San Diego Serendipity: An Interview with Chameleon Doug JonesA movie interview article by: Laura Akers, Chris Hicks
One of the things that we love most about covering conventions for Comics Bulletin is the chance for magic. There is a special magic at conventions. You’re shopping the tables, checking out the great new books, amazing art, toys, etc. and suddenly realize that you’re standing next to Andy Serkis. Or you're weaving your way through the crowd, when you’re politely shoved (tricky, but it can be done) out of the way by Stan Lee’s blocker, leaving you face-to-face with The Man, if only for a moment.
But when you’re there as press, such chance encounters become even more wonderful because they can quickly be translated into an interview.
Laura was waiting at a San Diego Trolley stop at this year’s SDCC, talking on the phone to a friend, and describing the injury Chris had sustained the previous day (a gash from a broken bedspring – and no, we did not break the bedspring ourselves!). When she hung up, a very familiar-looking, very tall, very thin man sitting next to her quietly leaned over and asked with concern: “is he okay?”
She quickly assured him that Chris was fine, and thanked him for his kindness. Some chit-chat ensued, and eventually, the question of why they were attending the con came up. Laura informed the gentleman that she was covering the con as press, while he responded that he was there to sign autographs at various booths. “So we’re both whoring ourselves out,” they laughed together.
She asked him what she might have seen him in. As soon as he mentioned Buffy, the reason for his familiar appearance clicked. He wasn’t just a gentleman. He is THE Gentleman, scary star of the widely acclaimed Buffy episode “Hush.” He is Abe Sapien of Hellboy fame. He is Fauno and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth. He is the Silver Surfer from the most recent Fantastic 4 movie. He’s been in over 100 projects, but you might not recognize him either at the Trolley Stop, considering the sheer amount of prosthetics and makeup that he’s often wearing.
But you instantly recognize the talent. And that chance meeting turned into an interview with one of the kindest and most positive people we’ve met.
Laura Akers and Chris Hicks for Comics Bulletin: Okay, so you do a lot of work with prosthetics?
Doug Jones: Yes!
CB: So that means what you do has to be very physical. I was wondering, what’s your background as far as training and such?
Jones: Ah! Well, that’s an easy answer: I started as a mime – tall, skinny guy, white face – in college, back at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. When I was a freshman, a senior down the hall from me in the dorm ran a mime troop called “Mime over Matter.”
CB: Nice. Very nice.
Jones: He saw how I talked with my hands all the time, and he was watching me in the cafeteria every day, and finally came up to me and said “Do you know what a mime is?” and I said “Uh, well, uh…” so he said “Come see one of our shows.” I did, and I was like “AHH! I get it!” So I went to the show and saw the magic of creating stories, props that weren’t there, and worlds that exist with no dialogue. No verbal dialogue, but tons of visible dialogue. I was intrigued immediately, and my body responded to all of it very well, so I ended up auditioning for the mime troop, making it in, and by my senior year, I was the guy in charge of the mime troop.
CB: And luring other people into mime.
Jones: Exactly. Yeah! So when I made it out to Hollywoodland in 1985, I wanted to be an actor, of course, and the mime skill I never thought would come in handy for anything, little did I know. My goal was to become a sitcom regular as a goofy neighbor. I wanted to be like the guy who came in every so often, said something funny, did an armpit fart, and left.
As it turns out, my first agent was a commercial agent that caught me in an acting class. He gave me his card and said “Call me at the office.” He loved the mime skill on my resume, and being a contortionist, I could also put my legs behind my head. So that’s how he marketed me: it was like “Tall, skinny, goofy guy who moves well.”That brought more auditions than anybody who’s pretty, you know what I’m saying?
I had no idea, and then the costume characters for TV commercials started happening. The first thing I booked was a dancing mummy for Southwest Airlines, and then one of the next things was the Mac Tonight campaign for McDonalds. The moon man who sang with the piano? That was me in the moon head for twenty-seven commercials over a three-year period.
That’s what marks me all of the sudden as “tall, skinny, goofy guy who moves well and wears prosthetics and doesn’t complain about it.” Now, in the world of creature effects and actors, that’s a big one. The creatures and effects people deal with actors everyday that hate the makeup process and complain about it. “It’s so hot! Can you get it off me? Does it have to poke there?” All that. I guess I was an exception because I knew what I said yes to. So for some reason that gave me the reputation of being the guy you want to work with. Which I had no idea that this was even a career option.
