John C. McGinley Joins Jackie Robinson Biopic 42
Production on the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 is slated to begin next week, and so producers are hustling to finalize the feature's lineup. John C. McGinley is the latest name to join the ranks of this ambitious production that will unveil the trials and triumphs of the courageous ballplayer who broke MLB's color barrier. Variety reports the former Scrubs star has signed on to play Walter "Red" Barber, a radio broadcaster best-known for covering the Brooklyn Dodger's play-by-plays.
While on the surface this may seem like a less auspicious role than some of the ballplayer parts, Barber—or The Ol' Redhead as he was sometimes called—was actually a pretty memorable figure in his own right. A kind of Walter Winchell of baseball, Red was known for his uniquely folksy patter and colorful catchphrases, ranging from "can of corn"—meaning a fly ball, easy to catch—to "tighter than a new pair of shoes on a rainy day "—describing a neck-and-neck game. From this it's easy to imagine McGinley, who brilliantly spewed forth rapid-fire diatribes as Scrubs' fiery Dr. Cox, letting loose with this distinctive and infectious diction, but there could be more here to play than a loud-mouthed sportscaster.
Having been born and bred in the racially segregated South, Barber was not initially on board with plans to have Robinson join the Dodgers, and admitted he didn't feel he could broadcast a desegregated game. However, when Barber saw Robinson's skills on the field, he had a major change of heart and went on to become one of Robinson's most vocal supporters. As the main focus of 42 is on the relationship between Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) and Dodger's' manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), it's possible that Barber's arch could be overlooked in the course of the film. But as an admirer of McGinley's unique ability to bring depth to blowhards, I'm hoping writer-director Brian Helgeland (A Knight's Tale) will find the time to let this arc unfold.
42 will be shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia later this month.
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