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10 Quick Questions for Andrew McCarthy

Actor-director’s new book, ‘Walking With Sam,’ chronicles epic journey in Spain with his teenage son

spinner image andrew mccarthy posing with a tree-lined city street behind him
Jesse Dittmar for The Washington Post

Andrew McCarthy, 60, is best known for being a member of the Brat Pack, that group of young actors — including Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore and Ally Sheedy — who starred in iconic 1980s coming-of-age hits such as Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire. In addition to acting, McCarthy has moved on to directing and travel writing, and his latest book, Walking With Sam: A Father, a Son, and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain, details his five-week-long trek along Spain’s Camino de Santiago with his 19-year-old son. We spoke to McCarthy about the exhausting, epic journey, the benefits of aging, the TV shows he’s loving and more.

What was the most challenging aspect of your trip?

I’d say ultimately it was most challenging physically. There were moments near the end where I was just like, Oh my God, my body is done here. Although then the closer to the end it gets, the more emotionally satisfying it becomes. So you’re at a weird sort of juxtaposition of physically getting exhausted and emotionally becoming more elated. 

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How was it being with your teenager nonstop for that long?

spinner image cover of andrew mccarthy book called walking with sam, showing photo of him and his son and two big painted arrows, one pointing left and the other pointing right
McCarthy's new book is a memoir about traveling in Spain with his son.
Grand Central Publishing

We fought constantly. I was frustrated with him, he was irritated with me often, and yet we had great laughs, and I think we both got more respect for each other. I think he saw me as who I am as opposed to just his dad. And, consequently, we enjoyed each other more because we slipped out of that [father-son] dynamic. And on the last day, he said to me, “That was the only 10 out of 10 thing I’ve ever done in my life.” 

As an avid traveler, what’s one essential you never leave home without?

I bring almond butter and rice crackers with me when I travel, because airplane food is so bad. And I’m like my kids: If I get too hungry, things just go south. I get hangry, which is a term I just learned. 

What destination is at the top of your travel bucket list?

I was supposed to go to Antarctica twice and I've had to cancel both times at the last minute, so I would like to get there before it melts.

Are there any TV shows you’re currently watching?

I recently watched this show Slow Horses with Gary Oldman. I thought that was terrific. I like spy shows a lot. And I'm watching Shrinking right now — the one with Harrison Ford — which I’m really enjoying. 

What are you reading these days?

I’ve been listening to audiobooks a lot. I started during the pandemic, and I really enjoy that when I’m driving and stuff. I recently finished this Ben Macintyre book called A Spy Among Friends about Kim Philby that I really liked. There’s a book called The Quiet Americans — not the Graham Greene book [The Quiet American]. This one [by Scott Anderson] is about the beginning of the CIA, which I thought was really fascinating and terrifying. So I got into this sort of nonfiction spy jag.

spinner image andrew mccarthy, molly ringwald, jon cryer leaning against a wall, from pretty in pink movie
McCarthy starred alongside Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer in the 1986 classic "Pretty in Pink."
Paramount/Everett Collection

You’re working on a documentary about the Brat Pack. What has it been like reconnecting with your past costars?

I had so much more affection for everyone than I would have anticipated. You know, we were like these members of a club that we didn’t ask to join, and we’re the only ones who really know what that was like. And it was life-changing for all of us. So to go back and rekindle that with people who I hadn’t seen in 30-odd years — maybe just because we’re old and all the other nonsense is gone — was really lovely.

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In the past, you’ve been reluctant about the whole idea of the Brat Pack.

When I wrote my [2021] memoir, Brat, that was really me kind of coming to terms and sort of accepting that we are avatars for a generation of people in that moment of youth — that exciting, potential-filled moment in life. So when [people] come up and talk to me and other members of the Brat Pack about these movies, they’re really talking about their own youth. And I just represent that to them. It took me a long time to realize that it’s kind of a wonderful gift that I represent that to those people. Now it’s just this iconically warm and fuzzy phrase, whereas at the time that wasn’t the case. We all found it very stigmatizing and very limiting professionally.

You turned 60 last year. How was that?

I’ve never had trouble with any birthday, 40, 50 — I never blinked. And then 60, I did. I was, like, Whoa! It gave me pause, sure. 

How are you different now than you were when you were younger?

I have less to prove. I don't give a sh-- what most people think anymore, whereas before, it was very important to me. I just don’t seem to care as much. But it’s not caring in a wonderful way. It’s more like it’s fine, it doesn’t matter. There’s great freedom in that.

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