The number 42 homers in multiple ways, especially every April 15, when every Major league Baseball player sports Jackie Robinson’s digits on his jersey. The tribute to the Brooklyn Dodger who cracked the color barrier in 1947 also has taken the form through a new movie starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford.
Maury Covington, an actor whose family first settled in Myrtle Beach in the 1920s, won a part the movie, something different than he originally planned, but still an experience he said he found “very fortunate.”
The lifelong actor said his Atlanta-based agent had arranged for him to read for “a smaller role” in “42,” but that the movie director, Brian Helgeland, asked him to audition for the “racist cop” part, “which I did,” which, through studying lines, resulted in a “little rant.”
“It’s a nice little role,” Covington said, “small, but juicy.”
By phone last week from home in Jacksonville, Fla., he remembered the “blistering hot” day last June when his lines were filmed, at a former military installation in Atlanta, on a field used to emulate a minor-league diamond in Florida.
Working with Boseman, who portrayed Robinson, Covington called that role by the “young fellow a yeoman’s task,” especially seeing him film dialogue in the morning and the baseball play in the afternoon.
“Any lesser man would have crumbled,” Covington said.
MB ties since 1920s
Growing up in Myrtle Beach, accustomed to summer heat, he said his family has had ties “one way or another” to the area since the 1920s, when his grandparents bought a site.
“The SkyWheel’s on part of the property that was my grandparents’ cottage,” he said.
Covington said as the son of an Army soldier who moved around then retired to Myrtle Beach, he loved starting his teen years and staying through 11th grade. He said still considers the Myrtle Beach High School Class of 1962 his own, although he transferred for his senior year to the former Staunton Military Academy, in President Woodrow Wilson’s hometown in Virginia.
After four years in the Army, include a tenure in special forces, Covington went on to American University in Washington, D.C., before settling in New York, “where I spent most of my career.”
A college sports enthusiast, especially for Duke University basketball, he kindled some baseball memories from youth.
“I was crazy about the New York Giants,” he said, “and I was crazy about Willie Mays, and I still followed him when they went to San Francisco.”
He also built a loyalty for the Atlanta – formerly Boston – Braves, after having lived in Millford, Conn.
School reunions score
He still has a residence in Pawleys Island, and keeps up regular visits as he did annually earlier in his childhood.
Covington said he’s appreciated inclusion in some Myrtle Beach High reunions.
“I’ve stayed in touch many of my classmates,” he said.
He said his “start in show business in junior high, right there the old Myrtle Beach High School,” when all the grade levels of school building were connected.
Larry and Susan Wadley of Pawleys Island have kept in touch with Covington since their school days, and they delighted to see him at their 50th reunion in October.
“He’s a friend of ours,” said Susan Wadley, who has seen TV commercials for “42” and will join a group for a night out this Friday to see it.
She also said Covington had told them of his role, but “he was very unassuming about it.”
Larry Wadley, a classmate who moved to Myrtle Beach in 1958, remembered a play that included his wife and Covington, who “lunged forward,” wiping out several of her lines.
“She jokingly accused him of ruining her acting career,” Larry Wadley said with a laugh.
He and his wife would go on to long vocations in teaching and finance credit management, respectively.
The title role in a school play called “Wilbur Faces Life” left an impression on Covington, a story he said centered on a young man who was about to pick the wrong girl, but a fairy godfather showed him what life would be like.
“It was a great thrill to do something well enough that people get a big kick out of it or were moved in some way,” Covington said.