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Comic-Con 2011: Q&A with Doug Jones

Back Stage sat down in a (somewhat) quiet green room in (literally) the middle of Comic-Con with actor Doug Jones, who played such iconic roles as Abe Sapien in the “Hellboy” franchise, the Silver Surfer in “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”, and “Pan” and “Pale Man” in “Pan’s Labyrinth”. (Exclusive video at end of the interview.)

 Back SDougJonestage: What inspired you to become an actor?

Doug Jones: I was a gawky, awkward child. I’m 6’3½”, I weigh 140 pounds, and I’ve always looked like that. That led me to develop a sense of humor so I could know why people were laughing at me. If I was doing something funny, then I knew why they’re laughing. I could control it as opposed to being afraid of it. That made me a little bit of a performer.

The high school stage is where I started, like a lot of us do, and then the college stage at Ball State University. It was in college that I discovered the art of mime. There was a mim e troupe on campus called Mime Over Matter. That’s where this movement and language of the body woke up in me.

I’ve always been one who talks very expressively with my hands and makes a lot of facial expressions anyway, but to take the voice out of the picture altogether and to do a performance either solo or with other characters on stage with you that is interactive and telling a full story with props and scenery that isn’t there was fascinating to me. I got in my freshman year of college and, by the last year, I was leading the troupe and so mime became like a part of me. What I didn’t realize was that was going to lend itself very well to the career t hat I have now.

Back Stage: Is it true you were also a college mascot? 

Jones: I was Charlie Cardinal for Ball State at the basketball games. That was my first time wearing a big cumbersome [costume] and figuring out how to make that come alive. How to move him around the room with some personality, some humor, and an energy that the fans could connect with.That was a great training ground without really ever knowing where it was leading. We never have any idea what our future holds. We all get surprised.

My surprise was that I came out to Hollywood thinking I was going to be a sitcom star. I’m a tall, skinny, goofy, guy; I thought – goofy neighbor, office mate that wisecracks, yes. But guy who wears prosthetic rubber and growls at people and kills people in their sleep or is a superhero that saves the day? I never saw that as my career.

Back Stage: What was your first big acting job?

Jones: My fourth job I ever got was the “Mac Tonight” campaign for McDonalds. I was the moon head with sunglasses singing at a piano. That turned into a 27 commercial campaign for McDonalds over a three-year period. That kind of hooked me in as “that tall, skinny, goofy guy who moves well and wears prosthetics and makeup and costumes and doesn’t complain.”

Actors, listen to this. It’s a biggie; it will help you get liked, remembered, and referred for the next job: Don’t complain. If you’re the actor who is grateful to have a job, and you say yes to something that’s uncomfortable or cumbersome, and you know that going in and you said yes to it, stick with your yes and just do the job that you were hired to do. You’ll get a lot farther than if you pull the diva card and start complaining about how hot it is.

Back Stage: What’s your best advice for actors playing costumed characters, or characters with masks or heavy make-up?

Jones: Actors think that when we take on a character, we take on a dialogue or a look in the eye. These things are very important, yes. But when you take a character into your soul to let him play through you, you’re taking him or her in from head to toe. That means every character you play, whether human - or animal hybrid - will have a posture all his own, a stance all his own, a relaxing mode, and a tense mode that looks different than other characters you play.

Playing so many creatures and monsters has actually helped me develop my human characters. The posture my character assumes, the confidence he has, or the fear he has - whatever the script deems your character to be, will change my look and movement.

Dougjones2 Back Stage: What was your favorite role?

 Jones: In terms of costumed or heavily made-up characters - Abe Sapien from the “Hellboy” movies. I’ve gotten to know him so well now after two feature films, a video game, and two animated features. We’ve become very close. I love that he’s part of a superhero team, but he’s also got a vulnerable, loveable, charming side to him. He’s very me, in many ways.

I also love his rapport with Hellboy. Ron Pearlman is very much like Hellboy, and I’m very much like Abe Sapien, so in real life we get along just like we do on camera. My favorite human character I’ve played is Jerry from the independent film “My Name is Jerry”.

For more about Jones’ favorite role and the best acting lesson he ever learned, check out this video.

 

-- Jessica Gardner

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