Former Maryland State Trooper enjoys role in front of camera

John Patrick Barry, second from the left, mugs for the camera with some of the actors who played Somali pirates for the movie, "Captain Phillips," as the movie's public relations liason with the Navy looks on.
John Patrick Barry, second from the left, mugs for the camera with some of the actors who played Somali pirates for the movie, "Captain Phillips," as the movie's public relations liason with the Navy looks on. (Photo courtesy of John Patrick Barry)

It happened during his senior year at North Carroll High School, John Patrick Barry recalled.

As Mark Twain, the Asian-American actor wore a lot of makeup, a wig with hair everywhere and a fake mustache.


It was his favorite role of his high school career.

"I ended up sitting on the stage a lot and making sarcastic comments," Barry laughed. "It's interesting to see how I looked."


Now 39, Barry is a professional actor living in Los Angeles. He has made numerous commercials and educational videos, and he has been in several films.

His latest role — as a Navy SEAL in the film, "Captain Phillips," — rates as one of his favorite jobs.

The movie, starring Tom Hanks, was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture, and is expected to received more than half a dozen nominations when the Academy Award nominees are announced Jan. 16.

"It's probably the most fun I had being on the job," said Barry, who returned to the area for the holidays. "It was an exciting two weeks."

While it was exciting working on a boat in Virginia Beach, meeting and working with Tom Hanks was icing on the cake.

"Mr. Hanks lives up to his reputation as being the nicest guy in Hollywood," Barry said. "It was great to work with him over that time. He was good at giving us pep talks."

From a young age, Barry was involved in performing. His mom, Nancy, had a craft booth at the annual Maryland Renaissance Fair, and he spent weekends acting as a page and, as he got older, a street performer.

"It was a great place to learn improvisation and how to stay in character," Barry said. "It was very good learning, especially for one so young."

Throughout high school and college, Barry was active in theater, though he majored in art at then-Western Maryland College.

"'Patrick was a terrific, hard-working, creative kid. He was involved in all the shows while at NC, and also sang and danced with Ensemble," wrote Roberta Gore, Barry's drama teacher at North Carroll where she still teaches, in an email. "He was an all-around lover of the fine arts."

Acting wasn't Barry's first career choice, however. After college, he became a Maryland State Trooper with hopes of becoming an FBI agent like his father, John. Those plans changed abruptly in December 2000, when a drunk driver slammed into the rear of his patrol car while he was inside writing a speeding ticket. After suffering a spinal injury, Barry was forced to take medical retirement.

He then took a year off to figure out what to do. His family steered him toward acting.


"I thought, 'Why not take the chance?'," Barry said.

He enrolled in acting classes, found a talent agent and an acting coach.

"In the State Police, you have a supervisor, a patrol manual and an administrative manual. Everything is outlined for you as to what your job is," Barry said. "As an actor, you really have to be self-disciplined. There is not someone over your shoulder reading a play, telling you to go to the gym to work out or work on character development."

Barry considers himself a "working actor." He said he has been fortunate to make a living as an actor, with some years more profitable than others. The work has been fairly steady.

"Any good actor has to figure out their own discipline and what works for them," he said. "Best thing you can do is to stay present in the scene and find truth in what you're doing."

Though he has yet to acquire fame, he has found his niche playing military, police and doctor roles.

His experience in the police force, in fact, helped land him his role in "Captain Phillips."

His time in Maryland, and as an Eagle Scout in Troop 320 out of Manchester, helped him prepare.

"Growing up in Maryland, I was used to being on boats. Scouting helped that too, as we were in the water a lot," Barry laughed.

"I definitely have strong roots here in Maryland. There's nothing wrong with growing up in the county and learning to work hard."

"Captain Phillips" will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 21.

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