In a new interview I had the opportunity to chat with Doug Jones over the phone. When I told him he was my first phone interview, he stated that he was the best person to talk to when it came to breaking the interview ice, and let’s say he definitely made the experience exciting.
Doug Jones is an iconic figure who many have seen in some intriguing roles. He has been seen in Hell Boy as Abe Sapien and reprised the role in part 2. If you’re a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, then you will remember Jones as the lead Gentleman from the episode Hush. He was also the Silver Surfer in the second Fantastic Four movie. And let’s not forget his two character roles in Pan’s Labyrinth, where he played the Faun, and the Pale Man.
The interview ended up being a lot longer than expected but no complaints here as Mr. Jones is a wonderful interviewee. So this interview will be done in parts.
AF: Out of all the characters in make-up you played which one do you like best?
Doug Jones: I really connect with every character that I’ve played, just because I kinda have to, as an actor you want to take them in and get to know them and like them because they’re evil you kinda have to like them, so that you can understand them and play them and play them with some kind of empathy. So I do love them all.
The top tiered like favorites would be the iconic ones you’d know about would be the Silver Surfer. I do love him. He is the most beautiful I’ve ever been on by the way. And we have four make-up artist friends with glue and make-up and rubber bits, keeping me pretty. Another favorite would be the Pan’s Labyrinth characters I’ve played the Faun and the Pale Man; I love them both for completely different reasons.
My very favorite costumed character I’ve played would be Abe Sapien from the Hell Boy movies. I love this guy. I’ve gotten to know him so well over the course of two featured films, two animated features I voiced and a video game, and he is the one character that the fan base seems to respond to the most as well, especially after Hell Boy II when I had so much more interaction with Hell Boy, and buddy time with him and a lot interesting on my own and a vulnerability. As Abe I had a vulnerable side that was not very street wise, and it makes him so charming.
Ron Perlman and I both have joked around before that we are very much like our Hell Boy characters. He is pretty much like Hell Boy, a cigar smoking, cussing, grumpy man with a heart of gold who’d protect his friends at any costs. And I’m more of a postured, gliding, the calmer, more reasonable part of the team that is all worried about being prim and proper and we complement each other very well.
AF: Which is harder, playing a character in prosthetics on screen or playing a human character on screen?
Doug Jones: Each one comes with its own unique challenges. I tell you that I thought it was going to be a piece cake, a couple of years ago I did a movie called My Name is Jerry. That is when I broke out of prosthetic make-up and starred in a title character as myself with no rubber bits on my face. I was a middle aged white guy going through a mid-life crisis.
My Name is Jerry is a charming independent film you can watch it now, it is streaming on Netflix by the way. If you like the indie movie vibe, then this is a really charming story, and I find myself falling in love with Jerry every time I see him. He is my favorite human character that I’ve ever played. Filming this came right after Hell Boy II: The Golden Army.
In Hell Boy II that was the longest, most extensive prosthetic make-up shoot I’ve ever done. Six months in Budapest as three different characters in the film (Abe Sapien, The Angel of Death, and The Chamberlain character) and so doing that I was in glue and rubber, mania. So getting off of that picture, I go into a job playing a guy who was on a suit and tie having a bit of a melt down and thinking “this is going to be a cake walk”, because the challenges that come with prosthetics are of course everything you would imagine, there’s heat, there’s weight, there’s cumbersome, there’s visions and hearing problems and you don’t have your own sense of touch because you’re covered with latex and rubber, which brings challenges naturally.
So when you think about “Oh I won’t have any that on my person, I’ll be able to go to the back table by myself and I’ll be able to crunch on a carrot and sip a Coca-Cola and no one will have to get that for me. This will be great.”
What I didn’t understand was that the terror and the fear of being on camera without that rubber barrier between me and the lens with make-up on, it trans-figures you completely and unrecognizability, you have the freedom to go right to the edge of sanity, you can do much as you want, bad as you want and nobody would blame you for it. It looks great in a costume.
Initially when I first started this movie, I felt stilted and terrified that that camera is looking at Doug Jones now, this is not like a fantasy character, I am now a guy named Jerry and yes I got to bring that part of the fantasy, but the rest is my face, you know public scars, receding hair line all of it right? And this is the part where it felt like the differences in prosthetic make-up is like walking out of your house fully clothed with layers for fall.
Coming out of the house in the other kind of job where I don’t have prosthetic make-up on is like walking out of your house in a speedo. I can tell you that is the difference so each one has its own challenge. But coming out of the house in a speedo and it is street legal but it is just not appropriate. But what I found with time and with comfort in front of the lens was like I ended up at the pool with other people in bathing suits, so it quite wasn’t so bad. It worked out.
I’ve been on camera with on my own face all of my career, all my 25 years as well, things like TV commercials and guest starring on TV shows and cameos in movies, but I have never carried a film as the title character on my own, now that was the scary part. Because there was so much at stake for me that if I blew this one I might not get asked back for it ever again so there’s a lot riding on it.
I’m very proud of My Name is Jerry and how it turned out and I actually won a best actor award at the Strasberg Film Festival, was nominated for one at the International Festival in London, so I felt very, very good about the outcome of this and the fan base for My Name is Jerry has a bit of a cult following and everything you want from an indie film has happened with it.
AF: When it comes to voice acting, how hard is it or is just like acting in a scene for the cameras?
Doug Jones: They are different animals. When you’re on camera, even though you try to lose yourself in the character, you are aware that there is a camera there capturing every moment of it visually. With doing a voiceover job you are worried about the sound of it and you have to make all those visual colors come out with your sound.
So if you want to show that your eyebrows are furrowed and you’re angry your voice has to reflect that. It does bring out another technique of acting all together and another thing that makes it unique is that you go into a sound booth pretty much by yourself. You are doing your dialogue, one line at a time and then you are running over them repeatedly with different colors and flavors with the director saying “why don’t you try one more time and this time let’s come up with a question as opposed to a statement” you know little comments like that since you don’t have the constant flow with other actors going back and forth back and forth like you do when you’re playing a scene on film.
It’s really more like getting each line perfect so that they can animate it later. You still have to be an actor and lose yourself in the character and imagination and picture the world that you are in and play it as though it’s real but it is broken in chunks and you’re by yourself.
AF: You play a lot of characters on and off the screen. How about behind the scenes, meaning writing or directing yourself?
Doug Jones: I get asked that a lot, as many actors do, directing, I’ve watched so many directors sprout gray hairs and get heart attacks. It is a very stressful job. And I do understand the want and the need to create and helm a movie like, or a TV show or a web series but I never caught the bug.
To me I don’t deal with stress well at all, and it is stressful enough for me to deal with my own one character. So if I had to deal with all the characters and the special effects, and the editing and make the writing tweaks and do everything the director does, that would drive me to an early grave and I just can’t do it.
Now writing is something I have more of an interest in but I never wrote a screenplay of any sorts and screenplays aren’t really where my passions lead. If I sit down and write my dream project it is going to be a novel. It would be a novel that might make a good movie one day, so that might be the fun part. I have a couple of ideas running around in my head that I want to go up to the mountain house and sit down the quiet for a couple of weeks, and just pound it out.
Part II to follow later.
In the meantime please check out his site The Doug Jones Experience
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