So Monster came looking for me when the people from the Mack the Knife campaign had me for three years, like I said. So puppeteers and makeup artists and sculptors would come into work with our team of people for the commercials and go back to their own creature shops, and they might work for Stan Winston’s Studios, or Cinovation by Rick Baker, or Greg Cannom’s shop, or Ve Neill, or whatever.
Then they would have a job come up where the concept design would be a tall, skinny, alien. “Oh we’ll just get that Jones guy!” So the phone calls would start coming in that way, all of the sudden. I had an agent that I would still audition for all the human parts, but this side career of the monster-under-rubber-guy was just happening organically on its own. It was a surprise to me. That’s how it happened.
CB: So what are the challenges of working under the prosthetics?
Jones: Well the challenges are everything you would think it would be. You’re hotter than everyone on set, you’re heavier than everyone else on set, you can’t see, you can’t hear, and then you have trouble breathing depending on where the holes are on your nose. If you’re in a mask that covers your entire face, then you have breathing issues there. Makeup application times are five hours ahead of time. So that means you’re the first one on the set. Makeup removal time: two hours, depending on the day
So, for example, in Hellboy 2, I played three characters. Not only was I reprising my Abe Sapien role, I also played The Angel of Death, and Chamberlain. So when one of my characters had the day off, the another one was working.
Jones: So of that one-hundred and twenty-eight day schedule, I worked one hundred and eight of those days.
CB: Wow! You might as well have directed.
Jones: Thank you. Actually, Guillermo del Toro…I should never…he directed just fine. [laughs] What that did to me, a piece of my soul was missing when I got done with that job. Six days a week in Budapest, Hungary, and my days were about eighteen hours a day regularly, thanks to the makeup application and removal and then a ten-or-twelve hour day at work in the middle of all that. So I was sleeping four hours a night, and just wondering if I was going to die.
So there’s your obstacles. When the camera rolls, you have to work through all those issues. You pretend that they don’t exist and turn into an organic being that just looks like this, and you push through all the discomfort, all of the pain, all the heat. Think like an athlete that pushes forward to the finish line. While also playing a character as an actor, being an artist through it all. So there’s the challenge right there.
CB: How do you construct the physicality of a character like that? Because honestly I didn’t know all of what you had done, so I looked at your filmography, and I was like “Oh my god, I’ve seen him in so many things!” and none of them move the same. Your characters are all very, very distinct. So how do you go about constructing the character, when so much of the character is the movement?
Jones: Thank you! That’s a huge compliment. Thank you. Well, first things first is reading the script and find out how he’s been written. Also, concept designs, the artwork…I love concept artists so much because they and the director kind of start the whole process of what the look is going to be. The look oftentimes will weigh in heavily on the movement, you know?
So I’ll see the design, I’ll read the script, I’ll get my own ideas, and then I’ll talk to the director. And that’s the most important thing I can do: find out his vision of the character. What quirks will they have, what limitations will they have, what wants, desires, all the actor-shmactor stuff too, you know? When you take on a character as an actor, you take ‘em on from head to toe.
So all these wants, desires, intentions, or mutations if he’s an animal/man mutant -- which I’ve done several times with several types of animals -- that all plays in as well. Let’s take Pan’s Labyrinth for an instance. I was the faun (Fauno) in Pan’s Labyrinth. I was part man, part goat, and part tree. Now try developing that physicality. Right?
Jones: Right. You don’t go to the nursing home and find the old fauns that are retired now to get some notes from them.
CB: Right, and you can’t exactly method-act that.
Jones: Yeah, I have no sense memory to work from. So you just kind of have to invent this as you go. So what happened with that, one of the most beautiful scripts I’ve ever read in my life, the most wonderful, fabulous director I’ve ever worked with in my life. And here’s the only note he gave me: it was “Think, and visit the zoo, and look at the farm animals. Look at their hindquarters, look at how their feet meet the ground, look at how the hooves meet the ground. How they carry their weight, how they shake flies off, all that.” He said “I want to see some of that.” It was a great note.
And other than that, when he made Pan also, he had written him with a subtlety that not everybody catches. If you watch Pan’s Labyrinth, you see the faun aging backwards as the movie progresses. When you meet Fauno – me-- I’m very old, I have cataract-y eyes, I’m more greyish in color. Everytime you see me, I’m a little bit younger and more agile. By the end, I’ve got auburn hair, and clear eyes, and those sort of things. I love the subtlety. So I had to incorporate a lot of things into that one.
