By Richard Thomas
Although observers with sharp eyes and long memories might recall his work in Fried Green Tomatoes, nowadays actor Nick Searcy is best known for his role as Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens’s boss, Art Mullen, on FX’s Justified. That show has attracted a posse of diehard fans, in part for its potent infusion of Kentucky culture, including the prominence given to bourbon whiskey.
Chief Deputy Marshall Art Mullen is the kind of man you can count on to keep a fifth of Kentucky’s native spirit in his desk, but as it turns out Nick Searcy himself is fond of wider range of whiskeys. The Whiskey Reviewer was lucky enough to ask him about his broader tastes in the “water of life.”
NS: I prefer a dryer, cleaner finish. I have always gravitated away from sweetness in cocktails in general. The sour mash process, to my palate, often has a sickly sweet aftertaste to it. I find Bushmill’s smoother and with a finish that almost evaporates after the swallow. I also love Glenlivet, Laphroaig, and Glenfiddich, when I am looking for a more earthier taste. That peaty thing really gets me, but it has to be earlier in the evening.
RT: What do you have on your whiskey shelf right now?
NS: Right now, I have Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam (which my daughter’s friends left here after a party, and it’s actually good in a pinch!), and a new discovery, Wathen’s Kentucky Bourbon, which I am falling in love with. It’s a single barrel whiskey without the rich sweetness of a Woodford, which I sometimes find overbearing. Wathen’s might be developing into my new fave whiskey.
I am almost ashamed to admit that I went through a period of experimentation with Wild Turkey’s American Honey and Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Honey.
Let me say two things.
1) That stuff is for girls.
2) Those girls won’t end up well.
RT: If you lean towards Bushmills, what circumstances might inspire you to reach for a bourbon or a single malt instead?
I usually go for a single malt right after dinner, or with friends. I find a single malt more festive. Bushmill’s is for the nightcap, after everyone’s gone, and I need to write a review for a whiskey magazine or something. Whoa, is that TMI?
RT: You walk into your favorite watering hole, sit down, and order a double. What kind of a day has that been? Are you celebrating or depressurizing?
NS: I have my own bar at home, and that bar allows cigar smoking, so I don’t go out as much as I used to. But if I go out and am celebrating, I usually have a martini. I prefer vodka when I need to be alert, like if I know I’m going to be driving. THAT IS A JOKE, PEOPLE, KIDDING! KIDDING!
RT: On Justified, you play the folksy, yet hard-nosed Chief Deputy Marhsal Art Mullen. That Kentucky-based, whiskey-soaked show is often described as the kind of thing where you can tell a lot about a character by the kind of bourbon he drinks. So what does Art Mullen favor, and what does that say about him?
NS: I always see Art as a Crown Royal guy. No nonsense, not impressed with these super upscale whiskeys, Art thinks Crown Royal is just fine. But Pappy Van Winkle has practically become a character on the show, because of a gift Art was given in Season 4. I have no idea what Pappy tastes like, although I have been given first hand accounts of it by an unnameable colleague. If anyone out there would like to introduce me to Pappy, let me know at nicksearcy.com.
RT: Has whiskey ever come up so much as it does with Art Mullen in any of your other roles? If memory serves, you did Deke Slayton in “From Earth to the Moon,” and I believe Slayton was very fond of Scotch.
NS: Not really. Deke Slayton had a scotch with Frank Borman in Episode 2, I believe, but drinking was not so much a part of my duties as an actor in that show. With Art Mullen, Kentucky Bourbon is his heart. It is the thing he breaks out when it is time to celebrate, and the thing he turns to in times of great disturbance, like, for example, right before he punches Raylan in the face. It is a staple of his life.
One of the things I truly love most about Justified, and the work that I have been allowed to do on it, is that I am privileged to work with people like Graham Yost and Tim Olyphant, who care so much about the work that they do, and they have done the research and gotten Kentucky people right, without condescension or prejudice. My wife is from Owensboro, KY, and when we go back for visits, they are so proud of this show, because they recognize it as a dillgent and fair portrayal. And the whiskey that Art drinks is always a topic, because so much American whiskey is made in KY. And that makes me, at 55, a rock star in KY, by golly. It is some of the most fun I have ever had.