‘When I’m Somebody Else’ Grant Hardin celebrates 40 years as famed historical reenactor
Published 9:00 am Monday, May 9, 2016
You might expect to see bullet holes, knife slits and blood stains on the resume of Elizabethton’s Grant Hardin, and you might forget you’re in the 21st Century when hearing of his experiences.
This year, the historical reenactor celebrates 40 years of bringing to life American historical figures in musters, television series and movies.
Though he has played numerous historical characters, he has had the most consistent experience playing Andrew Jackson — the “people’s president.”
“Jackson didn’t watch from a distance with a spy glass, he was right in it,” said Hardin. “His strength and courage held those men together when they defeated the greatest army on earth. When I portray him, I have to have that personality: fire and vinegar — he was like that.”
He has played the role of Jackson for 30 years in movies, at schools and at the Battle of New Orleans reenactment for more than 15 years. He was recently invited to perform at the Jackson County Bicentennial event.
“Just about everything he’s done, I’ve done,” Hardin said.
Hardin has the same physical build and perhaps the same fervid patriotism of Jackson. Not only that, he has the suit, hat and sash to tie it all together.
Though Hardin said his wardrobe would be useless to most, he enjoys explaining the craftsmanship of each piece. His Jackson suit, with English and French influence, was hand-sewn by a 19th century tailor on Saint Simon’s Island. The red sash indicates a person of prestige and was historically worn by a General or Colonel. The style of hat, called a chapeau, has French influence and would only be worn by an officer, he said.
“It is an exact replica of the suit at the Smithsonian,” Hardin said, adding it cost about $2,000.
Jackson served as President of the United States, Tennessee Congressman and Governor of Florida, and he helped draft the Tennessee Constitution. For these reasons, and for his love of Tennessee, Hardin took a strong interest in him.
“He’s very interesting, and I’ve learned a lot doing it,” Hardin said.
In the past, he performed in 20-25 events annually, but said he now performs in less than a dozen.
His talent has been featured in various television series and in movies, focusing the national eye on this area and its rich history. Ninety percent of his work his done from memory, he said, as if he had lived it.
He began to be featured in film and television series in 1976 in the Young Daniel Boone series. Since then, he has been featured in The River with Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek, The Last of the Mohicans with the friendly, full-blooded Cherokee Daniel Day Lewis, The Heartland Series, TLC’s Revolutionary War series, The First Seminole War, Swamp Monster, and The Battle of Alamance.
Some of these were filmed locally at such sites as Doe River Gorge, Fort Watauga and at the Nolichucky River.
Not only has he reenacted in a number of motion pictures and at National events, he also performed in the first live performance of Elizabethton’s outdoor drama “The Wataugans,” which is now known as “Liberty!” He acted in it for 22 years, but said now the
He has played Jackson, Daniel Boone, John Henry “Doc” Holliday, French and American soldiers, Colonel John Sevier, General Frances Marion, a Scottish trader hanged by Jackson, Mayor Robert Rogers, Captain John Stewart, British Officer Major Patrick Ferguson, William Cobb and other historical figures.
“There’s so much history, I feel like I have lived in about four or five different historical periods,” Hardin said. “I have seen it, lived it, breathed it, and it has been historically correct every bit of it.”
His talent has earned him unique awards and recognitions. When a tree in Elizabethton’s Covered Bridge Park, under which John Carter held court, was cut down, he was given a slice of the tree.
“Jackson also may have held court under that tree, not regularly, but there is indication he may have done it at some time, “ Hardin explained. “He was the judge on the Superior Court of Tennessee from 1797 to 1803.”
Hardin was also given a Colonel’s Commission by the Governor of Tennessee as an Aide-de-Camp to the Governor.
“That’s very rare,” Hardin said, “It blew me away.”
He said it has been an honor to bring these characters to life and he plans to continue reenacting as long as he is able.