Exclusive Q&A: Doug Jones talks “THE STRAIN”, “CRIMSON PEAK”, “FALLING SKIES” and more…Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
To the sci-fi and horror crowd, Doug Jones could very well be classified as geek royalty. The frequent Guillermo del Toro collaborator has been a presence in the genre for nearly thirty years, and has become synonymous as being one of the most versatile and impressive creature performers in the business. And for Jones, that mantle doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon, as the actor is now busier than ever: with TNT’s FALLING SKIES currently in its final season, Jones has taken up a recurring role on FX’s THE STRAIN while appearing in a slew of genre features, including the impending del Toro joint CRIMSON PEAK. With Jones returning to the great stage of San Diego Comic Con, FANGORIA talked to the actor about his latest genre endeavors, including playing dual roles and filling the shoes of a terrifying internet icon…
FANGORIA: With FALLING SKIES now in its final season, did your approach to the show change going into this last batch of episodes?
DOUG JONES: Yeah, the vibe is always going to be different when you’re going into a show knowing it’s the final round. The writers knew so they had a chance to bring the story to a close and everyone on the show had a chance to prepare as well. It’s better than coming into work one day and finding out your dressing room has been closed and locked, like, “What?!” We didn’t get pushed off a cliff, so that was a bit of a luxury.
FANGORIA: Was the experience ever “on edge” considering that, with the final season of the show, anything could happen?
JONES: Oh, absolutely. In fact, all of us in the cast would flip to the end of the scripts immediately once we got them to see if we died or not. Pretty much anyone can be killed off in the last season, and so with every episode, it was just hoping that it wouldn’t be you. But I can say that I make it to the final episode, even if there are many bumps and lumps along the way for all of us.
Death was always a threat in this season, and the characters remained in survival mode, but they have a bit more tactical help this year. The extraterrestrial being that Tom Mason saw at the end of season four will play a pivotal role in season five, especially to Tom Mason. It will answer questions for him, inspire him to move forward, issue him some help. But at some point, Tom comes to my character, Cochise, with a drawing of what he saw as to what it is, and I do have an answer for him: Yes, indeed, there is a species that exists that looks like that… or there was, because I thought they were extinct.
As for my storyline on the show, Cochise has decided to stay on Earth to provide his friends with intellectual and technical support while the rest of the Volm is out fighting the fight somewhere else, as Earth was not their only concern. But I can tell you that the Volm mothership will return because I’ve summoned them back, and you’ll laugh, cry and the writers will knock you for a loop. I can tell you that I interact with my father again, who did not advise me to stay on Earth but I pulled the teenage son thing of, “Yeah, but Dad, I wanna stay here with my friends and party with them!” So expect Cochise to face his daddy issues face-to-face and find some resolve to their father-son angst.
Season five also allowed me to interact with more characters this season, which I really liked doing. Cochise has a touching moment with Ann, and he has some great moments with Maggie and Ben Mason. So it’s great to finally play opposite these actors I’ve known all these years as well as take a more active role in the major storyline as well.
FANGORIA: You actually play a dual role this season as both Cochise and his father. What was that experience like?
JONES: It was tough! I felt like Patty Duke when she played her identical cousins on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW with a split screen. I played opposite of a stand-in who was my height and in make-up so they could do the over-the-shoulder shots, and I had to do the full costume and make-up change to play both Cochise and his father. So I had to assume a slightly different body language, voice and make-up design, which kept on getting pulled off and put back on. It made for a very long day on my face.
It was quite a challenge, and there’s one scene where it’s just the two of us, so I had to carry the whole scene with all the dialogue for both characters. When you’re playing a pissed father and a defensive son, there’s a lot of lines to remember and a lot of things to remember. But I did have some help, as the lead writer for the episode, Jack Kenny, knew the script better than anyone else because he wrote it, so at one point, he stood in for me on an apple box and read my Dad’s lines to me during a face-to-face scene. Interacting with him worked because he gave such a great read and he found the character’s heart and soul that I had as well, though it was a bit ridiculous to have a man in a baseball cap and khaki pants standing on an apple box pretend to be my alien father.
FANGORIA: You briefly popped up at the end of THE STRAIN last season, but you’re slated to return again. If the series is continuing on like the book, your character may have a bigger role this time around; is that the case?
JONES: Indeed! When season two of THE STRAIN premieres, you will see me in two different roles. You’ll see me in a flashback scene far back in time, where you’ll see how The Master became The Master. My character may have had a big hand in that, and that’s another role where I’m from head to toe in make-up. And then you’ll see me in modern day as the leader of the Ancients, and I’m not going to lie to you: you’re going to see some gruesome, brutal stuff in that opener. They are starting off with some shocks, but that’s what THE STRAIN is all about. After the premiere, I will return again in episode six, and there’s a lot of planning going on for that character. The Master has gone rogue, and my character wants to bring back dignity for vampires.
FANGORIA: Considering your working relationship with Guillermo del Toro, had you read THE STRAIN books before coming onto the project? Were you specifically looking forward to working with del Toro on a television platform as well?
