Ray McKinnon, who was born and raised in Adel, and began his professional acting career on stage in Atlanta retains a special relationship with his home state. McKinnon's his first film, a 38-minute, dark comedy, "The Accountant," which he wrote and directed, won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2002 after first qualifying by winning a jury prize at the Atlanta Film Festival.
While McKinnon has written and directed two independent features, and delivered knock-out performances in countless projects, from the Coen Brothers' "O Brother Where Art Thou?" to HBO’s award-winning series Deadwood as the Reverend H.W. Smith, his ties to Georgia remain strong:
* "That Evening Sun," which earned McKinnon a Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, received the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Atlanta Film Festival.
* His comic performance as coach Burt Cotton in he blockbuster film "The Blind Side" supported Sandra Bullock's Oscar-winning performance;
* McKinnon re-teamed with "The Evening Sun's" dirctor Scott Teems to shoot a music video Athens-based Drive-By Trucker's "This Fucking Job" (which World Premiered for the public at Closing Night of the 2010 Atlanta Film Festival);
* Most recently, McKinnon has been cast as Wes Warnicker, Ren McCormack’s uncle, in Craig Brewer's "Footloose" remake, now shooting in and around Atlanta.
While he's back in town, Mr. McKinnon generously time out of his schedule to answer some questions and share some wisdom about the conflict between stopping for an "F. O." vs. an organic orange.
What does it mean to you to be back in Georgia working on another feature film?
First, it's great to be working anywhere but to work in my home state and where I got my professional start is the best. Plus I know where things are. Like the Varsity and Whole Foods. I'm conflicted.
Your own work subverts and inverts southern stereotypes. What do you do to make sure you add depth and dimension to (sometimes two dimensional) roles in studio pictures?
I'm not sure I always subvert the stereotype. Sometimes the subversion is not to subvert. Not everything can and should be like a William Gay novel. What's wrong with 2D? I will say that every southern character I have played is partly inspired from real people I have know over the years. Some of the real folks I have run across are a bit broad for fiction though. In regards to studio flicks, I have the good fortune of having writer/directors like Craig Brewer guiding me. He knows what's what.
Music has played a key role in some of your other films—and you have a special relationship with the Drive By Truckers. Is this your first musical? Do you get to sing and dance?
Yes, I do love music of all sorts. This film however is a drama with comedy and music as a part of its fabric. Craig really captured a slice of small town life in a tone that feels like a town of this century—but yet a town and not a city. The adaptation still has a small town innocence but the characters also have a self-awareness about themselves and how they are perceived outside of their world. I think the specific details and emotionality of the story will surprise people.
What is your favorite musical?
Probably A Little Night Music of which I was in a production of in college. (The Director, Greg Ansley, was desperate.) It is a timeless story of old fools and young lovers. And as I get older, I am more appreciative of its bittersweet restraint.
After you wrap "Footloose" what can we expect from you?
I'm writing a pilot for HBO. Maybe they'll make it. If not, there's always my ongoing dependence on the kindness of friends and strangers.
McKinnon is also adapting a feature length screenplay based on a true story of a prison escape.McKinnon will next appear as Michael Shannon’s brother in acclaimed director Jeff Nichol’s follow up film to "Shotgun Stories." "That Evening Sun" is now available on DVD—do yourself a favor and rent or buy your copy now.;
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