in 1980, Barry was also on the big screen
with supporting roles in "Any Which Way You Can", a Clint
Eastwood comedy, and "Stir Crazy"
with Gene Wilder and
From the silver
screen Barry moved into regular work on the small screen as well.
On the hit TV
series "Dallas", he played a recurring character between
1979 and 1984, "Sheriff Fenton Washburn."
needed to find someone that was tough enough
to stand up to J.R. Ewing
and the rest.
"...And what they were looking for, was a very lean, hard, tough sheriff.
Well, I came in and I guess I changed their minds (chuckles), because
the leanness was not there! The hard and tough, yeah, sure. I'm hard
established himself as one of the busiest character actors in
Hollywood. Having roles in movies such as "The Best Little
Whorehouse in Texas" (1982)
with Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, "Honkytonk
with Clint Eastwood, and "The Man
Who Loved Women" (1983)
with Burt Reynolds and Kim Bassinger.
on life like in those days:
in the early part of the last century life was simpler. We had no such
thing as computers and you had to write a letter, put a stamp on it
and mail it. Now, you just pluck it out of the ether and it confuses
me terminally. If I had to run this computer I'd throw it out the
window! How'd you like my black and white two toned shoes in "Honkytonk
Man"? I picked those out myself!"
In 1983, Barry
did a TV series called "Boone", which lasted 13 weeks
opposite ABC's Monday Night Football:
was a big hit in the Middle East! I think in Ireland they liked it
Also in the
series was a young Dallas actress named Janine Turner, now best known
as "Northern Exposure's"
premiered nationwide on Friday, June 3, 1983. Starring Matthew
Broderick and Ally Sheedy,
is a thriller about a computer hacker (Matthew Broderick) who
unwittingly taps into the Defense Department's war computer and initiates
a confrontation of global proportions. The film was critically acclaimed
and even considered as a masterpiece by film critics such as Roger
Badham used some of his personal background in terms of casting Barry
Corbin for the role of General Beringer:
my father was a Brigadier General in the Air Force. And so in working
with it, that's what I had to go on. My dad with kind of a grim manner
to him but also a great sense of humor, and Barry Corbin just reminded
me of my dad in so many ways."
Corbin did an unforgettable performance as General Beringer and left
an indelible mark in film history by adlibbing one of the funniest and
original quotes ever:
"God damn it! I'd piss on a sparkplug if I thought it'd do any good! Let
the boy in there, Major."
On the DVD
version, Director John Badham and writer Lawrence Lasker
reveal the story behind Barry's famous quote:
"That was Barry Corbin's own invented line, adlibbed for the
purpose of this movie -God bless him- I said, we need something Barry.
You're in charge in this room and somebody has to let the kid into the
computer, and he said, 'Well, I'll think of something,' and we didn't
hear it until the take what he was gonna say and then we had to recess
for 15 minutes while everybody stopped laughing.
(Lasker) "You mean the first time you ever heard the line was
when he came out with it on the set?"
(Badham) "During the take. He just said, 'I'll come up with
something.' And then he obviously pulled out of his Texas background
this wonderful "good ol' boy" expression".
doesn't think that quote is as funny as people do:
glad people liked the sparkplug line - I threw that in there because I
really had my cousin do that when we were kids. He didn’t think it
was quite as funny as people did, but now it is forever on film."
played a Lyndon Johnson adviser, Judge
Wirtz, in the
a miniseries with Randy Quaid. Barry enjoyed that
role because his father, Kilmer Corbin, knew the man he portrayed. He
also appeared in other miniseries such as "Murder in Texas"
(1981), "The Thorn Birds"
(1983), "Fatal Vision"
(1984), "A Death in California" (1985),
and "I Know My
First Name Is Steven (1989).
guest-starred in several TV-Series, most of them in Prime Time such as
"Hart To Hart"
Street Blues" (1984), "The Duck Factory" (1984) with
Jim Carrey, "The A-Team"
(1986), "The Twilight
(1987), "Murder, She
and "Designing Women" (1989).
And Barry went
on to star in Showtime's "Washingtoon"
mother and about 35 other people watched "Washingtoon" on
Showtime! I believe if it had come along a year later during Dan
Quayle's term as V.P., it would have had a much better chance. The
problem with political satire on TV is that it's too outlandish to be
believable or it's surpassed in the morning headlines! Can you imagine
satirizing the political shenanigans of 1998? I think the
satire is the reality!"
