, but they just ended, right?
SlifeGoesOn: (chuckles) Yeah, they just had an epic five and half hour finale last week.
Barry: The show’s notoriety didn’t effect me at all! I do remember that it was my first “grandpa” role, though. So, I was NOT too fond of that! (laughs)
SlifeGoesOn: You have played such a wide array of roles: senators, criminals, generals, doctors, reverends … What has been the most fun or rewarding?
Barry: Oh, that’s hard! I’m not a workaholic, and I just like to have fun with it. It’s really a gas to be so many different types of characters. I was in The Chamber, and then I followed that up with Flubber, which is kind of the antithesis of what I’d been doing a month before! It’s kind of like playing in a sandbox. And that’s what life should be. When we become grown-ups, we lose that sense of “play.”
SlifeGoesOn: Well, speaking of grown-ups, congratulations on getting picked up for a second season of your very adult show, Justified! How does that feel?
Barry: It feels great to still be working, and still kicking ass! Arlo Givens is a great role. He’s a violent drug smuggler, but he’s also very charming, and there’s a lot of great built-in conflict with his son. I love the actors and the writers, and I love being identified with a hit!
SlifeGoesOn: Do you feel any pressure to maintain such a high level of quality?
Barry: Any pressure that I feel is from within. I know I’m good, and I just want to keep that level up. I’m not a complacent actor.
SlifeGoesOn: How would you compare network television with cable?
Barry: The networks are chicken! Thank god for FX! They are one of the most courageous networks out there right now. There’s no doubt that they simply have better material, and I love that they go along for the ride!
SlifeGoesOn: What do you think of your co-star, Timothy Olyphant?
Barry: He is a relaxed, naturalistic actor who is extremely intelligent. He has the balls to say when the writing can be better, and he has the balls to say to me to try something new. I guess because I’m old I’m treated with respect by everyone, but I do greatly appreciate his willingness to collaborate. You can never lose anything by listening, and he’s often right! He’s much smarter than I am! (chuckles) I know he’ll go far!
SlifeGoesOn: What about your other sexy co-star, Natalie Zea?
Barry: Is she the blonde one?
Barry: Oh, she’s wonderful! She’s very cool. You know who else is great? The actress who plays my wife on the show! We have a great chemistry together.
SlifeGoesOn: What will you be doing during your hiatus between seasons?
Barry: Well, I’ll be rehearsing one of my own plays, probably in New York. I also have a film that’s about to be released called Hamill. It’s about a college wrestler who is deaf and I play his father.
SlifeGoesOn: (laughs) Shocking!
Barry: (laughs) Right? Let’s see, I’m also writing a short story. And my eighteen year old just got accepted to Andover on a basketball scholarship, so we’ll be doing the whole summer college tour.
SlifeGoesOn: Wow! Congrats again!
Barry: Thanks! We may go to Italy for a few weeks in August, too. My father-in-law bought a castle there that was built in 1540. It has 65 rooms!
SlifeGoesOn: Double wow! I’m super jealous!
Barry: You should be! (laughs)
SlifeGoesOn: Does he want to adopt me?!
Barry: You know what’s funny? I’m 71 and he’s 75! And he calls me “son!” How cool is that?
SlifeGoesOn: For Hollywood’s resident go-to father, it must be a nice change of pace to be a son again!
Barry: (laughs) It really is!