He’s played a Barney Fife-like deputy in the contemporary western “Longmire” and Duke, the rude stablehand trying to seduce Chrissy Metz’s Kate, on “This Is Us.” This week, Minnesota native Adam Bartley will slip into the real-life role of Eden Prairie High School alumnus, speaking at his alma mater Monday in support of excellence in public education.
The 1997 grad, who has just been cast in a Dick Cheney biopic (he’ll play pollster Frank Luntz opposite Christian Bale and Steve Carell) spoke by phone about being in demand on the small screen:
Q: Your character on “This Is Us” wasn’t very likable. What kind of reaction did you get from viewers?
A: I’ve been playing such a lovable, gullible, oafish sweetheart on “Longmire” for seven years and I finally got to be kind of a jerk. The response on my fan page was hilarious, fans saying, “Leave Kate alone! How dare you!” They really take all of it to be real and internalize it. It made me realize I was doing my job right.
Q: Will Duke be back this season?
A: You never know. If the writers are sitting around and think it’s a good idea to bring him back, I’ll be there. That’s life when you’re a recurring character.
Q: Any theories on why it became a runaway hit?
A: I think the show really lives up to its name. It makes a real effort to connect with most of the people in the country when politics couldn’t be more divisive. I think it just hit the right chord with people who want a real escape.
Q: You’ve shot the final season of “Longmire” (expected to air later this year on Netflix). How hard was it to say goodbye?
A: Really hard. I learned a heck of a lot on how to be a better actor and how to handle yourself as a professional. I made lifelong friends with many members of the crew in New Mexico. It’ll never be like that again.
Q: You start shooting “Backseat” this month with Christian Bale as Dick Cheney. Nervous?
A: I’m not really nervous meeting people anymore, but the cast is pretty special. I’m excited about meeting Steve Carell [who plays Donald Rumsfeld]. He’s not only a genius, but he seems like an incredible person, as well. I play Frank Luntz, the pollster. It’s the first time I’ve played a real-life person. I’m hoping to meet him in the next couple weeks.
Q: You may not get nervous on set, but returning to high school can be kind of a weird experience.
A: I’m actually home quite a lot. I’ve been a Vikings season-ticket holder since last year. I figured that’s the one thing that’s keeping us from winning a championship.
But I can’t remember the last time I was on campus. I’m sure it’s going to scare me, but I’m looking forward to seeing some of my teachers. I had the most incredible time there. I had the opportunity to do a heck of a lot, from competitive speech to show choir.
Q: Aren’t people who are successful in show business supposed to say high school was a terrible experience?
A: I know. That’s the common line. That wasn’t my story. Regardless of what experience you had, it helps you grow one way or another. My hope is that every kid in every city has the kind of teachers I had in school, people who lifted me up and kept pushing me.