Interview: Trace Adkins ready for close-up

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Nov. 19, 2003 at 1:28 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Country music star Trace Adkins wants to get more involved in acting in movies and TV, but only if he can do it on his terms.

The multi-platinum Capitol Records performer was in Los Angeles recently for an invitation-only gig at the House of Blues to promote his upcoming release, "Comin' on Strong" -- and not incidentally, to see what he could do to stoke interest among casting directors in his acting ability.

"I've been pretty much aggressive, by Nashville standards, about coming out here three or four times, meeting casting directors -- just trying to get a foot in the door," said Adkins in an interview with United Press International.

There is ample precedent for parlaying country music popularity into Hollywood opportunity.

Kenny Rogers virtually owes his acting career to the enduring character of his signature hit record, "The Gambler." Jerry Reed -- who had good-timey hits in the '70s with "Amos Moses" and "When You're Hot You're Hot" --had a successful run in the movies as Cletus in a series of "Smokey and the Bandit" movies. Reba McEntire is the star of her own TV comedy on The WB, and even starred on Broadway in a revival of "Annie Get Your Gun."

The list of country singers who added TV and screen credits to their resumes includes Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson and the late Johnny Cash. Faith Hill is in the cast of the upcoming remake of "The Stepford Wives," starring Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick.

Adkins already has some acting credits -- including an upcoming appearance on "King of the Hill," as a character called Big John the Trucker. He is scheduled to return to Emmy-winning animated comedy next season, also as a truck driver, but this time his character is named Elvin.

His rich baritone voice would seem to make him a natural for voiceover work, and he told UPI he had recently been cast in a leading role in "The Fox and the Hound 2, Friends Forever." Adkins is scheduled to start work next month on the project, which also features McEntire.

Adkins said he has no idea whether Hollywood has bigger plans for him, but he's open to just about anything that's offered.

"Anything up to soft porn," he joked.

At 6-feet, 6-inches -- and every inch, apparently, the cowboy -- the Springhill, La., native will not be right for every role. But then, what actor is?

He can't understand, though, why he wasn't called to be part of recent Western movies -- including "Open Range," starring and directed by Kevin Costner.

Asked if he was studying acting, to prepare himself for movie and TV work, Adkins said he was not.

"I would if it gets to that point," he said, "but I'm not going to waste my time doing it if I'm not going to get a chance to use it."

Adkins conceded that "Hollywood people would just completely scoff" at that attitude. But he said studying acting now would be like learning a trade at a trade school, and then not practicing the trade.

In any case, he enjoys a luxury that tens of thousands of aspiring Hollywood actors do not have -- an increasingly successful career as a recording artist and concert tour attraction.

"(Acting is) not something I want to make my living doing," he said. "I just want to flex my creative muscles."

By the way, if casting directors want to know how Adkins sees himself, it is as what he called "the reluctant bad guy" -- a character he said shows up not just in movies and TV shows, but even in a lot of music.

"A lot of people, even in the music field, have grown accustomed to thinking that, 'Man, at heart I'm a good guy, but I can't help being an ogre,'" he said.

"Comin' on Strong" is due in record stores in Dec. 2. Adkins' appearance on "King of the Hill" is scheduled for Dec. 14. The episode will also feature the voices of Brad Paisley, George Strait, Deanna Carter and Alan Jackson.

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