JONES: Yes, I was very looking forward to it. He actually tried to get me into a larger role of some sort at the very beginning, but because I was already on FALLING SKIES, I couldn’t commit to a long-running character on the show just yet. So I was tickled pink that I was able to work something in when FALLING SKIES ended season four and I was able to fly to Toronto to film that season finale. It worked out the same way this year: they waited for me to finish FALLING SKIES season five, I flew back to Toronto and filmed my scenes that they had been holding for me. I don’t know if any other show would have done that for me, but because it’s Guillermo del Toro’s show, he worked it out.
Guillermo actually directed the flashback scene specifically; he didn’t direct the season premiere in its entirety, but he did direct that scene, which had been waiting for me. It was great to work with him again because he’s pretty hands-on as a director.
FANGORIA: I had heard rumors that you would be appearing in CRIMSON PEAK, but couldn’t find any confirmation. Are the rumors true, and can you tell us anything about what you’ll be doing in CRIMSON PEAK?
JONES: It’s more than a rumor! It’s funny because I filmed my bits for CRIMSON PEAK back in February of 2014, so I’ve been holding that news for quite some time. When I wrapped my part for the movie, I told Guillermo, “Hey, I’m going to be doing a lot of interviews for other things, and people might know that I’m in this film. What can I tell them?” And Guillermo said, “Well, you can tell them it’s a haunted house story, so what the F do they think you played?” [laughs]
But the trailer has dropped now, and since I’m in the trailer a couple of times as a dark reddish ghost in a bathtub and a pair of grey hands that reach towards Mia Wasikowska, I can tell you more. I can tell you that I play a couple of lady ghosts, and my friend Javier Botet, who you may remember as the ghost from MAMA and is taller and skinnier than I am, if you can imagine that, also plays a couple of lady ghosts that you can see in the trailer. Javier is seen crawling on the floor, and his body movements are just poetic. We’re only in bits of the trailer; they still haven’t revealed a whole bunch. I cannot tell you why we’re playing lady ghosts in particular, or why we’re hanging around the house, but that will be answered in the movie. But the ghosts that I play are pivotal and informative, so I don’t last through the whole movie, but when you see me, it’ll be important that you do.
And for those who do believe in ghosts and ghost lore, there can be many reasons why a ghost would hang around, whether it’s that they haven’t found closure in their own life to that they want to pass a warning. So those questions are absolutely asked and answered in… CRIMSON PEAK! DUN DUN DUNNN!
FANGORIA: The opportunities that follow creature performers have really grown lately, especially since the genre boom on TV and cinema has incorporated such versatile characters that are fantastical in nature. What is your reaction to the growth of material for actors who can also pull off physical creature performances?
JONES: There’s been a wonderful turn of events on television, especially because darker, creature-driven storylines were usually saved for films. But now, there’s so much television out there that include zombies, aliens, vampires, and creepy, crawly monsters of all kinds, and it’s been great for all of us. The opportunity for creature performance work is more plentiful than ever before, which is great because practical make-up FX are on the rise again on television, where it’s not just CG effects. So it’s been nice to see the two mediums working in concert with each other, and it’s been very much that dynamic with all of the characters that I’ve played.
When I played Cochise, I was in practical make-up but they also did a digital pass on my face to help my eyes express, so it’s been incredibly great to see CG help practical make-up do things that haven’t been done before. The same goes for THE STRAIN, since there’s a digital FX team that helps take our noses away. So I love that the trend is on the rise, and I personally think that fantasy- dark or otherwise- helps us deal with a world that seems to be going downhill. Watching the news becomes more depressing every time I turn the TV on, and these fantasy shows help us escape in a way that, when we turn the TV off, we may be more ready to deal with the real demons and monsters in our lives.
FANGORIA: You’ll be at San Diego Comic Con this year. Can you tell us what you’ve got planned this year?
JONES: Yes! The Friday of Comic Con will be FALLING SKIES, so the whole cast is getting together for a panel, and I’ll make the rounds at whatever after parties I can make as well. I also may be doing other panels but I haven’t locked those down just yet. But aside from Comic Con, I’ve got CRIMSON PEAK, which hits theaters October 16th, as well as THE STRAIN, which premieres July 12th, and FALLING SKIES, which airs every Sunday on TNT. I also may be continuing my stint as Deathbolt on ARROW and THE FLASH, and I starred in a movie that is now on all of the Video On-Demand platforms called ALWAYS WATCHING: A MARBLE HORNETS STORY, where I play “The Operator”, a character based off of Slender Man.
For years, people have been telling me that Slender Man is a character I should play, so ALWAYS WATCHING is the vehicle I played him in. Now, The Operator is different from Slender Man; it’s not the same folklore, backstory or motivations, since Slender Man has an internet folklore of being a child abductor and this isn’t the case for The Operator. It’s more ingratiated in the MARBLE HORNETS web series, which features a faceless, well-dressed character from another place who is more of a puppeteer. So if you come looking for The Operator, you’ll find him but he’ll manipulate you into self-destruction and going crazy. So his hands are clean, since you did all the dirty work, and ALWAYS WATCHING is a really eerie movie.
THE STRAIN returns on Sunday, July 12th, at 10 p.m. EST on FX. FALLING SKIES currently airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on TNT. Check back for more with Doug Jones in the near future!