Just a Good Ol’ Dad

TV legend Tom Wopat discusses hitting Out on Film, and the heart of gay love story ‘Fair Haven’

Tom Wopat has come a long way from Hazzard County. Since playing Luke Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard. Now Atlantans will get to see him in a new light in Fair Haven, playing as part of this year’s Out on Film Festival.

Wopat has spent an illustrious career performing on screen and stages across the country. He earned two Tony nominations on Broadway, and he also performs as a bluegrass musician. In Fair Haven, he plays a family farmer struggling to relate to his gay son after sending him through conversion therapy.

For Wopat, the appeal of the film came from growing up in a culture rooted in generational businesses.

“I grew up in the Midwest,” the actor tells Goliath. “My father was a dairy farmer, and his father was a dairy farmer, and half my uncles were dairy farmers, so… I think the kind of insular quality of that kind of culture also resonates with me.”

But for Wopat, the relevancy of the film on a personal level, and its heart as a tolerance and acceptance story, goes even deeper. In part, the appeal of the role was honoring his own father, and people like him, who have trouble with non-traditional others, like sons who are gay – or in his case, who happen to become actors. He does it by portraying his character honestly.

“I was really channeling my father a lot,” Wopat remembers. “He had pretty closely held beliefs and views. He was a practicing Catholic. But at the same time, he was intelligent and empathetic, so he had an open mind – eventually – to what came around.”

Wopat’s performance is an indelible part of Fair Haven, but it’s only part of what makes it a touching film. Two young men fall in love during the film and struggle against forces trying to keep them apart. Newcomers Michael Grant and Josh Green play them superbly, and Wopat’s fellow ‘80s Hunk Gregory Harrison plays a counselor.

For his part, Wopat has nothing but praise for everyone who worked on the film, both in front of and behind the camera.

“This is a small, independent film, but there was nothing small in their endeavor, and in the short time I worked with them, I really grew to really respect what they had in mind, and their vision for the film,” Wopat says. “When I finally saw the film a few months ago, I was blown away. I thought it was really beautiful. I thought it was evocative.

“I think that they exceeded their expectations, and people should see it,” he adds. “I think it’s valuable. I think Michael’s [Grant, the lead as Wopat’s son] performance is terrific. I think everyone in it did a really nice job, and I’m super proud to be part of it.”

Want to go?

What: Fair Haven at Out on Film
When: September 29 – October 6
Where: Midtown Art Cinema
Info & Tickets: outonfilm.org

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