So that means that I go into my 24 Hour Fitness (I just gave them a plug!), and when the aerobic classes are done for the day, I work in front of the mirrors by myself, on this huge dance floor, and I start walking around and leaping, and jumping, and squatting. Whatever the script calls for. And in my own minds-eye, picturing the designs I’ve seen and what might or might not work for this. The mirror will tells me what I need to know in that moment.
I’ll take what I’ve learned from myself in the gym, and then the costume fittings begin. Makeup tests and costume fittings. With that, you’ll find out, and now that the costume has become 3D pieces that you’ll be wearing, whether that limits or enhances you in some way. So you learn a lot.
Now with Fauno, again, those big ram horns on the side of my head made a tilt to the head very dramatic. Because it widened my whole, you know, visage. My fingers had extensions on them, so It made the fingers very expressive, but of course, I was in stilt feet with these weird zig-zag shape of legs. They green-screened part of my own leg away, but I was manipulating a prosthetic that was part of my leg. So that was limiting; I had no balance. I was a walking nursing home patient.
So you learn all that from the fittings, and then you try to kind of organically make that a part of who he is when he wakes up in the morning and you’re ready to go. Another example is Abe Sapien from the Hellboy movies. Guillermo del Toro, he had one note about that, too. The thing about Guillermo that I love is that we understand each other really well, and we get to talk a whole lot.
He came to one of my costume fittings and makeup fittings for Abe Sapien, the fish-guy character, and I was in front of a huge mirror that they had for the creature shop for special motion. I was watching the fish in my tank at home, and I loved the way their fins sort of calmly massaged the water around them. It’s very calming for me to watch, and that’s why I have them in my house. Their heads were more inquisitive than dart-y, and their body would kind of flow behind. “Ooo, look at that. Ahh.” [editorial note: it’s almost tragic that we can’t share Doug’s gesturing here as it was really amazing to watch, especially close-up. He really does appear to have no bones in his body.]
I wanted to put that into Abe Sapien, keeping his human side, but also creating that fish side for him. I was kind of doing that sort of in my own mind’s-eye, I couldn’t see because I had my makeup on without the eyeholes at that moment, I didn’t know that Guillermo del Toro had walked into my fitting that day, so from across the room I hear [imitating del Toro’s voice] “That! Keep that in it. I like what you’re doing right there! Keep that!” And that’s the last we ever spoke of it. So my hands are doing this flowy fish-fin movement, and that’s kind of the signature piece for Abe Sapien, it was his hands. So it’s a collaborative thing.
CB: Is there a character that you feel like you just nailed the physicality? Like something you look back at it, and you go “I couldn’t have done better. If I tried to do it again, it wouldn’t work.”
Jones: Never. Never.
CB: [laughing] Perfectionist!
Jones: I could never watch myself and say “Yeah, that’s it!” No. I always find my flaws. I’m like “Aw, I missed a moment there. Oh, curses.” I feel very happy with the Silver Surfer. That one intimidated me a lot because he’s so strong, so confident in his strength and his powers. Something I’m not, right? When I talk to you as Doug Jones, I push everything out there so wildly, and I flail everything around to make sure you’re hearing me.
The Surfer doesn’t need to do that. He doesn’t need to entertain anybody; he doesn’t care. He’s so confident that you’re listening anyway, because you are. He’s beautiful, you want to hear him. He’s smart, he’s intuitive, and he’s just so confident. So that was hard for me to channel. I really had to find him somehow, you know? Open myself up into being him, and play himself through me. So I feel really good about watching back and see that’s the most un-Dougy I’ve ever seen myself, really.
CB: So when you come to the cons, who are the fans most likely to identify you with? Is it one particular role that stands out, or do you get a little bit of love from everything?
Jones: What character?
Jones: It depends on the type of convention. There are smaller horror and sci-fi conventions all over the place. From those, it would be from my appearance on Buffy probably. Pan’s Labyrinth and even Hocus Pocus, where I played Billy the zombie in that. A lot of people grew up with that movie. The thing is, the fans between horror, sci-fi, comic books, there’s a lot of interplay between all those genres. So Abe Sapien from the Hellboy movies and the Silver Surfer tend to be the best sellers, for sure, but then the others are right behind them -- depending if it’s a horror show, then the other ones fly off the table. So it depends, it depends.
