Tim McGraw is Ready for Football in "The Blind Side"
by Angela Walker
Tim McGraw is a multiple Grammy award winner who recently turned his substantial talent to the craft of acting. He's been in eight movies in the last five years and will begin filming another movie in January of 2010. Married to fellow country music superstar Faith Hill and the father of three children, his schedule is managed by his wife and is always subject to his children's activities.
I met him recently at a press day in Los Angeles and had the opportunity to talk with him in person about his role in The Blind Side, the challenge of balancing the many facets of his career, and his faith. He really is the nice guy he seems onscreen, and even greeted me with a phrase from the NFL theme song: "Are You Ready for Some Football?"
You're recording, touring, making films and have a family. How do you manage to keep everything balanced?
Tim: It's my wife (Faith Hill). She keeps all of our schedules: my schedule, her schedule, all the kids' school schedules. Without her it would all fall apart, I'm sure.
In the movie, the parents are at all of Michael's games. Are you and your wife able to attend your kids' events?
Tim: Oh yeah, we're at all the games, plays, recitals, and everything. We really try not to schedule too much when school is going on. And when we do, it's during a break at school so the kids can go. We do pretty good at keeping things scheduled out of the way. Everybody that works for both of us gets our kids' schedule and the school schedule and the schedule for all the activities the kids have. They get that schedule first, then they start putting my wife's schedule and my schedule all around that.
We're lucky that we can do that. A lot of people would love to do that, but just can't. We made a decision early on. When we met, we were already successful, so when we decided to start a family, we established those boundaries right off the bat. We don't say that without knowing that not everyone is as lucky as we are. People who aren't in the position we're in don't have the chance to do it, but would love to.
We don't feel like we're anything special, we're just allowed to manage our lives that way.
What's your faith background?
Tim: I grew up Southern Baptist, so every Sunday, Sunday night and Wednesday I was in the church. I started out at a Pentecostal church as a kid. We grew up way out in the country and went to Pentecostal services as a kid. Then we started going to the Southern Baptist church, and that's what I did my whole life. I'm very proud of that.
Your music is an interesting mix of music that appeals to the country audience, but then you have these songs about faith thrown in. This film does that as well – appeals to the audience and has a strong faith element.
Tim: For me, I'm not going to preach to anybody. I know my shortcomings, so I'm not going out there to preach to anybody. But I like to give you a sort of well-rounded vision of who I am in a lot of ways, the good and the bad. I've got both sides, like everybody does. I'm not perfect by any means. I've got a spiritual side to me and I'm very proud of that.
What I try to do is lay myself out there as an artist. If a song comes along that has a spiritual theme and appeals to me and I feel like I can sing and present it without preaching to anybody or beating them over the head, but they'll still get a good message out of it, I'll do it.
The director said when they were casting your role, they were looking for someone with the quiet self-confidence of Sean Tuohy. Do you think you are similar to him in that way?
Tim: We both grew up in Louisiana and we were both athletes growing up. We both have women who run the show back home, so I can relate to him in a lot of ways. He's a great guy. I didn't meet him until we were in the middle of making the movie, but I didn't want to emulate him, either. I wanted to be the character in the script I read. I wasn't setting out to imitate anybody. I hope he's happy with it. I think we got the essence of what this family is and who Sean is.
You've had a variety of roles in the eight films you've done in the last five years. Are there any roles in particular that are close to who you are?
Tim: I would say probably this one is the closest to myself, I guess. I think that's the great thing about doing movies is that you can be someone else. But there's always a part of you that comes through in a role.
What part of you comes through in this role?
Tim: Probably the athlete. I think John (Lee Hancock, the director) said that all athletes walk alike. I couldn't change that.
Can you compare what it's like to prepare for a film like this vs. preparing for a recording project?
Tim: When I get ready to do music, I just go in and do it. I find out what day I go and sing, and just go do it.
When I'm preparing for a film, I like to watch movies that are similar to the one I'm doing. I also like to read a lot. I'm not necessarily reading about what the movie is about, just reading. It helps me relax and find the character.
When you think about movie roles and what you'd like to do, are there any specific ones you'd like to take on?
Tim: I don't know. I just look for stuff that's interesting. I tend to like darker stuff, so I'm probably looking for something a little darker the next time around.
As a performer who's been so successful, how do you achieve excellence, in whatever discipline, and maintain the reputation you have for being such a nice guy?
Tim: I think that people respond accordingly to how you act, and I think that I would probably find more resistance if I acted out more. I think people respond better if you treat them nicely.
When did you see the completed film the first time and what was your takeaway?
Tim: It was four days ago. I thought it delivered the message just right, and that people could leave the theater feeling good about it. I hope people are thinking that people are basically good people, because I think we've lost sight of that over the years.