Appearing on just one teen drama? Psht. Two? Forget that. If you’re Matt Barr, you have a trifecta going and will settle for nothing less.
Barr is perhaps best-known for playing Ian “Psycho Derek” Banks on One Tree Hill, but has two other teen drama roles under his belt: a young Keith van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl’s 80s flashback episode and Wes, a college student on The O.C.
What could make it even better? This: Barr couldn’t have been nicer–or funnier–in our interview. See for yourself below.
TeenDramaWhore: When you were cast on One Tree Hill, were you aware of all the twists in store for your character? Specifically, did you know you weren’t really Peyton’s brother and did you know you were going to go down the ‘stalker’ route?
Matt Barr: I really did go into it pretty blind. The only information the producers shared with me in the beginning was that Derek had a dark side. What that meant, I really had no idea. Little did I know I was going to have time of my life! I had no clue it would escalate the way it did, and to the degree it did. I remember, towards the end of that wild character arc, I told creator Mark Schwahn, “Man, you’re really not afraid to go for it!” Loved every minute of it.
TDW: How did you channel all the craziness you had to display?
Barr: Ha Ha. Good question. You know, truth is we all have this instinctual dark side to us. I’m not saying it’s evil; it’s just this raw survival technique that, when placed in extreme circumstances, or faced with desperate measures, we are all capable of some pretty crazy things. Ha ha. I remember when I was like 6 years old, it was my birthday, and as my mom brought my birthday cake to the table, my little brother jumped up and blew out all my candles. I was so mad; I screamed and said something like, “I’m going to kill you, Luke!” Needless to say, I didn’t kill my brother that day. He’s now 22, and bigger and stronger than me. But you could say as I tapped into that angry craziness of Derek, it all started with my little bro. I guess you just have to reach down inside yourself and pull it out. Thanks, bro.
TDW: What goes in to coordinating fight scenes like the ones you had on the show? You had ones with Chad Michael Murray (Lucas), Hilarie Burton (Peyton) and Sophia Bush (Brooke). Is it different to do them with female costars versus the males?
Barr: So much coordination! But I have a blast with that suff. Although I did feel the pressure at times. I remember the stunt crew and the producers saying, “Please don’t injure or kill the stars of our show!” So we practiced plenty. Funny story, though: at one point in a fight sequence, Sophia jumps on my back hitting me and I’m supposed to slam her into the wall [ed. note: Episode 4.16, You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love]. Well, during filming, I’m trying to be extra fragile with Soph; I’m really acting here. But Sophia was really selling it, because she was just beating the living crap out of me. She’s so physical and athletic. So finally on one take, I got really into it, and slammed Sophia into that wall. We fell down, and as I was checking to see it if I had accidentally killed Sophia, the director runs over and says, “Looked great guys. So real! Yeah, do it like that. OK, let’s go again.” Sophia and I laughed. We were pretty bruised by the end of the day.
TDW: Everyone always talks about the “tattoo” of Peyton you had on your back. How long did it take to apply?
Barr: You ready for this……like 2 mins. It’s basically like the ones you get out of a pack of bubblegum. Just stick it on, wet it, and peel it off. Well, a really big one of those. Does that ruin the magic?
TDW: Are you recognized often as “Psycho Derek”?
Barr: All the time. It blows my mind. One Tree Hill fans are most loyal, hardcore fans on the planet. They’re great.
TDW: I don’t know if this is too ‘out there’ but has the “Psycho Derek” rep affected your–let’s say–romantic life at all?
Barr: Ha ha. Now that’s a question! Lets just say the the whole “is that tattoo real” debate has come in handy a few times.
TDW: Are you still in touch with the cast?
Barr: I am. Love those guys and gals. They really made me feel like part of the family during my time on the show. Lee Norris [Mouth] really took me under his wing. Showed me the One Tree Hill ropes. He’s probably the most genuine guy you’ll ever meet. In fact, I owe him a call. (Note to self: call Lee back.)
TDW: You’ve actually guest-starred on 3 teen dramas: The O.C. (Episode 3.22, The College Try), One Tree Hill (seven episodes in season 4) and Gossip Girl (Episode 2.24, Valley Girls). Any interest in joining one of them, or a similar show, for the long-term?
Barr: Well we actually shot the GG episode as a spin-off pilot. Had the network picked up the series, it had the potential to be long-term. But yeah, if the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll jump at it.
TDW: Everyone expected your GG episode to lead to the spin-off. Alas, that’s not happening. Do you know what they had in store for your character and the show, had it been picked up?
Barr: Van Der Woodsen was going to be introduced as a relatively trivial character, but there was more substance to him than we perceived. I was looking forward to going back to the 80’s. My experience in the 80’s pretty much consisted of Ninja Turtle underwear, and threatening to kill my younger brother.
TDW: Any chance we’ll see more of you via flashbacks? Or any chance Ian will come back to Tree Hill to taunt Brooke?
Barr: Hey, this is Hollywood. There’s always the possibility! There’s worse things in life than taunting Sophia Bush!
TDW: You also starred in the serial killer mystery show, Harper’s Island, which was one of the “it” shows this past spring/summer. What was it like working on a show where you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen in future episodes?
Barr: It was such a unique experience. We, the actors, as we read the scripts from week to week, really experienced the show “in the moment.” Just like the audience does. Made it exciting and scary. We had no clue who was going to live or die week to week. I think it served us as actors, because just like our characters, we were living moment to moment, fighting for survival.
TDW: You also recently starred in Pedro, the made-for-TV film about a former Real World cast member who died of AIDS. Was that just another acting project for you or did it have a special meaning/impact?
Barr: It was both. I play this character named Puck. One of the most colorful characters you’ll ever meet. An actor’s dream. I really wanted this part. But also, Pedro Zamora’s story is important. Even as the antagonist, I wanted to help tell the story of this real-life hero.
TDW: What projects are you working on now?
Barr: I’m heading to San Francisco in a couple days to work on this new show Trauma, for NBC. [Ed. note: The episode will now air Nov. 2] But I’ve also been producing a movie called Twelve Mighty Orphans, based on the book by Jim Dent. I optioned the film rights a year ago. A true story, it’s a Depression-era story set in an orphanage in Texas and this visionary coach/math teacher genius comes there and creates this football program, and inspires a sense of pride and excellence. Similar to Seabiscuit, and Jim Braddock, this team of underdog orphans goes on to dominate high school football during the 1930s, and in the process, inspires an entire nation that was looking for heroes. It’s the greatest human interest story I’ve ever read. It’s going to make a fantastic movie.
TDW: Lastly, are you on Twitter or any other social networking site, such as Facebook or MySpace?
Barr: I’m not. I’m a face-to-face kind of guy.
Come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview.