To many, historic reenactors are obsessives, partaking in a hobby that many equate with other escapist pastimes like role-playing games, comic books, and cosplay – albeit with an academic and historically important twist. Those passionate about it lose themselves in the extensive minutia of the history and the characters involved, obsessed with the detail and authenticity of the smallest items and often spending, searching, or crafting tirelessly in search of the perfect uniform or campsite accessory. Few make it look as good as Guy William Gane III.
Guy is one of the few reenactors who has been able to parlay his passion for history into a career on both sides of the camera. An an actor, casting director, and historical advisor for many film and documentary productions focusing on the American Civil War, Guy is part historian, part maker, and very serious about losing himself in the roles he plays both on and off the battlefield – often forging a strong personal connection with the history he embroils himself in. During a chat a few weeks after this assignment Guy told me a story of one of the most personal moments he has ever experienced during a reenactment.
“To be honest, I feel that reenacting has brought out something within me that I always knew was there. The ability to make something real. I judge everything on how real it seems to me. Authenticity is very important in reenacting. Being able to show authenticity in a performance is what sells it. It’s the same with acting. If you can’t properly show emotion or action, then it looks cheezy… or Farby, as we call it, in the reenacting world. If I told people that I believe in reincarnation, they would either laugh or look at me curiously. I don’t know why I have such a connection to that time period, especially. It’s been something I’ve just accepted. I didn’t attend college classes, since I’d end up teaching the teacher. In June of 2012, I experienced the most realistic-feeling event, when I attended the “Lee Takes Command” event. The battle was Gaines’ Mill and me and 31 other reenactors gather together to portray the Louisiana Tigers, who were decimated at the battle. We all made our uniforms and what I went through out there can’t be explained to anyone who wasn’t there. I was bawling my eyes out at several points in the battle and it’s aftermath. It was REAL. So I believe that Spirits are with us, always. They were there that day.”
With little time between projects, Guy is the first to admit that his zeal for reenactment and his job is a driving force in his life. “I live on no sleep and a lot of coffee, and I am always moving. This is the greatest experience of my life.” The last few months have found him working on the upcoming feature Field of Lost Shoes about the VMI Cadets at the Battle of New Market, and then quickly packing up to begin work casting for an upcoming project with Netflix. Always an impeccable dresser, Guy’s style is usually mix of vintage charm and modern sensibility, but when he stepped on set for this shoot to promote one of his upcoming projects it was a bit haunting to see how wholly he can physically inhabit these personas – whether playing a nameless Union soldier in a battlefield reenactment or a role as infamous as John Wilkes Booth in a historical television drama.