“When I found out that I got the role that I got, I was incredibly shocked,” said 29-year-old Clint O’Brien. “Nothing like this had ever happened to me before.”
O’Brien spent this past summer playing the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Hugh Casey in “42,” a film starring Harrison Ford that’s set to hit theaters Friday.
Casey was Robinson’s teammate in the 1940s and helped the team win the pennant as a relief pitcher. Like many of the players back then, Casey wasn’t exactly supportive of Robinson’s quest to break the color barrier and become Major League Baseball’s first black player.
O’Brien, who lives in Kennesaw and works as a lab technician, said he tried out last spring in hopes he’d be selected as an extra in the film. But after numerous auditions, he was eventually selected to try out for a more prominent acting role.
“I was terrified because I had never done anything like this before,” he said. “I went in there and did the best I could, though, and got a call saying, ‘Congrats, you made the cut.’”
He spent a week in training for the film at the east Cobb baseball complex working out with fellow actors, and even got to work closely with Chadwick Boseman, who played Robinson in the film.
“It was a lot of long days and a lot of workouts,” O’Brien said. “The tryouts were like trying out for the major leagues. It was pretty serious.”
He also met the other stars in the film — Harrison Ford, Toby Huss, Lucas Black, Max Gill, Brad Beyer and Brett Cullen — and director Brian Helgeland, who won an Academy Award for “L.A. Confidential.”
“It was one of those things that you don’t know if you want to be star struck or if you should play it cool,” O’Brien said. “I didn’t want it to take over me though, so I tried to sit back and watch things happen.”
The most memorable person he met during the filming of “42” was the late baseball legend’s wife, 90-year-old Rachel Robinson.
“She was an incredibly sweet woman,” he said. “She told us stories, and we got to introduce ourselves and say who we were playing.”
O’Brien said it kind of brought tears to her eyes hearing their stories.
“She hadn’t heard those names in many, many years,” he said. “It was an incredible feeling because you could see in her eyes how it was back then, all that she had been through.”
O’Brien will be attending a private showing of the movie with his mother, Kaye O’Brien, on Thursday before it premieres in theaters.
On Saturday, they are inviting family and friends to see the film, followed by a get together at their home in east Cobb.
“I’m one of those giddy moms and I can’t wait to see it,” said Kaye O’Brien.
She was able to attend three of the film shoots with her son — two in Chattanooga and a third in Macon — and met several of her son’s co-stars in the film.
“It was fun to see a lot of them because I’ve seen them on TV,” she said.
O’Brien’s parts in the movie include an appearance pitching and a few shots of him in the locker room and the dugout.
His only speaking line, “Make your mark, Dixie. We can witness it,” is while he and other teammates are in a hotel lobby getting signatures from other teams to prohibit Robinson from being on the team.
The controversial Dixie Walker was a teammate of Robinson’s who opposed his breaking the color barrier on April 15, 1947.
“I have heard that I will be in it quite a bit,” he said. “I’ve seen some clips here and there, but nothing that’s been released to the public.”