Our Victim: Doug Jones The Gentleman Under The Makeup

Whedonopolis.com: How and when did you decide to become an actor?

Doug Jones: Oh, golly! It was when I was a youngster, being in elementary school. I was an awkward child, and when I’d get home at the end of the day turning the TV on was such a relief and an escape out of my little fears and my insecurities, you know? And other kids can be very cruel and make fun, and I was tall, skinny, with a long neck, and I was called "giraffe" and I became a class clown to combat that. I thought, "If they’re gonna be laughing at me, I’m gonna control when they laugh." So I became the class clown, all… (makes goofy sounds) and made goofy things to make them laugh, but that made me a very lonely person inside, because maybe I wasn’t projecting the real me, you know? So I was hiding behind that, and somehow getting– doing theater in high school and being on stage for the first time; seeing an audience laugh when you’re doing something funny, cry when you’re doing something sad, and applaud like crazy when you’re finished and taking your bow; it’s intoxicating, and it fed a part of me that made me feel, (smacking lips) "Mmm… I feel so good! All the attention!" So it was kind of a no-brainer. Watching old sitcoms like "The Dick Van Dyke Show" or "Mary Tyler Moore," you know…

W: "Lucy…"

DJ: "I Love Lucy," yeah, and "The Andy Griffith Show," seeing Don Knotts on there, and seeing how characters could be goofy and funny and be loved for it, it was like, "Oh! I’d like that!" And I thought, "If all these friends I made are on TV that I’d made after school every day, I wanna be on TV." So that’s why I wanted to become an actor in the first place, and I thought a sitcom-I thought that was going to be my thing, but the more auditioning I did with the background as a mime and being very physically oriented in my acting, and being as skinny as I am, it lends itself very well to having them put creature bits on me and assuming a personality and a character for all these different creatures.

W: How much preparation do you have to do when you read a script, and it’s going to have to be a creature character, to have the character emerge from under all of that makeup and prosthetics and latex? Because it’s not like you have a lot of freedom with your face – for instance, when you played the Faun (=in "Pan’s Labyrinth"), your face was entirely covered. And it was great, but at the same time, I was kinda going, "Where is he?"

DJ: There were also a lot of mechanics on that head, because the eyes were wide set, and so I was looking out of the tear duct area of the Faun’s eyes. And then he had mechanical eyelids, and mechanical eyebrows and these ears here that were flapping, so I also had all this motorized (makes whirring noises) in my head, and the bottom part, from here (marks lower part of his face) on down, it was all glued to me, so I was responsible for the bottom part of my face, and a puppeteer was responsible for the top part. We had to really work in concert, and it really took some rehearsal time. But as far as preparation goes, for me, I start in front of a mirror and make-find out how the character moves, sits, stands, lunges, runs, whatever he has to do, and I kinda get like a body language for whatever character I’m playing. Then, when the makeup tests start happening, and they start seeing what costume pieces are gonna be put on me, what restrictions I might have, what additions I might have to enhance movement, then it becomes more and more alive, every step along the way. Really, my only goal at the end of all of this, when they yell "Action!" and we start rolling is that I want the character to look like he woke up like that that day. I don’t want to look like a guy in a makeup.

W: Exactly! Because it doesn’t look like a guy in a makeup, it looks like it’s just that.

DJ: Thank you! I try to make it organic. Thanks so much…

W: How did you land the part of the Lead Gentleman in the "Buffy" silent episode, "Hush"?

DJ: Yeah! Well… I was called for an audition for this guest role on "Buffy," and I hadn’t seen the show much before that, so-even though one of my oldest friends, Nicholas Brendon, had been on the show for a while, playing Xander, and here I am, never saw it (I’m a horrible friend, aren’t I?) So, I went for the audition, and they told me, you know, "No dialogue, sort of give off all this physical dialogue, and keep smiling, never stop smiling, and you’re gonna be tearing people’s hearts out. And go!" So, my audition was kind of like, "Wha?" But I could tell-Joss was in the room, along with another couple of producers, writers, directors, and he was just staring me down, and I think Camden (Toy) said he had a similar experience. He (Joss) was totally creeped out by us, and this without makeup at all, just smiling and doing dastardly things. So… that was the beginning of it, and knowing that Joss Whedon had come down from his office to write and direct this episode, we knew it was special. The whole crew knew, and to do more than half this episode in complete silence? Daring. It’d never been done on television ever before, because TV-I think a lot of studio executives think that they need to bombard all of the senses to keep people’s attention, right? Smack your ears around, smack your eyes around… (makes growling noises) whereas this was a true case of "less is more," where you took away the dialogue from half that episode, and people, instead of losing interest and turning the channel, they zeroed in on it, like "What’s happening? What’s going on? What are they saying?" And so it was a great exercise on what you can do on television, and of course it got an Emmy nomination for the writing, and it was brilliant, just brilliant. And I had no idea that doing a guest role on any TV show, could turn into the phenomenon that it did, and have a doll made, and an action figure, and being interviewed on "Buffy" magazine several times, and, you know… it just grew into something I never knew possible, and that’s what I’m excited about.

