When you've played as many characters as John C. McGinley - surgeons, serial killers, military commanders, CIA agents and more - being approached by fans goes with the territory.
It happened again when McGinley, in town to film Kid Cannabis, went to Pagliacci's for dinner. He soon found himself chatting with enthusiastic tourists from Missouri who recognized one of Hollywood's most prolific character actors.
"I prefer 'getting paid' actor," laughs the New York native.
On a balmy August afternoon, after driving a tractor through a field near Prospect Lake in character, the lanky film star took a breather to chat about fatherhood, politics and the "John McGinleytype" casting term he has inspired.
It doesn't necessarily refer to his reputation for onscreen sarcasm, intensity or buffoonery, maintains the actor, whose roles include his grinning, Michael Bolton-obsessed efficiency expert in Office Space; sardonic, no-nonsense Dr. Perry Cox on NBC's Scrubs; and roles in Oliver Stone movies such as Sgt. Red O'Neill in Platoon and motormouthed Marvin in Wall Street.
"I think it means someone with lots of energy who can do a lot of dialogue," he says.
"If it's not an eccentric role, it's the who-what-where-when-how guy. The hero's not going to do all that expository stuff. It's the next-doorneighbour, the boss, the co-worker. He's going to tell us what time the bomb's going to go off."
McGinley, 53, figures directors hire him because he understands the storytelling process.
"I can figure out specifically where I can fit into it, so that makes me an asset on set. It's one less thing for a director to worry about," says the actor, who appears to be on Oliver Stone's speed dial. (He also played Stu in Stone's Talk Radio and Jack Rose, an obnoxious Jim Rometype sports reporter in Any Given Sunday, among other Stone films.)
"I'm Mr. Preparation," says McGinley. In fact, he took two weeks to "get into the groove" for his role as a fanatical marijuana farmer in Kid Cannabis, writerdirector John Stockwell's factbased film about Idaho teenagers who built a pot-smuggling empire.
"My character has an almost religious devotion to cannabis," said McGinley, who also visited a growop that day.
"Everything I did over the past two weeks yielded profound dividends. I'm not smart enough to do that stuff on the fly."
McGinley and Stockwell, a fellow member of the Malibu Mob, had wanted to do a movie together for years, and the timing was right. He squeezed it in between the start of rehearsals for this fall's Broadway revival of Glengarry Glen Ross with Al Pacino, and wrapping 42, Brian Helgeland's biopic of baseball legend Jackie Robinson with Harrison Ford in Atlanta. McGinley plays Walter (Red) Barber, the colourful Brooklyn Dodgers play-by-play sportscaster.
He also has a recurring role as former CIA operative Tom Card in Burn Notice, and plays an ambitious police chief opposite Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox in Alex Cross, the upcoming crime thriller he says is similar in tone to Silence of the Lambs.
The versatile veteran, whose wackier roles included playing a gay highway patrolman in Wild Hogs, laments he was too often regarded as "Mr. Serious Guy until Scrubs came along and then I became the funny guy. I'm happy to straddle those two."
His comedic skills were obvious in Office Space, when writer-director Mike Judge let McGinley creatively tweak his character.
"I decided he wasn't just going to be enamoured [with Bolton], but fanatical. I took it to a whole other level of dysfunction."
McGinley's passion for acting and sports - he loves the New York Yankees and golf, which he plays with best friend John Cusack - is matched by his devotion to family. He has a teenage son with Down syndrome, Max, and two young girls from his marriage to Nicole Kessler, a yoga instructor Max approached on the beach one day while McGinley was chasing his dogs.
"I came back and Max was sitting next to this goddess," he said, laughing. "I wouldn't have had the courage to say hello."
As a vocal advocate for the special-needs community, McGinley is less shy. He has vowed to help stop casual use of the R-word - retard - since he attended a youth leadership conference during the 2009 Winter Special Olympics in Boise, Idaho. The campaign is called Spread the Word to End the Word.
"If you disparage an AfricanAmerican or Jewish or gay American or Canadian, there will be repercussions, whether it's a blowback or a boycott," he said.
"But when you do that to the special-needs community, less than nothing happens. You've picked the perfect target to exercise your vitriol and cowardice. I'll be the guy to call you out on it, because it stinks."
McGinley, who spoofed Republican party presidential nominee Rick Santorum in Will Ferrell's Funny Or Die website, is no less outspoken about politics.
"I'm a Cadillac liberal," he says. "I want lower taxes and I want us to get out of Kabul. Billions that could be elevating people with special needs is going to drones in Afghanistan.
"As soon as someone can explain to me why 185,000 kids are there, I'm all ears. I don't get it. I've asked Arianna Huffington and everyone. No one can give me a real answer, just the glib answers."
To add your support to more than 300,000 pledges to eliminate the R-word, visit r-word.org.
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