CB: I think one of the amazing things about meeting you is that you were the person who made the only Buffy episode that I ever found truly scary, scary.
Jones: Thank you.
CB: Most of Buffy is very allegorical, very campy, and I love it for that. But “Hush” was an episode that I was literally getting smaller and smaller and smaller in my chair as I watched it. I was terrified. I started looking out through the windows to make sure you guys weren’t floating by. It was true horror.
CB: It was a concept that was set up and then executed absolutely beautifully and taken completely seriously, and I think part of that was because it was so like the fairy tales that we grew up with. We don’t know that particular fairy tale, but we instantly recognized what this was what we were looking at. And yeah, that character was just really effective to me.
Jones: Well, thank you, Oh, my gosh. Thank you.
CB: So, I know you get recognized a lot, but are there times that, because you worked so much under prosthetics, that you maybe get to hear things from fans because they don’t know that you’re the guy that, or that maybe you were on that show and that’s what they’re talking about?
Jones: Yes, and thankfully never anything negative. Because I was worried about that, and I have overheard conversations, especially when we’re at a big venue like this where somebody will be saying something, or even in movie theaters when our previews run. Like when Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer was about to hit theatres in ‘07, sitting in the row in front of me was a whole family, and they showed the preview for Silver Surfer, and there was a little kid who was like “OH, MY GOSH, HE’S SO COOL!” and I’m sitting right behind him, and I’m like, do I dare? Can I say? But then that would be just weird to attack this kid in a suburban neighborhood. “GUESS WHO I AM! BLAH!” His parents would have thought that I was some kind of perv going after their kid. Yeah, I didn’t want to get into it. So I didn’t speak up.
CB: We were reading that you like to do smaller independent projects, and you like doing the big stuff. Is there a role that you would turn down?
Jones: I have turned down, yes.
CB: What would you turn down?
Jones: What’s sure to get a turn down from me is if you present me with the same script that everyone else has presented me with, which is “Oh! We’re a bunch of half-naked teenagers, and we’re on a camping trip in the forest. We’re smoking pot, and having sex with each other, and one of them is even my brother -- whatever, and oh no! Here comes Doug Jones to kill us one at a time in some creative method!” I hate that script. I hate it with a passion.
CB: You don’t like the splatter flicks, huh?
Jones: I hate them. Very formulaic. By page 10 of the script, I know what page 90 is going to be like. It bores me to tears. So I don’t wanna do that. I like horror films if they mess with my mind. Also, maybe if they even inspire something in my heart, you know? Horror can do that, and that’s why Guillermo del Toro, he understands that horror has a true art form. So does Joss Whedon. So there’s the cash-cow horror films that are just blood, guts, and boobs. Great. Those will make money for someone, but I don’t want to be a part of that. That’s often the one I’ll say no to.
CB: What purpose do you think horror serves as entertainment?
Jones: Gosh, several reasons, huh? This is one I could go on for an hour in itself. Um, but I think for myself the horror that I’ve enjoyed so much is it touches on personal fears from your childhood. I think childhood. Again, Guillermo del Toro being a director who understands childhood so much; he works children characters in so many of his stories, because we all carry our childhood with us.
And if you can connect to a fear from our childhood, fear that we’ve carried with us all these years, flesh it out on film, in some fantastical ways, where we get to escape into it and get terrified by it, but it’s a movie theater experience, so it’s not real. We know that, so we can walk away from that movie theater having learned something, having maybe conquered that fear in some certain way, and maybe go home and wrestle the demons that still haunt us. Because we were inspired by the horror film where the good guy won. Maybe that’s it.
CB: What’s your favorite horror film that you haven’t been in?
Jones: What I haven’t been in, okay, uh, it would be something like The Sixth Sense. That kind of thing where they got me with a surprise, and I did not see it coming. Something like that.
CB: So, you’ve played some really dark characters, but in person you’re so sweet and approachable. Is that something that you…a lot of actors will describe as “there’s always this dark part of you” and things like that, so for you, is it like that, or is it like putting on prosthetics?
