Q&A: Jake Busey Gets Brainy on “FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES”Features/Interviews,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
When FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES was announced, many horror fans wondered how new actors would fare in established roles from the film. Once the show debuted, eyes then quickly turned to the addition of new characters to the story, especially those played by Jesse Garcia and Jake Busey. Ostensibly playing on the side of the law, Busey’s character of Professor Aiden Tanner is the closest thing to an “Average Joe” that FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES has to offer. In speaking to FANGORIA however, Busey hints that there may be larger plans for the mythological expert to come…
FANGORIA: What specifically appealed to you about Aiden Tanner as a character?
JAKE BUSEY: Well, I’m sort of an intellectual guy and I love minute details of history and folklore. I love finding out that all of the symptoms of a vampire, like staying out of the sun, pale skin and a lust for blood, was similar to sickle cell anemia during the Black Plague in areas of Europe where the sun doesn’t come out very often. It might have also been rosacea, but I think it was mostly sickle cell anemia, where the skin is sensitive to the sun and there’s an iron deficiency in their system, so they craved uncooked meat and blood. So people with imagination took that and expanded upon it to create the mythical character that the vampire was based on.
That’s the kind of information that gets me going, so playing a role like Professor Tanner, where I’m a Department of Archaeology teacher makes me feel like Indiana Jones when he’s in the classroom. So I get scripts where I get to read hieroglyphs and explain mythology about snake gods to keep the audience abreast, and I get to play a role that’s the most similar to who I am more so than anything else I’ve played. I guess my role in TOMCATS was similar to who I was at that time, but this role has been a very satiating and satisfying experience.
FANG: Did you do any independent research to bring to the role or was it mostly information that Robert Rodriguez provided?
BUSEY: It was a combination of both, really. I read some of the books that the prop department had acquired to use for my first appearance on the show, which was all the stuff I was explaining in the bar to Jesse. But in reading those books, it’s amazing how much truth the script pulled from these books that were in a museum. Everything from Mayan mythology to the vision serpents, to how it affected their culture, to the Gods that they revered and the human sacrifices they made to those Gods in order to transcend; it was very, very interesting to actually read all of that.
Then, I met up with the guy who actually is the doctor of archaeology at Louisiana Tech, and he helped me a lot with the pronunciations and some of the backstory of what it was we were talking about. So that really helps and it was great to learn about all of that stuff. I like being that “go-to” guy, and I keep the audience up to speed as the story unfolds. It’s been exciting and fun for me.
FANG: In a series filled with vampires, rogue cops and criminals, you’re playing a blue collar type of character. Was that attractive to you as an actor to play a normal role in a genre project?
BUSEY: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve played psychos, crazy killers and even the grim reaper, but a lot of those roles can become tiring. It’s like a marriage, you know? Doing the same role over and over is like being with the same person for years and years, so for me, it’s nice to have a departure where I’m not playing a bad guy.
In FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES, I’m just playing a dude with combed hair and glasses, and I’m just trying to help this ranger get the bad guys. That’s been quite rewarding, in a way. People always think I’m going to play a bad guy, and Robert Rodriguez likes to cast against type, and he told me that. He said, “I really like taking an actor who’s known for a certain type of role and throw them into something that’s the complete opposite.” That’s his style and I really got lucky in meeting him. He’s the only person that would hire me, for one reason or another, so I owe a lot to Robert and I’m really thankful to be a part of this project.
FANG: Even though those outside of the project have no idea where your role may go, is there any chance that your character will be back for the second season and perhaps as a more proactive hero?
BUSEY: Well, I’ve been told that I’ll be back for the second season; perhaps they told me that to make me feel better. I don’t really know for sure, but I think that I’ll be back. If I have to go on record, I’ll say that I don’t know, but I’m hoping that I’ll be back for the second season.
I would love to come back though, and I’d love to have a more of a protagonist role. I mean, so far, the audience hasn’t seen much of me, but next week, I’ll reappear on the show and then, I’m in the show from that point on. You’ll get a better feel of who my character is and all of that, and I’d love to continue with that. At this point, I’m helping this ranger find the bad guys and they’re handing me three-four page monologues, which is very challenging, in fact. But it’s also very rewarding.
FANG: You’re one of the few recurring cast members on the show who is not based on a character from the film. Did that help you craft the character towards your sensibilities rather than compare yourself to a previous iteration of the character?
BUSEY: Yeah, and I think that aspect gives me a lot more freedom and a lot more stress. I know that some of the other actors are wrestling with making the role their own, while keeping true to the original story. They’re doing very well at it and I’m very impressed, especially with D.J. [Cotrona] and Zane [Holtz]. I think they’re hands down awesome, and I really have to hand it to D.J., who is stepping into [George] Clooney’s shoes.
That’s especially true when you factor in the die-hard fans who loved what Clooney did. Clooney is Clooney; no one is trying to be Clooney but there’s nothing we can do to keep the fans from comparing them. It is tough to be in that position, but I believe all of the cast in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES is dealing with that a little bit.
I think Robert Patrick is also doing a phenomenal job as The Preacher, and he’s not playing Harvey Keitel’s version at all. He’s just playing a preacher and I love it. When you see the work he does in the fourth episode, it’s just tremendous. It shows you what a great actor Robert Patrick is, and this role is much more dynamic than previous roles he’s been given. He’s really a heavy cat.
For me, I’m always thinking of doing whatever it is that I want to do, because it’s my character. It’s great on one level, but on another level, it makes me the outsider, because I’m written in instead of one of the original cast. I also have this fear that one week I’ll show up to work and they’ll say, “We’re killing him off and you’re not coming back.” That’s the downside of playing a new character and not having a road map, so I don’t know if my character will survive or not.
It’s like THE WALKING DEAD where, with the more characters they introduce, they also kill a lot. So I like having this job, I like keeping a roof over my daughter’s head and I don’t want to be killed off. But at this moment, I have no idea so we’re just going to see it as it comes,
FANG: As an expert on history and mythology, when your character does eventually realize the truth about vampires, how do you expect your performance to change?
BUSEY: I don’t know if you watch the show RESURRECTION, but they do a pretty interesting job of riding the fine line of that genre, as in, “How do we react to a person spontaneously regenerating?” It’s tough because I’ve watched the show and it’s always getting compared to LOST, and I don’t feel that way. If you look at what Matt Craven does on that show, he does such a phenomenal job of walking the line of disbelief, belief and explaining something that’s farcical yet real in their environment.
So for me, this character is someone who is passionate about his folklore and wasn’t around to see that folklore come into fruition, though he’d love to see if there’s any more behind the curtain. I feel Professor Tanner, and in the way he comes in contact with these snake-people, I think his response will be one of intrigue as opposed to fear.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES airs on the El Rey Network at 9 p.m. EST, and you can see Jake Busey on its next episode, “Place of Dead Roads”, which airs tonight, April 15th.