Over the years, Ryan Merriman has cheated death in “Final Destination 3,” been “Touched By an Angel” in the TV series of the same name and tossed footballs and dribbled basketballs in various roles.
But the Choctaw-born and bred actor is taking up baseball again for one of his biggest onscreen opportunities to date, playing 1940s Brooklyn Dodgers right fielder Dixie Walker in the Jackie Robinson biopic “42 ” The film also will star big-screen icon Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni (TV’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) and T.R. Knight (“Grey’s Anatomy”).
“Just to work in that kind of caliber of film is very fun, and I’m looking forward to it,” Merriman told The Oklahoman during a recent visit to his home state. Merriman, 29, reported Sunday for a two-week baseball camp with the other actors portraying players in the movie. Shooting will begin May 14 on location in Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. The film is set for April 12, 2013, release. “It’s running, conditioning, hitting, fielding ... and we’re wearing the wool, old-school, real-deal uniforms. My mitt is from the ’40s, and it’s like almost flat. It has no pocket. I don’t know how these guys caught the balls they did, and then you know, wood bats. No gloves, wood bats, pine tar, so it’s getting pretty cool,” Merriman said, adding that he and his “teammates” already have been honing their skills with a coach in Los Angeles.
“Dixie threw right and batted left, and I’m a righty both sides (of the ball). So I’ve been learning to bat left lately, and it’s been interesting.”
Taking its name from Robinson’s number, which has been retired by every Major League Baseball team, “42” chronicles Robinson’s historic breaking of the sport’s color line when he made his Dodgers debut on April 15, 1947, blazing a trail for other black players.
Ford will play legendary Dodgers President and General Manager Branch Rickey, who signed Robinson; Meloni will portray the Dodgers’ outspoken manager Leo Durocher, who makes a stand on behalf of the pioneering athlete; and Knight has been cast as Harold Parrott, the team’s traveling secretary who has to deal with housing the black player during the dark days of racial segregation.