Jones: [laughs] Right, well, the reason you hear that answer “there’s that dark part of us,” well, I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I don’t think I have a ‘dark’ part of me just hoping to be let out. But I think that every human being has the full color spectrum on our paint pallet, you know? We have the bright chipper colors; we also have the dark morose colors. I mean, every human being has that built into our makeup. I don’t know. We’re all capable of all of that. We’re one decision away from being an axe murderer, really. Aren’t we? But most of us make the right decision on that one everyday. That’s the difference, I think.
Whereas the real axe murderer will have his own backstory, some paint pallet colors that were added to his life experience, right? He was beaten, he was abused, he was neglected, he was terrorized, he had a catastrophic event that changed something, and so maybe his decision-making is altered now. So he’s got some added colors to his paint pallet that maybe the rest of us don’t have. So, when I play a character like that, and I may not have those colors on my personal pallet, but I’ll still dip the brush into the red, and the blue, to maybe try and mix that to try to see what made this person who he became, and it didn’t happen overnight. It was a long process.
I did a short film called The Candy Shop. This is probably a good example of what you’re asking. It wasn’t that fantastical really. It’s a short film that addresses the issue of child sex trafficking in the United States which happens more than I ever thought.
Before we shot it, they showed me some statistics that shocked and dismayed me. So this Candy Shop movie was set in the 1930’s, during the depression era. I played the candy shop owner. Big top hat, striped coat, and I looked very like “Hello! Welcome to the candy store!” and in the back room is where I take the children and turn them into lollipops with this big machine. So all the candy in my store is what used to be children. So it’s very metaphorical, and it’s a lovely telling of a terrible, horrible problem that’s happening here.
So this candy shop owner, I had to do a lot of soul-searching, and a lot of consideration as to what makes a person the kind of a monster that would take an innocent child off the street and turn them into a sellable commodity. So that’s when I realized, okay, that’s a color that I don’t have, but what made him that way? And even in the dialogue in the script, there was a hint to that.
That he was in his youth once, that went amuck, and he never really understood his full potential, but he’s totally done a mind – I want to say the f word – on himself, to make this okay now. Because I think no evil villain wakes up and says “I’m going to do something really WRONG and evil today.” It’s more like “No, this is my way of life. I’m surviving the best way I can.” And it’s the good guys that realize it’s evil, not the bad guy. You know?
Jones: So The Candy Shop showed me something that I haven’t really gotten into before. To play this despicable character who had some sympathy to him. So he’s a hideous beast who can make you understand that it hurts people to hurt people. So, there. I don’t know if that answers your question.
CB: No, it does. Actually it may have answered my second question which was going to be, have there been any characters that you thought, I got this, and then you started to play it, and you were like, oh, this is really uncomfortable. I wish I hadn’t gotten myself into this, because now I have to finish. I really wish I hadn’t gotten myself into this position.
Jones: [laughs] Well, I just finished a movie called Raze, and that’s why my head is shaved right now, by the way, because I was playing the intense bad guy in that film. It’s got Zoe Bell as the action star, who was in Kill Bill as Uma Thurman’s stunt double. She is the world’s most successful stuntwoman. She also had her own acting role in Death Proof. In Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse, she was the hood-of-the-car stunt double, so if you saw that, you would be like “OH, HER!” and we were in a movie called Angel of Death, but it was years ago, and it was actually cut into pieces for a web series that Sony Pictures did.
So in Raze, that she’s starring in now, she is one of the fifty young women who have been kidnapped off the streets and have been held captive underground, and they’re forced, two at a time, to fight each other to the death until there is only one remaining.
This is not just sport for someone; this is a religious, cultish ceremony even, and the winner is praised as the one who possesses the perfect violence. And anyway, my character in the story is the patriarch of this society of elite people, wealthy people, that run this entire operation, and have done for centuries back to the early days of Greece!
They call these women Maenads. So anyway, my wife in the story, who’s also on board with this, and finds this ceremony lovely, is Sherilyn Fenn from Twin Peaks. Who I had a huge crush on…
CB: Well, she’s quite the catch…
Jones: [laughs] That’s what I said, and the first day that I met her on set, I’m about to play her husband in this movie, and I said “Honey, you could have done better.” Because she used to date Johnny Depp, and now she’s playing opposite me. Sorry!
But she was delightful to work with, and she brought an intensity to this couple that helped it make sense to me. That was a tough one, to find the mental space where I grew up in a family, this was handed down to me. This ritual, this cult, was given to me as I was the prince of this hideous group of people as if it was all above board and right. This is what we do. And we have our own military force, and we have our socialite friends that come once every five years to watch something happen.
