Elite Magazine Interview
Margie Anne Clark
Santa Clarita, CA
September , 2004
Santa Clarita resident Doug Jones talks to Margie Anne Clark, Managing Editor for local ELITE magazine about being a failed bank manager, successful actor and loveable fish guy.
EM: What made you decide to move to LA and pursue a career in acting?
DJ: I wanted to be an actor from the first moment I laid eyes on a TV. I was a geeky insecure kid who made best friends with all those nice people on TV sitcoms and variety shows, only they didn't have any idea how close we were ... or that I even existed [laughs]. And the move to L.A. back in 1985 was because of a bank management job that was just an excuse to move here from Indiana. It was actually to get us in the right locale so I could eventually shift into show biz. That shift happened sooner than I imagined, because the bank fired my scrawny butt only 8 months into the job. I was a horrible paper pusher. They would have been stupid to NOT fire me.
EM: Were you ever involved in local theater or high school plays back in Indiana?
DJ: Much to the horror of my brothers, yes. Actually my whole family has been very supportive from even back then. I did any play, musical, talent night, or pep rally skit I could. Any chance to get in front of people is wise when you are first starting out like that ... helps work out the 'oh my gosh, people are watching me' jitters.
EM: Are there any films that you consider to be your favorites?
DJ: My favorites to watch? Ah yes, well, this has gotten more convoluted with every year. It used to be that I had two faves ... 'Airplane' the comedy, and 'Somewhere In Time' was the soupy drama [pause] so sue me, I like chick flicks! Then I added to those two with 'Waiting For Guffman' and 'Meet Joe Black'. Oh, and then there's 'Waking Ned Divine' and 'Fargo'.
EM: Are you usually cast as some sort of strange creature, or have you ever played a role as a regular human type of guy?
DJ: Well, yes, I am often cast as a rubber-wearin', ear floppin', tail swingin' creature, but about half of my work is done with my own face ... like most of my TV guest roles or commercials. I also used my own face in movies like 'Rocky & Bullwinkle', 'Mystery Men', or one of my favorite roles I've done, 'Len' in the independent, quirky comedy called 'Stalled' ... which unfortunately went straight to video, but if you have four bucks, it's rentable [chuckle].
EM: What was it like to work with Bette Midler and the rest of the cast of Hocus Pocus?
DJ: Awwww [pauses with a tilt of the head] I truly loved working on that film. Bette was so kind to me. I played the floppy zombie Billy, and the day she told me how funny I was, I wanted a set light to fall on my head so I could die happy. Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy were killer-funny, and I felt an instant kinship with all three of them. That was also the job I met Tony Gardner (special effects make-up creator) on, and that began a long running working relationship with him right to this day.
EM: Hocus Pocus has remained to be one of my favorite movies and one that I can watch again and again and never get tired of it. In your opinion, what were the magic ingredients that made that such a great film?
DJ: Yeah, I hear that a lot about this movie. I don't know, maybe it's the wholesome fun, the wacky characters, the sweet brother/sister storyline, the talking cat, oh, and that really hot zombie guy [gives a knowing chuckle].
EM: How do you go about preparing for a given role?
DJ: That totally depends on the role. if it's a heavier piece, I'll need to delve into that character with studying about any personality traits I'm not familiar with. Like the time I played an autistic guy on 'Unsolved Mysteries', I talked with a psychologist, read up a little, and watched video of the missing autistic man I was about to play. Then there's the more physical roles that might require a specific type of gym workout, like when I played the lead Spy Morlock in 'The Time Machine'. For comedies, I often run lines with my comedian friends just to make sure I'm finding the best timing for the material.
EM: Tell me a little bit about the upcoming Dark Shadows film. Is that going to be a television movie or series or will it be for the big screen? And when and where can we expect to see the new Dark Shadows?
DJ: Well, unfortunately, the network did not pick it up for the coming Fall season. It was to be a younger, edgier, more stylized version of the 1960's series for the WB network. I played Barnabas Collins as a shrivelled up dead guy as he wakes up and makes a fresh vampire attack for the first time in 200 years. That's when he becomes the younger, prettier Barnabas played by Alec Newman, who continues the role for the series. The WB passed on it, but this series pilot received great reviews and it is still being shopped to other networks. We can always hope, can't we?
EM: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can talk about and if so what?
DJ: Oh, there's always something hovering out there with my name on it. Right now I can count nine various film projects that are anywhere from a part that is being written for me in a script that hasn't been sold yet, to a definite role in a film that has yet to get out of pre-production hell, to a role waiting for my salary to be negotiated. All nine could fall through, so I can't really boast about any one of them today.
EM: What do you like about living in Santa Clarita and what inspired you to move out here?
DJ: My wife and I first lived in the San Fernando Valley, but when it came time to buy property, we wanted out of that valley. Santa Clarita was such a welcomed, lower cost - back in 1989, that is - more elbow room option that reminded us something of the midwest where we came from. After living here for 15 years now, we can't imagine leaving.
EM: Was there ever anyone you looked up to who has inspired your career?
DJ: You bet. My TV 'friends' from childhood were Dick Van Dyke, Don Knotts, and all the casts from 'I Love Lucy', 'Mary Tyler Moore' and the 'Carol Burnett Show'. I can now see how so much of my timing comes from them.
EM: How do you keep in shape?
