The Powerful Lesson This ‘Reagan’ Actor Learned on Set

Will Wallace shares why upcoming biopic meant so much to his life, career

When I was offered the role of Ronald Reagan’s longtime confidant Edwin Meese in “Reagan,” playing opposite Dennis Quaid as the 40th president, I was excited.

I asked our producer, Mark Joseph, if it would be all right if I reached out to Meese and he replied, “We can set that up.”

I was pleasantly surprised and immediately started to prepare my questions for the interview.

The outcome was that Reagan’s former counselor and U.S. attorney general spent an hour with me on a Zoom session. His insights were helpful and as I prepared myself for the role, I read as much as I could about Meese from both fans and detractors and watched any YouTube videos I could find.

It was particularly interesting to gain Meese’s perspective on events that I previously only had read about. Even more interesting were the small adjustments in his perspectives over the decades.

For example, Meese’s interpretation of the causes and influences of the riot in Berkeley’s People’s Park, when Reagan as California governor sent in the state National Guard, is notably different today than in May 1969.

I worked hard to take what Meese had shared with me and incorporate it into my portrayal of him in “Reagan,” reviewing all of the events of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s of which he was a part.

I also studied each of the other characters with whom I share scenes in “Reagan,” directed by Sean McNamara.

I tried to delve into Meese’s process, particularly into the evolution of his perspective over three decades.

President Donald Trump Presents Medal Of Freedom To Former Attorney General Edwin Meese | NBC News

When it came time to film and we were in those specific moments on set, I attempted to process Meese’s feelings.

I’ve been a producer, director and actor in Hollywood for over 20 years. But as I homed in on my producing and directing skills, I had somewhat put aside my love for acting.

I am blessed to have a well-known director, Terrence Malick, as a stepfather. However, the closer we became personally, the further apart we grew professionally.

I first got to know Terry auditioning for the 1998 movie “The Thin Red Line,” and we had a strong working relationship during its filming. My father recently had left my mother, and she was heartbroken.

God works in mysterious ways. Years earlier, Terry and my mother had both attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, and now they were able to reconnect.

About five years after working on “The Thin Red Line,” I acted in another film directed by Terry, 2005’s “The New World.” By this time, my mother had found new love with him.


Terry explained to me that he opposes nepotism and so a very different working relationship developed between us, since he had become family.

Nevertheless, I’ve been able to pick up a few directing tips from Terry. For instance, when he is shooting a film, he shoots much more footage than is normal or necessary, then uses the best of what he has to put it all together in postproduction.

I’m thankful that I was able to watch him at work as a director, because it helped me on my own journey as a filmmaker. That said, I have a harder time accepting the role of director on a film (as opposed to producing or acting), even though directing is what I enjoy the most.

That’s because the film’s story really needs to be in your heart; it’s something you’re going to be living and breathing for years.

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I’ve been blessed to run an acting school where I have coached thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to illustrious careers. I realized that teaching the craft of acting gave me somewhat of a revival deep within and allowed me to satisfy my craving for acting.

But it was on the set of “Reagan,” playing this fascinating real-life character, Ed Meese, that I found my passion for acting beginning to be rekindled.

The experience helped me remember how much I enjoy preparing to portray a character, especially one from history.

Actor Will Wallace plays Attorney General Edwin Reese in “Reagan,” opening nationwide Aug. 30. For details, visit www.ReaganMovie.com.

This article originally appeared at The Daily Signal.

One Comment

  1. Always interesting to see what kind of reviews movies like this get from the lefties who write for Rotten Tomatoes. Prolly they will say that the movie wasn’t critical enough of Reagan for his racism, homophobia, transphobia blah blah blah frackin’ blah.
    That is, if they even review it at all.

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