What Do Buffy, Hellboy and a Gay Robot Have in Common?
Doug Jones, Gay Robot
As far as culty pleasures go, Gay Robot
may very well take the cupcake. An unsold TV pilot that's found new life online (at MySpace.com/GayRobot
), the feyest droid since C-3PO is both proof of the power of the Internet and a perfectly twisted comedy that, well, even cable isn't ready for. And that is just how Doug Jones
likes it. The affable actor behind the motorized man-lover may not be a familiar face, but there's no doubt that he's caused a few jaws to drop with his heavily disguised turns in everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
and Pan's Labyrinth
to this summer's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
. In fact, he may be the only man in Hollywood who is actually more
than he's made out to be.
TVGuide.com: Looking over your résumé, you could turn out to be one of my most interesting interviews ever.
Doug Jones: [Laughs] You're kidding!?
TVGuide.com: Seriously. You were one of the Gentlemen in Buffy's silent episode, "Hush"!
Jones: Yes, I was. Are you a fan?
Jones: Oh, that's awesome. You guys [at TV Guide] were so loyal to that show over the years. So if you remember the episode, I was the tall, skinny lead guy.
TVGuide.com: The Gentlemen were absolutely horrifying. And such memorable characters, as is the eye-handed Pan from Pan's Labyrinth. Now you've got Fantastic Four's Silver Surfer, who is not exactly a tall lithe guy like these other roles. Did you have to put on a ton of muscle for that?
Jones: No. Good god, I'm still 6-foot-4 and almost 140 pounds, so that is where a team of makeup artists and visual-effects designers come in handy.
TVGuide.com: And then there's Gay Robot.
Jones: I know, right? [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Are you actually inside that machine?!
Jones: I am indeed. People look at that and say, "There is no way someone could fit in there," but the template for the Gay Robot design was fashioned from the robot I played in The Benchwarmers, named Number 7. He was Jon Lovitz's butler robot guy. Like Gay Robot, that was also a Happy Madison production [inspired by Adam Sandler's stand-up routine], so there's the tie-in. That's why they came to me for the physical performance of Gay Robot, while Nick Swardson brilliantly voices the character — and that man is so not right. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: The whole thing is not right.
Jones: I know! That's the fun of it. The premise is just ridiculous.
TVGuide.com: And obviously you guys get away with a ton more on MySpace than you would even on a cable network.
Jones: Oh, yeah. The humor is as raw as it can get. What boy doesn't want to do bathroom humor? I have a ball doing this, so crunching into the costume — it's a costume-slash-machine, with hard pieces they screw around me — is worth it. I'm in that costume for the day, maybe four hours at a time.
TVGuide.com: In your career, you've actually spent a lot of time under prosthetics.
Jones: I have, sure. And the guys at Stan Winston Studios, your Oscar-winning creature-makers, are the ones who created the Gay Robot costume for me.
TVGuide.com: They did? Shouldn't they be a bit busier with big film stuff?
Jones: I know! [Laughs] But they have a TV and commercial division as part of their humongous business, and I've worked with them on films before. That's how they knew me and recommended me for this job.
TVGuide.com: You've worked with, like, the weirdest, most diverse crowd ever. Joss Whedon, Adam Sandler, Guillermo del Toro....
Jones: Yeah, and of course, none of them probably even know each other. [Laughs] But they're all so quirky and weird and wonderful unto themselves. I just love being associated with production companies and directors that are wacky and wild and have a screw loose somewhere in their head.
TVGuide.com: How did you fall in with Guillermo?
Jones: That's a great story. I was one of his cockroach-bug guys in Mimic, back in 1997. I was only on the film for three days of reshoots, but during that time he really connected with me because that was his first big American studio film. He hails from Mexico and directed a couple of films there, but the main bulk of his work was doing creature-effects makeup down in Mexico. He was fascinated with what other creatures I had played, the directors I had worked with. He was like, "Really?! What was that like?" He became this huge fanboy in front of my eyes and I thought, "I love this guy!" He asked for my card and five years later when they were casting Hellboy, one of the effects artists said that the design sculpted for the character of Abe Sapien looked like [me]. And then another artist said it. Everyone had worked with me before so they all knew me, and then Guillermo goes, "Doug Jones? I know Doug Jones!" and he pulled my card out of his wallet. That is how I came to play Abe Sapien, and it's what cemented our relationship. We really developed an actor-director relationship in that he doesn't talk much to me, but he'll have a sit-down with me before we start filming to discuss backstory and any quirks he wants the character to have. Then I get to go home, work on it and bring it to filming. He's told me if he doesn't say anything to you, you're perfect.
