Film, television, and stage actor Raymond J. Barry was born in New York, and attended Brown University, where he was a star athlete in football, basketball, and track. While there, he earned his degree in Philosophy and as a senior, was cast in the stage production of Picnic, where he played a football player. Before heading to Hollywood to act in films, he appeared in more than seventy five plays.
Memorable film roles include Interview with the Assassin, Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Man Walking, Training Day, Walk Hard, Year of the Dragon, and Steel City. Raymond’s television appearances include Lost, The Cleaner, Law & Order, Crossing Jordan, Alias, CSI, The X Files, Frasier, Melrose Place, L. A. Law, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King.
Raymond can currently be seen playing the character of Paul Cooper on the CBS series Cold Case.
Our Prattville publisher spoke with Raymond on March 20:
Hi Raymond, how are you?
I’m doing fine.
Happy belated birthday, I think it was the 14th right?
That is correct.
Did you do anything special for that one?
I had a party that night with my family and my wife and the afternoon I spent on myself doing my work, my painting, I paint…in the morning I forget what I did, but I bragged all day that I was seventy years old.
And still going strong?
Yeah…it’s kind of amazing, I have a seven-month old daughter and I’m doing three recurring roles on three different TV series – Cold Case, Lost, and I’m doing The Cleaner – and I’m premiering a movie on the 25th of this month in which I’m playing the lead, if you can believe this, at the age of seventy!
Well that’s great.
Yeah it’s cool.
Sounds like you had a good day.
I did have a good day and it’s not a bad time in my life. I’m having a good life. I did it, you know what I mean?
What’s it like working with the cast of Cold Case?
Very simpatico. I like the people. I just left there actually. I had to record a forty-page monologue reiterating a letter in which I wrote my daughter. I feel kind of comfortable there. I get along with Kathryn very well, my daughter, and I do what the directors tell me to do without question because I’m old enough to know better. It’s a nice gig.
It’s a good show.
Apparently a lot of people like it. I don’t watch TV too much, but they seem to have a nice run.
It’s also a pretty serious show. What do the actors do between scenes to relieve the tension?
I think it varies. I think the people, the cast are happy. They talk to each other. It’s a very cordial environment. People talk about their lives, what they do. There is another guy there who’s a painter and we’re both Irish. I talk to Kathryn a lot about acting. People are making a living. There’s an element of success about it. You know, generally speaking, people enjoy success. And I get the feeling that some of these folks think that they deserve it. It’s something that is perceived well and they know it.
You debuted in December as Lilly Rush’s father, correct?
Yes, I think I’ve done six episodes so far.
Have you found out yet why Paul Cooper left his family?
He’s an alcoholic and the mother is an alcoholic too.
I get the sense that Paul Cooper blames himself also about her mother’s alcoholism…does he have the sense of that?
I think that’s not true. I just did a thing this morning that says, uh, suffice it to say I could never have stayed with your mother and survived…which implies that the mother was very complex and dysfunctional. So, I don’t get a sense that he’s blaming himself one hundred percent. I know he blames himself for having left Lilly because he never took part in her life, just made a few attempts to connect with her life. He felt very proud of her from afar, but eventually all contact ceased. But, the mother is partially responsible as well and he’s aware of that.
So in the March 29th episode, Paul has dinner with his daughter, correct?
That is correct, yes.
Wonder how many dinners it will take for her to get to trust him?
That’s an interesting question because the episode after that we have a very volatile argument and the aftermath of which he tries to reestablish contact and he writes her a letter explaining his side of it and that’s what I recorded today. You hear the letter through my voice through a voiceover. It’s TV, what can I tell you?
Speaking of which, you’ve had a long career in all genre…TV, movies, and Broadway – do you have a preference?
I like them all for different reasons. Now I did about eighty plays in New York City over a twenty-three year period. I did a lot of work there. I didn’t come out to Hollywood until I was forty five years old. By that time I had a career in New York, in Manahattan. That stage work is blue collar work – you sweat, and you get dirty and you get scared, and you’re up in front of an audience for two hours and there’s nothing soft about it. Suddenly you come out here and you’re sitting in a chair with your name on it and you have to perform a half a page and it’s a big deal. It’s nothing compared to what I’m describing on stage.
It’s a little easier as far as physical labor.
Yeah, there’s times when you do things that require an emotional life that has to be accurate to the situation and you better pull it off because they are spending a lot of money. There are a couple of things where that was required – like Dead Man Walking, a Tim Robbins film, and Born on the Fourth of July, my son gets paralyzed – Dead Man Walking, my son gets murdered. I did a Law & Order where my daughter gets raped and murdered. They blamed it on me for a decade but they couldn’t prove it. You play characters like that with very complex emotional lives – you have to come across right away. They are not going to wait until you feel like it.
Then you come to the lighter side and play John C. Reilly’s father in Walk Hard.
That’s right. That was fun.
Yeah, it looked like a lot of fun.
You know most directors want me to be serious. I love to be funny. I love to be humorous.
Is it easier for a serious actor to do comedy?
I think it’s easier. If you work in a film like Born on the Fourth of July you know you have to come up with it. Your son is paralyzed. The work is very intense.
