Actor Nick Searcy, who plays Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen on FX’s hit TV show “Justified,” is an outspoken conservative in Hollywood — and he really doesn’t care how anyone feels about it.
In his eyes, his personal views have nothing to do with the work he does onscreen. And though he admits Hollywood isn’t exactly chock-full of conservatives, Searcy told TheBlaze in an exclusive interview that he doesn’t know -- or care -- if he’s ever been denied a part because of political bias.
“I’m just a dumb actor,” he joked, letting out a light chuckle. “There are a million reasons why you might not get a part. You may look like someone’s brother-in-law that they don’t like. There may have been times I have lost a role because someone doesn’t want a ‘right-wing maniac’ on set. I’m not going to worry about it.”
That’s not to say Searcy’s politics haven’t come up in conversation among his colleagues — even if inadvertently.
The 'Long' Sean Penn Story
Searcy recalled an email exchange he had with Sean Penn about a decade ago, in which he told the Academy Award-winning actor to “stick your Oscar up your ass so you can see it when you wake up in the morning, because that’s where your head is.”
As outspoken as Searcy is about his conservative beliefs (see his Twitter feed), Penn is just as vocal about his far-left ideology (see him in Venezuela praising Hugo Chavez). The two weren’t necessarily “friends,” but they had worked together briefly on the 2004 film “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” and Searcy said he respected Penn as an actor.
“It’s a long story,” Searcy began, letting out a sigh as he figured out where to start.
Searcy said the wheels were set in motion by a separate email exchange he had with a conservative actress, whom he chose not to identify. The actress was apparently working on a “piece on conservatives in Hollywood” so she asked Searcy what it was like to work with Penn. The actor said he was under the assumption their conversation about Penn would be off the record.
He said he told the unnamed actress in an email that he enjoyed working with Penn on set, though the two certainly disagree strongly about politics.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez greets actor Sean Penn after a meeting in Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on March 5, 2011. Penn, who was visiting Caracas, thanked Chavez for the funding that his government gave to an NGO based in Haiti that assists the victims of the earthquake that shook the country in January 2010. (AFP/Getty Images/Juan Barreto)
“I generally don’t do politics on a movie set — that’s not what we are there for,” he told TheBlaze. “We are there to do a job.”
Shortly after their conversation, Searcy said the actress told him she was “fed up with the bullies in Hollywood” and took it upon herself to send his email to “several people,” including Sean Penn.
“I told her, ‘You didn’t have any right to do that,’” Searcy recalled. “I figured there wasn’t any problem though because I didn’t say anything I didn’t believe.”
Then he got a personal reply from Penn, who apparently asked Searcy why he would even agree to work on a movie with him if he knew what his politics were. Searcy also remembered Penn telling him he didn’t care about his “respect” for him as an actor.
In his emailed response, Searcy said he told Penn he doesn’t turn down roles based on people’s politics because if he only worked with Republicans in Hollywood, he “wouldn’t work much at all.”
“He then wrote back with something even nastier,” Searcy continued, “so I finally ended up saying, ‘Congratulations on your Oscar — now do me a favor and shine it up real nice and stick it up your ass so you can see it when you wake up in the morning, because that’s where your head is.'”
He also told Penn at the time he wasn’t in a position to turn down offers based on politics because he didn’t have the luxury of “making $5 million every time I changed my mustache” for a new role.
The story demonstrates how "intolerant" some on the left can be when it comes to different points of view, Searcy said.
But, he told TheBlaze, he doesn’t have anything against Penn personally, other than the fact that he was “kind of a jerk” on that particular occasion.
"Maybe he was having a bad day,” he said, giving Penn the benefit of the doubt.
Since then, Searcy said Penn has sent messages to him through mutual friends, one time complimenting him on a role he did.
“I don’t think there are any hard feelings,” he concluded.
Nick Searcy: The Man
As people who follow him on Twitter know, Searcy takes a no-nonsense approach to social media. If someone attacks him or other conservatives unfairly, he lets them have it. If someone promotes a liberal ideology that he thinks is stupid, he lets them have it. If an anonymous Twitter user starts name-calling, he really lets them have it.
But acting and shaming anonymous, name-calling users on Twitter aren’t Searcy’s only passions. He told TheBlaze he and his wife, Leslie, are both ardent supporters of bettering the United States’ foster care system.
Searcy adopted his 14-year-old son out of foster care when he was just 15 months old.
“The minute I saw him, I knew he was my son. It was like God speaking to me,” he said.
When he was asked during the adoption process if he had any racial preferences, he said no. However, it was surprising to learn how some people have a problem with a white family adopting a black child, Searcy said.
“I've heard some social workers call it ‘social genocide’ and say if he’s raised by white people that he won’t know his culture,” the actor said. “But I knew I was going to make sure he knows his history, knows the history of the civil rights movement."
But having gone through the “long, frustrating process,” Searcy said it made him realize how hard it is to “wrench a child out of the system.”
He laughed when asked how it makes him feel that, even though he has a black son, some people routinely call him racist simply because they disagree with him. He has been known to sarcastically post a photo of him and his son on Twitter when someone tries to pull the race card.
“That really says it all,” he added.
All politics aside, if you aren’t watching “Justified,” you really are missing out.
The show focuses on a tough but trigger-happy deputy U.S. Marshal from Harlan County, Ky., Raylan Givens, played by actor Timothy Olyphant. Searcy’s character, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen, spends a considerable amount of time trying to keep Raylan out of trouble -- or getting him out of trouble he’s already caused.
The show, currently in its fifth season, airs Tuesdays on FX at 10 p.m. ET. There are only two episodes left, but the first four seasons are available for binge-watching on Amazon Prime.
Though Searcy humbly admits Art Mullen is “much braver” than he is, he also said he tries to keep the character “close to his chest.” In other words, part of the reason Art comes off as a such a genuine character is partly because he’s similar to the man he plays him in several ways.
“He’s very similar to me in terms of our sense of humor,” Searcy said of Art.
Art and Searcy are also very similar in that they both have the same wife. He revealed that the actress who plays his wife on the show is, in fact, the woman he's been happily married to for nearly three decades.
Tom O'Neill, and from left, Jere Burns, Jacob Pitts, Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Fred Golan, Erica Tazel, Dave Andron and Walton Goggins attend "An Evening with Justified" on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at the Television Academy in the NoHo Arts District in Los Angeles. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)
He also said the show has given him some creative freedom to add or try out new lines while shooting episodes, many of which he admits he stole from his father.
But part of what makes “Justified” such great TV is the show’s star, he said.
“I can’t tell you how great it is to work with Timothy Olyphant,” Searcy said of his colleague. “He’s just a talented, dedicated, hard-working guy that puts in the effort every day, every scene, every character.”
Timothy Olyphant, left, and Walton Goggins attend "An Evening with Justified" on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at the Television Academy in the NoHo Arts District in Los Angeles. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)
As far as his Twitter antics and his unapologetic conservatism, Searcy said he believes the people who employ him understand and respect the fact that his personal life is his business.
“I don’t talk about things in context of the show or hang any responsibility on the show or the people who work on the show,” he said.
Still, some people ask him why he chooses to be so vocal about his beliefs — especially while working in Hollywood.
He said it pretty much started when conservative icon Andrew Breitbart died.
“Bullies on the left, they want to call you names and categorize you and make you respond,” Searcy argued. “They want to make you say, ‘Why are you saying that? I’m not that.’ So when [Breitbart] passed away so suddenly, I just sort of had this moment where I asked myself: Why am I scared? Why am I letting these people do this to me?”
“Now, I’m not,” he said.