A veteran of over 90 film and TV appearances, Keith Carradine still gets excited about acting assignments. "The role of Wild Bill Hickock in Deadwood was one of the choicest of my career and offered me the opportunity to bring one of the great American legends to life,” he says about one of his most recent roles. “David Milch’s writing coupled with my friend Walter Hill’s direction was simply an irresistible combination.”
After winning additional fans for his down-to-earth portrayal of Hickock in the HBO series, Carradine took on a very different character in the new TV sitcom, Complete Savages, in which he plays a single father of unruly teenage sons. “The role of Nick Savage has given me the first chance in my 30-plus-year career to do comedy. Again, an irresistible opportunity,” he explains.
Another opportunity came Carradine’s way in 2004 with Gettysburg – Stories of Valor. He served as narrator of this well-researched Civil War documentary and found the whole experience to be extremely informative. “I learned a great deal, actually, from working on this project,” he declares. “I was particularly moved by the story of the old man from the town who tried repeatedly to offer to fight and was refused, finally making his way to the battle and joining the troops.”
Did being the son of a famous actor (John Carradine) influence Carradine’s decision to become an actor? “I suppose growing up the son of an actor made entering the “Biz” somewhat unavoidable -- kind of like being the son of a carpenter or any other profession,” he says. “I certainly have no regrets for my choice. After all, I’ve had success, though my father tried to warn me as well as my brothers (David and Robert) against the insecurity and heartbreak that inevitably go with being in show business.”
Carradine has definitely tasted success in the past with films like Pretty Baby, Wild Bill, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, The Long Riders and Thieves Like Us. I remember seeing him for the first time in Nashville, Robert Altman’s wonderful 1975 film, and being mesmerized by his vocal rendition of “I’m Easy,” a song he wrote especially for that movie. Carradine appreciates the impact of Nashville on his career. “The role of Tom Frank presented me as a rather self-centered ladies’ man who many women found illicitly attractive,” he recalls. “That coupled with the use of my music in the film greatly broadened the industry’s perception of me and the kinds of roles I could play. I was also signed to a recording contract by David Geffen after he saw me in the movie and recorded two L.P.s on his Asylum label. The Oscar for Best Song that I was awarded was also a huge boost for me, both as a recording artist and actor.”
Carradine studied theater at Colorado State University and with Austin Smith in Los Angeles. He did vocal training with Warren Barigian in Los Angeles and Joan Lader in New York. His theater and vocal studies paid off with parts in two musicals, Hair and The Will Rogers Follies. According to Carradine, there’s nothing quite like performing in a Broadway Musical. “Hair was exhilarating both musically and topically and never ceased to bring the audience to its feet. The same was true of Will Rogers. I experienced two years of standing ovations which, in that show’s case, was the result of how completely its creators captured his essence. The immediacy of the Theater is incomparable from an actor’s point of view -- and, for me, it is the most satisfying form in which to participate. I certainly hope to back on the stage one day.”
What’s next for this versatile actor? “I never seem to know that -- we’ll see,” Carradine says. “My main effort has always been to keep expanding my range and sharpening my craft, so I look for roles that will enable me to do that. Variety is important to me.”
No doubt Keith Carradine will find even more “irresistible opportunities” in his showbiz future.