An intimate look into the wonderful mind (and body) of actor Doug Jones.
Doug Jones is not just one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood. He’s also played some of the most iconic and memorable characters and creatures we’ve ever seen, from his dual roles in Pan’s Labyrinth as the Pale Man and Pan to Hellboy’s gentlemanly Abe Sapien to Star Trek: Discovery’s cautious Saru to The Shape Of Water’s Amphibian Man. If you’ve ever watched a sci-fi, horror or fantasy film or show, you’ve likely seen Doug Jones. And even if you’re not a fan of those genres, you’ve probably seen his work as some of the most quirky and unforgettable characters in commercials.
I had the privilege of getting to know Doug Jones when we worked together on Mime Very Own Book, an IPPY Award–winning coffee table book we wrote along with the wildly talented Scott Allen Perry. As master photographer Eric Curtis worked his magic behind the lens, Doug worked as a master of mimicry, effortlessly acting out ridiculous mime puns throughout the book. It was a labor of love for all of us, punctuated by a heartfelt foreword written by his longtime friend and talented actor Josh “Ponceman” Perry.
My time spent with Doug during that photoshoot made one thing clear: he is one of the most loving and kind human beings you will ever meet.
With his witty sense of humor, a warm smile and an infectious laugh, Doug Jones’ essence is a light that shines through the darkest corners of life. And I’m not exaggerating. Just ask anyone who’s waited in line to meet him and been welcomed with a warm and genuine embrace and the words “There’s so much love for you!”
So when he took time out of his busy schedule to reconnect with me for this interview over lunch, I jumped into his waiting arms…
Let’s dive right into The Shape of Water, an incredibly beautiful and endearing film with 13 Academy Award nominations. What’s it like to be a part of something so spectacular?
If I could bring up Pan’s Labyrinth by comparison, when I was in Pan’s Labyrinth and we got six nominations and had three wins at the Oscars, I thought, “That is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an actor like me that’s hidden behind rubber bits a lot. How often do I get into a piece of art like that?” So I thought, “I don’t know when that’s ever going to happen again. If it doesn’t, that’s great. I can die happy knowing I had a Pan’s Labyrinth.”
But then The Shape of Water comes along and Guillermo del Toro does it again, only bigger, and I thought, “This is the one. This is the one.”
But I called this one a while ago, when he was telling me the story line in his office. We were working on Crimson Peak in January 2014 and he was just verbally telling me the story, making sure I was going to be OK with the love story, because he said [doing a great Guillermo del Toro impersonation], “I know you’re this good Catholic boy, so I want to make sure you’re gonna be OK with, uh, all that goes on…”
And I said, “What goes on?”
[Guillermo voice] “Well, there’s a bathtub involved.”
“Oh, dear sakes… Start at the beginning and get me to the tub and we’ll talk about it.”
But as he was telling me the story verbally, with no script written yet, I was mesmerized. I had my chin in my hands and it was like campfire time with Guillermo: get the marshmallows and just listen to his story. And I knew then. I said, “This is the story that will get him back at the Oscars again.”
And I called it, but I didn’t know I called it this big with 13 nominations in every category imaginable!
So how does that feel?
Satisfying. And I feel proud!
When you’re the fish man and that’s your beautiful ass on the poster…
Well, you do have a beautiful ass.
In the movie I certainly did! Although I had to give it back at the end of every day. But it was gorgeous!
The feeling is just what every actor hopes for when we start out. When we’re dreaming of being an actor one day. When I was back in Indiana thinking, “One day I want to be in movies.” Well, this exceeds my expectations. To be in a movie with 13 nominations, and it has garnered me more personal attention than I’ve ever had in my life.
I’ve done more press this year between Star Trek: Discovery and The Shape of Water than in my other 30 years combined, honestly.
Take me to Indiana when you were growing up. Which actors did you look up to when you first wanted to begin acting?
Oddly enough, I wasn’t a monster movie lover as much.
No Lon Chaney Jr., Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi?
Well, yes, in that I was aware of them. I’d watch their movies. I was haunted by them. In fact, my first horror movie I ever saw was The Mummy with Boris Karloff. Loved him. What a mesmerizing performance.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon was the next horror movie I ever saw, and again, beautiful, mesmerizing. I had the same feelings about the creature that Guillermo did. Haunting and scary but also just beautiful, and he was sympathetic, and I wanted those humans to leave him alone.
