This week on Casting Frontier’s 13th episode of The Curve, Burgandi and Govind are graced with Hollywood’s premier body work actor—the brilliant Doug Jones.

You may not immediately recognize Jones; after all, his roles usually require elaborate costumes and make-up which are then enhanced with visual effects. But most notably, he was dramatically transformed into the Amphibian Man in the Academy Award-winning film The Shape of Water. Jones has also portrayed Abe Sapien in Hellboy, as well as the Faun/ Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth. An actor, mime, and contortionist by trade, Jones shares his unique and inspiring career path with The Curve in a truly special two-part interview. 

Growing up, the Indiana native found he was the tallest, skinniest, and most lanky kid in the class. So, he set a goal to be funny to make sure his classmates were laughing along with him; not at him. In high school, he had fun portraying his school mascot “Charlie Cardinal.” And then, attending Ball State University, Jones majored in Telecommunications with a minor in Theater. Standing at 6-feet, 3-inches and weighing only 140 pounds, Jones joined a mime troupe where he learned to physically express a vast range of emotions and storylines without the use of words. 

In 1985, Jones moved to Los Angeles to pursue performing. “I knew [my] brand had to be funny or scary; tall, skinny, goofy guy,” he says. So he looked to funny men like Jerry Lewis and Dick Van Dyke for inspiration. In addition to embracing his unusual appearance and developing his own style of physical artistry, the loose-jointed Jones realized he had the ability to place both his feet behind his head. It was clear he was born to be a character actor!

Jones’ career got off to a great start in the 1980s when he was cast as the McDonald’s commercial character Mac Tonight. While some people may have scoffed at the idea of being a mime, Jones’ miming abilities proved to be a valuable commodity as he charismatically portrayed the moon-man who plays the piano while singing about hamburgers. The ubiquitous Mac Tonight commercial series continued for three years in a row and afforded Jones his first condo. Not only was the job lucrative, but it catapulted his career. Indeed, many of the people with whom he worked on the commercials had other intriguing projects going on as well. Whenever they needed an actor to play a lanky creature, they knew who to call … the one-of-a-kind and versatile Doug Jones!

The roles he subsequently landed did not come from the usual manner of casting. Instead of auditioning before casting directors, Jones would be called in by a circle of creature-effects professionals. “I did not seek that career out,”  the 59-year-old actor says. “I had no idea that creature make-ups was a career option.”

Over the years, Jones has sat in make-up chairs for many a long hour, being transformed into characters like the Thin Clown in Batman Returns, the zombie Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus, the lead spy Morlock in the 2002 remake of the 1960 film The Time Machine, and even the Silver Surfer. Jones often collaborates with the acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and can boast being in over 25 films and television series including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as over 90 commercials and music videos. Since 2017, he’s been a part of the main cast of Star Trek: Discovery playing the alien Commander Saru.

Looking back at the evolution of his career, Jones reflects, “Being a physical type that I am, putting it to use and I put a lot of work in as a mime. I did a lot of solo performances as a mime at live events, and a lot of my early commercial work was done as a mime or a monster or something. So that kind of parlays itself into referrals that turn into movies and TV shows, and that turns into directors and producers and writers that establish a relationship through those projects. So, it builds over time. You cannot do this overnight. That is one thing I will say. Because if you go up to a director and say, ‘Hey! Make me famous!’ You will never hear from that director ever again.”

Casting Frontier’s YouTube series The Curve is hosted by Burgandi Phoenix and Govind Kumar. Stay ahead of the curve by learning more valuable tips and stories from an assortment of industry insiders each week.

Watch the second half of Burgandi and Govind’s interview with Doug Jones here.

 

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