The White Hat That Could Have Been Has A Song In His Heart
Whedonopolis: How does it feel to have been the first gay character on “Buffy”?
Larry Bagby: The first gay character on “Buffy…” Well, I didn’t realize it was the first…
At this point, Larry’s drummer, Theron Derrick, walks by us and mutters, “It’s NOT really a character!”
W: You’re evil!
LB: My drummer says it wasn’t really a character! (laughs) It’s interesting, you know? Because at the time, it was like a novelty thing; like, I did the first episode, and then they asked me back.
W: So you and Danny Strong (“Jonathan Levinson”) had a similar experience, in that he was in the pilot, and then he kept being asked back.
LB: Yeah! I didn’t know what to expect, and then they said they’d love to have me back, and how did it feel coming back as a gay football player, and I was like, “Well… let me think about that,” because I was raised in a very religious home where that wasn’t something that was looked at as a very good thing. But I felt all right; it was a character that was going to be interesting. It was more of a tongue-in-cheek thing with the way it was presented, where he was not really a werewolf, and then it turned out he was actually gay. And it didn’t play gay at all; he was very much a strait-laced football player, who just happened to be gay, you know? So gay, “I have my grandma fixing me up with guys.” Remember that line?
LB: But it was interesting, because my agents were like, “Be careful with these types of roles, because you don’t want to get stereotyped,” and I was like, “Look at me. I’m not gonna be stereotyped as a gay guy.” I’m the totally opposite-looking of a gay guy.
W: How did it feel to play the part of a White Hat in “The Wish”, where we had a sort of alternate reality, and Buffy wasn’t in Sunnydale, and you were helping Giles? Because you never really did help the Scoobies out until the very end, so it was a different side of Larry to show the audience.
LB: As an actor, I was hoping that would turn me more into a kind of a series regular… I know a lot of character started as guests, and then the people responded to them, and they kept bringing them back. So I thought, “This could be good! As people keep dying off, I start to work on the team… So as an actor and a career move, it’d be nice!” And it was a lot of fun, all of a sudden, in the alternate world, being one of the heroes, not one of the vampires, or one of the kids in school. Now here’s something interesting: Seth Green and I had worked together years prior to that. My first acting job on TV was on a show called “Mr. Belvedere,” and Seth and I had worked together on that show. He played my sidekick, so we worked together on that, and then, a few years later, we worked on another show called “Airborne” and then we ended on “Buffy” together. So it was fun working with him again in that manner, you know? It’s a small world!
W: Were you sad when you found out that Larry wasn’t going to make it to UC Sunnydale after the finale in Season 3 with everybody else?
LB: I remember the first day, shooting the episode, and Joss came down to the set, and was keeping kind of low-key, and he said, “You know, some of you guys are not gonna make it through high school,” so Danny and I and other characters were wondering who was going to get axed. And I got the script and found out that ol’ Larry wasn’t gonna make it… I was bummed out about it, but it was a good run. Amazingly enough, people still remember my character and it was only a handful of episodes. I do conventions, or walk down the street and people still recognize me.
W: I don’t know if you know, but we even keep track of the commercials you do in our message boards. ‘Larry Bagby is in this new commercial for this product. I saw it during this show.’ And so we lists the shows during which the commercials play more often, and then whenever someone sees it, they go back, “I saw it! Larry looks GREAT!”
LB: It’s always nice to be remembered. I remember when “Walk the Line” came out, and there were comments among the fans, “Larry Bagby from “Buffy” is on “Walk the Line”!”
W: And we arrive at Walk The Line. How did you get the role? Did you have to audition a lot of times?
LB: I come from a very musical background, and I’ve always liked music, so my agent called me and said, “Look, I know you love music and that you play the guitar. For this audition, you have to pass a music audition first.” So I did the music audition, sang an Elvis song and a Johnny Cash song and really had a great time with it. Then I got a phone call a couple weeks later, “We’d like you to come and have you read for the role of Marshall Grant.” So I did, and it was all very exciting. It was a normal audition process; I don’t think they really knew me from anybody. They just thought I fit the role. And I didn’t know how to play the bass, so after I booked the movie, I had to learn to play the upright bass, so that was interesting.
W: But everybody had to take lessons, right? Joaquin (Phoenix), Reese (Witherspoon)…
LB: Yeah, and that made it fun!
W: Was the person you played in the movie (Marshall Grant) still alive? Did you get a chance to meet him beforehand?
LB: Yes! I didn’t meet him, but I talked with him over the phone before the movie. The director was kind of careful in regards to letting us speak with anybody related to the family. He had a vision, and he didn’t want us impersonating any of these guys, so I just spoke with him on the phone. After the movie, I had a chance to sit down with him and really hear some great stories. He’s a very, very nice man, very humble; he’s a bit sad, though, that he lost of his friends. In a way, he’s the only one left standing. The book that he just wrote is called I Was There When It Happened, like a biography that they did, so it was very nice to hear him talk about Johnny Cash, and June, and Elvis first-hand. He’s a storyteller; if you get a chance, you should check out his book. Lots of great stories there! A very humble man, and the nice part was, he thought I did a nice job. He said, “You depicted me well. All my friends said I should be flattered. And I just told him, thanks, because it means a lot to me really. It’s a little nerve-racking when you’re doing a film, and you know the person you’re depicting is alive. Joaquin didn’t have t
o face Johnny Cash after the movie, you know?