Seeing Lon Chaney Sr. as the Phantom of the Opera, with his big theatrics but believable… Lovely, wonderful.
And Vincent Price, anything he did…
But you’re saying you weren’t a horror fan. You weren’t into that?
I was aware of these guys, and I appreciated what they did. But what I was a fan of was sitcoms and variety shows. I like the lighter, happier stuff.
I can definitely see that with your personality.
Right, I’m more of a golden retriever really [laughs].
OK, so what was the sitcom for you? What was your go-to?
Oh, gosh, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Gilligan’s Island, Gomer Pyle — anything with a goofy person as the centerpiece of it, I could relate to that.
And that helped me through my awkward, gawky years…which I’m still in, by the way [laughs].
Not with that ass…
Right?! When I take The Shape of Water ass off, I’m back to my goofy days.
But as a geeky, tall, skinny, nonathletic kid in Indiana, and you’re outside that small sliver of normal, you will be made fun of.
So the remedy for that was to develop a sense of humor, be the class clown, get to the laugh before they did.
What inspired that, what helped fuel that, was all these sitcoms. All these goofy people on TV.
You know, Jim Nabors [Gomer Pyle] was not a handsome leading man, Bob Denver [Gilligan’s Island], Barney Fife, who was played by Don Knotts, was not a handsome leading man, but he made me laugh…
But they all had charisma.
They all had charisma, and they were watchable. Don Knotts especially, because we even looked a little bit alike with the big bug eyes and big bottom lip — come on!
So I thought, “If Don Knotts can make a life for himself, maybe there’s hope for me one day too.”
Maybe Guillermo will do a remake of The Incredible Mr. Limpet and cast you as Henry Limpet!
Hello, yeah! Say it’s done!
So if I could tie those non-horror, non-creature, non-fantastical characters into my career that I have now…
Somebody asked Guillermo del Toro at one of our Q&As recently, “Did you prepare to direct this film by watching and reviewing horror movies, creature movies, monster movies?” And he said, “No, no, never study the genre you’re going to be filming in. Look at other stuff!”
He said that he would watch musicals, he’d watch art films, foreign films and this and that — and that influence is obviously there, right?
So me too. Any creature I play has personality to it that is influenced by Dick Van Dyke or Carol Burnett — you know what I’m saying?
Absolutely. You play these horrific monsters, creatures and fantastical entities that really have no reference point that we know of since they’re all completely fictitious creations. But your foundation, your reference point for those creatures are these sitcom characters that you grew up on, these characters that aren’t even in the genre of the movies you’re doing. You’re bringing them into your roles?
Right! I can’t go to the merman nursing home and interview somebody who’s been there and done that. If you’re going to play a retired fireman, you go and you talk to one. And I can’t do that.
So you’re bringing more of a gentle humanity to these roles?
That’s my hope. And I think that happens because that’s where I like to live: in gentle humanity.
And if you’re going to play a monster and make it relatable to a human audience, then it’s nice if they have gentle humanity. And Guillermo writes his monsters with that bent. He always has. Oh, gosh, he cherishes his monsters! And his monsters are often the hero of his story, and the true monster of the movie is a human who’s abusing power or narcissistic or whatever is going on there…
Thus, The Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth.
There ya go. Our bad guy in both of those films was that human. And the creature in those movies helped the young lady find herself and realize her potential, and all those things that creatures can do.
I’ve always loved the idea that in horror movies it’s usually the heroine that is the strongest person. And you don’t usually get that in action films. But in horror films, you get strong females who survive and who overcome. Guillermo does it masterfully, I think. Whether it be a little girl or a silent woman, he shows her strength.
That’s what I love with the theme of his stories is that there’s often an underdog that you might think is the weak character of the movie, and in this case, she ends up being the triumphant one who bucks the bad authority, who finds her way around the abuse of power and comes out on top. Underdogs winning in the end is a story we can all relate to, I think.
I agree. My first question after The Shape of Water ended and the credits rolled was how the underwater scenes were done — specifically, when you’re in the tube and interacting with Eliza.
There’s a lot of water in the entire movie. Some scenes are shot in water; some are shot dry-for-wet. A little trick we do in “the Hollywood”!