DJ: Am I in shape? [gives a self-effacing laugh] I don't know, I was born with an INSANE metabolism, and find it impossible to put on fat. This is where I lose my female audience, isn't it. I have gone in and out of being addicted to the gym, and feel the need to get back into that addiction really soon here.
EM: Tell me a little bit about your career as a contortionist, mime and dancer? Do you ever do that sort of work outside of films?
DJ: Oh golly, I don't know if I could make a 'career' out of any of those things, but they have been quirky fun talents to bring into my acting roles. The miming and contorting have mostly been seen in TV commercials, while the dancing, very UN-trained I might add, has come in handy for various film moments. Outside of film, I used to be a mime at barmitzva parties when I first started acting, to make a few extra bucks [hangs head and fakes a good cry].
EM: Tell me a little bit about your career as a singer? What sort of music do you like to sing and where do you usually perform?
DJ: Now here is one of my passions. I love to sing gospel music, and can often be heard doing a solo at my church, All Saints Charismatic Episcopal on San Fernando Road in Newhall. I also get asked to sing and share my personal story at christian youth events around the country - truly my favorite thing to do when I'm not working.
EM: You've done quite a few television series. Tell me a little bit about your guest starring roles in Buffy and C.S.I.
DJ: I was a high stakes poker player on C.S.I. and an older fellow at my table keeled over dead, thus the need for a 'crime scene investigation'. 'Buffy' was one of the more memorable roles I've had. I played the lead 'Gentleman' in the Emmy-nominated 'Hush' episode. One of those jobs you go into having no idea how big it will blow up. I was just guest starring on that one episode, but it turned out to be one of the fans' all time favorites. I got written up in TV Guide, Buffy Magazine, and even had an action figure made of me from that role! I still get fan mail for that episode to this day.
EM: What was it like to be the McDonald's moon-headed Mac Tonight character for all of those years. (That was the coolest commercial by the way!) Did you sing in it?
DJ: I didn't do the singing because they wanted a more specific vocal sound to go along with that 'Mac The Knife' sounding jingle. Mac Tonight will always have a special place in my heart because that was one of my very first jobs. Again, you never know where something will lead. So there I was in 1986 putting on this wacky crescent moon head for a west coast regional McDonald's campaign. I had no idea it would turn into such a popular character that would end up going national, then worldwide. I ended up doing 27 spots for them spanning over 5 years, with my image also showing up on billboards, buses, lunchboxes, sippy cups, beach towels, and Happy Meal toys. A great first gig, eh?
EM: Tell me a little bit about your Hellboy experience and what did you enjoy most about the role? Is there a Hellboy 2 in the future and if so would you still be playing Abe Sapien?
DJ: 'Hellboy' [pause] yeah, I'm still reeling from that whole experience. Just like before, I had no idea what I was in for when I said yes to this role. I played a clairvoyant fish-man who is a partner with Hellboy (played by Ron Perlman) and a beautiful girl who combusts with fire (played by Selma Blair). I could tell it was going to be more than just another creature gig, but I had no idea how beloved this character was to the already-fans of the comic book, nor did I know how many first time fans the movie would create.
The make-up was the longest and most difficult process I've ever been through - anywhere from five to seven hours - but once I saw myself in the mirror that first time, I was astounded. The most beautiful freak of nature I had ever seen. Steve Wang and the team at Spectral Motion Creature Effects made me look so amazing, it was worth every minute in that make-up trailer. I loved being Abe. He is so graceful, intelligent, can read anything about people or objects with one touch, and he's great fun at pool parties [laughs]. Sounds like the perfect date, huh.
There is indeed a 'Hellboy 2' in the works. After the successful run at theaters, Sony Pictures has already green-lit a sequel. Now the script will be written, and they'll see about getting all the cast back. As for me playing Abe again, I would love nothing more. Of course, at the moment, there have been no commitments or paper drawn up to lock me in yet. I feel pretty confident that it will all work out just fine, though.
EM: What did you do to prepare for the role of Abe?
DJ: Oh, I know, right? How would you prepare to play a clairvoyant fish-man? Well, since he is so smart, I drew upon my brother Bob's personality a little - he's a college professor with a PHD in molecular biology. The bigger challenge was Abe's physicality. OK, no joke, I have three goldfish in an aquarium in my home office. I just watched them work magic as their eyes and heads would dart around, followed by the very fluid and calming flow of their tail fins. I tried to take on those movements for Abe.
EM: I had another question to add - actually this came from my son Michael's friend Ryan who saw the Hellboy movie and happened to be at the house looking at my son Chris's autographed copy of you as Abe. He wondered how the gills moved and how your eyes blinked. He was quite intrigued by your photo. Feel free to elaborate on the whole process of transforming yourself into Abe and the mechanics involved in making him seem so real.
DJ: Yeah, weren't those gills and eyes cool? The gills were actually wired down my back to a battery pack under my belt, and puppeteered with remote controls by ace mechanic Mark Setrakian. But the eyes did not actually blink on my head as we were filming. That was an effect put in later with computer graphics. C.G. is getting better, huh.
Margie Anne Clark is a Los Angeles based entertainment writer and journalist. The Elite Magazine article as it appears on 'The Doug Jones Experience' website represents Ms. Clark's original, un-cut question and answer interview with Doug Jones for a story she developed and authored titled, "The Skinny on Doug Jones," which appeared in the fall 2004 edition of the Elite Magazine, published in Santa Clarita, California.
Copyright © 2004 Doug Jones. All rights reserved.
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