Calling all ‘Supernatural’ fans – I know you haven’t forgotten that the new season premieres this Friday (the 23rd), right? To kick off the event, I have something very special to share with you today.
It’s not often I get the opportunity to interview someone who not only has had such a rich career in Hollywood, but who’s also a very deep, genuine man who gives much thought to the state of the world these days. I’m very honored to be able to bring this to you.
Recently actor Jim Beaver took some time out of his very hectic schedule to answer some questions for me. Mr. Beaver is currently co-starring in ‘Supernatural’ as Bobby, a second father to both Dean and Sam Winchester. You can also see his past work in ‘Deadwood,’ ‘Big Love,’ ‘Reasonable Doubts,’ ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ and was in such movies as ‘Sliver,’ ‘Magnolia,’ ‘The Life of David Gale,’ and more.
He also published a memoir entitled, “Life’s That Way” in 2009. In it he shares personal email updates he sent to family and friends regarding his wife’s health and how they were both coping as they battled her cancer together.
You’ll see that in question six I reference past conversations with Mr. Beaver – he and I have found ourselves in disagreement before on certain specific political issues via Facebook and Twitter. I want to say though that they were unlike any other political debate I’ve ever gotten into before. Mr. Beaver was extremely gracious, respectful and listened to my perspective, and his demeanor left a lasting impression on me. In fact, afterward I realized something - THIS is how debate should be; that we (as Americans) have been doing it wrong all this time. I walked away feeling as though I gained a greater understanding of the issues at hand, and I was so happy and relieved to know that he believes (as I do) that differing opinions doesn’t automatically make someone an adversary. He’s a man of very strong character, and it’s so refreshing to see these characteristics portrayed in this day and age.
Much gratitude to Mr. Beaver making this interview possible – for taking the time to share some insight into what life’s like for him these days, his connection to his character, Bobby, and more!
1. You’ve had quite a rich history in the entertainment industry (‘Deadwood,’ ‘Supernatural,’ ‘John From Cincinnati,’ ‘Day Break,’ to name just a few)…did you always want to be an actor, or did you originally have other aspirations in mind?
Although I’d acted a couple of times in elementary school plays and auditioned for a couple of high school plays, I’d never had any particular inclination to be an actor. I wanted to be a stuntman during my high school days. A school friend used to rag on me that I’d never be a stuntman in a million years, so I looked him up a few months ago to tell him I’d gotten my first stunt check on ‘Supernatural’ recently! It wasn’t until I got back from Vietnam that I seriously considered acting. At the time, what I really wanted was to be a film historian. There were no film courses at my college, so I took theatre instead, figuring it was sort of related. The first time I auditioned for something, I was pretty much hooked on acting. I haven’t really ever looked back–though I ended up still doing a lot of film history work. Just not for a living!
2. I’ve read that you joined the Marine Corp after high school and spent some time in Vietnam. What was life like for you during that time? How have your experiences over there shape you into who you are today?
It’s a bit of a cliche, but I went into the Marines a boy and came out a man. It matured me in a lot of ways, primarily in terms of confidence in myself. It didn’t eradicate my natural shyness, but it certainly reduced it. And it made me realize what I was capable of, that if I’d survived that experience, there were few things I would face that I couldn’t get through much more easily. It expanded my world view significantly and made me a much more political person. It gave me stories to write and experiences to draw on that ended up benefiting my career substantially, both as a television writer and as an actor. For a time, I was one of a handful of Vietnam veteran writers in Hollywood who were frequently called on whenever a project about the war was being considered, and my first big break as an actor was directly related to my being a Vietnam veteran. It was also in Vietnam that I happened to encounter my first significant exposure to Shakespeare, which had a profound effect on me. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I’m grateful for those experiences.
3. In your role as Bobby in ‘Supernatural,’ how much of your personality comes through in your portrayal of him? What similarities or differences are there between the two of you?
Bobby is in some ways the unsmoothed-over version of me. His tenderness, his good-hearted nature, his irony and sarcasm, are, I like to think, all very much the same as mine. His gruffness, his hardness are also part of who I am, but they’re parts I generally sublimate to the best of my ability. I have a fearsome temper, but it doesn’t get provoked very much. The big difference between me and Bobby is that he’s an incredibly brave man and I’m a chicken.
4. It’s no secret that a career in acting can be, well…invasive at times. How has adjusting to a life in the public eye affected you?
Unlike some people who find themselves in the public eye (a much better phrase than “celebrity,” which seems so unlike my experience of what’s happened), I have deliberately and with some real consideration decided to be very accessible. I find life more interesting the more doors I keep open, so I’m all over the place with social networking and public events, much more than some actors would be comfortable being. It has, overall, been incredibly enriching. There are always going to be people who take it too far, who want to involve you in their lives in inappropriate ways, who want to believe that because they know your character on a show that they then know *you*. And there are always people who want to use you to advance their own hopes and dreams. I find most of this tolerable and quite counter-balanced by the benefit I get from being in real connection with people I wouldn’t otherwise know. Sometimes it can be painful — telling people “no” is very difficult for me, but increasingly necessary. For the most part, though, it has been wildly rewarding. Having people tell you they like your work, or that you’ve touched their hearts in some way, is a magnificent gift. I treasure my privacy, but I like to keep myself open to as much life as I can.
5. Since his debut in “Devil’s Trap,” Bobby has seen and endured much (possession, paralysis, the theft of his soul to name a few). How has his past experiences changed him from who he was in the beginning to who he is currently?