Dry-for-wet, in particular… That glass cylinder I’m in where we (the Amphibian Man and Eliza) first meet touch-to-touch with the glass between us: I was in a dry cylinder tank on a teeter-totter to give me some buoyancy. So I had some stunt guys moving me up and down, so it gave me a little bit of lift, and I acted like I was in water, and they filled it with smoke as well to give it some substance in the air, and put a ripple lighting effect through it so it would have the wave effect, and so there was very little CG to do in postproduction to make it look watery.
And the other water scenes — like when she stuffs towels under the bathroom door and floods the room, that was real. The bathroom set was rebuilt in an eight-foot-deep tank, and we played the scene in a tank and we were underwater. We’d gather our air at the top and plunge down for “action.” And you’d pray for that “cut” to be called as we could hear Guillermo underwater on speakers. We also had scuba people on hand in case of emergency. The safety was all there. And we also went through scuba training to learn how to breathe on regulators underwater, which is terrifying.
Here’s the next question I had after the movie ended: Is the Amphibian Man a god?
Well, it would appear so, wouldn’t it?
SPOILER ALERT…and put that in caps!
I will put that in caps…
I asked Guillermo this very question. So at the end when the scars on her [Eliza’s] neck become something else, were they always that and just healed over because she was a land being and raised as an orphan? Or was it really, truly an abusive situation that I [the Amphibian Man] magically turned into something useful at the end of the movie?
Guillermo said, “I left it open so that the audience, whoever needs to see whatever they need to see can see that.”
It’s another Pan’s Labyrinth…
It’s another Pan’s Labyrinth, right.
But he said, “Do you want to know my opinion?”
I said, “Yes, I do!”
He said, “For me, she had gills all along.”
So remember her backstory. She was found by the river; that was her beginnings. How does she get there? She has a backstory that we don’t even know about. And she didn’t talk because I [the Amphibian Man] couldn’t either.
Here’s a question everyone is going to be asking, but I’m the first to truly ask you this. Ever…
Oh, really?! OK, I’ve been asked everything. You really think you’re going to find something I haven’t been asked?
Yes, I do. Tell me if I’m wrong.
The Amphibian Man vs. Abe Sapien vs. the Pale Man in a staring contest. Who wins?
[Laughs.] You are correct! No one has asked me that!
A three-way staring contest?
Yes. Now my money is that Abe Sapien wins because of his goggles. I think Pale Man goes out first because he probably has sweaty palms.
Now, are we in or out of water?
I’m going to say we’re on dry land, because Pale Man would die underwater and the other two can be out of water.
So out of water, I think you called this one. Pale Man — you’re right. Sweaty palms, salt in the eyes, he’s gonna blink at some point. Or he’s going to take the eyes out and swish them around in his mouth or something.
Which is an instant disqualification.
Right. Amphibian Man — even though he can be out of water, he likes to be in water. He’s going to need to blink.
Abe if he has his goggles on, but when he doesn’t, he has those contact lenses in Hell Boy 2. You’re right: Abe wins this one!
And he’s such a gentleman. Why shouldn’t he win? Let’s give him that one.
I don’t know if you’ve been asked this question before, but I think it’s an important one. Based on The Shape of Water, what is the shape of Doug Jones?
That almost sounds naughty!
Water takes on the shape of whatever container it’s in…
Which is like Doug Jones.
[Laughs.] I’m a contortionist. I’ve been in boxes. I’ve been in trunks. I’ve been in suitcases… It’s true.
But then there’s the more ethereal definition, you know, that it has no shape; it’s just like love…
Which is also like Doug Jones.
Aww, thank you for thinking that I’m like love.
Elongated. Gumby-like. He’s multi-shaped.
If I can get more on the personality side of it, when I’m conversing with another human being, I do like to find what their personality is and shift over to how they communicate so that we can have a back-and-forth. So I do take on the shape of whoever I’m with.
You know what? I do like to think that I’m like water! There ya go — that’s very nice!
Let’s talk Star Trek: Discovery. I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but are you a Trekkie?
All the time I get asked this. I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie. I would call myself a casual fan who has become more of one.
I was born in 1960, so when the original series was on network television in its first run, I was six years old. You couldn’t miss it. We had three networks back then, so whatever is on TV, you all saw. I was fascinated with space travel, but what I was really fascinated with mostly was the transporter room.
People disintegrating molecularly and then building up somewhere else molecularly — you can do that?!
And I was taken up with Spock. I gravitated toward him because of his tall lankiness, his “otherness.” He looked different than other people on the bridge, and so I kind of always had a soft spot in my heart for Spock.
