Country music was on the playlist at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival as the upcoming Hank Williams biopic “I Saw the Light” with Tom Hiddleston as the legendary musician made its world premiere. FOX411 caught up with professional baseball player-turned-actor Casey Bond who stars in the film as The Drifting Cowboys fiddle player Jerry Rivers. We spoke about what it means to be part of this country music story, learning to play the fiddle for his role and his reaction when he first saw Hiddleston on-set as Williams.
FOX411: What was your reaction when you first saw Tom as Hank?
Bond: I was impressed. He really, he transformed his body a lot to look like Hank and his voice. I mean he worked on that for such a long time. I was really impressed by him. He put in so much work and he stayed in Nashville a long time, they recorded all the tracks right there in Nashville, so he did a great job. And his accent too. He really pulled it off, I know a lot of people were kind of questioning that decision by Marc (Abraham) but Marc nailed it.
FOX411: Going from baseball to acting, was it something you always wanted to do?
Bond: It was not something I always wanted to do. I played in college and I was fortunate to get drafted by the Giants and played a couple years in the organization and eventually was released and had some offers to play with other teams but during the off season I lived in Nashville and I just sort of got interested in acting, like I said always liked movies and things and started taking some acting classes and it just sort of caught with me and I had some opportunities come up to audition for some things.
FOX411: Is there a lot of pressure when it comes to playing a real person?
Casey Bond: First of all, one of the first big movies that I did was “Moneyball” and I had to play a real person too and you always have that sense of, you don’t know what they’re going to think about you when you’re up on the screen and it’s really an honor to be able to play someone that lived this life out. Jerry Rivers who I’m playing in this film, he’s no longer here, he passed away in ’96. But I’ve sort of become close to his family. They invited me over, they live in Nashville and they invited me over for dinner and everything and showed me all of his old fiddles and stuff and I saw pictures that no one has ever seen of him and Hank and some of the other Drifting Cowboys and so that just made it even more real. So obviously I want to do it to honor them and Jerry. But it is more of I think, any character you play is a responsibility but it seems like it could be more of a responsibility with a real person for sure because, you want them to be happy at the end of the day. It was cool after “Moneyball” to get a call from the real guy who I played Chad Bradford and he was really excited to have seen the film so that’s kind of like a weight lifted off your shoulders.
FOX411: You had to learn to play the fiddle for this role?
Bond: Essentially for my role I just auditioned and didn’t play anything at first and then they said "well your character is going to have to play an instrument"… At first, I actually auditioned for the bass player. So I just showed them, "Hey, I can play the guitar" and I played some Hank Williams songs on the guitar and then they came back and they said, "Actually we’re looking at you for another role, Jerry Rivers and he plays the fiddle, have you ever played the fiddle?" And I was like, "Not a day in my life, no..." I said, "But how much time do I have before I have to turn in this audition?" Because I was sending them in some fiddle stuff and they said, "Well you have until tomorrow." So I literally went to a fiddle shop and rented a fiddle and taught myself like on YouTube...so I learned the intro to the song “Jambalaya” by Hank. Then I learned how to play some of the stuff for “I Saw The Light” and “Hey Good Lookin’” and I did it and I sent it in and they gave me the role and so from that point on they actually hired someone to come to my house every day to teach me the fiddle. A guy named Chris Scruggs. So it was an awesome experience to learn a new instrument and have to be ready to play these songs.
FOX411: Were you a Hank Williams fan before you auditioned? How familiar were you with his legacy in country music?
Bond: It’s an honor to be a part of this film and I’m not just saying that, because I’ve always loved Hank Williams. I’m sort of an old soul when it comes to music and movies and things. I grew up listening to the 40s and the 50s music and I remember having "Hank Williams Greatest Hits" CD and I played it a bunch. My mom, she loves old music too but she didn’t like that old twangy stuff but I’d keep playing it. So to be able to have listened to those songs so many times and it affected my life before I even knew we’d be doing a movie and to get to actually… we felt like we were in the band. It was the Drifting Cowboys and it was Hank and everywhere we went when we played like in front of big crowds and stuff for the film, I mean, I felt like it was real. So it was an awesome experience and like I said it was really an honor to almost be a part of the Hank Williams legacy.