‘Justified’ Actor to Divisive Hollywood: ‘You’re on Thin Ice’
LifeZette exclusive: Nick Searcy opens up about industry bias, why he's 'picky' about projects, and the family that sustains him
Nick Searcy has had a prolific career. Best known for his role as Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen on “Justified,”, he’s acted alongside everyone from Tom Hanks to James Franco. His career is wide-ranging.
Searcy is also known as one of Hollywood’s few outspoken conservatives, and he has never been afraid to go against the political grain in Tinseltown. Searcy took the time to chat with LifeZette about everything from his politics to his career, including the upcoming film “Gosnell,” which chronicles the capture of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell and which Searcy directed.
“Gosnell” was recently screened at the Conservative Political Action Conference and is expected to be released later this year.
Question: You have had an incredibly long career in a business that can be cutthroat. You have 116 credits on IMDB and well-known roles in projects like “Justified,” the crime drama series that ran on FX — so what do you attribute that success and dedication in this business to?
Answer: I think just sheer cussed stubbornness — and the fact that I never wanted to be anything else. It made me stick to it through some very lean years, in New York City in my 20s, where I did a lot of theater for not a lot of money, and did a lot of different day jobs. By the time I was able to make my living solely from acting, I was 31 years old. I think that made me appreciate it more.
“If there have been jobs I lost because I was openly not a Democrat, I haven’t missed them, and I’m probably better off without them anyway.”
I have also been blessed with the greatest wife on Earth, who is a fine actress, dancer, and artist herself. She understands what this life is all about and has supported me all the way. When we found out we were pregnant with our daughter Chloe — creator and star of “My Boyfriend is a Robot,” currently available on Freeform — a lot of Leslie’s friends asked her, “Is Nick going to get a real job now?” And she indignantly said, “No. He’s an actor!” Not everyone would have had that kind of faith.
Q: “Justified” ran for a number of seasons and was highly regarded. The series had many conservative fans. What do you think right-of-center people, who often feel left behind by Hollywood content, latched onto in regard to that show?
A: Six seasons! And thank God for that! I think two factors attracted a different sort of audience than many shows.
One, “Justified” was about rural Kentucky life, and a part of the country that most action/cop-type dramas ignore. It also portrayed people in the rural parts of the country as very smart, crafty, clever, and funny, and very intelligent. So many shows about the South have made the characters idiots and buffoons, and that’s not reality. Our audience responded to that. Many people told me the show reminded them of home — not necessarily the lurid crime aspect of it, which was heightened for effect, but just the humor among the characters, the way they talked and teased and joked with each other. There isn’t really anything else like our show in that respect.
And two, I think the sense of justice in the show appealed to a more conservative view of life — bad people getting what they deserve, reaping what they sow, if you will. The way Raylan [Givens] operated just on the edge of the law — and stepping over the edge sometimes — felt right to the audience, felt, forgive me, “Justified!” And my character, Art, who was the moral center of the show, sometimes allowed it to happen when he could have busted Raylan or ended his career, because he could see the bigger picture, the larger point of what Raylan was trying to do.
In the last episode, I tell Raylan, “I brought you in to get Boyd Crowder, and you did it.” Even after all the turmoil between Raylan and Art, in the end, the goal was accomplished, and I think that made our show very satisfying to people used to gray-area endings and shows that often make the good guys into bad guys. No matter how many corners Raylan cut and I “ignored” or winked at, he remained a force for good in the world. That set “Justified” apart.
Q: You’re very open about where you stand politically — and very honest in the face of a system that publicly does not agree with you, sometimes aggressively so. Have you ever experienced career blowback or setbacks from your politics?
A: I wouldn’t know. Perhaps. But it isn’t something I would be told, even if it was happening. I have been very fortunate to be allowed to make a great living and raise a beautiful family doing something I would probably do for free — and in fact DID do for free, for many years. If there have been jobs I lost because I was openly not a Democrat, I haven’t missed them, and I’m probably better off without them anyway. I’ve always been a bit of a smart aleck. I probably lost more jobs because of that than my political views.
