How about your days in high school?
BC Well, the only things I paid attention to were
literature and history. Other than that, I hated school. We used
to go over to Texas Tech and watch the theatre rehearsals all the
time. It was a lot more fun than school.
After high school, I went to Texas Tech. Of course theatre was what
I enjoyed and pretty much all I did. When I was 19 I got the job
playing Falstaff and did a pretty good job!
There was a
story that went around campus that I was living in a dumpster, and
that story was not strictly true. I did sleep in a dumpster, but
I didn't live in it. See, there used to be greenhouses by the old
library - not the library that is there now - and every day they'd
dump their flowers in there. And it smelled real nice. It wasn't
like I was nestling down in something that smelled like sour milk.
It was flowers. So I'd crawl in there and take a nap between classes.
And no one would have known except one day the truck came and picked
up the dumpster and emptied it while I was in there. So I got dumped
into the garbage truck.
What happened after you left Texas Tech?
BC My brother and I went into the Marine Corp
together. Wasn't exactly the smartest thing I've done, but we got
through it. I spent most of my time sunny California at Camp Pendleton.
After I was discharged, I came back to Texas and worked in theatres
around the area.
Well, I decided
I that had to leave Texas to pursue my acting career. Anyway, I
headed up north to New York via Chicago, North Carolina, Madison,
Wisconsin and other places.
I finally got
to NY and found out that an off-Broadway play didn't pay squat.
I was driving an old Ford Wagon and sleeping in it half the time.
Anyway, I did get to do a lot of work - strangely enough a lot of
it was Shakespeare. I moved down to Alabama for a while around '72,
then moved back up to the Big Apple.
summer of '79, I got a shot at auditioning for the role of Uncle
Bob in "Urban Cowboy" It went pretty well and I got the
role. That was the one that pretty much set my film-acting career
in motion. There were a couple of pretty good roles that came up
right after that in "Any Which Way You Can" and "Stir
Wasn't that about the time you started on "Dallas" too?
BC Yes. It was kind of strange. They were looking
for a very specific look. Someone that could get in JR's face and
make it real. So I got the part. And things started taking off after
that. We did some movies with Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood and
all of the big names in Hollywood back then.
we did "War Games" It was a pretty big hit for all of
us. My part was General Beringer - apparently the Director, John
Badham, thought I reminded him of his dad who was an Air Force General.
I guess that
movie had one of more memorable lines. Matthew Broderick was working
on some computers trying to save the world and I ad-libbed the line
"God damn it! I'd piss on a sparkplug if I thought it'd do
any good! Let the boy in there, Major." We had'em rolling in
we've done a bunch of TV movies, features and TV shows, from M*A*S*H
to Hill Street Blues to Matlock. And then in 1989 we did "Lonesome
Dove". I probably hear about that show from more people than
any other one I was on. And we had a lot of fun making it.
And since then
we've done a whole lot of character roles - and then came "Northern
Exposure". I didn't really want to do a series. Most of them
are pretty much just rehashing the pilot. But the writing was so
superior to other pilots; we decided to take the 7-year contract
for this show. It worked out pretty well.
Well, I'd say so, you got an Emmy nomination
as "Best Supporting Actor"!
BC I've got a funny story about that too. Universal
was being cheap then and didn't pick up any expenses for the Nominees,
so my daughter and I decided to come up to the building where the
were having the awards…riding horses!" We didn't win,
but we had one heck of a night!
series cancelled in the mid 90's and I've been doing a lot of character
work ever since. Did a short stint on a show called "The Big
Easy" that wasn't too far from home, just over a piece in New
I've also been
doing a lot of work for different organizations that I'm involved
with, working with my horses and my grandkids. Tricia, I've got
to tell you, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. Life has
been good to my family and me.
I can see why! Barry, do you have any words of wisdom for those
wanting to go into your line of work?
BC Henry Fonda one time said that every time he
had a job, he thought it was gonna' be the last one. And, if you
got any sense, you gotta' think that because, you know when somebody's
gonna do a dip, some of 'em go pretty far down. So, it's not like
having any other kind of a job where you have a natural progression.
You just don't have it in this business. A lot of people are very
successful - very young children, very young adults, but when the
children's voice changes, they're out of work. They've got to build
a whole other reputation. Most people don't do it, most people can't
do it, unless you're a Shirley Temple, you know. She's a very successful
person, but not in show business.
Barry, you seem to have a really nice family. How many kids do you
BC Yea, I've got 4 kids from 36 to 18, and a ton
of grandkids from 3 - 19.
Well, it certainly doesn't sound like you missed a beat!
Barry, you know, while I was reading your biography, there was a
note about the NAAF Conference. Can you tell me a bit about that?
