Back Story: Good Humor With Jack McBrayer

Actor Jack McBrayer joined hundreds of supporters to save Rex Ranch, and hopes the attention will secure its future.

Emmy-nominated actor and comedian Jack McBrayer gets laughs with his characters on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and 30 Rock, and for his voice work on animated films like Wreck-It Ralph. But the Macon, Ga., native spoke with Preservation about his latest role: preservationist. He was one of several actors, artists, and other creative types who rallied to save Rex Ranch, a 50-acre property established in the 1880s in Amado, Ariz., and transform it into a nonprofit arts and sciences center. Though ultimately unable to buy the ranch, they brought its history to light.

Why did you get involved with Save Rex Ranch?

When Joe [Beyer, the volunteer project director at Save Rex Ranch,] explained the history of the ranch and his vision for it, it was very intriguing. I got into the entertainment business through improvisational comedy, and improv is a very collaborative effort that takes the contributions of many to create this fun, wonderful thing. That's how I saw what this ranch could be: a collaboration of different people bringing different gifts to the table. And that sounded pretty cool to me.

How might historic places such as Rex Ranch inspire creativity?

It's interesting what inspires different people. For some, it's this kind of ranch setting. For others, it's going up to the mountains. For me, oh my, if I could just live my life like a Corona commercial and sit on the beach, that would be great. But I think the history and the beauty that something like Rex Ranch offers can inspire different kinds of people with different kinds of creative endeavors.

Had you ever fought to save a historic place before?

This was my first foray [into preservation]. I'm dipping my toes in. But I am a fan of architecture and historic buildings. I grew up going to Savannah and Charleston, S.C., which is one of my absolute favorite cities. Just recently I went to New Orleans, and that has the kind of architecture where I'm like, holy smokes, this is impressive stuff. You can see the history and feel the history. Sometimes I find it's a little out of my depth. I don't know all the ins and outs, like who developed it and the style, but I do know I like it. I know that it's really beautiful to me, and I like seeing it and being a part of it.

Do you have a favorite historic building or architectural style?

Anything in Charleston, like the Battery Row mansions. All those buildings with the second-story balconies that wrap around the whole house. It just hits a sweet spot. That being said, in Los Angeles, I own a beautiful Midcentury Modern home. This is something I was not exposed to early in life, but now that I know better my tastes, I'm drawn to the clean lines, the sleek look. I'm a huge fan of that style. It's so Mad Men.

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