I happen to catch Barry Pepper on a good morning, sitting at home in Canada about to grind up some espresso, trying to wake himself up for the interview. Not the sort of thing you’d expect from a guy whose resume is riddled with “guy’s guy” flicks: Saving Private Ryan, Flags of our Fathers, 25th Hour, The Green Mile, Enemy of the State, We Were Soldiers… he even played Roger Maris in Billy Crystals’ 61. But this is a different Barry Pepper – stripped of guns and ammo, baseball bat or steering wheel – one who dreams like the rest of us and has hope for the country. One who sailed the South Pacific for five years as a child on a 50-foot sloop called the Moonlighter his mom and dad built in a barn behind the house. The same Barry who believes how it all starts… now.
“I voted for Obama and it made my year. [It was] really extraordinary for me as a new citizen to vote for the first time in such an historic election. I feel like I’m glued to him, like I’m watching my new favorite TV show… I don’t know, I’m just riveted to hear him speak, his cadence, his intellect, everything about him. The only reason I turn on the TV these days is to watch Obama. It’s just awesome, really, really special to be a part of something like this.”
“He [Obama] said that there would be transparency within his administration. Last night, seeing the press ask such hardball questions — no more of that marshmallow hardball the press usually plays, like they played with Bush; they’d just lob in these marshmallow questions and Bush would easily deflect them. The press yesterday was actually asking hardhitting questions and [Obama] gave open answers that if you weren’t an expert in that particular field or area, you could understand,” insists Barry. “I felt, economically, like I was taken to school!
“There’s now a chance for us, something we can grasp and attain. The American Dream.” Barry is a hopeless romantic. “I have hope now, [for] my dreams, visions, and possibilities of not only this nation, but the world. I mean listening to him talk about how he is going to address Iran… He mentioned it in his campaign, and last night with this diplomacy, ‘I hope that we can become nations that respect one another,’” Barry says. “I thought, ‘Wow, I haven’t heard that in the last eight years.’ That might ruffle a few feathers [for conservatives and those with antagonistic politics], but damn, can we afford not to? He talked about education and putting money into renewable resources, wind power, solar power, and I think it’s going to throw people at first [putting money into these areas] because it isn’t going to immediately pay dividends, but when you start breaking it down, it sort of makes sense. He’s building the future.
“If you look at his background you know he was the kind of guy, hitting bricks, working with local housing projects, working with the people, really grassroots… Somebody who gets into politics because of nepotism or a silver spoon, they’re not traveled, they’re not in touch with what it’s like to go hungry, or lose your home or work for minimum wage. I pray for him, I really do. Every time I see him, I say a prayer.”
Barry believes we all must change for the better. Times up. “No more excuses. I saw Will Smith on Oprah, and he was saying that there’s no more excuses for young people in this country, those growing up saying the white man won’t let the brown man get from underneath his thumb, this sort of defeatist attitude. This [election] has changed brown, black, yellow, kids, psychologically, to see what Obama has achieved. We all know there is a tremendous amount of work to be done, but this is the first step in that direction. You can’t continue to play that game; times have changed.”
Barry makes you want to run in the street and fight the good fight. I can tell by his voice he’s genuine and passionate about politics now more than ever before. New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez had just admitted taking steroids and Barry couldn’t help but interject politics into the conversation. “Watching that interview with A-Rod – those choices are some of the most difficult roads to travel. ‘Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’ Here’s a guy who really didn’t have to say anything, [who could] pull a Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire and deny everything. As an actor, I consider myself a keen observer of people and that is why politics is so disgusting to me – for so many years, not just for the last eight – the lies, just so bold-faced, and I can see it a mile away. I thought, ‘Here’s a guy who’s really going to sleep well tonight.’ The man removed a huge burden. Let’s see what he does now. I hope fans can see that.”
His childhood was colorful, adventurous, and not the normal lifestyle one would have growing up on the West Coast. Barry’s adventures in the South Pacific led him to interact with multiple cultures and inhabitants of far away lands that back then were not overly populated with Westerners. “It was an interesting time, because things were very untouched there. You could go to some of the islands and there was very little commercialism, very few Westerners, people living as they had for thousands of years. We weren’t a wealthy family, just a blue collar family, kind of had to live close to the land. When I first moved to LA it was very overwhelming for me.”
With Princess Ka’iulani with Q’Orianka Kilcher out in the summer, Barry is quick to praise his peers and give thanks and credit to an unassuming idol. “Mickey Rourke made my year; he answered a prayer for me. I got into the business because of him and Johnny Depp. I was living and studying in Vancouver and I was taking marketing in college, took a year of graphic design in an art school, switched to a different college to get a business background. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was 19 or 20, and JD was shooting 21 Jump Street right in my backyard; it was intoxicating.