‘Animal Home’ Star Tim Matheson Talks Marine Corps Service

Tim Matheson’s profession has been constructed on a basis of coincidences and a medical throughline.

The 74-year-old actor recognized for his roles in “Animal Home,” “The West Wing,” “Hart of Dixie” and Netflix’s “Virgin River” enlisted within the Marine Corps Reserve in 1968. That very same 12 months, his movie “Yours, Mine and Ours,” starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, was launched. On the finish of the movie, his character, Mike Beardsley, leaves his household to enter the Marine Corps.

“On the day I used to be to movie a bodily within the film, I believe for the draft, I truly was referred to as to go to my draft bodily as properly,” Matheson mentioned. “We needed to reschedule taking pictures.”

He ended his army service as a lance corporal however had the chance to attend Officer Candidates College. He turned it right down to refocus his consideration on appearing — the one profession he ever needed to pursue.

“However I need to say that boot camp within the Marine Corps was one of the crucial profound occurrences in my life,” he mentioned, “as its function is to show you that you are able to do much more than you suppose you’ll be able to. You are able to do a lot, rather more, and it will whip you into form.”

The expertise, he mentioned, was “stunning and enlightening.”

“I used to be a Hollywood child,” Matheson mentioned. “We had been decrease center class, however I smoked, and I did not run.”

He did not work out a lot however was in respectable form.

“I used to be a squad chief in boot camp as a result of I did not thoughts taking cost of a state of affairs. And I assumed they could go simpler on me if I used to be a squad chief,” he mentioned with amusing.

Tim Matheson as ‘Hollywood Marine’

Whereas serving on the U.S. Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Heart in Los Angeles in Chavez Ravine, Matheson aimed to maintain his appearing profession quiet.

“[My best friend Mike Stokey Jr.] was at all times kidding me about Hollywood Marines, and Elvis Presley had enlisted within the Army,” Matheson mentioned. “So I didn’t need to be referred to as a Hollywood Marine. I went into boot camp and made positive I did not point out something about it.”

In a twist of irony, Matheson as soon as marched by the bottom theater, which was exhibiting his first movie, “Divorce American Type.” However as a result of his position as Mark Harmon was minor, no one was the wiser.

Finally, a pal who served within the 4th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, outed him — to little ado for the longer term “Animal Home” star.

“I discovered the 4th Marine Division, which is what was primarily based at Camp Pendleton, was en masse moved out and despatched to Vietnam,” Matheson mentioned. “In order that they mobilized your complete base principally and shipped them over, workplace staff and all … however he did blow my cowl.”

In 1969, Matheson starred in “Learn how to Commit Marriage” alongside Jackie Gleason and Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan’s former spouse. Having not too long ago left the Marines, his hair was quick, prompting him to don a wig for the “spoof on hippies” flick.

Then the reverse occurred.

“[To] play counterculture hippies, I let my hair develop and placed on a brief hair wig after I would go to my Reserve unit,” Matheson mentioned. “That labored out for some time. After which as soon as, I believe after about two and a half years, I overlook the way it acquired out. My gunny was affronted by the truth that I used to be carrying a short-hair wig and wasn’t following, to the letter, the quick, quick hair.”

In response, Matheson mentioned he informed his gunny that he was “the exception that proves the rule” as a result of he wanted the lengthy hair for his civilian profession.

Time for a change

Early in his profession, Matheson was solid in “The Virginian,” a western, and continued to land roles within the style — together with “Bonanza” and “The Quest” — for about seven years.

“I used to be prepared for a change,” he mentioned. “Westerns had been on the wane. … So I took improv courses, after which I noticed the script for ‘Animal Home,’ and I had by no means actually achieved a comedy. Luckily, I acquired to audition with Peter Riegert, an improv actor. … We bounced off one another with ease. We each acquired the components, and now a brand new part of my profession was launching.”

Matheson got here to be taught that, each 5 to seven years, it was time to alter issues as much as keep away from losing interest or phoning it in.

“So westerns, then it was comedy, then I type of went into TV motion pictures, then began directing TV motion pictures, after which directing comedy TV motion pictures and pilots,” he mentioned. “So there have been these pure type of forks within the street.”

Beginning over within the ‘Hart of Dixie’

A type of forks got here when Matheson’s profession was in a directing part, throughout which his credit included USA’s “Covert Affairs” and “The Good Guys.” The schedule, he mentioned, took him away from his household extra so than appearing.

“It was simply so grueling, and there was a pure shift as a result of my marriage ended, and all my children had been off to high school. I had been dwelling in Santa Barbara for 20 years. … I moved again to LA and simply began over,” he mentioned. “One in every of my first auditions I had was ‘Hart of Dixie.'”

Whereas not initially a daily within the CW present starring Rachel Bilson, his character Dr. Brick Breeland was “central to the story.” He was later added to the billed solid and directed two episodes per 12 months.

“It type of grabbed me and took me with it,” Matheson mentioned. “I used to be in a present that was extremely popular, and it lasted 4 years … however I did not need to return to directing.”

Since 2019, he has performed Vernon “Doc” Mullins within the Netflix adaptation of Robyn Carr’s “Virgin River” novel collection.

“This final type of part has been centered extra on simply appearing,” he mentioned. “It has been a rebirth for me.”

“Virgin River” was Matheson’s first streaming present, sending him into a brand new market with a brand new platform for broadcasting.

“When the second season dropped in the course of COVID, we had been up in Vancouver taking pictures the third season,” Matheson mentioned. “Our present was just like the primary present within the majority of cities around the globe in the US and Canada … and we had been all collectively as a solid and a crew. It was actually great for us to expertise [the news] like that.”

Gaining traction throughout the top of the COVID-19 pandemic, Matheson mentioned “Virgin River” was a “consolation form of place” for viewers.

“I believe it was additionally a heartwarming present, a protected place throughout COVID for individuals to flee to,” he mentioned.

The position of physician is also throughline for Matheson, whose characters in “The Quest,” “Animal Home,” “Hart of Dixie” and now “Virgin River” both are within the medical occupation or lean that means via the course of the movie.

“[Doc] is the voice of purpose and counselor who helps individuals,” Matheson mentioned. “It is a great form of world to be in [and play] a personality who cares for individuals and desires to assist them.”

Season 4 of “Virgin River” premieres July 20 on Netflix.

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