Tom Berenger on ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ and the Language in the Script: “Everyone was challenged with some of the very interesting expressions”
The History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys broke cable television records on the initial airing of its first episode on Memorial Day (at 13.9 million viewers, it is the highest non-sports rating in cable history), but one person who likely isn’t surprised is star Tom Berenger.
Berenger stars as Devil Anse Hatfield’s uncle Jim Vance, one of the key members of the legendary real-life family feud. Berenger spoke to the West Virginia Herald-Dispatch about the miniseries and why he was so drawn to it.
Berenger has nothing but praise for the production staff on the project. He says, “This is an ‘Eastern,’ It was the script. I was sort of knocked out by the scope of it all and all the different characters which I knew could have been very difficult to cast and to shoot with but we had a brilliant director and staff and producers and it had the same kind of feeling that Major League and Platoon had for me, and this is really a bigger scope.”
Berenger elaborates on his appreciation for the script by pointing out how its colorful language recalls an earlier era. He says, “The language is great and very rich because our vocabulary was Victorian and we had a lot more words in our language before it was dumbed down by television and the Internet. Everyone was challenged with some of the very interesting expressions, you knew what they meant and it is dated in that sense. What I think is interesting is that a lot of the characters we portrayed could not read or write yet they knew what all of these words were by listening to the preachers of the King James Bible and by seeing any play that came by and by going to hear politicians who were brilliant orators who would give speeches for hours. So that is the world these people came from.”
In fact, another thing Berenger appreciates about Hatfields & McCoys is the sheer epic nature of the miniseries. He explains, “I think it is a different kind of entertainment and also for anyone interested in history it is the only way to do it. It is like when I was a kid they did Lawrence of Arabia and Ten Commandments and all of those type movies were movies with an intermission. You would go and see The Ten Commandments and spend the afternoon or an evening in the theater and didn’t go anywhere else. I know after I saw this it had that impact of lingering with me. I keep seeing these different scenes and I still keep thinking about it.”