James McCaffrey will tell you first-hand: Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. According to the actor’s IMDB page, “James McCaffrey was born in 1959 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.” The actor, however, is a native of Albany. You’ve probably come across McCaffrey through his recurring role on Emmy-winning FX series Rescue Me, cable dramedy Suits or as the voice of Max Payne in the über-popular same-named video game franchise. Saratoga Living recently caught up with the actor, who’s nowadays based in Westchester County.
I’ve heard you’re from Albany, but everything I’ve seen online says that you’re from Northern Ireland. What’s the deal?
I was doing a play at The Actors Studio in the late ’80s, playing an Irish housepainter from Belfast, and my manager did my bio. At the time, there was a funny story that Marlon Brando, in his bio, said that he was raised by Tibetan wolves. So she thought, “Oh, well, let’s just throw this in there.” I thought, “OK, great, fine,” and forgot about it. But that was for a play—a single play—and back then, obviously, there were no computers, so I don’t know how IMDB or Google got that. And I can’t get rid of it.
What’s your favorite role that you’ve played?
Probably Jimmy Keefe in the TV series Rescue Me for FX. Just because he was a ghost and he died in the World Trade Center on September 11.
Did you have any personal connections to 9/11 that you were able to draw from for the character?
A friend who grew up two houses away from us when we were in high school and his brother were in the towers, and one brother got out and the other did not. I had a couple good acquaintances who were in the fire department—a famous New York City firefighter named [Patrick] “Paddy” Brown. I had known him for a few years, and he died. I go down there every September 11th with another buddy of mine, an actor who lost his best friend in the south tower.
What was acting for a video game like?
I’m not a big fan of video games, and I never have been. The first time I did Max Payne, it was, like, six hours a day in a sound booth, and it was about 400 pages of script. But, I’ve never seen it, I’ve never played it, I have no desire to. I lack the proper appreciation for video games.
Tell me a little bit about your family’s history in the Capital Region.
My grandfather owned the Albany Senators, which was a professional baseball team. I think he and my grandmother were in the Gary Cooper movie Saratoga Trunk. I’ve been going up to Saratoga since I was a kid. My dad used to have a group of buddies who hung out at the harness track, so when he was in charge of the kids and my mother was working, he would bring us up to the track. And that’s the start of my Saratoga addiction. Then I used to go to SPAC all the time—we used to sneak in. I’ve seen everybody there—Clapton several times, the Allman Brothers, Carlos Santana. Every concert that was there, we were at.