But Barry never
stopped doing movies. By the end of the 80's he had worked with Tom
Hanks and Jackie Gleason in "Nothing In Common"
Keanu Reeves in "Permanent Record"
(1988), with Tommy Lee
Jones in "Stranger on My Land" (1988)
with John Candy in
"Who's Harry Crumb?" (1989), and with Tom Skerritt and Max
Von Sydow in "Red King, White Knight" (1989)
Then there was
"Lonesome Dove" in 1989...
sweeping miniseries made from Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning
novel and Barry invariably smiles:
was fun. It was a whole lot of fun, really. I loved doing that."
is a western hailed as a masterpiece by critics and audiences
alike. Barry played the role of Roscoe
Brown, July Johnson's loyal but
was one of the high points of my professional career. When I first
read the book, I called my agents and told them I had to be in it
when, not if, they made the miniseries. I told them I'd play anything
just to be a part of the show. Fortunately for me, Simon Wincer, Bill
Witliffe, and Suzanne De Passe thought I was right for Roscoe."
about as much fun making LD
as I've ever had doing anything and,
judging from the letters and comments I've had over the past few
years, the public agreed. The funny thing is, I only worked on LD
about three weeks, but that's usually the first or second project
people ask me about. It just goes to show you, you can't keep a good
Western down. The audience loves good old fashioned shoot-'em-ups as
we called them when I was a kid."
If during the 80's Barry was noted for his work on many hit
mini-series, the 90's showed Barry in almost every prime-time TV show.
Good character actors such as Barry are most in demand by producers
shooting pilots for prospective series. Nothing impresses the network
brass more than a well-spoken line of dialogue.
At the time he was called by the producers of
Barry had completed work on three pilots. For a time,
he said he was making a living from pilots, and that was fine with
He didn't care about a series.
love doing pilots, but frankly, I'm not that crazy about signing up
for series work. What usually happens is that the series ends up
repeating what you did in the pilot. That's not only boring but it's
artistic suicide. You do the same character over and over again and
the perception becomes that's all you can do. Before long, the
perception becomes truth. That's all you can do. To prevent that,
you'd better be very careful about what seven-year contracts you
The seven-year contract accompanying the offer on
Exposure" was different, Barry said, because the writing was so
superior to most pilots.
Besides, what character actor could resist
is a fascinating character, and the writing managed to stay at a high
level most of the time. I was not unhappy I signed that seven-year
contract. Anyway, it was nice to have a regular job for a change.
That's the upside. The downside is that there was no time to do
anything else. I wished I had some time to do other work, but for the
most part, I was having a good time."
Barry was called in to read for
He auditioned for executive producers Joshua Brand and John Falsey,
doing pushups as he talked. Such bravado fit Maurice
character perfectly. The show premiered July 12, 1990, and delighted
critics as well as a small but loyal audience during its eight-week
Those eight episodes were all Barry expected to do, but then CBS
decided to shoot seven more. The new episodes, plus repeats of the
original shows, were aired in spring and summer 1991.
Exposure", with its blend of urbane humor and deadpan whimsy,
suddenly became the hip show to watch. CBS ordered 13 new episodes in
the late spring of '91.
In the '91-92 fall season the show regularly placed in the Top 20, and
the network ordered nine more episodes. The show aired for 6 seasons
from 1990 to 1995 and won several American Television Awards (Emmys)
and The Golden Globe Award. It continues to attract more loyal
followers as it continues on in syndication around the world and seen
at least twice a day in North America.
On Thursday, 15 April 1993, Barry was
nominated for an Emmy in the
category of Best Supporting Actor for his interpretation of proud
former astronaut, Maurice
Minnifield, in the series
In an interview for television, Barry told how he arrived at the award
I rode in on a horse. My daughter and I rode in on a horse. A couple
of weeks ago, Universal said that they couldn't pick up any expenses
for the nominees. I guess they ain't been making enough money on the
calendars, and t-shirts and what not, so, we decided we'd come in on
the cheapest transport possible."
He also commented about his feelings on being amongst the nominees:
"It feels great - I'll tell you. The greatest honor is being in
the company of the other four guys, you know. Anything else is gravy,
so it's wonderful."
As the highly visible star of a popular, critically acclaimed TV
series, fame of the most public sort came to Barry. He explains how "Northern
changed his life:
marginally changed things, more people know me by name now. There are
people who talk to me and say 'Good show, Maurice' or something. Or
some of them even know my real name, you know. But, I've been very
fortunate in my career. I've done a lot of work and people might not
know my name, they might not even know where they know me from, but
they know they know me."