Yes. Also dealing with…I got to be ready, I got to come up with this…constant pressure. Whereas, in Walk Hard you’re having a good time – everyone’s laughing, because it’s appropriate to the work and it’s more fun. You don’t want to walk around all uptight in a situation like that. That’s not appropriate.
What would you consider to be your most memorable role to date so far?
I have three things that I can’t pick from out of something like sixty or seventy films – one is a movie called Interview with the Assassin in which I play the lead…
That is about Kennedy, right?
That is correct. I play the second assassin who shot Kennedy. The second is the bereaved father in Dead Man Walking and the third is the bereaved father in Born on the Fourth of July in the Oliver Stone film. I play Tom Cruise’s father. They are all my favorites.
What made you decide to come to Hollywood – you said you were in your forties.
I was a good looking guy and I wanted that attention. I was an actor and I’d be sitting in a bar and they’d say you’ve been acting for twenty years and you haven’t made any movies. One time I remember I bumped into a guy I hadn’t seen in thirty years and he said are you sorry you became an actor. Because I had no visibility, you see. If I was a medical doctor he wouldn’t care one way or another what my operations were. But, if you’re an actor, you have to be able to rattle off a list of films people can see. Otherwise, you don’t have a viable career.
I came out on the cusp of having made a film called Year of the Dragon and Mickey Rourke had the lead. I played Mickey’s boss and friend. I made more money shooting it than anything I had ever done. I had a daughter then that was about to graduate from high school and I needed money for her college. So I came out and started working right away and was thankful for having done that. I sent her to college and bought a house and paid it off right away.
Yeah, a steady job.
Yeah, so it was a good choice for me.
So, were you interested in show business when you were a child?
No, I wasn’t interested in it at all. I thought there was something weird about it. Some guy came up to me and said you want to be a football player in a play called Picnic? I played football at Brown University. I kept telling him no but he kept coming back and said come over to the acting class. So I saw something in it and I did the play and one thing led to another. I was a senior and all of the football players came to see the play and laughed their asses off because I was awful in the play. I applied for Yale Drama School and they accepted me and I dropped out after a year.
Your mother did some acting, right?
Well, that’s an interesting story. I have a theater company in New York and she wrote me a letter one time about her life and it was so poetic and so substantial, this letter – we were making a play in which I was writing and my company was working on it and I asked her if she’d read the letter in between scenes and she was taken aback by it at sixty-one years old and she came and she started to work on this play and she performed the letter and I told her she could cut out anything that was too personal.
She did this play on and off for three years – then I directed her in two more plays and by this time she was in her late sixties and she went off on her own and made twenty-five movies and many commercials, soap operas…off into her seventies and eighties and she finally retired when she was eighty-six because she couldn’t make the trip into the city anymore. And she died when she was ninety four. Isn’t that a story?
It really is an interesting story.
She did Arthur and Trading Places and she’s done a lot of stuff. She was a writer before that so she was creative, also painted. She was looking for something that rejuvenated her. Her name was B. Constance Barry, her stage name. Very talented, too.
What do you do in your spare time – do you have any spare time?
No, I’m always busy. I write plays. I paint. I’m studying chemistry so I can tutor my seventeen year old son in Chemistry. I’m always reading. I like my life. Where are you from?
I’m from Alabama..
I can tell, you have that accent.
I’m from Montgomery.
You’re from Montgomery. Boy!
That’s the capital city.
That’s a famous city.
Yes for several reasons.
I know. Yeah, Civil Rights.
If you ever have the chance to visit…
I would love to go there. Where do you live now?
About 8 miles outside of Montgomery in a smaller city called Prattville.
And you called me from there?
Actually you called me. The publicist called me.
And the name of the Prattville is the what?
It’s a news magazine called Our Prattville.
How, on earth, did Steve uncover this newspaper?
I did an interview with one of their clients, Carolyn Hennesy. She’s currently starring on General Hospital and apparently they liked the interview and the magazine and they contacted me and asked if I’d like to interview a couple of their clients.
I’d love to have a copy of it.
Right now it’s not in print version but I’ll give Steve the link…but you can print out the interview.
Newspapers are really having a rough time.
Yep, maybe everything is going to end up on line, you never know.
Without journalism you’ve got a problem. You’ve got the government doing everything they damn well please without them. It’s a checks and balance system. It’s serious.
You’ve finished a couple of movies recently – at the same time you’ve been working on Cold Case or did you take some time off?
Simultaneously…I’m playing the lead in Charlie Valentine – it’s about a gangster that gets in trouble with the mob and he hides out with his son and he teaches his son how to be a gangster and that’s their connection and the older gangster comes on to his girlfriend. And I did another movie called Short Cut which is produced by Adam Sandler in which I play another bad guy.
That must be a comedy.
No, it’s a scary movie and I play the scary guy.
Along the lines of Friday the 13th?
Yeah, it’s where the kids are running…I kill kids.
Sounds like an interesting role.
It’s definitely a major role and we shot it up in Canada last summer.
Well, Raymond, I enjoyed talking to you.
I enjoyed talking to you.
I appreciate you giving this interview to me.
My pleasure. You take care of things down there in Montgomery…in Prattville.
I will and I’ll be watching you on Cold Case.
Ok, take care.
Interview by Melissa Parker
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