So you’ve come full circle with that, playing the character of Saru.
I’m the oddball on the bridge, exactly.
So I feel very much akin. I understood the character when they presented it to me. I’m like, “Oh, that’s kind of the Spock,” even though I’m not a Vulcan.
And after the original series, you couldn’t flip channels and not hit a Star Trek something, whether it was Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise. There’s enough Star Trek out there to catch something somewhere.
Every time I would be flipping channels, I would land on whatever that Star Trek was. And I would stay there because whatever series it was, it was always fascinating. And I always loved all the actors involved, all the captains. All the ships you could tell were Federation ships, but they were all different enough. That’s Voyager; that’s different than the Enterprise. But I can’t break it down like the true Trekkies can.
Then taking on an acting career for 30 years where I’m wearing rubber a lot the time, if not all the time, it’s asked of me all the time, “Have you ever done anything in the Star Trek universe?”
Now I can finally say, 30 years into my career, “Yes, yes, I’m in the new Star Trek!”
What Doug Jones characteristics do you bring to Saru, besides your 6’3” height to his 6’8” with KISS boots on?
The way Saru strikes me, as the way he’s written, he’s the Kelpien, first one of his kind to go through Starfleet Academy, to be on a starship as a high-ranking officer, so he has a lot to prove, and he has a lot of poise to present. He wants to get everything right because he’s representing his people.
With that comes a demeanor I think of as proper, and as a gentleman, and much like a butler. You know, he’s the butler of the ship. Like, “Yes, sir.” Or “What can I get for you, ma’am?” I like to think that I have some of those qualities. I like to think I have some decorum and adhere to protocol when it’s required of me.
Does that make it easier and more natural to play a character like that when you can put more of yourself into it?
I think so. And he also has full emotional range, too. Unlike Spock, who squelches emotion, Saru celebrates his emotions.
So he has all the feels. And I appreciate that because so do I. I’m a very emotionally charged human being. And being able to put that into Saru has been a treat for me — that they’ve written him with that full range. I love it, I love it, I love it!
Saru is considered to be part of a binary race, which means you’re either predator or prey. And Saru is on the prey end of things, being raised like cattle. How do you go from being cattle to going through Starfleet Academy?
Well, that’s a backstory we’re going to explore, I hope, in the coming seasons.
I’d also like to meet more of my people. I’d love for the audience and myself to see the homeland and make sure everybody’s OK. But this is Star Trek, so if we go back to the homeland, there’s going to be an issue, right? [Laughs.]
We might meet the predators. Because a lot of people out there in social media land want to know, if you’re the prey, then who are the predators? What would be after you?
Do you ever feel like you were bred to be prey?
[Laughs.] In high school, yeah!
I was a snack for all the jocks and the cool kids. But then again, that’s a part of the “Be funny and get through it.”
Star Trek: Discovery was cocreated by Brian Fuller, who also created one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Pushing Daisies. Did you ever watch it?
Oh no, I’m on the spot now, aren’t I? Because if Bryan Fuller ever reads this, he’ll know I haven’t seen Pushing Daisies…
No, it’s OK, because what we’re going to try and do is get Bryan to make a Pushing Daisies movie and cast you in it.
And what would I play?
A dead body.
I would love to play it.
So Bryan: Please, for the love of all the fans who miss that show, make a Pushing Daisies movie and include Doug Jones!
You’ve done some pretty memorable commercials. You started off playing Mac Tonight in the classic McDonald’s campaign. And you also played Lightning in the Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl commercials…
Yes! I was Lightning and there was Thunder, and Thunder wasn’t doing his job, and I was like, “Look at this! What am I supposed to do with this?!” He didn’t have his breakfast.
Do you have a favorite commercial that you’ve done?
Ohhh, I’ve done over 100 commercials, so it’s tough, but I’ve had a couple that I loved doing.
I did one for Kodak that was great fun. It was about a little girl who had a FunSaver camera. And she was taking pictures of her cereal and her shoes and her dog and her parents, and it ended up that her work was all blown up in an art gallery as a “day in the life of” with her FunSaver camera. And I’m this art critic with my hair curled up and this funny outfit, with stripes and lapels and I’m like [in a stuffy, high-society voice], “How did you do it?!” And she said, “Oh, I just took pictures of my day as I went through it.” To which I respond [in an exaggeratedly impressed voice], “Brilliant!”
