Raymond J. Barry has been given the title “The Father of Hollywood.” From Born on the Fourth of July to Just Married to Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Barry can usually be found playing the main character’s father.
Turning 73 this year, Barry sees no sign of slowing down. He currently can be found in the hit FX show Justified, playing Arlo Givens, the father of Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens. He can also be found on stage in his play Awake in a World That Encourages Sleep. He also paints and has a loving wife and four children.
Recently, Barry took some time to speak to us over the phone about his character in Justified, what he thinks of retirement, and what he would like to do in the future.
Check out the interview below. Warning: for those who have not watched Justified, there are spoilers about the show.
We Got This Covered: Your character isn’t always on the show. He’s a recurring character. How does that process work?
Raymond J. Barry: I’m playing what they call a regular role, as opposed to what they call a recurring role. I started out as a recurring character, and what they did was they made a deal to where they guaranteed eight out of 13 episodes. They do tell me ahead of time what the material is. I have to be prepared to some degree. I have to know the words anyway. As far as what the arc of the character is, I don’t know that and I’m not sure they would tell me if I pursued it. They may not know themselves what’s going to happen. They’re kind of making it up as they go along, but I suspect that they are kind of knowledgeable about where they’re going pretty much in advance – give or take.
When I first started doing the character, he was very aggressive. He had his own drug running business. He told people what to do. He hit people over the head with baseball bats. He was a criminal and his son, played by Timothy Olyphant, was a U.S. Marshall. My character also had a wife with whom he was constantly in conflict over, one issue or another. They were constantly bickering and fighting, but he got the sense that this was a marriage that would last. They had been together for a long time. And Tim Olyphant’s character was kind of in the middle of all of that.
As time progressed, my wife was shot and killed. So, suddenly, I was by myself. And then another woman, Margo Martindale’s character, committed suicide. So, suddenly, the two people with whom I was doing most of my communicating were gone from the series and they had to figure out something for me to do. What has happened, over a period of time, is that I’ve fallen into a state of dementia to where I’m talking to my dead wife – thinking she’s still alive. Recently, as of two days ago, I have confessed to two murders that at first were going to be pinned on the main antagonist. I took the blame for both murders and I would assume what’s going to happen is that I’m going to be either put in jail or executed. I don’t know. But it also sounds a little pat to me. It sounds like I may be lying, and I didn’t kill these men at all. I think they can go in any direction they want at this given point. On the other hand, I’m not sure how long they’re going to have me walking around in a state of dementia. How long does a guy survive that, and does a person, in fact, recover from that? Do you get better? I don’t know – maybe, only on TV. I’m not sure.
WGTC: Do you know if the show’s going to continue with a fourth season?
Raymond J. Barry: Officially, I don’t know. But it’s such a huge hit that I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be. It’s become such a success that my guess is there’s no question that it’s going to be picked up for another season.
WGTC: Is your character seeing more screen time this season than he has in previous seasons?
Raymond J. Barry: I had a lot of screen time the first season. I was given a lot of really great material, because there was a built in conflict between my criminality and my son’s occupation as a U.S. Marshall. That father and son conflict catapulted the series off. Then there was kind of a lull, and I’d come in here and there. At the end of this season, it picked up again. I have about seven scenes in the last episode of this season, where I have a lot to do. It has to do with my wife, and killing a couple of guys, and so on. The character feels to me expediently aggressive in that they can blame the murders on me and they don’t have to get rid of Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd, the main antagonist. I think they want to keep him around for a while.
WGTC: I read in your biography that you show no signs of slowing down or retiring anytime soon. What do you consider to be the “retirement years?”
Raymond J. Barry: What a wonderful question. Listen, man, I’m not interested in retiring. I can’t imagine anything more boring.
I just finished a run of my own play, which I wrote. I did an eight-week run here in Los Angeles. I ran the same play, which I wrote at the Theater for the New City in New York City last March and April. I write my own plays, and I put myself in my own plays. I do it because I’m dependable. I’ll show up for rehearsal when no one’s getting paid. The luxury of being in a TV series, movies, or whatever, allows me to make a living and support my kids, of which I have four, and my wife. I make money by doing movies and TV. I write my plays, and I don’t make any money doing that, but I do publish them. I get a little residual here and there, but that’s nothing.
I’m busy, and I intend to be busy for the rest of my life. As a matter of fact, when I was in the dressing room with Joe Culp, who’s in my play, I said to him, “You know what? When I’m 92, I want to do one of these plays.” And he laughed. It’s hard to do a play, because you’re out on the stage for an hour and a half. You’re sweating, you have to remember the goddamn lines, and there are no retakes. It’s hard work – it’s blue-collar work.
I also paint. I’ve had shows in New York and all around. The important thing is I’m busy, man, and I’m not going to retire. What do you think I am – a pussy? [laughter]
You can come over to my house tomorrow, and I’ll arm wrestle with you. Then you can talk to me about retiring.
WGTC: What is the play you’re currently doing?
Raymond J. Barry: It’s called Awake in a World That Encourages Sleep. Margaret Gray gave it a rave review in the Los Angeles Times. New York Theater Wire gave it a rave review in New York. We’ve received exclusively rave reviews for it. What it’s about is a triumvirate between a woman and two men. The two men work together in a covert operation similar to Haliburton. But the name of it is called “The Group.”
The play is a dark comedy. There are a lot of laughs, and it’s political. It has to do with corporate power, war, and the profitability of war.
WGTC: You’ve been deemed “The Father of Hollywood,” and I was wondering if you could talk some more about that title you’ve received.
Raymond J. Barry: That title refers to the role I’ve been given in the films. I’ve served as the fatherly character for Tom Cruise, Ashton Kutcher, John C. Reilly, and Brad Pitt. The list is endless. But it’s really nothing more than an anecdotal kind of thing. It’s just a mere coincidence. I have become Hollywood’s father. These guys are all good-looking and they needed a good-looking father. [laughter]
WGTC: You seem to have done a lot in your life. Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you would like to try?
Raymond J. Barry: Well, I was an athlete and a philosophy major in college. I’ve been a sculptor, a painter, an actor, and a playwright. I write short stories. I’m the father of four children. Perhaps, the two things I would enjoy doing, in the future, would be to play Walt Whitman or Jean Genet. I think the age would permit that in both cases. I would also like to finish the raising of all my kids. I have a three-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 20-year-old, who has a basketball scholarship to Amherst, and I have a 39-year-old who was the captain of the bowling team at Loyola Marymount University. With the two little ones, I’m teaching one how to play basketball and the little girl, who’s three, maybe, track and field. I’m not sure yet.
This concludes our interview, but we would like to thank Raymond J. Barry for taking the time to speak with us. The third season of Justified is currently airing Tuesdays at 10p.m. on FX. Seasons one and two are available to rent or own on DVD/Blu-ray.