They join us in our barn we have on a big vineyard. We have this culmination of this round of fighting that ends up with one winner, and they all gather every five years to have their black-tie event, where we celebrate the Maenads. So, Doug Jones could not make sense to this. I tried and I tried. I went to the director and was like “I get what you’re doing…you’re going to get a bunch of hot women in tank tops fighting to the bloody death. I get the audience for this, I totally do. But I’m having trouble finding Joseph, the guy that’s in charge of it all.”
CB: It’s easy to work from a place of trauma, but when there is no trauma…when it’s just normal…
Jones: Right! I grew up in a very cushy environment, I had life handed to me on a silver platter. So he was a complete challenge for me, but I think that bringing Sherilyn Fenn into the mix to play my wife Elizabeth in this, the love that we shared with each other, and the way it was written for us, it’s supposed to be really lovey-dovey. We have a daughter and a granddaughter of our own, and our daughter is the same age as the women who are fighting each other. Our whole family is a part of the thing, as my family was, passed down to me. So my kids, and our grandkids are all on board with the same thing.
And we see this as a celebration of female prowess, as the answer to the question “How far will a woman go to defend the ones that she loves?” Because what’s at stake for these women that are fighting each other, they’re forced to fight with each other, and if they choose not to fight – like, “I’m not going to do that” – we have a TV screen that we keep in all their cells where we have their loved ones back home under surveillance. If they decide not to fight, we kill them. But [to us], that’s just an unfortunate side effect of what we have to do. We have to have this ritual; it’s our religion. And unfortunately, if you don’t fight, we have to kill your family. The reason they want to fight each other to the death, to kill the other girl, is that, if they lose, and if they die, well, then their family has to die too. So their family is at stake twice. Indecision to fight, and losing the fight. So they all are really pushed forward to protect the ones they love by fighting to the death. By killing the other person first.
Yes, it’s a grisly set-up. It’s going to get a bunch of guys going “YEAH! WOMEN FIGHTING, THAT’S HOT!” However, the way Sherilyn and I were looking at it though, is that this is a glorious thing to see the power that women really do possess in their protective mother-bear instincts that they have. The women were all written that way, so that’s the element that I could latch onto. There you go.
CB: It sounds like there is an analogy there, at least for your characters, where it’s that unquestioning acceptance of a belief system that we see all the time. And on some level, there’s almost a valor to that in our culture, and it’s weird, if you think about it. But putting it into that context, it really brings some interesting issues up. So I was reading that you’d like to play an angel.
Jones: Yeah! Oh, yeah!
CB: Why would you like to play an angel?
Jones: Well, I’ve been fascinated with angels since I’ve been a kid. And winged creatures in general. Do angels really have wings, you know? Do they live among us? But when I was sixteen, driving a car, that night the wheel of my car was jerked to the right, taking me to the shoulder of a two-laned road in Indiana where I grew up. What I didn’t notice was an oncoming car that would have killed me – a head-on collision had the car not gone over to the side of the road. By myself in the car as a sixteen year old, right? So afterwards I was sitting there and saying “I did not see that coming,” and the car was halfway pulled into my lane. I didn’t realize the trajectory of it all because I was a young driver, with hardly any nighttime driving experience. So, the fact that someone came into my car, and pulled me to the side of the road, even though I went off and was hitting chuck holes and everything else, it saved my life. That’s when I was like, “Hey. Whoa! Wow! Sobering moment.”
So, the dining room in my house the lovely Mrs. Laurie has filled with angel art. We have sculptures, paintings, and all kinds of things just because I love the idea of the protective guardian angel. I love the idea of the comforting, musical angel, who sings in our ear and lulls us to sleep. I grew up as a Christian all my life, and I believe that angels have a very specific mission for all us folks around here. So I guess I would love to play one of them one day.
I’m not built to be a really rugged, demon-fighting guardian angel, but I actually have an idea for a novel that I’d love to write which if it could become a movie one day would be great, but where the lead character is a musical angel, he’s in the heavenly choir, he’s a singer. All his friends are guardian angels. And in the lunch room he hears all these cool stories, and he’s puts in for a job transfer, and they give him a test run, a probationary run as a guardian angel, and of course mishaps ensue. That storyline fascinates me, so we’ll see what happens with that.
