“The challenge of playing such an iconic figure as Ronald Reagan really appealed to me and terrified me at the same time,” said actor Tim Matheson when we talked to him last fall about his role as President Reagan in the NatGeo telefilm “Killing Reagan.” “That’s what we as actors do: try to find those moments were we can get out there on a really high wire. Your technique and training takes over and hopefully you survive.” Watch our complete video chat above.
Based on the 2015 book by TV personality Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, “Killing Reagan” tells the story of the 1981 assassination attempt against Reagan by shooter John Hinckley Jr., who was held in a psychiatric facility for 35 years until his release in September 2016, one month before this film had its premiere. Hinckley is played in the film by Kyle S. More, but the heart of the story is the relationship between Ronald and his wife Nancy Reagan (Cynthia Nixon).
That’s what appealed to Matheson about the film despite the fact that he doesn’t share Reagan’s politics. “I wanted to find the heart and the humanity,” he explained. “Once I realized it wasn’t a political story or propaganda but a love story about Ronnie and Nancy and how this killing attempt affected their relationship, then I was in. You can’t act politics, just emotions, wants and desires.”
“Killing Reagan” earned Critics’ Choice nominations last fall for both Matheson and Nixon, and now they hope to follow that up with Emmy bids. Nixon already has two Emmys: Best Comedy Supporting Actress for “Sex and the City” (2004) and Best Drama Guest Actress for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2008). Matheson has yet to win, but he did earn two nominations for another political role: Best Drama Guest Actor in 2002 and 2003 for playing fictional Vice President John Hoynes in “The West Wing.”
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