After playing too many creatures to count over the years, Doug Jones has become the maestro of masked acting. So when "Falling Skies" needed someone to embody a new Volm alien, Jones was top of the list for the show's creature creator, Todd Masters of Masters FX.
"This is kind of my MO over the years," Jones said during a recent phone conversation from his home in Los Angeles. "Between doing the 'Hell Boy' movies in the blue fish guy makeup [Abe Sapien] and being the Silver Surfer in a silver muscle suit and then 'Pan's Labyrinth,' this Oscar-winning, beautiful piece of work where I'm a fawn and a pale man--this is kind of what I do."
Thanks to his old friend Masters alerting him via Facebook, Jones is now playing the pivotal role of Cochise the alien in TNT's "Falling Skies," which launches its third season with back-to-back episodes beginning at 8 p.m. June 9.
As we head into Season 3, seven months have passed since Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and 2nd Mass, the human resistance group fighting the Espheni aliens, came in contact with another alien race, the Volm. Now they are working with the Volm leader Cochise, who has brought with him to Earth technology and know-how that will help the humans battle the Espheni.
While many in the 2nd Mass are wary of Cochise, Tom, now president of Charleston, has found common ground with the alien and welcomes his help, Jones explained.
"They're both leaders in their own right in their own way in their own worlds. And so they do understand each other," he said. "They both have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. I have to protect my Volm species and he's got to protect his human species. And together we're trying to figure out a way to overcome these horrible Espheni aliens. I come with some technology and some know-how to do that. So I'm rather crucial to these humans.
"But the question will remain, can Tom truly trust me all the way. He sure seems to, bless his heart."
That is the big question this season, one the Indianapolis native wasn't going to be tricked into answering, either. We talked more about working to create Cochise, wearing the rubber suit all day long, and how Jones was once recognized at the airport--for his voice.
You play the big new character this season.
I don't want to say "big." I don't want to boast, but yeah, he does seem rather critical. [Laughs.] Yeah, it seems big to me. He's rather critical to the storyline this year, yeah.
Is your approach when you can't show your face, is it different than if you were just doing a regular role?
Believe it or not, no. An actor has to start with his heart and soul and finding what makes his character tick. What are the character's fears, wants, hopes, desires? [It's] like anybody else would do with any acting role. But I get the added benefit of having layers of rubber put over my face, without which I cannot become an alien, of course. It's necessary, isn't it?
I do have to think something like an athlete as well as an actor because my days are a little bit longer and a little bit more [strenuous]. I huff and puff getting myself from Point A to Point B walking to the set because I'm very heavy with a big rubber suit on and I can't see very well. I can't hear quite as well because my ears are muffled. So there are obstacles I have to overcome and just kind of make that a part of the ecosystem for this Cochise character.
When we see you in the scenes you were actually in the scenes filming in the suit and mask?
Yeah, it's not a CG. There are some CG enhancements on the face that are very subtle. The eyes were wide set enough that those little yellow eyes are not my own.
Right. [Laughs.] Wouldn't that be a contact lens wonder? The vents, or the little wrinkles around Cochise's nose--that's where my eyes could see through. So the yellow eyes are a little more wide set. It was very tight to my head so there wasn't enough room to put mechanics in the head. So the eye movement and the eye blinking and the brow furrowing expression is something that wouldn't respond to my eyebrows because it's too thick up there. So that was CG enhanced. They did a beautiful, subtle job of it, too.
You can sort of do the old saying: Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but in heels and backwards. You can say "in a mask and heavy suit."
Right, right. [Laughs.] With muscles built on to me.
How did you prepare physically?
When I see a role like this coming where it's going to require a little bit more of me physically, I absolutely do have to make sure I'm in great shape before it starts. So this meant Dougie had to start jogging again and hitting the weights again. Yes, a tall, skinny guy like me does actually use weights, believe it or not.
It's hard to do research about what aliens are thinking and everything. So did you just sort of make up a nice big backstory for yourself?
Kind of, right. [Laughs.] Yeah there's not like an alien nursing home that I could go to and talk to an older, wise alien, is there? I wish there was; my gosh I've played enough of them. But this one we have to rely on the writers and get as much backstory from them as I can. I just kind of have to grill them for what they have in mind for this character and what they see him doing. And then it's kind of a teamwork, evolving thing that happens, where his physical mannerisms come out or his pattern of speech comes out or all those like mechanical things as well as his intentions. What is he doing here and what is his backstory and why would he be pressed to find Earth and want to help them so much? Those are big questions that were left unanswered at the beginning of the season.
