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22

Jan

2018

Celebrity Hemingway Interview Series: Brandon Barash of Timeless

Written by: Diana Rissetto

 
Courtesy of NBC

"Once I found his darkness, I became illuminated by his light." Brandon Barash of TIMELESS talks about playing Ernest Hemingway on primetime television.

 

To celebrate the recent release of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway-Volume 4: 1929-1931, we will be chatting with actors who have brought Hemingway to life on stage or screen over the years.

Brandon Barash is best known and loved for his roles on General Hospital and The Gilmore Girls, has a band (Port Chuck) and hosts a popular Facebook page exploring life as a single dad to his beautiful daughter, Harper. (Make sure to check out their “Movie Quote Monday” videos, if you need a smile.)

With such a hectic schedule, we were so excited Barash could take some time to talk to us about what it was like playing Ernest Hemingway last year on the NBC drama Timeless in the episode “The Lost Generation.”

Timeless follows a group of time travelers that find themselves in the midst of some of history’s greatest events, returning to modern day to find out how their own lives have mysteriously shifted due to the changes they have made while on their journey.

In “The Lost Generation”, the gang teams up with young reporter Ernest Hemingway to save Charles Lindbergh after the show’s regular villain shoots him down in Paris during his Transatlantic flight.

Barash’s Hemingway is charming and extremely flirtatious with heroine Lucy, who, quite starstruck, tells him what a big fan she is, having read all his books, which confuses Hemingway, since he has only written one at that point (The Sun Also Rises) and is unsure if he will even write another.

After watching this episode several times (and, each time, laughing out loud at his perfect timing and expressions), I was thrilled to talk to Barash about his memorable take on a legend.

As the old adage goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Like a nice watch or grandfather clock, Papa was a complex fella with many facets and parts — inner workings — beneath the face of what made him an individual. Having said that, I’d imagine this version of Hemingway was very much a regular part of him and his interactions. Billy Joel wrote in “The Stranger” that “we all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when every one has gone”…it’s my belief that this boisterous and gregarious version of Hemingway was the mask that covered up his Stranger.

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 3.34.04 PM
Courtesy of Brandon Barash

DR: How did you get involved with Timeless?

BB: Simple. I was invited to audition by an office who had seen me for multiple projects in the past. Gives truth and validity to the notion that when auditioning for a part or interviewing for any type of job, you’re not just going out for that particular one. 

DR: Did you watch other portrayals of Hemingway in order to get into character?

BB:I did not. I’ve never been a fan of that…I feel like then you become an actor doing an impression of another actor’s performance instead of finding the humanity of what made Hemingway Hemingway. The other side of that coin is that if I’m crafting a big comedic impersonation of someone (which I’ve always enjoyed) then it helps to see as many interpretations as possible. It works because you’re doing a caricature.  I’ve been a true fan of Papa for as long as I can remember, so I welcomed the challenge of  “finding him”, if you will. 

DR: The audience reaction to your character was so positive! How did it feel to see yourself as Hemingway as a GIF?

BB: Honestly, I kind of geeked out. This part was so meaningful for me to play because of my love for his iconic work, and when I saw how well it was received, I was elated. 

This part was so meaningful for me to play because of my love for his iconic work, and when I saw how well it was received, I was elated. 

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 3.27.51 PM
Courtesy of NBC

DR:Did you improvise any lines?

BB:  There were many moments that Malcolm and I improvised, and no two takes we did were the same. David Hoffman and Kent Rotherham who wrote the episode did such a fabulous, complete, and seamless job, that once we had some good takes in the can, Craig Zisk, our trusting and talented director would say, “okay, do what you want in this one”. There’s not a more freeing experience as an actor than having that kind of trust from a director, the writers, and the cast. “Hemingway Hook” was one of these moments. 

I’ve been a true fan of Papa for as long as I can remember, so I welcomed the challenge of  “finding him”, if you will.

DR: I’m noticing a trend as I watch all the various portrayal of Hemingway recently. He is usually portrayed as pretty superficial and cocky, and then has a moment of depth, as your character did with the lecture to Rufus. Do you think this was probably the impression the real Hemingway gave?

BB: Absolutely. As the old adage goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Like a nice watch or grandfather clock, Papa was a complex fella with many facets and parts — inner workings — beneath the face of what made him an individual. Having said that, I’d imagine this version of Hemingway was very much a regular part of him and his interactions. Billy Joel wrote in “The Stranger” that “we all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when every one has gone”…it’s my belief that this boisterous and gregarious version of Hemingway was the mask that covered up his Stranger. 

DR: What was your favorite scene to film or line of dialogue? I loved when you said that you didn’t do it to get a story, but for the adventure.

BB: The scenes in the Old Chateau with Rufus rank high up there. Those scenes were a nice opportunity to get into all the light and dark and juicy nooks and crannies of his persona.

DR: Did you read any biographies or, OF COURSE, letters of Ernest Hemingway (published by Cambridge University Press!) in preparation?

BB: I had about 72 hours of prep for this role, and in that time, yes, I ingested as much content as I could find on reputable websites…such as yours, wink wink.  There’s also a trough of clues in his writings for such fodder. 

DR: Your part in Timeless was more comedic. Would you play him again in a dramatic series?

BB: I’d be honored. A boy can dream. 

DR: Do you think he’d be amused by your portrayal?

BB: I can only hope. 

DR: On a serious note, did you ever struggle with parodying Hemingway knowing ultimately how troubled he was and how he would eventually commit suicide?  (Please note this is coming from a girl who once wrote a musical comedy about Anne Frank’s forgotten sister, Margot.)

BB: Great question, and I’m glad you asked. No. In fact this was, for me, what served as a portal into the soul and humanity that was Ernest Hemingway. Once I found his darkness, I became illuminated by his light. 

Once I found his darkness, I became illuminated by his light.

DR: Favorite Hemingway book? (Do you have a favorite Hemingway book?)

BB: The Old Man and the Sea. Unequivocally. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken that journey. Just thinking about it as I tell you, I can almost smell and taste the salt of the sea and of tears and of the blood.

DR: Are there any other historical figures you’d like to tackle?

BB: I have a list. Notable highlights include Nikola Tesla, Babe Ruth, Manson, Neil Armstrong, JFK, and FDR. From my mouth to the universe…

DR: Thanks for stopping by, Brandon! We hope to see a lot more of you in the future. Hopefully when you star in that JFK or FDR biopic, we’ll have a book to coincide with the release and can chat about that experience!
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About the Author: Diana Rissetto

Diana Rissetto is the Senior Media Associate at Cambridge University Press in the New York City office. She is also a playwright and has often been called a walking sitcom. ...

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