It's the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
In a nutshell, it's an autoimmune disorder that causes people to
lose their hair. Some people lose all their hair; some people lose
part of their hair. I lost part of mine, not all of it. Some of
those people didn't have any eyelashes, eyebrows, anything.
Bald-headed people don't understand what it is and they see somebody
without any hair, and it makes you look different. For kids, that
becomes a very difficult thing. For some adults it becomes very
difficult. It just never did bother me that much. About five years
ago, I noticed my hair was going and it wasn’t a big deal,
but some have a real hard time accepting it and what's worse, their
friends and co-workers have a hard time accepting it. For example,
when I started losing my hair, a rumor went around that I was taking
chemotherapy and I was sick. And that's not a good thing to have
in our business.
complaint is and the perception of the people that are doing the
hiring. Somebody asked me if I had lost any jobs as a result of
the hair loss, and I said "Yeah, probably, but I probably wouldn't
want to do them anyway."
But, the thing of it is, a lot of people, when they get something
to make them look odd to other people, they retreat rather than
come out and say what it is, and so that makes it worse on them
physiologically. I said "Now, anybody asks you about it, anybody
looks at you funny, tell them what you have, not only tell 'em what
you have, tell 'em it's not catching You're not gonna' catch it
from me. You might catch it from your own body, 'cause that's what
causes it, but you're not gonna catch it from me."
Barry, I’ve got a question. If you could sit down and you
could talk to anyone, who would it be?
BC Oh, gosh, that would depend on the mood I'm
Let's just say if you're in a happy mood, who would you talk to?
BC I'd want to talk to Will Rodgers, Benjamin
Franklin and Mark Twain and I'd definitely like to talk to Jesus
to see if he was as nice a fella' as they say he was. Yeah, I'd
kinda' like to talk to him.
Barry, have you encouraged your grandson Jordan to pursue acting?
BC He never did ask my opinion on it, he just
told me he was gonna' do it. You know, anybody that's gonna' do
that, if they've got to have validation from somebody else, they
better not do it.
I had a college professor who kept trying to get me to get a teaching
certificate so that I could teach or do something so that I'd have
something else that I could do. And he kept discouraging me to try
and do this professionally. Well, about 20 years later I saw him
and I said "why did you always discourage me?" He said
"because if I could discourage you, you'd be discouraged."
And the reason
for that is, if you think about it, the best level of a normal life,
a doctor, lawyer, salesman, anything. You will go out and get a
job, you might be turned down three or four times, but you'll get
a job. And for the most part, you're gonna stay with that job for
your whole career, maybe you'll change once or twice. Most people
might be rejected four, five, six, eight, ten times in a lifetime
and that can be tough to handle. For an actor, you're rejected eight
or ten times a day.
got to sell is yourself. You're not selling products, they're not
turning down a car, they're turning you down. Most people can't
handle that. Most people are essentially not set up that way. It’s
sort of like the priesthood, you don't choose it, it chooses you.
No matter how good you are, you got to have enough humility to observe
other people, we're all observers. You got to have the egotism to
say what you've got to say. Nobody else can say it as well as you
can. You've got to be a peculiar type of person to do this. If you're
not that kind of a person, then you better do Community Theater
and just enjoy it!
In a way, you
have to re-invent yourself. None of us wants our work to be boring.
Every human being in the world has a public persona and private
persona, and, sometimes we don't know the difference, but we've
all got it.
Usually, when somebody who's in the public eye a lot, goes out say,
to the grocery store, you've got to consider that you're probably
gonna talk to 30-40 people. If you don't feel like talking to 'em,
you better send somebody else. Because if you get nasty with one
of 'em, he's gonna say "see that guy on television, he's mean."
Now, their friends are gonna say it to ten other people…."that
guy was mean to my friend." Pretty soon the word gets around
that you're a jerk. So you've got to have a public persona which
is what you present to the people who watch you, which is not too
different from what you play on television, film, stage, wherever
Well, I don't see that you are any different by meeting you in person
then seeing you on stage or the screen.
BC Well, you have to do that especially, in all
medias. If you stray to far from what the public sees, then it confuses
them, you know? We're all typecast, but we're better off if we typecast
ourselves before we get started. That way you get yourself a broad
spectrum rather than a bare spectrum. You've always got to be aware
of that. Every time, early in my film career, I had to get to the
point where I’d track down anybody that was writing in a sheriff,
because that's all I was doing. I've known some actors that play
nothing but lawyers, and doctors and stuff.
And if they're happy doing that, that's fine, but I'm not happy
with no diversity.
What are you happy doing?
BC Just about anything. However when I look at
the script, and if it's a project that I can't bring something fresh
to, or that's not been accomplished before, then I'm not interested
in doing it.
And you are definitely an original. Have you found it difficult
to be the original person that you are with the industry? Has it
hindered you, helped you, I think you know what I mean.
