The Wrong Kiiid Died

By on Feb 21, 2021 in Essays

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An abstract painting with spray paint colors and painted shapes of a large mint-green "W" and a red curved arch.

“Complex #4″ by Raymond J. Barry

Finally, after our tenth take, John C. Reilly turns in a brilliant performance, so we take a lunch break. My end of the scene will be shot after lunch. I’ve gotta be ready for that. The seagulls are still making a lot of noise, and I sit next to the young, handsome black guy on “Saturday Night Live,” and he’s trying to be cool,  and I’m still drilling my lines quietly, so he doesn’t hear; but it’s hot and I’m tired and trying to be professional, mumbling my words and never missing a beat, not one beat, and a little bit pissed about the heat and worrying about my performance after lunch and stuff. Got to remind myself that I have as much going for myself as anyone here, but sometimes I don’t see it that way, as much as I try to appear healthy with therapists and acting coaches and what have you, trying to get through it all with anything available that might bolster confidence, and meanwhile, the lines are too familiar now for any kind of freshness. I’ve said them too goddamn much with this cool, calm and collected fella, eating lunch next to me from “Saturday Night Live,” who’s completely unflappable (I like that word unflappable) with my little attempts at being funny, saying at one point, “I’m wasting my youth on this goddamn scene,” which is funny, because I am sixty-eight years old, and my youth is obviously gone. The “Saturday Night Live” guy laughs a little but has this quizzical look in his eye, as if I were really imaging myself to be young, which I am at heart, but certainly the “Saturday Night Live” guy must realize that I’m aware that I’m relatively ancient compared to this young “Saturday Night Live” guy, who slightly condescends to me on the basis of our age difference, and I’m feeling all this “stuff” about this guy, as I’m acting out my lines to myself a little too loud and with a bit too much muscle going on with gestures and everything, all the time delivering the words quietly to myself.

With all this going on in my head, we talk about New York City; that is, I and the black guy from “Saturday Night Live,” and he tells me he bought a house in Tarrytown, New York, which indicates he’s made some money, which is truly an accomplishment, given how few roles are available for black actors. He must be awfully talented; that is, on “Saturday Night Live” and all. Of course, I can’t help but to compare my career with his. It’s inevitable that would happen when I think about it. We’re both actors. “Who is more successful?” type of thing. It’s hard to say, and who cares anyway? He’s an actor from “Saturday Night Live,” so the guy has an identity, which I didn’t at his age. At least, I think I didn’t. I probably did. But being on “Saturday Night Live” at his age is really something, compared to where I was at his age. Why, at his age, I was completely unknown to the general public, had no money and little, if any, success and was completely out of it, as far as a career was concerned. I resisted success when I was his age, while he’s embracing success, and I’m fascinated by what he thinks of me. Does he respect me? Does he like me? I imagine he’s completely unaffected by me, so superior when he looks at me, as if he’s already sized me up. I could care less. Haughtiness is a bore.

The sun has taken its toll; the effects of dehydration are showing. My energy is waning, but I’m determined to perform well after lunch, when the cameras will be on me. The words don’t feel fresh after saying them so many times, and I’m tempted to ask the “Saturday Night Live” guy if I’m believable, which wouldn’t be right, since people are paying me to do a job and not to ask some “Saturday Night Live” guy how to act. Besides, I don’t want to tip my hand that I don’t know what I’m doing, which I do, but every passing minute brings new questions about the words I’m saying; and meanwhile, the “Saturday Night Live” guy next to me has no words and sits in the heat calmly, as if he really knows what he’s doing, which may be the case, and all the time I’m trying to be a liberal and definitely not a racist, which I suspect we all are without knowing it, to some degree anyway, even in the “Saturday Night Live” guy’s case, but as I say, it’s hot, real hot, and I have white skin, very white that burns in the sun, compared to the black guy next to me, who’s on “Saturday Night Live,” so he must be very talented. At least he seems calm compared to me, but what do I know; that is, aside from my lines that I’ve drilled into my head like a Russian KGB. 

I don’t know why I said that. Just had to, I guess.


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Raymond J. Barry’s career began during the Sixties and Seventies when he became a member of three of New York City’s major, avant-garde theater companies: The Living Theater, The Open Theater and The Wooster Group. He also performed in numerous productions both Off Broadway and Broadway, including two dozen productions at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater. After twenty-three years of New York Theater, he embarked upon his film career, performing in approximately fifty major films and dozens of television roles, including Michael Cimino’s "Year of the Dragon"; Oliver Stone’s "Born on the Fourth of July"; Neil Burger’s “Interview with the Assassin”; "Falling Down"; “Flubber”, and, of course “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," directed by Jake Kasden, among many others. He also played roles in dozens of television series, highlighted by the role of Arlo on the FX Series "Justified," which he did for six seasons. Raymond J. Barry is also a painter and a playwright. His anthology of plays, “Mother’s Son and Other Plays,” can be found on Amazon. His paintings can be view on his website,