Falling Skies has returned for its third season, as the epic battle between humans and aliens continues. Seven months have passed since viewers last saw the survivors of the 2nd Mass, led by Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), and now that they’ve teamed up with Volm and a band of rebel Skitters, the human race looks like it just might have some hope. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, the show also stars Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Connor Jessup, Maxim Knight, Sarah Carter, Colin Cunningham and Seychelle Gabriel, along with Doug Jones, Gloria Reuben and Robert Sean Leonard.
While at the show’s press day, actor Doug Jones spoke to Collider at both a roundtable and a 1-on-1 interview about how he came to be playing Volm leader Cochise, his desire to make every otherworldly creature he portrays different from the last, the two-hour make-up process, the most surprising thing about bringing Cochise to life, and whether the humans should be suspicious of the Volm’s motives. He also talked about how he started out as a mime, that he originally thought he would be a sitcom star, the 27 commercials he did as the crescent moon-headed Mac Tonight character for McDonald’s, the creature he’s most proud of, and his hope that there will be a Hellboy 3. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
DOUG JONES: I got a Facebook message from Todd Masters. That’s how it started for me. That was my first contact with this idea. Todd Masters is the creature effects/make-up artist that creates for this show, and he’s a genius. So, he sent me a message saying, “Would you want to do a series? We’ve got this character coming up.” I said, “Sure, let me know what it’s about.” That’s kind of how my jobs have happened, over the years. It’s been referrals throughout the creature effects/make-up world. The drawings happen and they see that it’s a tall, skinny thing, and they go, “Let’s get Doug Jones for that.” That’s how my career has happened, over the years, and this started no different. But, I’ve never done series television, in this capacity before, as a creature. I’ve done lots with my own face, as a person, but not a whole lot of creatures. I thought, “What am I taking on here, week after week and month after month? Is this going to be too much?” I didn’t know. But as it turned out, I fell in love with Cochise, the character.
Reading the first episode of Season 3, I saw exactly what they were doing, immediately, and thought it could unfold into something beautiful. And sure enough, over Season 3, it did. The relationship that Cochise and Tom have is an informative business relationship. They’re both leaders, in their own right, trying to make this situation better. My Volm character is trying to help the human character wipe out the bad aliens that are here, but we also learn a lot about each other, through the season. This human thing is something that the Volm have never encountered before. We usually have sub-species that we try to help out of being the poor little pathetic things that they are, and we expect to find that again, but we’re surprised that these people have a heart and soul that we weren’t expecting. They have what we keep referring to as the human spirit. That’s fascinating to Cochise. So, we end up learning from each other, as the season unfolds. Playing creatures, for me, is something that I’ve done for 20-some years, but playing a creature with backstory and layers and a soul is what I’m interested in. That’s why Cochise really sings to me.
When you’re approached about playing a creature, what is your thought process, in deciding whether it’s something you can make different from what you’ve done before?
JONES: Any otherworldly creature that I take on, I do want to make different from the last one I’ve played. What informs that difference is the script and the writers, especially in television. It is a writers’ medium, and the writers of this show have created a character that’s multi-dimensional. I had a lot to play with, to be Cochise. Physically speaking, when I saw what heady dialogue he has, and how much of it – he orates like a college professor, all the time – my hands always want to float up and express, to help the words come out of my mouth. That’s a Doug Jones thing. That’s something that I do, in real life. So, with all of that intelligent dialogue, the first time my hands floated up to help me, the only note that I got about my acting, the entire season, was, “Put your frickin’ hands down!” The reason for that was that he’s a strong warrior. He’s not a hand-waving professor. He is smart and he does have that kind of intellect, but he’s also got a strong warriors background. He stands with a strength, and without the need to flap his hands around while he talks. He doesn’t need to impress anybody, and he doesn’t need to try that hard. For me, that was a throttle back. I did have to take on a more subtle approach with my physicality, this time.
How long does it take you to get into this character?
JONES: With this, it’s mercifully short. With Hellboy, that was a five-hour make-up. Pan’s Labyrinth was five-hour make-up. With this, we got it down to about two hours, from head to toe, which is very forgivable. When you do it week after week and month after month, I was glad they got it down to two hours. My call times would be ridiculously early, if they hadn’t.
What were the most surprising things about bringing Cochise to life, that you hadn’t taken into account, before getting onto the set?
