Sam Elliott Explained Why ‘It’s Hard for Actors to Say No to Television’ in Modern Day

by Josh Lanier

TV has gotten good over the last few decades. What used to be considered the kid brother to the movies has become one of the greatest artistic mediums of the modern age. And television is no longer the vestige of the forgotten or declining actor. And it’s why Sam Elliott says when a television show calls with an opportunity, it’s tough to turn it down.

In a 2015 question and answer discussion with, Elliott discussed life as a working actor and why working in television is so much different now.

“I think this digital age is partly responsible for that. There was a period, obviously, when actors said, ‘I don’t want to do television, I want to just do films,'” he said. “It’s hard for actors to say no to television now. Again, it’s just the quality of work. I think the best of it is on cable, but a lot of network television is pretty quality stuff. [And] actors like to work. It’s not about the money. Because you don’t make a ton of money unless you’re one of the regulars on cable television. You certainly don’t make money doing these little independent films. For a lot of us, it’s really about the work, not about the money. It isn’t for me at this point in time and really never has been.”

Sam Elliott was coming off playing the villain in the final season of critically beloved Justified.

“When Justified came my way, it was an opportunity to do something totally different and work with people I have great respect for on both sides of the camera,” he said. “A great script will get me to go to work, regardless of what it is. And it was fun to get back in the TV game for a time.”

Why Sam Elliott Did That Movie

In 2018, Sam Elliott was in a movie with one of the strangest titles in recent memory. In The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then Bigfoot, Elliott plays World War II vet Calvin Barr. And despite the title, it’s a look at a veteran living out his days in the woods and grappling with regret.

It has its bizarre, almost surreal moments, but Sam Elliott said the movie’s main character drew him in.

“More than anything, Calvin Barr spoke to me,” Elliott admitted. “I didn’t know much about that war he was in. I know men who were in that war, and I’ve portrayed a guy who was in that war in all three major conflicts in We Were Soldiers. Talked to a number of people in that war, but my war was the Vietnam War. On some level, war is war, and PTSD is PTSD, and I think Calvin suffered from it. That was part of his persona, at least that was my take on it.”

Sam Elliott continued adding, “I understand lost love, and I think that can destroy a man more than anything if it was a deep love that is lost somehow. There was a lot I understood about Barr, and I like to think that I’m a decent human being, and I know at the core, Calvin Barr is a decent human being. There were a lot of things that spoke to me about him. Being vomited on by Bigfoot was not one of the things I knew about.”