Editor's note: Toby Keith's second feature film, Beer for My Horses, makes its world premiere on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CMT. It will be released on DVD on Nov. 11.
Collaborating with Toby Keith to co-write the screenplay for the film, Beer for My Horses, was a lot of hard work, but Rodney Carrington says things got better after that.
"Once the writing portion of it was done and we started shooting the movie, then it was just fun," he says and then adds with a laugh, "Fun and games -- liquor, pot, drinking, girls. Lots of stuff -- movie star stuff."
As a stand-up comedian and musician, Carrington has done well for himself, slowly but surely moving from the comedy club circuit in Texas and Oklahoma to nationwide tours of prestigious theaters in major cities and, at the moment, an engagement that continues through Nov. 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He starred in Rodney, an ABC-TV sitcom, and Live at the Majestic, a Comedy Central special (and DVD). He even wrote a book, Coming Clean, but he had never written a film script until Keith contacted him.
Inspired by the title of Keith's hit duet with Willie Nelson Beer for My Horses was produced jointly by CMT Films and Keith's Show Dog Productions and is a follow-up to Keith's previous project with CMT Films, Broken Bridges. Beer for My Horses tells the story of two small town deputies -- Rack (portrayed by Keith) and Lonnie (Carrington's character) -- who embark on a comical road trip to save Rack's kidnapped girlfriend from a vicious drug lord. The film also stars Nelson, Ted Nugent, Claire Forlani (CSI: NY) and veteran character actors Barry Corbin and Tom Skerritt.
Describing his character, Carrington says, "Lonnie is a good ol' boy. He's every guy in rural America that you've ever met who hunts and fishes. He's a little quirky. The biggest thing that happens in this community is that, now and then, he pulls the high school kids over for drinking. He's like a modern day Barney Fife, to some degree.
"When my character and Toby's character, Rack, make the big arrest, they don't realize how big a fish they've actually apprehended. When they kidnap his girlfriend, even at that point, they're not real certain. ... The audience gets a taste of how bad these bad guys are before Lonnie and Rack ever get there, which makes it kind of a fun track for the audience." He laughs again, noting, "Well, I hope so, anyway."
Carrington says he and Keith spent 10 months working on the script.
"At first, I was like, 'How am I going to write 100 pages of dialog?' But as the first order of business, we sat down and wrote a 20-page outline at his house over a four-day period -- working from sunup to sundown and seeing the sun come up. And from that outline came a 67-page draft, and then we got together again and had an 87-page draft. It just kept going up from there. There was a lot of tweaking and changing. It's a long process."
In approaching the writing project, Carrington thought back to The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy and other classic sitcoms.
"Andy Griffith was great about having comedy evolve from a situation," he says. "The characters were really well-defined. I've always been a fan of that kind of humor -- the characters in the situation are what's funny, not what's necessarily being said."
Carrington enjoyed working with the other actors, too.
"Willie was great," he says. "When he shows up, you're like, 'That's him. That's Willie.' That's how I felt. What do you say to Willie Nelson? ... He was a delight. He was quiet. He did a great job. He was very funny. He was on time. I will say that: Willie is punctual."
Again offering another punch line, he says, "It was a lot of fun working with Willie and Tom Skerritt. Toby's kind of a pain in the ass, but the rest of them were great."