JONES: His strength of stance. When he walks into a room, he plants his feet very firmly. I also was not expecting that my speech would be slurred because of the dentures I had to wear. I had to wear alien teeth. Also, the costume was built up with such muscle. It was a latex foam rubber suit, and every time I moved, it would squeak on itself. What that collar did, with the blue lights on it, was never really spoken about, but the fact that Cochise speaks English so fluently, we thought that might be my translator. All of those components rub against each other and cause a hideous squeak, anytime I move anything. I didn’t expect that. So, what that meant was that I had to go back in and ADR loop every single word of the entire season. That was something new and different for me.
What’s it like for you, when you see the finished product for the creatures that you bring to life? Does it feel like you, or does it feel foreign?
JONES: I want it to feel foreign. When I’m playing an alien from another planet, I hope it feel foreign to me. Of course, I recognize myself in the characters I’ve played, and I remember being there and doing it. But, having see what I’ve seen of Season 3 of Falling Skies, I’m delighted by the reality that Cochise comes off with. He’s not from here. He doesn’t talk like he’s from here. He has an innocence about him, and a certain charm. It’s like an American going on tour in Europe, for the first time, and not knowing how to ask for a baguette in France. There’s that certain charm to him, too.
Were you surprised by his alien backstory?
JONES: That’s my favorite part of Cochise. Part of the charm is that he has his own backstory and his own humanity, but we’ll call it a Volm-manity. What an audience might be able to resonate with is that we all have our own backstory and we all have our own issues that we bring to the table. Hopefully, in this new world that we’re living in, we can work through those issues and become better people, or better aliens, out of it.
JONES: There’s only so much of that answer that I am allowed to give you, but I would say, if you’re looking at Cochise though the eyes of Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), you’re going to see a helpful ally and a friend emerging, out of it all, which I love. But, keep tabs on how Dan Weaver (Will Patton) and John Pope (Colin Cunningham) look at Cochise, and hear their concerns. As an audience member, you might want to listen to them, too.
At what point, in your career, did you realize that you had this brilliant ability to manipulate and control your body in a way that most people can’t?
JONES: It’s funny, I’ve never broken it down or even thought about it that much. I started as a mime, many years ago, in college. That woke up my body to realizing that movement, gesturing, postures and body language are every bit as communicative as verbal dialogue is. That background is what I brought into my acting career with me. Even when I’m playing human beings, I take on that character from head to toe, as any actor really should do. Add rubber to that, and add masks and heavy costumes, and that physicality becomes even more important. I do need to push through some layers, so that those moments, feelings and intentions are all being seen, as well as heard.
Could you ever have imagined that you’d have a career where you’re as well known for your creatures, as you are for yourself?
JONES: I never did, no. I never sought this career. When I came out to Hollywood in 1985, I thought that I would be sitcom star. I’m a tall, skinny, goofy guy. I thought that I would make a great funny neighbor or wacky office mate, in a sitcom. When I started going TV commercials, my agent at the time knew that I had a mime background and could put my legs behind my head, which qualified me as a contortionist. So, I was sent out for anything physical, like tomfoolery, pratfalls, armpit farts, or whatever it was. If there was costume work, mimes or clowns, they’d send me out. What started the ball rolling was that the first commercial I booked was for Southwest Airlines, and I was a dancing mummy. And then, I landed a really big commercial campaign for McDonald’s. I was their crescent moon-headed Mac Tonight character for 27 commercials, over a three-year period. That’s when my career took a turn that I was not expecting. I didn’t know that was a career option. So, the referrals came from there.
Do you feel that it takes a special person, like Remi Aubuchon or Guillermo del Toro to really understand what you can do and utilize your ability?
JONES: Yes, I absolutely do! Who’s writing you and who’s directing you, when you’re a creature, are paramount to a successful story being told. There are some directors and writers that don’t understand that as much, and make you just growl and swipe at people. Guillermo del Toro and Remi Aubuchon are creators who can make leading men out of their monsters, and that’s imperative. I think that audiences love creatures and monsters that have personality and human issues to deal with, that they can care about, and that help inform and educate the audience. We can watch a movie with a monster in it that has human issues to work through, and it helps us to go home and work through our own issues, once we’ve seen that piece of entertainment. Hopefully, Cochise will be part of that process for the audience.
Do you have a creature that you’re most proud of?
JONES: I think Abe Sapien, from the Hellboy movies is the one I’m most proud of. He’s near and dear to my heart. After doing two feature films and two animated features and a video game, he and I have gotten very close, over the years. And hopefully, we can do a Hellboy 3, one day. But right now, Cochise is my first love.
Falling Skies airs on Sunday nights on TNT.