And all these other art critics around were in awe as I ask her, “What’s next?”
“I think I’m gonna take a picture of Sunday.”
To which I became overwhelmed with shock and fainted. And I threw the faint in — it wasn’t scripted.
That was one of the first commercial shoots where I felt the agency, the client and the company, everyone was so happy with me, and one of the execs from the agency came by my trailer after I was done just to thank me one more time and said, “You were not just good — you were incredible!”
So that felt really, really good. Because sometimes those corporate layers don’t always get back to the talent. So that was a really sweet experience for me.
I had another fun one that was a Nissan commercial that was funny. The commercial opens with three tennis players. I’m one of them, and we’re all hoity-toity rich guys, and we’re playing rock-paper-scissors to see who gets the backseat of the Porsche, because Porsches don’t have a backseat — it was a 911 or whatever — so it was just this shelf back there behind the seats.
Well, I lose and I was cast as the loser in this because I can put my legs up over behind my head. So the two of them are now sliding me into the backseat in this folded-up position and we go driving off down a lane.
Well, a Nissan 200SX comes driving by with four people sitting comfortably in it — comes passing us — and they look over and I’m in the backseat just going, “Hey,” as I look back at them. And that was the joke of the commercial. That’s why you need a Nissan 200SX and not a Porsche. It was a great gag.
Can you still put your legs over your head?
I can! At 57, girlfriend, OK?!
What role were you most looking forward to playing that didn’t pan out?
One that I came close to doing was a film adaptation of a very popular book called This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti — a book that I had actually read earlier that year. So when I was called in to do a test fitting for like this demon costume and they weren’t telling me what it was — secret, secret, project. And finally, someone said, “Have you heard of the book This Present Darkness? And I was like, “I just read it! Oh my gosh!” And they wanted me to play Lucius, which is the lead demon. He was the one beckoning the coming of Rafar, which is the Satan character, basically.
So that would have been a costume heavily made up for a delicious character, for a film adaptation of a book that I really loved. I was looking forward to fleshing that out and telling that story.
This Present Darkness was a Christian book that the movie script did such a beautiful job of making appealing to a broad audience. So I was really excited.
But it ended up not making it through the development stage, because I think the studio at the time was a bit apprehensive of it being labeled as a Christian film. Would it sell? And then, of course, The Passion of the Christ came out after that and killed at the box office. So it’s like, well, all right, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad after all. Who knows?
What’s been your favorite character to play in makeup and your favorite character to play where we see your face?
In makeup I’ve had so many favorites. I think it was Tom Cruise who said, “When asked this question, always say your most current project.” [Laughs.]
But in this case, I think that the Amphibian Man from The Shape of Water has to be my most favorite costume/makeup I’ve ever done.
For what reason? The look?
The look is so exquisitely beautiful, yes. The best body I’ve ever had. The best ass I’ve ever had! The artistry that went into it and the development of that look was years. Making his lips more kissable, making his ass more grab-able.
The look makes him a favorite — and the story line, the love story. Being the romantic leading male of the story was a new thing for me. And to do that without one word spoken with Sally Hawkins, I think the connection to the Sally Hawkins character, Eliza, in the film was another thing that made this a favorite, because I got to explore an emotional side of a creature that I hadn’t been able to before.
Abe Sapien came close in Hellboy 2 with the Princess love interest. But it was unrealized and unfulfilled.
Saru is also a close second because of the emotional range and the franchise I’m in. It’s very exciting. And he might carry me into my retirement. I don’t know. We’ll see. Retirement from creatures. I don’t ever want to retire from acting, but wearing rubber from head to toe — I’m not sure how long I want to continue that. We’ll find out once Star Trek is done.
And favorite character that shows your face?
My Name Is Jerry. A feature film written just for me. A white guy going through a midlife crisis, a middle-aged fella. Those are things I am and have done. So it was written specifically for me by a young filmmaker in the Midwest and we filmed it in Indiana, my home state, and it was just a really great experience.
And watching Jerry in the movie — he charms me. I can see it again and again without judging myself too harshly, which is rare. So he’s become a favorite human character.
Is it easier for you to watch yourself in makeup or out of makeup? Do you judge one more harshly than the other?
