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EyeCon One Tree Hill: Uncle Keith, Coach Whitey, Uncle Cooper talk the show, real life and more

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At EyeCon's One Tree Hill convention last weekend in Wilmington, North Carolina, the third panel (overall, first on Sunday) featured some of the "grown-ups" of the show: Barry Corbin, who played Coach Whitey Durham, Craig Sheffer, who played Uncle Keith, and Michael Trucco, who played Uncle Cooper. Thanks to the actors' wit and honesty, it was perhaps the most comical panel of the weekend. Barry Corbin — who was presented with a Marine Corps pocket watch by the convention organizers as thanks for his previous military service — particularly shined. Besides his spectacular mid-panel impression of Antwon Tanner, his deadpan answers were as funny and smart as the speeches his beloved character gave to the youth of Tree Hill High. Corbin's comments... In response to the first question of the day, he said that although he didn't know about basketball before starting the show, he studied and found you don't have to know the game to portray a coach, just watch intently and get mad at calls. To explain this, he acted it out. When someone pointed out that none of the cast seems to have seen the show, and asked if either of the three men would watch it, Trucco and Sheffer just said they don't watch themselves. Corbin said, "I never watch because I don't look like I think I look, I think I look like a young Gary Cooper but really it's like Edward Arnold or someone, I don't want to look like that." When asked what his favorite Whitey line was, Corbin didn't remember any specifics. But the audience called out "damn your sperm Danny," so he recited it earnestly, to everyone's delight. In response to what shows the actors were excited to watch growing up, Corbin said, "I never saw a TV set until I was 14... that's how old I am." But the radio shows he liked were Challenge of the Yukon, Lone Ranger and Inner Sanctum. For Sheffer it was Happy Days and for Trucco it was Cheers, Phenomenon, Seinfeld and Friends. Although Corbin stood out, the others had their moments, with questions asked only to them. Questions for Sheffer... In response to what scene after Keith's death did he wish he could have been there for, Sheffer said when Dan's dealership got set on fire. Then he said, "I loved being part of the show, I wish I could have been part of the young people's world, but I wasn't young, so that was a problem." About how he felt when he found out Keith would be killed, he joked he thought he'd go bankrupt. "It was a really cool ending, I just wish it had been someone else... I was sad to leave the show," added Sheffer. About his favorite Uncle Keith and Lucas scene, Sheffer said that he always tries to do in real life what Uncle Keith did on the show, to share life lessons with the young people he knows. He liked the more emotional scenes, like when Luke was in the hospital and Keith thought he was going to die. About what he thought would have happened to Keith if he had lived, Sheffer said he would have ended up with Karen, but, Sheffer jokingly added, "then she would have left him for Dan." Trucco got a few questions about One Tree Hill, as well as several about his other roles. What would have happened if Uncle Cooper stayed on the show? MT: He would have ended up with Brooke. Trucco said that one writer actually pitched it to him, that after the time jump Cooper would be with Sophia (Bush, who played Brooke Davis). Trucco told the audience that he enthusiastically supported the idea — making it clear with his tone that it was because he dug Sophia. Someone said they're a huge Castle fan and asked what his favorite guest star role was... Trucco joked that coincidentally it's Castle. But he meant it because, as he explained, he formed a really close friendship with Nathan Fillion career-wise and in their personal lives. He said Fillion is a great guy and incredibly creative. What was your favorite role besides this show? MT: For me a career highlight was being on Battlestar Galactica. Roles like that don't come along very often. Trucco then explained that he was doing OTH and Galactica at the same time. Galactica was the first one to offer him an actual contract and it caused an issue with OTH because he couldn't do both. What did you think of the special effects on Charmed? Trucco said that they were cool and it was also fun that he got to do a lot of stunts, though he said sometimes with special effects you're really just "acting to a pillow" so it's "tough to shoot." He then told a story about when they were shooting at a park in LA on a freezing night and he was giving it his all even though it was just shooting coverage of the three women (the stars). When it was time for his coverage, the stars left and he had to act to bored stand-ins. "I think I was pissed, [the stars] took off, but I found out later that it was a turnaround issue, they had to get back for an early scene the next morning," said Trucco. "They were all very sweet, I loved them." How did you prepare for your serial killer role on Criminal Minds? He joked that he's a method actor, but then said it's hard to prepare for roles like that. He mentioned a role on Law & Order as a serial rapist. He talked about how weird it was to greet actresses he was going to have to pretend to rape. "You can't prepare for that, I mean you just go to a dark place in your mind and never judge your character," he said. "Everyone justifies his own actions in some way." Trucco added that although it seems he always plays awful characters, he's really not a bad guy. Trucco wasn't the only one asked about other roles. People brought up Corbin's part in Urban Cowboy and Any Which Way You Can, and mentioned Sheffer's Nightbreed. There were also plenty of questions addressed and answered by all three actors. How are you like your