James McEachin is a Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient, veteran of the Korean War, an accomplished actor, and an award-winning author. McEachin is perhaps best known for his roles on Perry Mason, Matlock, Play Misty For Me, and his NBC series Tenafly. He enjoyed an illustrious career and eventually retired. Since retirement, McEachin has authored six novels, multiple screenplays, and his one-man play, entitled Above the Call; Beyond the Duty, which opened at DC’s Kennedy Center in 2008. The two-hour play has been seen in places as far away as Kuwait. McEachin began the year 2013 by releasing Tell Me a Tale: A Novel of the Old South as an audio book and is currently working on his film project The Purple Heart. Alabama’s Mobile Area Veteran’s Day Commission selected McEachin as their 2013 Patriot of the Year for his continued work with veterans. On November 1, 2013, the GI Film Festival awarded him the 2013 GIFF Veteran in Entertainment Award for his many patriotic appearances and performances.
Cooper: Tell me about your acting career.
James McEachin: Acting was never really that important for me. It was something I just did. I always found it kind of strange. There were roles you wanted to do and a lot of roles you were glad you didn’t do.
Cooper: How did you get into acting?
McEachin: Totally by accident. I was walkin’ down the street—
Cooper: A car accident?
McEachin: It wasn’t an accident. (laughs) I didn’t even have a car. No, I was walkin’ down the street and a guy approached me. I was going up to see a friend of mine by the name of Geordie Hormel, son of Hormel meats. He had an office on Melrose Boulevard. I was going up to see him, and this guy comes down the same side of the street and takes a look at me and he asks, “Ain’t you an actor?” I said, “No.” The guy said, “You want to be one?” I said, “No, no, out of my league.” He said, “I wrote this script, this role, this guy looks just like you. I’m going up to see the producer now we’re going to start shooting in a matter of a few weeks.” I said, “No, that’s not for me.”
He says, “Why don’t we have a lunch, and we can talk about it?” Well, the guy was a little pushy and I said, “I’ll take the lunch,” but if the guy tries something funny, I’m gonna pop him in the mouth—but I’m gonna eat first (laughs).
He was so hyped up over this movie. So I took the script, and I put it in the trunk of the car and I forgot about it. A couple of weeks later I get a call asking, “You gonna do the movie?” My wife was in the kitchen, and I said, “Hey, Hon, there’s some guy wantin’ me to be involved in a movie. Do you think I should do it?” She said, “Well, you might as well. You’ve bombed out on everything else you’ve ever done.” (laughs) I said, “OK.”