If you’re a ‘90s kid like I am, you grew up watching Barney & Friends. The show ran on PBS from 1992 to 2009 and had a total of 248 episodes. Barney became a huge hit and became one of the most recognized characters on children’s programming (besides maybe some of the Sesame Street gang). It also cemented one of the most annoying songs (that turned into 10,000 parodies) of all time into the minds of children around the world … “I Love You.”
One of the greatest mysteries about Barney & Friends (well, perhaps not that great … it’s a children’s show, not Macbeth) … one of the biggest questions everyone has about Barney is, “Who was the man in the suit?” Well, now we know. The man who played the body actor, David Joyner, recently did an interview where he revealed some secrets behind the big purple dinosaur.
Before Joyner became the purple dino, he was in a very different line of work. Joyner got a degree in electrical engineering and then went on to work for Texas Instruments for six years as a software analyst. He also worked as a live mannequin in the store windows of malls. But he always wanted to be on TV ever since he was a kid.
Joyner was there from day one. Well, actually he began working on the show before it even aired on PBS on April 6, 1992. Joyner played the man behind the suit for ten years, from 1991 to 2001. He revealed some surprising facts about the show and what it was like dawning the (very heavy) costume every day. Some of his revelations might slightly ruin your childhood for you … or maybe not.
In a recent interview with Tech Insider, the 53-year-old Joyner said that a dream told him that he would get the role of Barney. He said that there is a lot of clairvoyance in his family and that premonitions come to him in dreams. Apparently that is exactly what happened the night before the audition:
"In this dream, Barney passes out," Joyner said in the clip. "And I have to give Barney mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. So on the way to the audition, I'm sitting at a stop light and something says, 'Look up.' So I look up and it says, 'Breathe life into your vacation – Southwest Airlines.' And then it hits me. I had to breathe life into Barney in this dream. If I go into this audition, breathe life into this character, I'm going on vacation."
While Joyner really enjoyed playing Barney, it certainly wasn’t always easy. The suit itself was pretty heavy and temperatures could reach smoldering levels inside the T-Rex. “Now Barney is about 70 pounds,” Joyner said. “And it can get over 120 degrees inside. So inside you’re sweating profusely.”
In the interview clip, Joyner went on to say that his movement was limited because of the costume. “It’s a t-rex, so you’re basically just up to your elbows in being able to move,” he said. Joyner also had sneakers glued to the bottom of Barney’s massive feet so he could walk around with more ease. But perhaps the most interesting thing about the costume was how Joyner had to overcome working in complete darkness, he was practically blind inside of the suit.
“I can only see a certain amount because of the peripheral of Barney’s mouth,” Joyner said. “And when Barney’s mouth was closed, I can’t see anything. So what I would literally do is I would walk around my apartment as if I was blind. I would close my eyes and try to feel energy. And try to feel the energy of anything that was around me.”
Bob West’s voice was transmitted to Joyner through the Barney costume while filming. This way, Joyner could anticipate and have his body language react accordingly. “We would do what we called ‘dinosync,’” Joyner said. “As I have my headphones on I can literally hear [Bob West] taking his breath and knowing that as he’s about to speak, I’m almost inside of him, knowing exactly what he’s about to say.”
Back in March, Joyner also did a Reddit AMA where he opened the floor up for questions about his life as Barney. There he revealed some of Barney’s more …ehmm… intimate moments. While Joyner said that getting in and out of the suit was “pretty easy” and took him about ten minutes. But once he had to pee … inside of Barney. The horror.
“There were a few times when getting out to use the restroom was not an option,” he wrote. “There was one occasion during the Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans when I was on the float and I need to go really bad. The costume wrangler pushed a Gatorade bottle up the crouch opening of the costume and I had to aim, use, hand it back to her all while waving and dancing on the float. That was a pretty cool thing to do. Very impressive I must say. LOL.”
Yeah, that’s right millennials … Barney may have waved at you whilst holding his d**k. Or the man peeing inside Barney was holding his d**k and waving at you. I don't know what's worse.
You may want to quit your day job and become a costume actor. Apparently, it pays very well.
“I remember receiving the first residual check and the check was so big,” Joyner said. “And I was just like, ‘Oh my god, are you kidding me?’ So I had this beautiful, white stucco home and I paid for the house with residuals.”
Barney was on the air for a long time, so it’s hard to believe that PBS almost canceled the show after one season.
“After our 1st season on PBS, we were canceled,” he wrote. “The new Program Director of PBS was a major supporter of ‘Sesame Street.’ We did a grassroots campaign to get ‘Barney’ back on the air. Thus increasing the number of fans.”
While Joyner said he didn’t regret anything about playing Barney, he said that playing Barney led to some sad revelations. A Reddit user asked Joyner what the most difficult part about playing Barney was, and he said that it was how some people responded to discovering he was black.
“Knowing that there [were] some people out there who didn’t let their kids watch Barney because they found out that I was a black man,” he wrote. “Yes, it was the KKK. They [banned] their kids from watching the show. Also, there were some preachers in the southeast who thought Barney was a New Age Cult because he appeared from a tire swing. Crazy, I know.”
13. He Thinks The 'I Love You' Song Has A Tantric Message
Okay, you’ve got to hear him out on this one. So, Joyner said that he used to meditate inside of the costume.
“When I was 19, I started studying Tantra,” Joyner said. “And a lot of times when people think about Tantra they think it’s all about sex. Well, Tantra’s much more than that. Because Tantra deals with loving energy, life force energy, and energy that rises through your system. Now, it’s no accident that I’ve been spreading ‘I love you’ all around the world.”
Now, for the most important question of all. What is Barney’s stance on the film Death to Smoochy? If you haven’t seen the movie (you must), it stars Edward Norton and Robin Williams as two rival kids show hosts. Norton’s character, Smoochy, was based on Barney. So, what did Barney think of it … drum roll, please …
Barney has been off the air since 2009, but if you really miss the big purple dinosaur that much, you’re in luck. The Mattel toy company and the Canadian production company 9 Story Media Group are planning a relaunch of the TV series this year.