Andrew McCarthy's Secret Career

When you hear the name Andrew McCarthy, you probably think of the good guy from the 1980s Brat Pack era who won the hearts of his onscreen sweethearts Ally Sheedy (“St. Elmo’s Fire”), Molly Ringwald (“Pretty in Pink”) and Jami Gertz (“Less Than Zero”). Yes, McCarthy was the boyfriend we all dreamed of dating; however, in his case, life did not imitate art. In the actor’s new, 288-page memoir,"The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down," he explains why and shares what he's been up to for the last 10 years. An edited version of our interview with him follows

by Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
andrew mccarthy image
Photograph: Courtesy of Andrew McCarthy

More: Many actors tend to keep their personal life private, but you are putting it all out there in your new book, The Longest Way Home.
Andrew McCarthy: I guess what I am putting out there are the human feelings everyone has, including myself. I suppose it is revealing, even though I consider it to be the internal stuff every one of us has.

More: I am not used to having a guy who wants to talk and share his feelings.
AM: [Laughs] Apparently some of us guys have them. I get it, though . . . I suppose that is why I couched the book to also center on exotic travel. I thought this was a better way to express my feelings rather than just sitting on a couch.

More: This memoir is both a tour of the world and a tour of who you are. Would you consider this the most personal material you have ever shared with your fans?
AM: Yes. I had no interest in writing just a travel book. I don’t think it is an uncommon issue for someone like myself to have our own self, our own solitude and connect with the people we love. I needed to explore how to do that and resolve that issue, which seems to be a persistent factor in my life.

More: Why do you think that is?
AM: I think a lot of people struggle with this in many ways. It took me a long time to realize this was an issue—that push-pull that’s coming toward and then pulling away. I finally had enough of that and decided I wanted to make a change, because feeling this way was not getting me to the place I wanted to go in life.

More: Did going on this journey end the way you wanted it to?
AM: Yes. You know, being a travel writer has been my secret career for the last 10 years. I found that travel has really changed my life.  

More: How so?
AM: It makes me feel more at home in the world and more comfortable with who I am. While some people go to therapy to solve their problems or have coffee with their girlfriends, I travel because it helps me figure stuff out. To me, travel is an internal journey, not just an external one.

More: What got you interested in travel and then realizing it is helping you resolve internal conflicts?
AM: I guess it was a reaction to being in all of those movies people remember me from. I was walking across a pilgrim route in Spain 20 years ago, and it changed my life. I had a real experience taking part in that journey, and I found myself wanting to go on more of these adventures to these wondrous places. I also discovered traveling alone is so valuable and, for me, beneficial. That trip was a really potent moment in my life.  

More: When did you decide you wanted to channel your experience and become a journalist?
AM: I would say 10 years ago. I mean, I always took notes from every trip, but I kept those thoughts to myself. I attempted to keep a journal, but I wasn’t good at it, because I found it to be self-indulgent and embarrassing. Since I am an actor, I know how to write scenes based on the people I meet along the way. I even know how to do dialogue and themes because of my years as an actor.

More: Is writing your other passion?
AM: I found writing calms me down. I also felt nothing I read in the many travel magazines I picked up really captured the quality I experienced when I saw the world, so I decided I was going to seize the moment and share it with others.

More: I read a review that stated, “McCarthy delves into the things that have both made him the man he is and kept him from becoming the man he wants to be. He writes about his distant and once angry father as well as his old insecurities and doubts.” That is quite a change from the hopeless romantic you play in many films.  
AM: Oh yeah, that! What can I say, acting is acting. If anything, I want people to read the book and see I am also human. I want people to nod their head and say, “Yeah, I feel that way, too.” This book is really me revealing that I am human and why I travel. I wanted to have a moment where I can really connect with people in a way I never did before.

More: Did you accomplish that?
AM: I wanted to create the feeling of hope, possibility and connection in a way where you don’t have to escape. We escape situations when we tend not to feel good about ourselves.

More: Is traveling the globe your form of escape?   
AM: No, it is my form of connection. Travel is how I feel most connected to myself and the rest of the world. I grew up in New Jersey and have lived in New York for over 32 years. Yet I would not call myself a New Yorker or consider myself to have roots anywhere. I find my home and my roots lie in that connection we were just discussing.
More: What is so ironic, you played a character named Kevin in the smash hit St. Elmo’s Fire, and the only things Kevin wanted were to be a writer and find the meaning of life.  
AM: Yeah, I really connected with Kevin and identified with him on many levels.

More: Besides being in a relationship, you have two children. How do you juggle having a family and still find time to see the world?
AM: I am constantly jet-lagged. I am always racing back all of the time or taking my kids with me when I can. I took my son to the Sahara and Morocco. My daughter has also come away with me. We travel together as much as we can. It is a juggling act I am not sure I do very well, but I do my best to be there for everyone as well as my career.

More: Not easy, huh?
AM: It is mayhem, but it works.  

More: This particular title has quite a few meanings. It is your journey around the world, but it is also about your journey to finally settle down. Without giving too much away, I understand congratulations are in order.
AM: Yes, I got married a year ago. And they said it wouldn’t last! [Laughs] The event of the book was the internal journey to this moment.

More: If your kids decide to read this book one day, what do you hope they will learn from it?
AM: I suppose it is just a letter to them. While some people say it is a love letter to my wife, which to some degree it is, I also think it is a letter to them about who their father is. It is not so much a book about what I have done but rather who I am and how I operate emotionally.

More: Will you encourage your children to read this book with you and watch some of your memorable films so they see Daddy in full circle?
AM: My kids know I am an actor, but acting is not a huge part of our lives. My daughter is much more interested in her gymnastics class than in Daddy’s old movies.

Click here to read “Jami Gertz’s Second Act and What Led to Her Reinvention.

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First Published Fri, 2012-10-05 14:30

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