Which is not to say it doesn’t happen. Friends have told me it happened to them. The climate against dissenting views in Hollywood is real, and more so now than at any time I’ve lived through. I have a great many friends who are actors, and actors that you would know very well, some of them more successful than I am — if such a thing can be imagined! — who have told me they think just like I do, but they would never dare say so, for fear it would cost them work.
So I am not minimizing the prejudice against actors and other tradesmen in this town who are not Democrats, and feel that they dare not speak out. The progressives in Hollywood are in danger of becoming the new McCarthyites. Every few years they make another “Guilty by Suspicion” or “Trumbo” or “Good Night and Good Luck.” They love to make movies about the blacklist — but they are oblivious to the fact that they may be becoming the “blacklisters” they claim to despise. When you’re standing at a microphone encouraging people to “punch Nazis,” and your definition of “Nazi” seems to be nothing more than “people who don’t vote like me” — you’re on thin ice.
Q: You directed a film called “Carolina Low” a long time ago, which I heard you say at one point may be getting a release soon. Any updates on that?
A: I directed “Carolina Low” in 1996 and produced it with my friend from my hometown, actor Sean Bridgers. It’s been remastered and re-edited and is going be released later this year by a company called Random Video, but I don’t know when. I also directed a movie called “Gosnell,” which was completed in 2016 and should be released later this year as well. I am not a producer on “Gosnell,” so I have no idea how the distribution is going to play out.
But it is a very good little film about a very dark subject, the case of Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor convicted in 2013 of murdering a number of newborn infants in his practice of over 30 years. I am told the producers have had a tough time getting that film through the Hollywood apparatus because of the subject matter, which isn’t hard to believe. But the film itself is not preachy. I worked very hard to try to keep it a film that simply told the story of what this murderer actually did, and not a movie that told the audience what they should think about it. I hope it gets a wide release. It’s a good film, and it goes places that no dramatic narrative feature film has ever gone.
I would think that controversy and a hot-button issue like this would attract some profit-hungry distributor, but perhaps ideology does trump all in Hollywood. We shall see!
Q: Is directing something you’re interested in doing more of in the future?
A: Certainly. I’ve made films my whole life, and I hope to do more of it. I am developing a couple of projects right now, and I certainly hope to make them into films in the next few years. All I need is a few million dollars. Know anybody?
I have a son in high school who is a wonderful young man, and I want to make sure I’m around and don’t miss his last few years at home with us, so I am being a bit picky these days.
Q: With a career as big as yours, what obstacles are there left to tackle? Are there specific filmmakers you want to work with, or a certain type of content you want to dedicate a lot of your time to in the future?
A: Well, thanks for calling my career “big,” although I’m not exactly mobbed by fans when I go to the grocery store or the golf course! But I have been very fortunate in that I have done well enough that I can now do jobs I want to do, rather than things I have to do for money. I have a son in high school who is a tremendous athlete and a wonderful young man, and I want to make sure I’m around and don’t miss his last few years at home with us, so I am being a bit picky these days.
I have been doing a bit of theater lately. I did a play called “Billy and Ray,” written by my dear friend Mike Bencivenga, about the collaboration of Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, at the Laguna Playhouse last October. It was a wonderful experience. I got to play Mr. Chandler, and it was a role I had wanted to do for a long time. It was the first Equity production of a play I had done since 1989, and it reminded me of how much I loved doing live theater. That led indirectly to the next thing I am doing, “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” which I’ll be doing at the great Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles from April 4 until May 14. I’ve always wanted to do a play there, and it’s a bucket list check for me.
So I’m hoping to do more theater, direct more films, and act in some more great projects (that shoot in LA, I hope!) before I hang it up for good. And I am definitely enjoying the success of my beautiful and brilliant daughter Chloe Searcy, who has already sold two pilots and is on her way — I’m hoping she’ll hire me someday — and the success of my son Omar, and the dancing of my wife Leslie, who every day inspires me with her relentless pursuit of excellence in the craft she loves. I am grateful to God every day for the life I have been blessed with.