CB: So as a Christian, when you come to ComicCon, and you see the people out in front…West Baptist Church was here last year…
Jones: Yes, they were.
CB: I’m a former Christian myself; I guess I would think of myself as a red letter agnostic. So such things bother me. What’s your reaction when you see this kind of display, especially in this kind of a context [Christian protests at geek conventions]?
Jones: Right. I hear them saying on the microphones of what I’ve heard so far, as I pass them, and on their signs – at least there are no hatred messages this year [like the Westboro Baptist Church signs last year]. “God saves.” Yes, I believe that. I agree with that.
To pick this venue, though, to imply that everyone going into that convention center doesn’t know God in any way…that’s what I’m against, and I will not get onboard with that. Because I’m a firm believer that fantasy, comic books, all these genres of entertainment, there’s so many Christ-like images happening, I mean, you’ve absorbed it. You know. And like I was saying before about the horror films. When you watch a superhero movie, like the Silver Surfer, since I played him, I’ll use him as an example. He’s very Christ-like. You know, his origins are that he sacrificed his life for his planet, Zenn-La. He went into the service of Galactus to save the ones that he loves.
That Christ-like imagery really resonated with me, and made me want to play him more, you know? So that lesson, that message can be found in all forms of entertainment, and I don’t think the Westboro Christian people are going to be able to understand that. You know? That, we’re all on the same page, and we don’t have to fight each other. Entertainment that implies supernatural “is evil and from the devil.” Turn from your wicked ways, and leave from the convention center right now. Um, I’m just going to say wrong, I’m going to throw up a red flag on that and say wrong. The Bible they’re talking from is the one I read and believe in. Yes. Does it need to be banged over the head of convention-goers that are cosplaying Doctor Who? Probably not. Not a good day for that.
CB: I never understood it. I mean, the West Baptist Church was here last year. Why? They said it was because we’re worshiping superheroes instead of God. And you’re like, no! It’s not worship. Yes, we’re very interested in it, but you don’t know who’s walking out of the con or what they think or believe.
Jones: I know! I know! They don’t know! They don’t know jack!
CB: And I particularly get frustrated when I see the threat of Hell. You’re talking to a fanbase that is open-minded, very tolerant, open to multiple different ideas about how the universe works, and you’re coming at them with negativity, you know? You’re not going to catch these people like that. I do love the people who took advantage of the situation to stand there and hand out flyers for the Stan Lee panel, yelling out “Stan Lee loves you!”
Jones: [laughs] I didn’t get to see that!
CB: So when the girl handed me the flyer with the “Stan Lee loves you!” I responded (kinda loudly), “Yes, and he’s not threatening to send you to hell if you don’t come to his panel!” Because really it’s kind of disturbing to pick this particular crowd to address like that because they could actually get people to engage with them in a much more positive way.
Jones: Absolutely! Absolutely.
CB: So, is Zekey off?
Jones: OH! Oh! How do you know about Zekey? My Twitter! I talk about Zekey on my Twitter page!
CB: You talked about it on your site as well, and you have a link to his Twitter on the end of your...
Jones: I do!?! My webmaster Helen must have done that. Webmaster Helen is a love, by the way.
CB: [showing him a page from his site] Very last one.
Jones: Oh, this is on the trivia page.
CB: Yeah, this is your trivia page.
Jones: [reading] “Doug has a plushie dog…” I never saw this [on the site]. “…called Zekey, who travels with him on his adventures.” This is hilarious.
CB: With Papa Dougie…
Jones: I created a Twitter page for him because I every time talk about him on Twitter and people will say “Go say hi to Zekey for me! Go tell him he’s a good boy, make sure he take care of you!” So I thought, hey, I’ll talk back to them! So I had to make a twitter page; it’s @zekeydog. [Doug recently roadtripped from LA to Vancouver, where’s he’s currently shooting Falling Skies, with Zekey tweeting the whole way about the creative ways Papa Doug thwarted his attempts to get a turn at the wheel.]
Jones: He’s got 243 followers!
CB: Well, he’ll have 244 by the end of the day! So one more question, this is your chance to shill for your stuff. What’s the next thing coming up?
Jones: There’s The Watch. Came out in theaters everywhere on July 27. It’s got Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade, and I, Doug Jones, as the alien who is invading their neighborhood.
CB: Ah, nice!
