'Barney' Actor David Joyner on Life as Big Purple Dinosaur - Rolling Stone
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‘Barney’ Actor David Joyner on Life as Big Purple Dinosaur

Former software analyst says purple costume weighed 70 pounds, head didn’t swivel

David Joyner, the man who played Barney the Dinosaur for 10 years, has a lot of stories to tell about what life was like in the big purple dinosaur suit. In a recent interview with Business Insider, Joyner talked about the difficulties that came with the heavy, now-iconic costume and how he landed the role in the first place.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be on television so bad,” he said in a clip posted to Twitter Thursday. “I would stand in front of the television and basically lip sync.”

Before he became an actor, however, the Illinois native worked a day job as a software analyst at Texas Instrument for six years, and even had a side gig as a “live mannequin” at the local mall. “I would move mechanically. And people would literally bring their children, set them on the mall floor, and go shop,” he recalled.

Joyner’s big break came when he had a dream the night before his audition for the role. “In this dream, Barney passes out,” he explained. “And I have to give Barney mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. So on the way to the audition, I’m sitting at a stop light and something says, ‘Look up.’ So I look up and it says, ‘Breathe life into your vacation – Southwest Airlines.’ And then it hits me. I had to breathe life into Barney in this dream. If I go into this audition, breathe life into this character, I’m going on vacation.”

Joyner got the gig shortly afterward.

Of being inside the suit, Joyner said the experience could be taxing. “Now, Barney is about 70 pounds and it can get over 120 degrees inside, so inside you’re sweating profusely,” he said, adding, “It’s a T-Rex, so you’re basically up to your elbows in being able to move, and then also, Barney’s feet were huge.”

Additionally, he said, “The head doesn’t come off, the head doesn’t swivel. There’s no facial expressions that can be made. I can only see a certain amount – when Barney’s mouth is closed, I can’t see anything.”

Fans of the hit series, which aired on PBS for 13 seasons, from 1991 to 2001, had mixed reactions about all these revelations.

After the show ended in 2001, Joyner went on to have minor appearances on shows like That ‘70s Show, Hip Hop Harry, The Young and the Restless, ER and Veep. He also became interested in a variety of non-acting related fields, becoming a tantra massage specialist, a spiritual energy healer and reiki practitioner.

“Barney was beautiful. Barney was very, very good to me,” he said. “I loved being Barney. I loved everything about being Barney. But that chapter is gone.”

Much like the Mickey Mouse Club, Barney and Friends also had its fair share of favorite alum, including Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato.

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A post shared by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on


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