Barry says the magic "Northern
created for its
audience was there for its actors as well, though, he admits, "I
think we forgot it from time to time. It's like being in a beautiful
rain forest; you forget from time to time how beautiful it is."
It's easy to believe that Barry Corbin, who played
so convincingly, was simply playing himself. But he wasn't. Dryly
humorous, disarmingly chatty, Barry's low- keyed self-assurance
carries none of Maurice's macho bluster.
look alike and talk alike, that's it.
He's a whole lot smarter than I
am, but I've got a better sense of humor."
"Maurice is very serious. He doesn't take anything lightly. I
don't take anything heavy. Politically, he's a little bit just
slightly to the north of Attila the Hun. I'm sort of an
Barry Corbin sees Maurice
the quintessential middle-aged, late-20th-century man. He grew up with
a lot of myths... and now he has absolutely no idea where he fits in,
not only in the world but in the cosmos. Somebody said he was a bigot.
And I said no... because the source of a bigot's prejudices is fear.
is not afraid of anything. The only thing he's afraid of
is himself. He's really very much a stereotypical hero, because he is
not afraid. He'd walk into the lions' den; he'd walk into the fiery
furnace. He'd do anything."
who'd gone into space has got to have some swagger to him. Sometimes
the whole town goes up in arms against him. There was one episode
where we had a church meeting and everybody were screaming, and I'm
screaming back at them. And nobody paid any attention to me then.
Nobody paid any attention to me.... Just like in real life!"
Because of his full time working schedule on
Exposure", Barry barely had time to work on other projects,
however, he managed to make two made-for-TV westerns in between,
and a successful TNT's production called "Conagher".
Based on the Louis L'Amour's novel,
highlight in Barry's prolific career.
On March 21st, 1992, he was
honored with the "Western Heritage Wrangler" award for
his role of "Charlie
Barry's acceptance speech at the Cowboy Hall of Fame:
"Well, I'd like to thank Sam, and John Kuri for giving me a job.
I'd like to thank Jeffrey Meyer for writing such good words. And Rey
for the wonderful direction. I'd like to thank R.L. Tolbert for trying
to teach me how to drive a six-up in a day and a half, ... we didn't
have any wrecks ... we were fortunate. And I'd like to thank The
National Cowboy Hall Of Fame for this beautiful award. Thank
The cancellation of "Northern
in 1995 didn't stop
Barry from working. On the contrary, he was busier than ever, or as he
been as busy as a cat on a griddle."
In June that year, he finished a made-for-television film called,
"Kiss and Tell,"
which co-starred Cheryl Ladd. "I
played a sleazy security expert,"
Barry said. He worked on another made-for-TV film with Loni Anderson
and Greg Evigan called
"Deadly Family Secrets."
And in July
he was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico working on
Sci-Fi adventure feature film with Mario Van Peebles as a robot that
develops a conscience after being conceived as the ultimate weapon.
However, his most colorful role was that in the Quentin Tarantino -
black comedy movie titled "Curdled."
played the owner of a post-forensic cleanup operation. My character
had to take the job after he hurt his back and couldn't lift corpses
But in April 1996, Barry was back in another starring role on the USA
Network's TV series "The Big Easy"
LeBlanc", the New Orleans police department sheriff - and Remy
McSwain's uncle - infatuated with the Civil War and prone to spend
workdays at battle reenactments.
The sexy one-hour dramatic series based on the 1987 hit movie was
filmed entirely on location in the exotic and colorful city of New
Orleans and Barry was very happy because it was very close to his new
home in Texas.
was great because I'd work for two weeks there and then I was back
home for a week".
The show lasted 2 seasons, 34 episodes, from August 1996 to October
was no final episode because they didn't tell us we were cancelled
until we finished shooting."
From 1998 to the present time, Barry's commanding presence has been
required by almost every producer of Prime-Time TV show, like
"The Magnificent Seven",
"The Outer Limits",
"The Drew Carey
"King Of The Hill",
But also, by the end of the century Barry did a few more made-for-TV
films like "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story",
Face To Kill For",
"Sealed With A Kiss", and
with Tom Selleck and Virginia Madsen, a
TNT's western in which he played a heavy-drinking judge.
Some of Barry's latest films are
Edward Asner, "Held Up"
with Jamie Foxx, "The
Journeyman", an independent western with singer/actor Willie
a TV-Movie with Robert Urich, and "No
One Can Hear You",
a thriller with Kelly McGillis.