Jones: Yes. So that’s a big Twenty Century Fox release. They bring the funny, I bring the sci-fi. Much like a Ghostbusters kind of, but you know. Not. Those guys are hilarious, and I was scary. So there.
Jones: And, all of my minions too. My stunt double Dorian Kingi kicked ass for me. I just want to say. I mean, he did take bullets for me. Literally. Other than that, we also talked about Raze. We just finished filming, that will be later. John Dies at the End, a book that has become a movie now. I play Roger North in that. It was directed by Don Coscarelli, who gave us Phantasm, all those movies like The Beast Master, and Bubba Ho-Tep! He’s the writer/director of those. So he created a lovely, bizarre, incredible ride of John Dies at the End on film for us. That has played really well at Sundance and South by Southwest, and been critically reviewed with most people saying “Oh my gosh, I’m not sure I got it, but I LOVED it! I want to see it again!” Most of the reviews include that.
My book is out called Mime Very Own Book. Remember I told you about the Mime over Matter troupe…well, the puns flow plentiful in this too. It’s a coffee table photobook, 240 pages of me as a mime, making fun of everything from mimes, to movies, TV, music, pop-culture, everything, like there’s a photo depiction of “Mimeammad Ali”, there’s a picture of “The Little Mermime, Miming Dearest, Mimie Vice, Dirty Miming. We have a picture of “Once Upon a Mime,” we have “A Meeting of the Mimes.” We have “A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” and the list goes on. My favorite section of the book would be the Michael Jackson tribute which we called “Mime-a-say Mime-a-saw Mime-ock-oo-saw” Okay. Come on! Tell me you love it!
CB: [laughing] That is awesome. We’re gonna have to pick that up.
Jones: It's Mime Very Own Book, and I love it. I had so much fun making this. The photo sessions were insane and intense, and costume changes galore. “Marilyn Mimeroe” might be in there with a dress and a wig. I’m just going to say… You can find that at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com and get a good deal.
Also, the same people that made Mime Very Own Book have photographed and have now made and written captions for a book called Fallen Superheroes. Fallen Superheroes is an exploration of many characters who never made it. All the heroes that didn’t make it for various reasons. My chapter of this book, my character’s name is “Healing Feet.” Because the writers of the books – that would be Scott Allen Perry and Adam Mock, photography by Eric Curtis – they asked me “If you could have a superpower, what superpower would you like it to be, and we’ll build your character on that.” And I said “Oh, I want to have the power to heal!” because I love touching people so much [editorial note: he really does. Check out the pic of him and Laura at our interview] and it would be great to have power flow through that. And they said “Ah, okay, like that I like that. Oh wait, WAIT! Got it. The reason why you didn’t make it is because you’ve got the gift of healing in your...feet.”
CB: NICE! Oh, I love that.
Jones: So my feet are HUGE! I walk around in bare feet and a leotard. Oh, my child, these pictures are hilarious. I have angel wings because I want to be an angel too, so I have little angel wings pinned on my back, in a leotard, with a headband, and ginormous feet. So you see pictures of me checking the mailbox at home, sitting watching TV, having a life without being a superhero, but I still dress like one -- and we all do in the book. No, Fallen Superheroes is for comic fans, hero fans. They’re going to love that one.
Other things, too. On TV on ABC this fall right after Modern Family, there’s a brand new show called The Neighbors. Starring Jami Gertz. She is the wife of a family, her family has moved into a neighborhood that is a subdivision in New Jersey, and in this gated community, what they don’t realize is that everyone else in the gated community is an alien from outer space, posing as a human. I happen to be one of those neighbors in the pilot. They positioned me as a guest star that potentially could recur. So hopefully I will be back for more of that. So The Neighbors starts every Wednesday nights after Modern Family! That’s what I’ve got coming out!
Normally, we like to let interviews stand on their own. But Doug decided to share something special with us, so we’re passing it on.
The night before we interviewed Doug at SDCC, he was at a party where he ran into Andy Serkis. The two pretty much have the “creature niche” in Hollywood staked out. But while both have been fans of the other’s work for years, they had never actually met. When they did that night, they were both thrilled and evidently spent the night clowning it up with each other. Doug graciously shared the pictorial evidence with us in this exclusive.
The Neighbors premieres Wednesday, September 26th on ABC after Modern Family. Season 3 of Falling Skies premieres early 2013.