It’s hard for me to say how Bobby’s experiences have changed him. It’s like asking how heating up the water has affected the faucet. I’m just the guy Bobby comes through. In all probability, the writers give much more thought to Bobby’s inner feelings than I do. That’s not to say I don’t consider them, but I consider how to interpret them, not what they are or how they change. That’s the writers’ job. The soul of Bobby Singer is really found inside Eric Kripke and Sera Gamble and Ben Edlund and their cohorts. They jointly and singly decide how these changes affect him. I just read what they wrote and try to make it clear in performance. If I had to commit to an opinion on this, I’d simply quote “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” I’d say Bobby has grown stronger through adversity and has prevailed. So far!
6. Based on our past conversations I can tell you are a man of strong convictions, and it is a very admirable quality. What do you think is the strongest issue facing us as a global community today, and what are your suggestions for remedying it?
In the myriad of issues facing the world, I can think of none more troubling than the increasing shift toward coarseness, discourtesy, division, and inhumanity (in increasing order of distressfulness) in our public and private discourse, and our decreasing respect for education, wisdom, knowledge, scientific and intellectual awareness in favor of emotional responses to the problems of the day. When people deal with problems and disagreements by angry and recriminatory means rather than thoughtful ones, when any disagreement is the sign of an “enemy,” when people believe that how “good” a leader makes them feel is more important than what he knows and can articulate, when the importance of education is diminished in comparison with that of personal gain, then I think the world is in grave danger, and all the other issues can be seen as merely outcroppings of those basic ones. I live by two rules: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and gain all the knowledge you can. It seems to me that being true to those two guidelines, on both a personal and a community level, would resolve pretty much everything threatening the peace of the world.
7. I’ve recently read your book entitled “Life’s That Way.” It is such a touching memoir..words cannot adequately convey how moved I was by it. In a time of such intense pain, you showed great bravery and found the necessary strength that helped you to put your emotions into words, thus allowing you to share your experience with others. If you don’t mind sharing, what made you decide to go forward with the publishing of your emails? What advice do you have for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one?
I was at first somewhat reluctant to publish the emails that make up “Life’s That Way.” Though an audience of thousands had read the original emails as I sent them out night after night, they were in a way too private still to consider making them available to the public at large, and to do all the selling and promoting necessary to market such a book seemed undignified and diminishing. But one person in particular changed my mind. A woman I’d known as a casual friend for many years (though I’d clearly not known her as well as I thought) talked to me about the emails once. She told me that 25 years previously (before I’d known her), she had lost her husband and her son within 6 weeks, and she’d never talked about it to anyone. After reading my emails about my own experience with fear and loss, she had begun talking to people about hers, and that doing so had, in her words, “changed my life.” She had found what I had found, the richness that comes of sharing pain and sorrow with souls who care. I instantly knew that if my emails could have that effect, then there were many others who might benefit as well. I’ve found it to be true. I get thousands of letters and emails from people who had just that response in their own lives. It is unbelievably moving to me. The book has a lot of what I would advise people who are grieving and those who care about them, too much to recount here. I believe it is effective, because people tell me it is. If there’s a core piece of advice, it’s to open oneself to the experience, talk about it, share it, express it, and welcome the wise (and even the unwise) attempts of others to participate in it with you.
8. Are there any charities you give to that are near and dear to your heart?
The charity that I am most deeply involved with, the one I direct my friends to participate in to the extent of their ability, is the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (http://www.jwcf.org/). I’ve been involved with others (Autism Speaks, The Actors Fund, etc.), but the John Wayne Cancer Foundation is the closest to my heart.
9. You (and Misha) seem to enjoy being in touch with your fans via Twitter and Facebook. What personally made you decide to join?
I think my reasons for getting involved in Facebook and Twitter are pretty well explained in my earlier comments about choosing to be less hidden away, less secretive, less cloistered than some people who achieve a certain public notice. A lot of that feeling comes from my experiences that led to my book, when I learned the power of being open and available and more revelatory than I was used to being. I’ve found that nothing makes me feel safer than allowing myself to be vulnerable. Twitter and Facebook are a way for me to do that, without having a hundred thousand people show up at my house!
10. After all he’s been through, what do you think is in store for Bobby in the future? Does he stands a chance of growing old and enjoying a peaceful, normal life?
If Bobby didn’t think he had a chance to grow old in a peaceful world, I don’t think he’d bother with being a grumpy knight errant. Hope springs eternal!
11. What are some things you enjoy doing that help you wind down after a stressful day?
I’m an internet junkie in the worst way–have a very hard time staying away from it, despite the fact that it has seriously clobbered my artistic productivity as a writer. Aside from that, reading and movies are my two great loves. I try to read at least a little every day, and I’m pretty successful at that. And as Facebook friends know, I’m a voracious movie watcher. I love to watch them and then to write my impressions. These are my every-single-day relaxations and enjoyments. I deeply love a wide variety of music, and I like baseball, but I don’t devote nearly as much time to those.
12. Working in Vancouver while having a life in the States must be tricky. How do you manage to keep things running smoothly at home while you’re away on set?
The biggest drawback to working in Vancouver is that I have a young daughter and a home in Los Angeles. Were it not for my daughter, I would be wonderfully satisfied living long stretches in a hotel in Vancouver. I’m a bit of a loner, and have a great time being by myself, so being on my own away from home is no problem usually. But I have to be away from my daughter far too much. Fortunately, she has a nanny who is really the only mother she remembers, a wonderful woman named Maribel who has been with her since she was 6 months old, and she cares for Maddie as though she were her own. So I can always leave, even at a moment’s notice, knowing my daughter is in excellent, patient, loving hands. And I have a dear friend, actress and producer Paula Rhodes, who drops by my house every few days to make sure the mail is in order and that I know about any bills that need tending. It’s a great situation in most ways. Fortunately for me, I love being home and I love being away, just as I love working and I love having days off. I’m very happy and grateful for my situation these days.
13. Are you living your dream right now?
You bet your ass I’m living my dream!