W: You mentioned having a musical background. When did you decide to just go for it and form the band and start playing?
LB: It was after the movie. I was working with all these actors, or rather these musicians that can act, and I was like an actor who can play. So I was surrounded by all these musicians, and I got inspired. I started asking everybody, “What do I do? I want to play music when I get home!” So Tyler Hilton, who played Elvis in the movie, said to me, “Play as much as you can.” So I got home from Memphis, and I immediately went into the studio with the guy that plays bass in my band, Curt Piar. And I was just comfortable there, and it just built, and built and built. I was going to do just a few songs, and then I found a guitar player I really liked to play with, and recently we got Theron, whose Dad is one of “The Temptations,” and he’s played with all kinds of people, like Lenny Kravitz and Mary J. Blige. He came on board, and Curt wanted to play bass, and we formed this band and then did the album, and we just finished recording six new tracks. So yeah, it’s going really well. It definitely takes away from my work as an actor; I haven’t had to stop auditioning or working on film and TV, but it’s hard to do both. I have an audition tomorrow, but here I am, you know, I have to play a show, and it’s gonna be very late by the time I get home, so preparation time for the audition is going to be very limited, and it’s a very competitive business, so you gotta choose at some point what you really want to go after, and music’s what I’ve been after the last year and a half or so. And it’s starting to pay off; I feel like people definitely are starting to notice what I’m doing… I work hard!
W: It shows! We could totally tell during the show.
LB: Thank you.
W: So what’s next? What are your plans? Playing more? Acting more?
LB:We’re gonna keep playing, but we’re gonna limit some of that. I might have to go out of town and start building some fan base. People are busy, and nobody has time, you know? It’s like, if it’s not convenient, they don’t want to be there, and Sunset Strip is just hard. It’s not convenient; people don’t wanna come here. So my goal is to take the material I have now, and we have a lawyer who wants to work with us, and he’s gonna help us shop for a record deal, maybe a publishing deal, and then maybe start placing some of the songs in TV… My hope is to be able to get a record deal, by the end of the year or at least within a year. I have the material, I’m ready to showcase, and that’s what you need, you know? I have the material, I have a great manager who’s psyched about what I am doing, and she cares about it and is here and supports me; I’ve got a great band that are all very professional, and I’m driven! I do what I gotta do, and I think people notice this, you know?
W: What about acting? Do you have anything coming up?
LB: I have some stuff, yes. I have a couple of independent things I’ve done. There’s one called “Believe,” which recently came out. It’s a smaller film, but it got distributed in some theaters across the nation. It’s a mockumentary about multilevel marketing, and I play the lead in that. And then I’ve got a movie that’s really quirky; I’m really proud of the role I played in it, I got to have a lot of fun with it. It’s called “Pirates of the Great Salt Lake”, and I think it’ll be distributed by the end of the year. I play a really bizarre character! It’s about these two guys who believe they’re pirates in modern day, and they’re going around trying to steal and plunder, but they’re ridiculous; they steal from kids and stuff, and they come into this pawnshop with half of this map, and I have the other half. There’s this long story behind the map that points to a treasure, and now we’re all after it. I play a really bizarre character that’s kind of the villain, but it’s cool because I got black hair, and a black goatee, and I make (affecting gruffness) this voice that’s very unique! (resumes normal voice) And it’s based on somebody I know, so… Yeah, I’m doing a lot of really cool independent films, like I just did a western, a short film, actually, based on (Saki’s) short story “The Interlopers”. So I’m focusing on the music and I’m picking up independent projects that I’m interested in.
W: We got the the final part of the interview, which is Pivot’s Questionnaire from “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”
W: Larry, what’s your favorite word?
W: Least favorite word?
W: What turns you on?
LB: Sex! (Laughs)
W: Y’all always take it in the direction of the gutter, good Lord! And it could be so many things! What turns you off?
W: Larry, what sound or noise do you love?
W: What sound or noise do you hate?
LB: Nails on a chalkboard. (shudders) Right? Everybody hates that one…
W: Yeah… What’s your favorite curse word?
LB: (chuckles) I think “shit” is a good one to say. You say it like that, “shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.” Or “damn” is a fun one too; you can use it in so many ways. Or “Schnikes!” “Zoinks!” that one has to be my favorite.
W: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
LB: Well, the profession I’m attempting now is music, so I’ll say that. Outside of the entertainment industry? Wow… I don’t know; there’s nothing else I’d want to do. I have no other choice; that’s why I hope to move forward in this direction.
W: What profession other than yours would you never like to attempt?
LB: I don’t ever want to have a day job; I don’t ever want to sit in a cubicle for nine hours a day, and have someone looking over my shoulder to get projects done. That’s not interesting to me. I’m a little spoiled that way, I guess.
W: And finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
LB: I’d love to hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
W: And you’re the second person that’s said that to us.
LB: Really? Yeah, I think that’d be neat. I don’t know that it’ll be the case, but I hope it is.
W: Thank you very much for talking to us.
LB: No, thank you!
There’s a free screening at Universal Citywalk next Wednesday 5/16 at 7:30PM. Go to the “Pirates” website link above for details.
Larry Bagby’s next live show is May 16th. At the Tangier
s Restaurant and Lounge in Los Feliz. Visit Larry’s MySpace page for more info and more music.