When I was offered the role of Ronald Reagan’s longtime confidant Edwin Meese in the upcoming film “Reagan,” playing opposite Dennis Quaid as the 40th president, I was excited.

I asked our producer, Mark Joseph, if it would be all right if I reached out to Meese and he replied, “We can set that up.” I was pleasantly surprised and immediately started to prepare my questions for the interview.

The outcome was that Reagan’s former counselor and U.S. attorney general spent an hour with me on a Zoom session. His insights were helpful and as I prepared myself for the role, I read as much as I could about Meese from both fans and detractors and watched any YouTube videos I could find.

It was particularly interesting to gain Meese’s perspective on events that I previously only had read about. Even more interesting were the small adjustments in his perspectives over the decades.

For example, Meese’s interpretation of the causes and influences of the riot in Berkeley’s People’s Park, when Reagan as California governor sent in the state National Guard, is notably different today than in May 1969. 

[During Reagan’s two-term governorship, Meese served as his executive assistant and chief of staff after two years as legal affairs secretary. He previously served as deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California.]

I worked hard to take what Meese had shared with me and incorporate it into my portrayal of him in “Reagan,” reviewing all of the events of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s of which he was a part.

[After the end of Reagan’s two-term presidency in 1989, Meese joined The Heritage Foundation and later led its Center for Legal and Judicial Studies from 2001 until his “semiretirement” in 2013. Heritage founded The Daily Signal in 2014.]

I also studied each of the other characters with whom I share scenes in “Reagan,” directed by Sean McNamara.

I tried to delve into Meese’s process, particularly into the evolution of his perspective over three decades.

When it came time to film and we were in those specific moments on set, I attempted to process Meese’s feelings. 

President Ronald Reagan puts an arm around Attorney General Edwin Meese on Nov. 11, 1987, after announcing his nomination of Judge Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court. (Photo: Dirck Halstead/Getty Images)

I’ve been a producer, director, and actor in Hollywood for over 20 years. But as I homed in on my producing and directing skills, I had somewhat put aside my love for acting.

I am blessed to have a well-known director, Terrence Malick, as a stepfather. However, the closer we became personally, the further apart we grew professionally.

I first got to know Terry auditioning for the 1998 movie “The Thin Red Line,” and we had a strong working relationship during its filming. My father recently had left my mother, and she was heartbroken.

God works in mysterious ways. Years earlier, Terry and my mother had both attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, and now they were able to reconnect.

About five years after working on “The Thin Red Line,” I acted in another film directed by Terry, 2005’s “The New World.” By this time, my mother had found new love with him.

Terry explained to me that he opposes nepotism and so a very different working relationship developed between us, since he had become family.

Nevertheless, I’ve been able to pick up a few directing tips from Terry. For instance, when he is shooting a film, he shoots much more footage than is normal or necessary, then uses the best of what he has to put it all together in postproduction.

I’m thankful that I was able to watch him at work as a director, because it helped me on my own journey as a filmmaker. That said, I have a harder time accepting the role of director on a film (as opposed to producing or acting), even though directing is what I enjoy the most.

That’s because the film’s story really needs to be in your heart; it’s something you’re going to be living and breathing for years. 

I’ve been blessed to run an acting school where I have coached thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to illustrious careers. I realized that teaching the craft of acting gave me somewhat of a revival deep within and allowed me to satisfy my craving for acting.

But it was on the set of “Reagan,” playing this fascinating real-life character, Ed Meese, that I found my passion for acting beginning to be rekindled.

The experience helped me remember how much I enjoy preparing to portray a character, especially one from history.

“Reagan” is slated for release Aug. 30 in movie theaters nationwide. For details, visit www.Reaganfilm.com.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.