Barney may be a dinosaur from our imagination, but David Joyner is the man who brought the childhood staple to life from 1991 to 2001.
Business Insider caught up with the 53-year-old actor to chat about his time in the big purple costume, and he revealed some crazy facts about the gig, which Joyner feels was meant for him.
“Being Barney was never an accident,” he said. “I was supposed to do this character.”
In fact, the actor had a premonition before trying out for the role.
“The night before the audition, I had this dream. And in this dream, Barney passes out. And I have to give Barney mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” he explained. “So on the way to the audition, I’m sitting at a stoplight, and something says ‘Look up.’ So I look up, and there’s this billboard. It says ‘Breathe life into your vacation — Southwest Airlines.’ And then it hits me: I had to breathe life into Barney in my dream. If I go into this audition and breathe life into this character, I’m going on vacation. And that’s exactly what I did.”
He continued, “So, of course, they called me and asked if I would be Barney. And I said, ‘Of course.’ I pretty much already knew that I was going to be Barney. But it was great getting that phone call.”
Check out some secrets of being Barney:
— Joyner said the dinosaur costume weighs about 70 pounds and can heat up to over 120 degrees inside.
— Barney’s feet were so large that Joyner wore sneakers while suited up, which were glued to the bottom to the costume
— Joyner said his view was limited to Barney’s mouth, so if the mouth was shut, he couldn’t see at all: “So what I would literally do is I would walk around my apartment as if I was blind. I would close my eyes, and I would try to feel energy. And try to feel the energy of anything that was around me.”
— During breaks on set, Joyner would sometimes “put a fan in the mouth” of the costume and meditate while sitting on an apple box.
— Joyner wasn’t the voice of Barney— that job went to a man named Bob West. “We would do what we call ‘dinosync,’ ” Joyner explained. “As I have my headphones on, I can literally hear him 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.”
— The gig paid very well. The man behind Barney said he couldn’t believe the number when he received his first residual check. “So I had this beautiful white stucco home, and I paid for the house with residuals, which is really cool,” he said.
After 10 years of playing the children’s TV show icon, Joyner decided to move to Los Angeles and continue acting. He appeared on Shameless, That ’70s Show, ER, 24 and The Young and the Restless.
Nowadays, Joyner is back in costume in a YouTube series called Hip Hop Harry, where he plays a “cool, hip-hop rapping, breakdancing teddy bear that runs an after-school center called Hip Hop Central.”
“I’m 53 years old. And I am not ashamed to admit that I am 53 years old, still playing in costumes,” he said.
But he’ll never forget the role he played for a decade.
“Barney was beautiful,” he said. “Barney was very, very good to me. I loved being Barney. I loved everything about being Barney. But that chapter is gone.”