Former Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy adds wanderlust to his screen credits
By PATRICIA SHERIDAN December 20, 2012 10:38AM
Andrew McCarthy stars in the Hallmark Channel's "Come Dance with Me," airing Christmas Day. | Getty Images
Updated: December 20, 2012 6:30PM
Forever known as a member of the Brat Pack, actor Andrew McCarthy has expanded his horizons well beyond his early films such as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “Pretty in Pink.”
Although he still acts and directs, he’s taken on a second career as travel writer, contributing to National Geographic and other magazines. He recently published “The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down” (Free Press). It’s part memoir, part travel story and a search for answers that journeys through the human experience. At age 50, the New Jersey native is on his second marriage and has two children. He stars in Hallmark Channel’s original movie, “Come Dance With Me” (7 p.m. Dec. 21 and 3:30 p.m. Christmas Day).
Q: In the movie you dance. So I wondered: In real life, can you dance?
A: No, not a lick. My wife is a big dancer, and she’s always trying to get me to go dancing and I’m always resisting going dancing (laughs), so I’m not a huge dancer.
Q. So there won’t be any “Dancing With the Stars” in the future?
AM: Well, they have asked me to do it a number of times, and I’m sort of tempted, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. No, but I loved it. I mean, once I was doing it and sort of got over myself and they taught me how to do it, it was quite fun.
Q. Speaking of fun, when you do the English accent in “Come Dance With Me,” were you channeling both Hugh Grant and Cary Grant?
AM: Exactly! That’s exactly it. I’m just bad at accents, and I was just doing the best I could. [Laughs] Accents are funny. Accents are very liberating to people, so it allows you — you know, things come out of your mouth that normally never would.
Q. What was Christmas like for you as a child?
AM: Christmas was and actually is my favorite holiday. It was always a wondrous time as a little kid. Coming in and making your parents get up before dawn and coming down the stairs and going around the corner and that first sight — like everyone does, I have very vivid images of that. The tree and all the stuff under the tree. I found that I’ve always loved that moment. Watching my kids now come around the corner and the look in their eye when they see Santa has been there, it’s thrilling. It’s Christmas morning. You know there’s nothing like it, like that instant.
Q. On to your travels. Was it hard for you to write “The Longest Way Home,” being sort of vulnerable?
AM: It wasn’t particularly, and since I’ve been getting that question it makes me think, “Oh gosh, what did I say?” I didn’t want to write a straight travel narrative, and the memoirs I found most moving and the ones I identify with are when the writer reveals themselves the most. I wasn’t writing a book about cool stories that happened to me in the Brat Pack. I was writing a much more personal kind of exploration. You sort of have to do that. If you are going to go there, you go there. I wasn’t conscious at the time of, like, “Wow, this is really revealing.” Also what I reveal, I think, I hope, is more sort of human emotion as opposed to personal details. I’m just talking about feelings. I think everybody’s got those. We either identify with them or judge them or whatever we do with them. In a certain regard, I am revealing my humanness, not my personal life.
Q. You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you were ruled by fear and that this writing was liberating. But, fear of exactly what?
AM: I think fear begins to feed on itself, and fear becomes sort of a general thing. I always had a great fear of people when I was younger. Yeah, I suppose that was largely it — a fear of, sort of, people. I was talking to my son the other day and he asked me if I was ever afraid of anything, and I said, “Yeah, I used to be afraid of people.” He looked at me and just laughed and said, “Why would you be afraid of people, Dad? That is so stupid.” [Laughs] I had to go, “Yeah, you’re right!” But I think that was just my experience. Fear becomes a condition, a state, as opposed to something specific. I think I had a floating fear. People make a huge amount of decisions based on fear and keeping fear at bay. Like fear of other countries, of other people.
Q. That’s the thing about travel. Once you get there, you realize people are just people.
AM: They’re fear-mongering on TV. Politically, we’ve been fear-mongering so people can play their agendas. Mark Twain had that great line: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” Like you just said, if you go somewhere you realize, “Wow, they are just like me.” They eat different, they dress different, but you come back changed and the better for it. This is my soapbox, you know. What is it — 30 percent of Americans have passports and only half of them have ever used them. Americans don’t travel because we’re afraid.
Q. When you travel, does your personality change?
AM: I suppose it does. I become a better version of myself. I’m more curious. I’m more interested. I can be more gregarious. I’m less guarded. I like who I am better when I travel. Absolutely. I find I engage in a way that is less defensive because I’m vulnerable to the world. When you travel, you are out of it. Stepping out the door you are out of your comfort zone. You are forced to ask for help, and I think the minute we ask for help, we’re better off.