BC Oh, it's done hindered. It's been a hindrance
one time told me that "I'm not the best actor in the world,
but I am the best Ben Johnson.” And so, I kind of go along
with him. I may not be the best actor, but I'm the best me that
I can be, right now.
some difficulties, you know. But anybody who's trying to create
something, you know, you've got to be true to your own vision, but
you also got to bear in mind that you're working for somebody else
so you can't just out and out declare war on 'em - although I've
done that a few times. You’ve got to do it in a certain way
that they can save face
But, what happens is that if you don't give them an out, you gonna'
close the door forever. And I've done that once or twice.
Have you gone back and have you apologized to certain people for
some of the things that you've done along that way?
BC I've done that maybe twice. It's not painful
to do if you feel like it's the right thing to do.
If you go back and apologize for something in order to get some
kind of gain, monetary gain, then it's wrong. But if you go back
and apologize to somebody because you were wrong, that's not a difficult
thing to do. I mean we're all wrong sometimes.
You’re a very nice man Mr. Corbin. Driving out here I was
wondering what you were going to be like.
BC Well Tricia, there's nothing more disparaging
than to see an old, beat-down actor. When I lived in New York, there
was this man, this gay man, who would come into interviews, auditions,
you know, hang around the equity lounge. And he always wore very
nice suits, but they were ragged, but obviously nice suits. He wore
a little fancy mustache with colored mascara and hair dyed just
black and fluffy. He was 70 something years old. And he was listed
in the players guide as leading man. But he never got a job - he
had some success in Summer Stock, but he never had any real success
in New York.
had gone through his whole life as an actor, probably not making
as much money as he'd make building hamburgers over at the Burger
King, if you put it all together. Yet, he still considered himself
a leading man. You know, he'd come in and his zipper and his fly
was broken and he'd have 'em mended with safety pins. But, he still
believed it. The thing that's very disparaging is somebody who no
longer believes it, but still is kinda' giving it a half-horse try,
you know? And there are a lot of people like that, people who get
into their 30's, 40's and realize that this is not gonna' happen.
But they stay with it and stay with it. Finally, when they're in
their 60's, they don't have enough pension, they don't have anything
so they become very bitter people.
though, that man wasn't bitter, he still had his eye on that gold.
Yeah, he may have been crazy but he wasn't bitter. A great many
people in this business, they take, and take, and take until finally
they become bitter. And that's very discouraging. That's why I don't
encourage the kids to get into show business because no matter how
successful or unsuccessful you are, it's a very, very difficult
business for most people. As for me, it's the only thing that I
can do and it's all I want to do so I'm perfectly happy with the
whole thing. But the odds that you're gonna be very happy in this
line of work are pretty slim.
Do you sometimes get tired of people asking you all the stuff I’ve
been asking you? Do you just want them to say, "hey, let's
go out and play a game of pool, c'mon let's go down here and rope
these horses, this is my little puppy dog, forget the interview,
let's just have a good time?
BC Well, no, I don't. If I'm overwhelmed, I wouldn't
have agreed to this interview. I don't have to this. You know what,
if I did everything that people wanted me to do, spoke at everything
they wanted me to speak at, did all the other stuff they wanted
me to do, I wouldn't have time to do anything else. So I make up
a reason I can't do it, sometimes a legitimate reason.
weekend, some people wanted me to come to a reunion of the theater
department of Texas Tech. Well, I would have liked to have gone,
but I'd already agreed to speak at this thing in California. And
also, my youngest son was graduating from high school on, so I wanted
to be there, so I couldn't do it. They thought that I'll drop everything
to do it, but I couldn't, no matter how much I'd like to. And, I
usually have conflicts. It's not a common thing for somebody to
say "can you come to this function?" If I feel like the
function is worth doing and something that's important, then I'll
do it. If it's not, then I say "well, I've got something else."
I guess you know I’ve been emailing back and forth with your
grandson Jordan and your daughter Shannon.
BC Yep, they’ve told me. My granddaughter
is 9 – she’s more of a singer, she’s done musicals,
sang the National Anthem at The Ballpark, Cowtown Coliseum and other
places. My grandson Jordan is more of a actor. He loves the stuff
with a lot of dialogue, like the Littlest Wiseman. He's doing a
play over at Creative Arts Theater right now and also something
called “Don Coyote”
Barry, why did you agree to this interview?
BC This interview?
BC Well, I wasn't doing much of anything else
Mr. Corbin, Barry I mean, thanks for everything. We really appreciate
your time and patience.
Just a reminder
- Armando Tamez, Barry’s #1 fan and moderator of www.BarryCorbin.net
sent additional info. Armando has an excellent site which much more
info about Mr. Corbin (Click on the main page to hear Barry's most
See the credits for Barry Corbin as noted in the Internet
Movie Database (IMDb), the premiere entertainment credits site.
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