“I don’t know if it’s that the scripts are evolving or just that I’m getting older, but the characters become more interesting as you get older because you’ve lived more life at different stages. You’ve loved; you’ve lost; you have more of that journey,” Matt Barr confided in LA TV Insider Examiner.
And in Barr’s newest project, Hatfields & McCoys, he is certainly running the gamut of life with his role of Johnse Hatfield.
“Johnse’s been pushed. This is the edge. He’s at that edge in life where he’s literally just one inch from falling off, and I think I’ve never felt so helpless and desperate as a character,” Barr continued.
Hatfields & McCoys is a three-night event, a History Channel miniseries based on the actual Hatfield and McCoy family feud of American History. Barr knew of the story as a part of American mythology (“I remember my uncle would use the term,” he said), but it wasn’t until he began his research for the role that he really understood the intricacies and universal nature to the taboo romance between Johnse and Roseanna McCoy or the inner turmoil faced when deciding between loyalty and tradition and doing what you, in your heart, feel is right at the times.
“That dichotomy– that balance– is so fun to play. It’s that inner conflict that’s sort of the actor’s drug. I love that about Johnse. You know, it’s the struggle between the man you are and the man you want to be, and how do you show both?” Barr considered.
“Everyone’s partial to their own stories, and this is the sensibility– this is the tone– of the kind of project I’ve always wanted to do. It’s very real. The story is so wonderful and it means something. No matter who you are, you can relate to it.”
Barr’s portrayal of the “beautifully tragic” Johnse is equally haunting. He certainly stretches himself and shows off a range he has yet to be able to. He is much more than just a romantic lead, pining for a girl from “the wrong family” or an overgrown kid, riding around on horses and shooting guns (though at times in the project he gets to do both of those things). Johnse has a heavy weight bearing down on him, and Barr felt its gravity immediately. It’s what drew him to the project.
“There’s a scene when Johnse is fishing with his father– that might be the best scene I’ve ever read in a script. And I knew that even if that was the only scene in the whole story [I had to play this part],” he explained.
In fact, if given the opportunity, Barr excitedly announced his willingness to continue on in the role of Johnse, with a follow up film or series following his escapades post Roseanna– and Nancy– McCoy.
“I say we do the Hatfields and McCoys Part 2! It’s an epic love story; Johnse got married five more times, so we’d follow Johnse’s sexual escapades over these next five marriages!”
In all seriousness, though, Barr knows that our rich history lends itself so well to so many other stories worthy of telling on-screen, and he just wants to be a part of those things that are bigger than mere entertainment:
“I think all of the secrets of the universe are revealed in history. We understand who we are by understanding where we’ve been and why we are the way we are, and where we come from. And it’s a really incredible experience, and I hope that we make more historical films and tell more historical stories because it’s human beings rediscovering ourselves.”
You can catch Barr in the History Channel’s Hatfields & McCoys starting Memorial Day (May 28th) 2012 at 9pm.