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*US Magazine November 1992

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Kyle Chandler Offscreen

The star of the retro-Americana series 'Homefront' actually says things like "Holy Toledo !"

By Karen Schoemer
US Magazine
November 1992

Kyle Chandler has just used the words "Holy Toledo!" It's a hot Los Angeles afternoon, and the twenty-seven-year-old actor, one of the stars of the post-WWII drama 'Homefront,' is eating lunch in the Warner Bros. commissary. With its high powered executives in suits and slicked-back hair, and women with suntanned skin and frosted do's, the place looks like a scene from 'The Player.' Chandler clearly doesn't fit in. His outfit, not to mention his language, seems borrowed from the 'Homefront' soundstage nearby: He wears a wrinkle-free, plaid button-down, chinos with a brown-leather belt and loafers without socks. His eyes are dark and sincere and his hair is slightly mussed. At the moment, Chandler's mind is preoccupied with a time and place far, far away - a bygone era when folks were just folks and soda came in glass bottles. "I'd love to be able to buy Fanta in a bottle again, or grape Nehi," he says wistfully. "That was the best. That stuff was great. Holy Toledo!" No wonder Chandler was cast as Jeff Metcalf, Homefront's boyishly earnest and endearingly innocent young brother-lover-baseball player. In person, he projects the same homespun warmth and old-fashioned idealism that the show captures. Chandler is a walking, talking slice of Americana. He turns the world around him into a Frank Capra movie. When the waiter arrives to take his order, Chandler addresses him as "Sir." When the fellow brings his salad, Chandler looks with great consternation at the pair of forks next to his plate. "Now, which one of these are you supposed to use?" Later, for dessert, he requests apple cheesecake and "a glass of milk - a large one."He obviously has an affinity for the character he plays: "I like that he could go to kiss a girl -" he reaches impetuously across the table "-and knock her glass over!" Yet the actor in him bristles at the suggestion that he's just being himself onscreen. This month, Chandler gets to show a little range as a supporting player in the film 'Pure Country', a saga of a country star (played by real-life singer George Strait). "Actually, I'm worried about it," he announces. "It's my first film. Very nerve-wracking." Does he like country music? "Um, ah...no," he answers. "Well, I like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Not that hokeypokey stuff."Like his 'Homefront' character, Chandler was cut from the cloth of middle America. He grew up in the posh suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois, where his father was a salesman for a pharmaceutical company. He attended a Catholic grade school and got punished for doing things like gluing together the pages of a textbook. When he was eleven, his family moved to a farm outside Atlanta. "I didn't really have anyone to hang around with," he says. "One thing we did have was Ted Turner. He started this new television station (WTBS), and if you fixed the UHF just right, you'd get it. All those old movie characters - they were my friends. Out in the woods and pasture - I was leading them, or being led by them, or shooting Indians. I liked Jimmy Stewart a lot. Gary Cooper. Cary Grant."At the University of Georgia, Chandler had his call to acting. Three-and-a-half years ago he loaded his pit bull, Buckley, into his Fiat convertible and headed to L.A. He worked as a bouncer ("very disheartening"), then in a natural history museum gift shop (he sold plastic dinosaurs and had "a great time"). After a few bit parts (notably in 'Tour of Duty') and a film ('The Color of Evening', which was never released), he was cast in 'Homefront.'Chandler takes a hard, steady look around at the thinning lunch crowd, then leans forward and whispers that he's not a regular patron. "This place is too fancy-schmancy for me."Hokeypokey, holy Toledo, fancy-schmancy - is this guy for real? Once, Chandler says he saw Jimmy Stewart give a lecture at the dinosaur museum. "He talked so slow," Chandler recalls. "People were sort of laughing. But at the very end, he pulled out a little quip, and you knew the whole time he was almost making fun of them." As he tells the story, Chandler's left eyebrow goes up a fraction of an inch, in an almost invisible wink. His eyes are smiling. Maybe this aw-shucks persona is an act; maybe it isn't. Either way, Jimmy Stewart would be proud.