When Barry Corbin isn't in front of the cameras playing ex-astronaut Maurice Minnifield on CBS' "Northern Exposure," which begins its new season Sept. 23, he can be found riding the range.
"Riding a horse is a great antidote for what we do," says the West Texas native. "What we do is not real. A horse doesn't care if we are well known or not."
The West has always held a soft spot in Corbin's heart. Growing up in Dawson County, he loved watching Western movies. "I wanted to be a B-Western actor," he recalls. But then Corbin, 50, discovered Shakespeare while attending Texas Tech, where he's still a drama teacher. "I got interested in acting on stage and the rehearsal process. So I went to New York instead of Los Angeles."
During his 10 years in New York, he appeared on Broadway, Off Broadway and in regional and dinner theaters in everything from Shakespeare's "Henry V" to "The Odd Couple."
While in Manhattan he began to write plays in between jobs. "Writing has always been a process of desperation for me," he says. "The first thing I wrote was a full-length play and I wrote it because I had nothing else to do. I made my living in Los Angeles for a while writing radio plays."
Corbin, who is married and has three children, made his film debut as Uncle Bob in 1980's "Urban Cowboy" and has appeared in countless films and TV movies including, "WarGames," "The Man Who Loved Women" and "The Thorn Birds."
And he's even had the opportunity to be a cowboy in the acclaimed Westerns "Lonesome Dove" and "Conagher."
"Usually when I do a Western I go on a set and am thought of as an actor for about a day. Then the boss wrangler usually puts me to work wrangling horses. I'll be a wrangler until the scene comes up and then I will be an actor."
And Corbin's happy playing the quirky Maurice on "Northern Exposure," whom he describes as a "guy who in middle age has achieved financial success, but psychologically and emotionally is a mess. He's trying to please his father who has been dead for years. He's got a very hard exterior, but he may be the most vulnerable person in the show."