TVGuide.com: And that led to Pan's Labyrinth?
Jones: Yep. He sent me this e-mail that said, "I am working on this movie called Pan's Labyrinth, and you must play Pan and Pale Man. Here's the script, it's in Spanish.... Oh, here's a translation, don't worry about the Spanish, we'll have someone dub over you.... Get back to me." [Laughs] I was like, "Are you kidding me?" He is a loyal man, and when he gets a team around him that he trusts, he'll use them again and again. I am so proud and tickled to be part of that team.
TVGuide.com: Selma Blair recently told me the same thing, that it's a testament to how much you all love Guillermo that you're happy to do the voices for the Hellboy cartoons.
Jones: Right. Not everybody comes back to do animated voices. But again, he has surrounded himself with a team and all of us love each other so much. The first [Hellboy] was a few years ago, we were all hoping for a sequel and now we get to start filming that in May, thank goodness. I'm very excited about that. Doing the voices for the animated project was a way to keep the franchise alive and stay pure to our characters, too. The video game, also.
TVGuide.com: I hope you got free copies of the game. Those things are expensive!
Jones: Yeah, right? That's another thing that's taken on a life of its own, because it's a form of entertainment that didn't exist years ago. Just like Gay Robot on MySpace, or YouTube... these mediums that didn't exist before have been able to turn this lost pilot into [something big]. "Here's a new scene on MySpace," and we get some 400,000 hits. Then it turns into a whole half-hour that's available on the Internet, and it's gotten what, a half-million hits?
TVGuide.com: And if Robot had been picked up as a series, you'd be spending a lot of time in that costume!
Jones: I know! I was fully prepared for that when we were filming the pilot — because I'm the actor who says yes to those parts! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: One last thing. Your bio says you were a mime....
Jones: Oh, dear.
TVGuide.com: Uh-huh. You want to get that out of the way?
Jones: [Laughs] Let me explain myself! I started out that way. That's the best way to put it, instead of "Mime, Doug Jones."
TVGuide.com: So you're a recovering mime?
Jones: Exactly! There's probably a 12-step group out there for me. See, nobody likes a mime, so I don't want to be equated with them. People remember that white-faced guy who followed them around the park....
TVGuide.com: Then you went on to star in the creepiest commercial as McDonald's' "Mac Tonight."
Jones: Was he creepy to you?
TVGuide.com: The giant sliver-headed man eating a burger in a tuxedo?
Jones: Well, if you think of him like that, yeah, he'd be creepy. But he was a crescent-moon head. [Laughs] I can't believe that was 20 years ago. It was one of the first times when I thought, "Hey, this acting thing isn't so bad." Bought a condo and the whole thing. I ended up doing 27 commercials as that guy, and that is probably the role that got me started in the creature-effects business.
TVGuide.com: Would you ever embrace a role where it's just you? No fake heads or bug wings?
Jones: The older I get, the more I would say yes, absolutely. But acting is just acting. Every actor has to go through hair and makeup and costuming. Whether that means five hours of prosthetics or a dusting of powder, a comb through your hair and a T-shirt, it's all preparing for the role you're going to play. If he's on all fours and growling, great. If he's a biped and delivering dialogue, great. Communicating is a full-body experience.
TVGuide.com: What can you tell me about the story line for Hellboy 2?
Jones: I'm not one who gives away things — nudge-nudge, wink- wink — but I can tell you about Abe Sapien and how the script is absolutely delicious for him. He gets to do a character arc that I didn't even think was possible for him. You'll see him wielding a weapon, taking on some bad guys... and maybe, possibly, a love interest.
TVGuide.com: Oh, really?
Jones: And you know, a love interest often alters our decision-making powers and our judgment. The story is very interesting and gives me a lot to chew on this time. I'll also be playing a couple of other creatures, being one of Guillermo's pets. One of them is the Angel of Death, and that is a moment I can't wait to sink my teeth into. Basically, Hellboy 2 is Prosthetics-R-Us. There are lots of critters in this one.
TVGuide.com: You must have the best Halloween costumes.
Jones: You know, a lot of people go to parties dressed as characters I've played. Me? I wear a T-shirt that says "Halloween Costume" on it. [Laughs] It's the one night I don't have to get made up!
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