Oh, out of makeup I judge way more harshly! Especially when there’s bad lighting and I can see every wrinkle and bag. Or neck wrinkles, or the way I hold my mouth when I’m listening and I’m not thinking about it. You know some people have resting bitch face — you notice all of that when watching yourself.
There’s a rumor going around…
Uh-oh! I was young and needed the money! [Laughs.]
That’s all we needed to know. Next question…
There’s a rumor going around that you’re a Nephilim.
I’ve not heard this rumor.
It’s mostly in my head…
Oh, it’s mostly in your head, OK.
That you’re the child of a fallen angel father and a human mother, as they’re mentioned in the book of Genesis.
I’m a product of that, am I? [Laughs.]
Yes, the way you move your body, your mimicry, your extraordinary talent… Yes or no, are you a Nephilim?
[Laughs.] This is going to be a very short answer: no.
I had a mom and a dad that were human. They’re deceased now, so I have no proof. But Mom never talked about this “dad” out there somewhere.
Speaking of your body, which we talk a lot about…
Let’s talk about it, yes!
You have an incredible physique. What do you do to stay in shape?
Well, I have a freakish metabolism. I have the metabolism of a 16-year-old. So if I eat a lot, I will not gain weight. I burn it off somehow, but I also don’t have a man-sized appetite. If food is there, I’ll eat it all. If it’s not, I don’t think about it.
So I’m not consistent at all.
As far as working out goes, I usually work out out of fear. Because I may have a job coming up that specifically needs me agile or I need a certain amount of strength to carry a 50-pound suit around or something. So I will go to the gym and work out specifically based on what’s expected of me in the coming months.
Right now you’re catching me at an odd time. I had to get in specifically great shape for The Shape of Water. I was wearing a very athletic suit that had a great body on it, but I had to make that thing move like an athlete, like a true swimmer.
And some of the dry-for-wet, like the last scene of the movie where we’re floating in a wide shot, in a big body of water. We were hanging from wires from our hip harnesses and also being bobbed up and down ever so slightly, and again it’s a smoke-filled set, light rippling through the smoke, adding bubbles in it in postproduction, blowing fans on Sally so her hair and clothing would move, enhancing that with CG in postproduction… Anyway, you’re doing that and you want to act like it’s all real, and it takes muscle control and an awful amount of strength. So I had to get into shape for that.
And then starting Star Trek: Discovery shortly after that was like, “Well I’m just gonna keep it going.” I kept my workouts going because I had to look hot in a Starfleet skin-tight uniform.
But in episode eight of Star Trek: Discovery, there was a big fight scene where I kind of did something to my shoulder. So I had to lay off the gym for a while, and I just now started getting back into working out again with my wellness coach, Steve Atlas — he’s like mind, body, spirit wellness. And he’s been so instrumental in getting my confidence back because I’ve been terrified to pick up weights again because I don’t want to reinjure my shoulder. And again at 57, I want to make sure things keep working, and I don’t want to reinjure it again, because that shoulder tear — I can’t afford to lose the use of my limbs, because they’re required of me when I get jobs.
So I’m back at it. It’s a combination of weights and aerobic. I love the elliptical machine…
Do you do any yoga?
I’ve played yoga people in films. I’ve done comedic yoga bits in sitcoms and commercials, but I’ve never done specific yoga.
I’m shocked. I would have thought you had.
Stretching is also another must-do, not only for your muscles and tendons but for your arteries and your veins…
And your groin.
…and your groin!
If you want to keep a healthy groin, stretch it, stretch it, stretch it, I say!
A public service announcement from Doug Jones.
I believe in groin health! [Laughs.]
With all the crazy roles you’ve done, what are some that you’ve turned down?
Because I’ve done so much in rubber bits as monsters and creatures, a lot of younger independent filmmakers assume that I love to do blood-splattery horror films, and I do not.
I’ll put that on record.
Please feel free!
So I do get an inordinate amount of scripts, of the typical story of “We’re a bunch of half-naked teenagers, smoking pot and having sex in the woods and… ‘Oh no! Here comes Doug Jones to kill all of us one at a time in some makeup.’”
It’s been done. The story line bores me.
If I’m going to do something dark, or something with a horrific bent to it, I’d love it to have a redemptive quality to it, and that’s what del Toro’s so good about, and that’s why I love being in his films. He does explore darkness, but he also brings light into it somehow.