And they weren't telling me where this was all headed either. So, I was kind of with the audience as the show was filming; I don't know if I'm good or bad. I have no idea. I like to think I'm good, though.
Are you upset that you get this big, visible role and then you can't even be seen?
No. ... It does buy me the notoriety when I want when it's announced. Like if I go to Comicon and they say, "Here's Doug Jones who plays blah, blah, blah." That's a great day. I can take in all that celebrity status that day. But If I want to go to a Starbucks or a Burger King on my own, nobody knows I'm there--so it's kind of great. I get the best of both.
Has your voice ever been recognized?
It happens every so often. It was a security checkpoint lady at an airport checking my passport. I said, "Hello, how are you today?" And she looked up and saw my name at that exact moment. She saw Douglas Jones and then looked up and put it together that might be the Doug Jones that she's seen in credits before. And she kind of gasped and said, "Are you!" I said, "I don't know what you're asking. I'm single? No. What else?"
Which one did she recognize you for?
It was Abe Sapien [from the "Hell Boy" movies], because my voice is rather distinctive in that.
Did you do something different for your voice for Cochise in "Falling Skies"?
Well, he's written very beautifully and so eloquent and so articulate that I tried to give him as much of a studious sound as possible. And I tried to use my lower register, but it ended up in post production they told me they were going to be tweaking it downward to give me a bit of a lower, more mechanical sound.
He's more studious, you say. Is that why he and Tom Mason get along so well?
Yeah, absolutely. ... But his best buddy Dan Weaver, he's a tougher sell. He doesn't buy into me right away. He and John Pope, played by Colin Cunningham. I just love Will Patton and Colin Cunningham as well. And Noah is such a delight to work with. He does honestly come off with very much a leadership sort of personality. He's No. 1 on our call sheet anyway. So when you're working with him and he's playing the leader of the human resistance, yeah, it makes perfect sense. He clicks into that immediately and it's very easy to respond to when you're coming in as the visiting leader guy from another world.
So can we trust Cochise?
Oh, isn't that a good question? Aren't you trying to get information out of me? Look at you. [Laughs.] You know, gosh, it would seem so, wouldn't it?
It would seem that way, yes. Are we going to get to know him even better?
I think in Episode 4, you see a little bit of humanity coming out of him--what we call his Volmanity, because he's a Volm. And Episode 4 is where I have a beautiful monologue when I'm talking to the president. He's asking me, "Why are you here?" And I go into a story that anyone can relate to with that sense of home and longing for it, whether you actually ever had a home or not. So that's kind of his due there.
And that really shows, too, what you were talking about your approach to the character can't be any different than any other human character.
Right. [He has to] have all those thoughts, all those pauses, all the beats that make my heart sing or hurt--one or the other.
Well, thanks and congrats on surviving four months of suffering in an alien suit.
It was latex foam rubber, yes. Glued onto my face so it was on there all day long, Curt.
How long did that take?
They got down to about a two-hour makeup, which is very forgiving. That's very merciful. Two hours is nothing. The other characters I mentioned earlier are more like five. So they got the system down. Working on a TV series like this is, getting it down to a workable timeframe is crucial because day after day, week after week, month after month--that would take a piece of my soul if it was any longer. [Laughs.]
When you started, I hear your mask didn't have a center.
That's because after the first episode they weren't quite sure about the design. My character came about very quickly. He was invented and put in the first script very fast. And they hadn't worked out all the visuals about him yet. What color is he? Where did the folds go? What shape is his head? That kind of thing. And they got the basic outline, silhouette of my head agreed upon, but it was his facial features that had not been agreed upon by all the layers of decision makers all the way up to Steven Spielberg. So, without that being agreed upon as the first episode was being filmed, that face was popped off and I was just wearing the outside shape of the head with my real face showing. I looked like of like a Saturday morning cartoon character, a kid's show character. Like, "Hello everybody, I'm Cochise the alien. Waka, waka, waka." That's what I felt like. [Laughs.]
What happened was once the design was agreed upon we sent back and reshot some of my things from Episode 1 so that we were able to save some money on not having to CG all that back in.
Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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