Andrew McCarthy Reflects on His ‘Brat Pack’ Days: ‘I Didn’t Have an Appreciation for It at the Time’
He was among the 1980s’ most successful young actors. A member of the so-called “Brat Pack,” Andrew McCarthy starred in some of the era’s most popular youth-oriented films, including Class, Pretty in Pink, Less Than Zero and St. Elmo’s Fire. “It was just like being on a roller coaster,” Andrew, 60, tells Closer. “Most of the time when I opened my eyes, it was thrilling.”
Andrew’s still acting today. He stars in the 2023 thriller Grace Point, available on Prime Video. He’s also a husband, father, travel writer, director and bestselling author. His latest memoir, Walking With Sam: A Father, a Son, and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain, chronicles his one-month trek along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route with his 21-year-old son, actor Sam McCarthy, in the summer of 2022.
What were you looking for when you started this pilgrimage with your son?
“Just spending quality time together. I found it valuable for him getting to see me not as his dad but as a person, and for me to see him as my son but also as someone existing in the larger world. It really is outside the dynamic of a regular father-and-son relationship. I think we forget as parents that our kids need to see us as people. Sometimes we need to take ourselves down off that pedestal.”
As a parent, it can be hard to reveal your insecurities and weaknesses to your child.
“During the walk, we got to be with each other in the present. One of the moments when I really felt exposed was when Sam went charging ahead and had to wait for me. Physically, he’s just more able than I am. I also fell and he helped me. It was a big deal for both of us. I’ve always wanted to protect my kids, but the truth is, we can’t. Seeing me as a person, falling down in front of him, was very empowering, I think, for both of us.”
What do you like about walking?
“Walking turns off tension and anxiety. It allows you to accept yourself, and it allows your creativity to flow. There are so many famous writers who talk about how walking liberates their ideas. I find that a lot of times I pull out my phone to do a voice note — like a shell of a line if I’m writing something — that popped into my head when I’m walking.”
You had a lot of fans following your journey on social media. Did that surprise you?
“I was shocked by that because I’m not a social media user. But it was interesting that as the walk evolved, more people were following our journey. I didn’t intend to take everyone with us. I just posted the first day and people responded to it. They seemed to enjoy it.”
You might have a new career as a social media influencer!
“[Chuckles] It was interesting how technology became less and less important to both me and Sam the further we progressed into the walk. It sort of fell into its natural right place, as opposed to the default that we always use it for.”
What did Sam enjoy most about the trip?
“He got coffee breaks in the middle of the day and ice cream for breakfast! It’s one of the nice things about having an adult child. They’re not going to listen to you. So, I’m not going to say, ‘Don’t eat ice cream for breakfast.’ Why the hell shouldn’t he eat ice cream for breakfast?”
Did the trip bring you closer?
“Yes, because even if we weren’t talking the whole time and we walked silently, there’s something physical and intimate about walking as a shared experience.”
You’re making a documentary about your time as part of the Brat Pack. Tell us about it.
“The experience changed my life so much, but I’ve never spoken to any of the other actors involved in it about it before. We were members of a club we never asked to join. I know it affected everyone’s lives as profoundly as it affected mine. It turns out, we all have an affection for that era in a way that surprised me. I certainly didn’t have an appreciation for it at the time.”
If you could, what advice would you give your younger self?
“I’d say, ‘You’re doing just fine. You’re fine. Take your time.’ You spend so much time worrying when you’re young. You have that insecurity — you don’t even realize how much it motivates a lot of your actions. Maybe it doesn’t need to.”
Did you always want to become an actor?
“I knew acting was my goal the minute I walked out on stage as the Artful Dodger in my high school production of Oliver!. That was it. It was over for me. I knew it without knowing how to do it or thinking that it was impossible. I know I was lucky in that sense.”
What are you proudest of?
“My career. I mean, I’m still here. And my kids.”
In addition to Sam, you have two other children, Willow and Rowan. Are they following in your footsteps as an actor?
“They seem to be gravitating toward the ‘family business.’ Since they grew up around it, it just seemed normal to them. My son Sam was on the Netflix series Dead to Me. Willow was on Broadway three times in Matilda the Musical.
What do you like most about being the age you are now?
“Perspective. That’s what happens when we get older, we start realizing what is important. It doesn’t mean you’re disinterested. Things fall by the wayside, and that just means that they’re not important.”
Do you have any words of wisdom that you live by?
“Actually, I don’t. Do you?”
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
“That’s so true, isn’t it? It’s a way of thinking we should all be doing.”
What do you have left on your bucket list?
“I don’t have a bucket list, but I’d like to get one in order before it’s too late. No, I don’t generally have one. I just sort of feel my way through life.”