character? BC: We look alike, we talk alike, but I'm not very wise, I give a lot of bad advice, they wrote good advice for me in my scenes, but I don't do that. I say get drunk and have a good time. MT: I'm an uncle, so I have that going for me. But I've never dated a 17-year-old who told me she was 25. If I hadn't become an actor I would've pursued a race-car driving career. CS: He's a lot like me... but I'm a little more fun, not as serious. Did you audition for your role or someone else? BC: They called me up after seeing every old man in Hollywood, I went to LA to talk to the boss about playing Coach Whitey... walked in talked for five minutes, they said you got the job can you start next week? I said give me a chance to watch some basketball. CS: I went for Dan, I thought he was the more interesting character — sometimes it's fun to play the bad guy, you can be edgier, get better lines. But they said why don't you read for the other guy so I did... Trucco joked that he read for Mouth, then said Cooper was only supposed to be in one episode but they "decided to keep the creepy uncle around." Is there anyone in particular you loved doing scenes with? BC: I liked them all, I liked the girls, I always liked the girls. The guys I could do without but we got along good, I asked Sophia to marry me once but she said I was too young. Sheffer said he liked the deep conversations between Whitey and Keith, the intensity of scenes with Dan and being a mentor to Chad (Lucas). Trucco said that he was nervous about coming in late to a cast with an already-established bond but "from day 1 everyone was very embracing... [I feel] really privileged and honored to have played a small part in this story." What do you miss most about filming here? BC: Looking across the river and seeing the battleship... the good friends. It was a pleasure being here for the length that I was, I enjoyed playing Whitey. Sheffer said he misses the beach house he had during filming, as well as the small town feel and Southern hospitality of Wilmington. Trucco misses fishing with Paul Johansson even though they were "terrible" fishermen. What was it like going from movies to television, and what advice do you have for aspiring actors? CS: If you seek it, you better seek it like a man with his hair on fire seeks a pond. Sheffer added that when he was doing movies, it was taboo to do both film and TV but that's not the case anymore. Trucco talked about how his experience has involved flying without a net, which he considers great training. Corbin said that his first studio movie was at age 38, so he values the stage training that was primarily what his career consisted of until then. "You work your character through the story rather than adapt the story to you, which a lot of people do now," said Corbin. Do you ever visit film locales? Corbin deadpanned a simple "no." Trucco said that usually they shoot in horrible places like a mental asylum because it's cheap, so they're places he wouldn't want to visit. Sheffer said he's shot scenes in Montana, which he loves because he loves being out in nature. What would you change about your character? Corbin said nothing, he's happy that Whitey "served a fundamental function for the show while he was there." Sheffer said he didn't like that Keith took over the dealership, donning a suit and all, and Trucco said nothing except to make "Hot Uncle Cooper" his character's official name. What was your biggest take-away from the show? MT: This, to have people here who are still so receptive to the show, to be a part of this is a gift. CS: I agree, to see how much the show's inspired people, moved people... I was only on for 3 years and I walk down the street, for the past 10 years, and people say 'hey Uncle Keith.' It warms the heart, makes you feel really good. BC: I agree the relationship and connection with all of you... someone asked me if it's irritating to talk to fans. Well if the fans don't want to talk to me, then they won't pay me. I'm working for you guys, not for the suits in Hollywood. How important was the cast's chemistry to the success of the show? BC: Chemistry is the most important thing, if you don't have that, there's no show. What's your muse for each role? Corbin said it depends. His method is to read a script for the story, read it again for his character and read it again to see what's him and what he needs to create. "I usually try to use as much of myself as I can because I'm lazy as hell," said Corbin. "I try to play close to myself because that's what the audience expects. If you play too far from yourself, it makes people mad, like you're fooling him." Sheffer said that his approach is more instinctive than intellectual. He said he just reads it over as much as he can though he doesn't think about it the way Corbin does. "It's a natural process for it to sink in and whatever organically emerges, that usually feels right," said Sheffer. Did you expect the show to get this far? Sheffer said no one expected it. He attributes it to the fact that the show was done so well, especially with the development of the characters. "Other shows were more splashy, they focused more on the physicality of sex, weren't as emotional," he said. After noting that he's glad it was a hit and everyone still likes the show, Corbin said, "that's always a good feeling." Later on during the panel, in response to another question, Corbin said that everything he's ever done has shaped his life, and OTH is a part of that. Sheffer followed that up by noting it's good to see how the show has "survived and thrived." Corbin continued, "Please, keep it alive, show it to your children," — to which Sheffer agreed but recommended waiting until they're 14 years old. A perfect thing for the man who played one of TV's most beloved uncles to say to fans who will forever remember him as Uncle Keith. The panel helped endear fans even more to three actors who portrayed endearing characters.