Dennis Quaid has played the diversity of the gamut throughout his career. From his early successes in “Breaking Away” & “The Right Stuff”, through commercial successes like “Innerspace” & “The Rookie” to his music tinged outings in “Great Balls Of Fire” & “The Big Easy” Quaid has always been interested in the human condition and how the journey progresses. This continues into his current outing with his new podcast series with Audio Up called “The Dennissance” where he brings his diverse experience in talking with those people that fascinate him. Whether it is talking to John Cash, son of Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash, Billy Ray Cyrus or even sports icon, Albert Pujols, Quaid’s easy going but relevant format paints a vivid and intriguing picture which is what all good storytellers Quaid spoke with The Inside Reel about research, perception and the life experiences that interest him.
You tend to get in deep to the core of the people you are talking to.
Dennis Quaid: That’s kind of the premise of my show, is I like to ask people [to be] on that don’t necessarily have something to sell, although here I am and I have something to sell on your show. (laughing) My favorite part of acting is the research that I do for a role, especially when I’m playing real people like Jimmy Morris of “The Rookie”, a real person, or Bill Clinton, or the astronaut Gordo Cooper, or Jerry Lee Lewis. My favorite part is the research and finding out what makes them tick as people. And I get a real inside view, [in that I] get to go through those doors that say, “Authorized Personnel Only,” and really learn about a different life that I would never get a chance to do if I had a regular job. I bring that process to the podcast.
I’ve had a very lucky life because of what I do as an actor and also just the diversity of people that I’ve been exposed to. And that’s what’s interesting to me about what makes people tick and different backgrounds, different things that they do, and really getting inside their heads [and finding out] what else are they interested in? If you hadn’t been an astronaut, what would you have been? Did you ever have any aspirations about anything else?
And also, like I said, [it is] just about talking about different aspects of their personality that you wouldn’t get by being on David Letterman or Tonight Show or whatever. That’s really what kind of interests me, and I think the audience would be interested in that too.
The thing about reading a script is that one always sees it in the mind’s eye and not necessarily what comes out on screen. Audio can work in the same way because your brain conjures the images to go with it.
DQ: That’s interesting that you brought that up because it hits it on the head with me too. It’s like reading a book and you visualize it in your head. The audio experience is a different experience than the audio-visual experience. You could project your own imagination onto it, I think, and it puts [it in] a different kind of focus and makes you focus in a different way which is interesting, I go back to the Nixon-Kennedy debate, which was the first television debate ever done. The people who listened to it on the radio thought Nixon won. And the people who saw it, of course, thought Kennedy had won. It’s also about different areas of the mind that you use.
How did you find your way into this podcast space? You are doing a lot of other stuff as well right now.
DQ: I’d never listened to a podcast up until about two years ago, to tell you the truth, and I got involved with a guy named Jared Gutstadt, who is my partner now, and Audio Up is the name of our platform. I was asked to do what turned out to be the number two music podcast last year with Bob Dylan and T Bone Burnett called “Bear & A Banjo” which is a fictional true story, seeing American music through two nefarious characters. And from that, we decided to do a podcast platform and just specialize in that. And “The Dennissance” kind of became a way in of getting an audience and the easiest thing to do at first. But I kind of like choose to do things at this point in my life, if I have have a tingle and chilling feeling of fear go up my spine. [If so, then] that’s probably the thing that I should do. Now, that gets me out of my comfort zone. And yes, it motivates. Fear is a great motivator. (laughing)
Your love of music and the process of acting reflects in your guests. Music, movies, television and event sports are all sides of the same coin in that they require talent, pace, rhythm and instinct.
DQ: They are the same, basically. I know so many sports figures that want to be actors or thespians and musicians that want to be sports figures. You know who I’m talking about. But music was my first love. And I got my first guitar at the age of 12. Back then that’s really what I wanted to do. And I found, luckily, when I was 19 years old — I’m from Houston, and at the University of Houston there was a teacher there named Cecil Pickett. I got in his acting class. And that very week, I went and auditioned at what they used to call coffee houses. Back then, [those places were about] music. And the lady told me, “Well, what you have is just for living rooms, but I don’t think you’ll really amount to much as a musician.” And I made the mistake of believing her (laughing). But at the same time, that same week I was in Mr. Pickett’s acting class and the way he talked about acting was really kind of – it was like psychology. It was about figuring out what makes people tick. And I found that profoundly interesting.
And that was a gift really, at that early age, to know what you want to do with your life. And music never went away because you got to have– in order to do either of these things, including sports as well, you have to have an immense capacity for rejection and the ability to ignore the word “no” and keep going with it. And that tenacity, I think, is probably the single most important ingredient into getting any kind of success at anything.
I was lucky enough through acting to be able to — I had music movies that I did and I was then be able to write music that went into songs in the films. It t always kept music alive throughout my life. I went out for football [back in high school], of course,[because] as a matter of [fact], that’s what you do in Texas. And I got laughed off the field basically, and that is how I ended up at the drama club in high school. (laughing)
But drama, sports or any skill, you get better the more experience you gain.
DQ: It’s all a learned skill. It really is. People can be good at talking or whatever, but then when you put them into the format, it can becomes a deer in the headlights. And then you go from there and get better and better at it. I remember the first interview that I ever did on television was The Merv Griffin show. And I remember Bo Derek was on and Anthony Newley, and I remember being so nervous. And I did Johnny Carson, back in the day. I remember being so nervous standing backstage during that. You just get better and better at it the more you do it, and the fear starts to recede into the background.
Does that confidence inform doing more of “The Dennissance”?
DQ: I thought that “The Dennissance” was [going to be] like a season. I thought it was going to be, what, 8, 10 episodes. And, of course, we’re going to do another season. I’ve been talking to people that I cultivated a relationship with already. They were those people where we’re friends or we’re, at least, acquaintances. The people that fascinate me [include] everybody I’ve had on the show. And then I also want to get them at a time when maybe they don’t have something to sell and just do that. You’ll find out something a little different than you would get, say, seeing them on a talk show. [Because] then you may get underneath personalities and share that with an audience.
“The DennisSance” is available on all podcast platforms includimg Spotify & iTunes as well as through the show website at https://www.audioup.com/thedennissance .