Why 'Killing Reagan' Star Tim Matheson Loves Ronald Reagan

Tim Matheson (as Ronald Reagan) in Killing Reagan. (Photo Credit: National Geographic Channels/ Hopper Stone, SMPSP)

Liberals can’t stop praising conservatives who no longer have a voice in the cultural debate.

They long for erudite opinions from William F. Buckley, the National Review founder who passed in 2008. This election cycle, liberals pine for a moral straight shooter like Mitt Romney. Four years ago, they savaged him with every weapon in their ideological arsenal.

Does that explain what Tim Matheson just said about President Ronald Reagan? Or is the actor simply speaking from the heart?

Matheson plays Reagan in the new telefilm “Killing Reagan.” The feature, which aired Sunday, recalls the awful moment when John Hinckley, Jr. shot and nearly killed President Reagan. Hinckley also severely wounded Press Secretary James Brady and injured a Secret Service agent and police officer.

Moviefone quizzed Matheson about his lengthy career and his thoughts on Reagan during the actor’s press outreach for the project.

It wasn’t the typical Hollywood speak.

Matheson remembers the shock he felt after learning President Reagan had been shot. They didn’t have much in common, politically speaking. Yet the actor recognized the man’s decency as well as his heroic return to his duties following the attack.

I was a liberal, and still am, and I voted for Jimmy [Carter], but it made me realize how much I liked him. That despite our political differences, I really liked him, and it made me sad that this sweet old man had been shot down by some stupid kid, some crazy guy with a pistol.

Reagan’s recovery from a serious chest wound changed how the actor thought of him.

I voted for him the second time. He was the only Republican I’ve ever voted for.

Matheson isn’t dumb. He knows most viewers want to see Reagan praised before watching his film. Yet his comments certainly sound sincere.

I think he understood the job and he knew the value of the image. Jimmy was the best, most wonderful Christian man, a great man — and a terrible president.

The actor also recalls how he bought into the liberal groupthink regarding Reagan back in the ’80s. He was a dangerous blowhard whose rhetoric could start a nuclear war. Looking back, particularly as he researched Reagan for the role, he learned that wasn’t the case at all.

Turns out the whole “peace through strength” argument made sense.

I just thought it was that cowboy bluster that we got with George W. Bush, but it wasn’t. It was very measured, even to the point where I read a perspective on when he fired the air traffic controllers, he was aware. They talked about how the Russians are going to look at this, they’re going to go, “Oh, my gosh.” And they did — they responded.