W: How much did your facial muscles hurt…

DJ: At the end of the day? (laughs)

W: …at the end of the day, and how many days did you have to keep that expression?

DJ: Oh, God… for a little over a week, I think. It was 10 days, maybe 9 days for that episode? Yeah, it was a lot of smiling, and when you got prosthetics on your face, then fighting the rubber-because when a makeup goes on your face, it wants to stay in the position it was molded in. So you smile and it pulls it, and it’s fighting you the whole time, so it took an extra-And smiling all day is tiring, and when there’s something fighting your smile? It’s even more tiring!

W: So your face was sore for, like, a week afterwards?

DJ: I wouldn’t say a week, no, but by the end of the day, I was like, "I just wanna sleep with my face in an
"ooo" position." (Chuckles) You know what I mean?

W: Right! Would you, if there were any chance of Joss ever doing anything on TV ever again…?

DJ: I would love to work with that man again any time! He’s truly a genius. Yes!

W: How much specific training for tilt walking did you have to do for "Pan’s Labyrinth"? Because it looked like you were on stilts.

DJ: I was on stilts, yeah. I was on hooves that were built off the ground about 6-8". I didn’t-the thing is, they were creating my costume in Barcelona, Spain, and I am here, in Los Angeles, California…

W: That’s a slight problem…

DJ: I’d say! So I flew there a couple of times for fittings, and did have a little practice time on the stilts there, but knowing that my feet were going to be in a sort of high-heeled position, that I was going to be off the ground, I knew that balance was going to be very, very important, so I’d spend my time at the gym, in front of the mirrors, on my tippy-toes, with a squat to my leg, knowing that I needed to get my thigh muscles, back muscles, abdomen strengthened to be in that position a lot. And when you see me with little Ivana Vaquero on screen at the same time, she’s like 4′ tall, and I’m like 7′ tall in that makeup and costume, so it was constantly, "Doug, can you squat down a little more?" (Pained groan) So, I had to be strong in that, and have some balance still while I was off the ground. It was-difficult, yeah, but a labor of love, and something that was worth every minute.

W: It was a fantastic movie…

DJ: It was. It really was.

W: So we’re guessing that your next role is gonna be on "Rise of the Silver Surfer." Can you nod if it is so?

DJ: Well, um… mm-hmm (nodding.)

W: He nodded, people! He nodded! All right, so we got to the part of the interview where I ask you the Bernard Pivot questionnaire you’ve seen asked in "Inside the Actor’s Studio." OK?

DJ: Oh, okay, great! Let’s do them!

W: What’s your favorite word?

DJ: My favorite word? "Love," without a doubt.

W: What’s your least favorite word?

DJ: "Fear."

W: What sound or noise do you love?

DJ: The sound of my wife laughing in the next room.

W: What sound or noise do you hate?

DJ: The sound of airplane engines starting up, because it always mean "good bye."

W: What turns you on?

DJ: Okay… (devious chuckle) Um…

W: It can be anything; you don’t have to take it in the general direction of the gutter, you know…

DJ: I know, I know! What turns me on… A long, sensuous hug.

W: What turns you off?

DJ: Lack of eye contact.

W: Doug…

DJ: Yes?

W: What’s your favorite curse word?

DJ: (giggling) I hardly ever curse, but my favorite word I think is "ass." I just love putting the word "ass" in everything.

W: What profession, other than yours, would you ever like to attempt?

DJ: Nursing. If I wasn’t an actor, I would have been a nurse a long time ago.

W: What profession, other than yours, would you never like to attempt?

DJ: Hm… something with my hands, construction. I admire people who can do that, and we wouldn’t have a world without them, but I-I-I couldn’t.

W: Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

DJ: I’d like to hear Him say what it says on the Bible that He should say when you get there: "Well done, thy good and faithful servant."

W: Thank you very much for talking to us.

DJ: You betcha. Thank you, that was very sweet.

Pictures courtesy of Wireimage/Albert Ortega.

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