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Trace Adkins acts up

By Jeffrey B. Remz, March 2011

Trace Adkins sings Hell, I Can Do That on his latest disc, "Cowboy's Back in Town." The tall Louisianan with the ultra deep voice sings of driving a racecar, running with a football player and acting as something he can easily do.

"Well I must have dozed off/I woke up with my baby next to me/Remote in her hand, tears in her eyes from a movie/A romantic comedy starring Matthew McConaughey/Oh, hell baby I can do that," sings Adkins.

Life proved stranger than fiction for Adkins because he acts in a movie starring McConaughey, "The Lincoln Lawyer," opening March 18. Adkins makes it clear he's serious about acting, but he's also way more serious about his music.

"I had no idea," said Adkins of the song, while soon being in a movie with McConaughey. "It was one of the real strange coincidences. That album was recorded a year and a half ago."

"I just thought the song was just as funny as hell," said Adkins.

The only problem was that McConaughey had issues because Adkins mispronounced his name. In order to make the words rhyme, Adkins pronounced it Mc-Con-na-hee instead of Mc-Con-na-hay, and the actor was not shy about telling Adkins the difference.

In the movie directed by Brad Furman, Adkins plays biker gang leader Eddie Vogel. McConaughey is a slick Left Coast criminal defense attorney (Michael "Mick" Haller), who usually defends small time criminals. But he represents Beverly Hills playboy and accused attempted murderer (Ryan Phillippe). Marisa Tomei and John Leguizamo and William Macy also have roles.

Trace Adkins sings

Adkins appears in a trailer for the movie, riding his cycle with his band of bikers following suit, sliding up to McConaughey's car and handing him money. Adkins shot the film for about five days in Los Angeles last September.

"I can't imagine it's more than three minutes," said Adkins of his screen time. "I'm (onscreen) at the beginning, and I'm at the end."

Adkins made it clear he was not going to quit his night job to go into acting. "No, no no….I started acting before I started singing. I was in the high school productions my junior and senior years of high school. I loved it. I loved being on the stage, in the plays. I liked it a lot. Growing up where I did and living where I lived, I didn't even consider pursuing that, so I went to work in the oil field and played music on the side as a hobby so that was the door that opened."

The idea of acting professionally is not something new for Adkins – it's just that he hasn't done a whole lot of it, but when this part came around, Adkins felt comfortable.

"I read the script, and I thought it was a part that wouldn't be that much of a stretch for me. I'm not a trained actor. I know that. I'm going to take it seriously and do the very best I can do. I think I better stick with roles that I can do. This being the leader of a motorcycle club just didn't see like that big of a stretch. The crowd that I've hung out with most of my life has been a pretty tough bunch."

Furman made a point of telling Adkins that he won the part based on his audition because he had no idea Adkins was a country singer. "I appreciated that, and at the same time, that stung a little bit," said Adkins.

Adkins may be confident singing on stage, but acting, well, that's different. "It was intimidating because this is a major motion picture. This is a big production and this is the biggest thing I've ever been a part of. Of course, there was anxiety. McConaughey really went out of his way to really make me feel comfortable. We sat around and talked and just hung out, and we were from the same part of the country (McConaughey hails from East Texas). His father worked in an oil field all his life." So did Adkins before singing took over.

"Then he rehearsed the scene with me a couple of times," said Adkins. "He just really made me feel really comfortable."

Adkins made his movie debut in 1987 with "Square Dance" with Jason Robards, Rob Lowe and Winona Ryder. "Tracy D. Adkins," as he was billed was a member of the Bayou Band.

"I was just background. Michael Nesmith (of The Monkees) was the producer on that movie. The biggest thrill I ever remember getting from it was meeting Michael Nesmith. All these cats were in the movie, but I met Michael Nesmith from The Monkees."

Adkins waited another 17 years before having a role in TV series including "Yes, Dear," "Higglytown Heroes" and most prominently "King of the Hill," where he was the voice of different characters, including Elvin Mackleston, in five episodes.

Adkins' acting career has picked up since 2008 with appearances in "Trailer Park of Terror" where he played "The Man," "An American Carol," "Lifted" and the TV movie "Tough Trade."

Adkins joked that he took time off from acting after "Square Dance" because "I just didn't feel I could top that. A good friend who had directed a few of my music videos directed ("Trailer Park of Terror"), and he thought I could do the angel death. I had a blast." Well, except for putting his hand in a pile of real live snakes and having to grab a gun. "I didn't like that," said Adkins.

Adkins has a few other acting roles committed to, including an indie one this past weekend ( he refused to name it citing superstition that it might not see the light of day) and a future TV miniseries.

He may not have done a lot of it, but Adkins enjoys acting. "I don't mean this to sound like I don't get off on performing any more on stage because I do, but there's something out of getting out of your comfort zone, something that you're just not used to doing. There's anxiety that comes from that. You get a rush from that, you know. Any time you put yourself in a situation where failure is a huge possibility, that's an exhilarating thing to put yourself out there to put it on line and do something that is not your forte. The acting thing - I take it very seriously when I do it, but I don't take myself seriously as an actor. It's not how I earn my living."

Music fans, therefore, need not worry about Adkins going Hollywood on them. "It's the time commitment. I have responsibilities man. I have a lot of guys in my organization that are on salary and my family and my kids. I have to earn a living dude. I just can't stay out here in Hollywood and try to read for everything that comes along. A big part that would require months of my time would be have to be planned for way in advance. Right now, I have to keep my priorities in line, and the music business is what I do."