If you grew up in the '90s, you may remember Barney, a magical, life-sized purple dinosaur who preached the importance of love, education, and imagination. You probably didn't think much about the person behind the costume when you were a kid, but there was, indeed, someone in there. His name is David Joyner, and he played Barney for 10 years. Now, in an interview with Business Insider, the 53-year-old actor reflected on his days as the iconic dino, and his story is actually quite touching.
As Joyner describes in a video shared on the outlet's Twitter account, he played Barney from 1991 to 2001, and he absolutely loved doing it. Prior to landing the role, he'd gotten a degree in electronic engineering technology and worked at Texas Instruments — you know, that company where you probably got your high school calculator — for six years as a software analyst. He later became a live mall mannequin, but always dreamed of being on television, and being Barney helped him make that happen. He explained to BI that he'd had a premonition before the audition that told him to "breathe life" into the character, and after that, he knew he'd get the part.
Joyner says his time on the series gave him the impetus to finally move to Los Angeles and pursue his dream of acting, and he's since nabbed parts in Shameless, That '70s Show, ER, and 24. So, chances are, you've seen him somewhere before. Over 15 years later, things have kind of come full circle: He's returned to his roots as a “cool, hip-hop rapping, breakdancing teddy bear that runs an after-school center called Hip Hop Central” in YouTube series Hip Hop Harry.
But as seen in the video, Joyner remembers being Barney fondly. The gig not only paid well — the checks helped him afford a beautiful house — but the show's message struck a personal note. When Joyner was 19, he studied Tantra, a religious theory that deals with loving energy.
"It's no accident that I've been spreading 'I love you,' all around the world," Joyner told BI, referring to the famed "I Love You" song that closed out every episode of Barney & Friends. "A lot of times you hear those words and they're like oh my god, that song, and I'm like, 'no, no, no, listen to it' ... We're gathered together in this beautiful harmonious thing that's happening. It's a beautiful thing to know how that song has impacted pretty much this next generation."
The Barney chapter may now be closed for Joyner, but it's clear the role had a profound impact on his life and ended up giving him a fulfilling career that he cares deeply about. "I'm 53 years old, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm 53 years old still playing in costumes," Joyner told BI. "Barney was beautiful. Barney was very, very good to me. I loved being Barney."
And knowing this makes the show even sweeter.