So if I’m a part of a story that has a redemptive quality, lessons learned, personalities changed for the better, then I’ll be a part of that. But if it’s just about sensationalizing blood splattering on the wall, or beheading people, or getting boobs to bounce on film while we’re running away from the monster, I’m super not interested in that.
Especially when by the end, evil has not won but wakes up to have a sequel. And that’s the formula. They all do that. So there’s nothing ever gained from that for me personally.
I can see why.
Now, I honestly believe you to be a walking embodiment of love.
That’s kinda precious. Oh, bless you…
That’s generally how I think of you. I’ve seen you when people are lining up to meet you at conventions. Every single person that comes up, you put your arms around them and make them feel so genuinely special. What is it that shaped that kind of nurturing positivity in your life? Was it modeled for you by your parents? Is it your faith?
Well, out of necessity for myself, I think. I have selfish desire in this.
Have you heard of the five love languages?
My two strong ones are words of affirmation and physical touch.
Definitely. I can see both in you.
Well, I did not know that. And I didn’t understand the concept that people can receive and express love in different ways. So as a child growing up in a household where it was more about acts of service and quality time, I didn’t realize what I was missing. That I had languages that weren’t being spoken until we got a family dog, and I was all over that dog! I would lay on that dog with words of affirmation, and cuddle and pet and caress that doggie. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is where I live!”
So I developed an allergy to dogs in my 30s and had to transfer all that onto people!
I decided that if I need to receive hugs, I will give them. I think that’s kind of how it started.
So I’m a hugger and a petter and one who cups faces, and that’s very satisfying in a selfish way. But I also find that so many people do not receive human contact that way and crave it.
Especially, like you said, when I’m in a scenario like a convention and meeting strangers, and I want to hug everybody if they’re akin to it, and I’ve had people in tears before. Many times. Big, lumbering guys with big beards and a pot belly, and I’m hugging on the crest of their face and they’re like [mimicking a cry], “Thank you, Doug Jones!” It means the world to me.
Well, I think the world is a better place because you’re like that.
Aww, thank you.
Now I think I have another question you might not have been asked before.
Ohh, OK, OK…
I hear you say “my precious” quite a lot…
I do. I refer to people as “precious” a lot, yes.
Do you really have the one ring to rule them all?
[Laughs.] No. Human beings are my precious, not a ring.
Being that people are your precious, what’s the best hug you’ve ever received?
I’ll tell you, it’s a quick answer. Mrs. Laurie always gives good ones, but when my hugging days began was at my father’s funeral. My dad died when I was 18. He was only 50 and died of a heart attack, and it was a big surprise for the whole family. We were not a huggy, touchy family. Love was present, absolutely, but just not that form of it.
That day at his funeral, my older brothers — I’m the youngest of four boys — so my three older brothers all hugged on me that day, and I decided, “Oh, this must stay in the act!”
And my second-oldest brother, Tommy, especially also said, “With you being the youngest, you’ll never not have the need for a dad, but you — especially in the phase of life you’re in now — if you need a dad figure, we’re here for you.”
So that was a hug that meant, ohh, [sighs deeply] gushy love, gushy love.
I was not a hugger before 18, but that day changed everything. It really did.
I was going to give you the choice if you wanted to end the interview talking about Kenny Loggins or Pat Benatar…
Either/or. But we can talk about both if you’d like?
I don’t understand you! [Laughs.]
I want to make sure this is an interview that people aren’t going to read somewhere else.
Well, you’ve done that! That you’ve done.
And I think we owe it to both Kenny and Pat, right? So let me ask you this. Who do you think has had the most billboard hits: Kenny Loggins or Pat Benatar?
Kenny! I think…
You said that pretty definitively. You’re right.
I said that because I’m more of a fan of Kenny’s than Pat’s. His music sings to me personally more than Pat Benatar’s ever did.
Since you’re more of a Kenny Loggins fan, have you ever felt celebrated home?
Oh, do I love that. That’s my favorite Christmas song! [Sings.] “Please…celebrate me home!”
I have been. I can relate to that song! And when I’m away from home, like I’m on location somewhere, and we’re getting close to the holidays, which has happened many years of my life… Oh, Kenny can sing that to me anytime he wants.
Well, I think it’s safe to say that your fans are constantly celebrating you. From the characters and creatures you’ve brought to life to the many precious hugs you’ve given out. It’s clear that there’s always big love for Doug Jones.
To see how ‘Mime Very Own Book’ was created, check out ‘Medallion Mondays’!