Between Dividing the Estate's run last year off-Broadway and the current engagement at the Booth, its cast members did a variety of things: some acted on television, others in theater, and some caught up with their families. It is probably safe to say, however, that none of them did anything as purely adventurous as Gerald McRaney: he went big-game hunting in Namibia.
"I've been hunting since I was 3," McRaney told me this week, as theDividing cast approached its Broadway opening night this Thursday. "In Mississippi, where I grew up, the hunting was mostly small game -- rabbits, squirrels. There were very few deer then, though there are now." Much of McRaney's hunting these days is in connection with his duties as host of the outdoor reality series "The World of Beretta," on the Versus Network.
"The program shows hunting expeditions all over the world," McRaney said. "I've been to New Zealand and Argentina, but my favorite hunting is on safari, in Africa."
McRaney's far-flung travel contrasts dramatically with the life of Lewis, his character in Dividing the Estate. "Lewis," McRaney said, "has never really strayed far from home. He's one of those guys who peaked in high school, who played football but never got to college. He was never encouraged by his Mama, and he got caught up in drinking."
McRaney himself played football as a teenager, until a knee injury removed him from the field and sent him in search of another extracurricular activity. His father was a builder, so McRaney thought he might help out in the building of sets at the high school. "But one of the teachers put me in a play," he said, "and so I got the acting bug."
McRaney, who is married to the actress Delta Burke, has had a lively career in television: eight years as a private investigator on "Simon and Simon" and a successful stint on "Major Dad." One of the items that pops out most from his bio is the second job he got after moving to Los Angeles, in 1971, after early theater experience in New Orleans. "I played a gunslinger on 'Gunsmoke,' he said. "That was a big deal for me, since when I was a small boy I used to listen to 'Gunsmoke' on the radio with my dad.
"Being in a Horton Foote play is also a big deal," he added. "I really didn't even have to read the script before deciding. I just knew I wanted to do it."
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com