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Set Visit: Interview with actor Derek Mears from Friday the 13th

Nov. 7, 2008by:

READ THE FULL FRIDAY THE 13TH SET VISIT HERE!

Go ahead and look at Derek Mears. You're terrified right? Well that first reaction couldn't be more wrong. Mears is quite literally one of the nicest people I've ever met. The man is grateful, humble, down to earth, and just fun to be around! So needless to say my interview with him was very enjoyable. Now Mears has never had a breakout role or anything like that. He's known for being behind the makeup. He's had bit parts in countless television shows, but does have a few movies under his belt. MEN IN BLACK 2, ULTRAVIOLET, CURSED, and THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 are just a few of the genre flicks he's been a part of. Well now, with his turn as the infamous Jason Voorhees, I'm sure Mears will be a mainstay in the genre and we'll be seeing a lot more of him, especially with all the positive buzz surrounding him. Mears awaited outside his trailer as we approached, already halfway to becoming Jason Voorhees. He had some massive prosthetics on, covering the top of his torso all the way up over his head... and he was loving every second of it!

Derek Mears

You haven't seen the full outfit yet but you won't see this. I have people, like people who aren't fans going 'Oh that's awesome!' Like youre out of your mind. No, this is the under, there's so many layers that go onto this. They're like 'Well can you move?' I got the 'Michael Keaton Batman thing' going on. No, I can move it just pulls the skin. People just pre-judge like, I don't know dude it's just giant.

Do they pad you up any more than this?

No, it's just I have a prosthetic. What they do is the coat is gigantic and the mask, and we have, which is really cool, like a bridle that has been made into a machete sheath, which is pretty freaking cool. With this they wet the shirt down so underneath Scott's [Stoddard] made this really cool, it looks kind of cheesy right now but once it's lit and everything, kind of bend of the body along the back. This side fills up a little more for a very slight hump. So it's not going to look like a hump where people are like 'Oh man is that a hunchback?' No it's not. But yeah, everything else is me.

You seem really upbeat. Are you having a good time filming?

Are you kidding? This is like a dream, it's the best ever.

When people ask, how do you explain to them that youre having a good time killing these teenagers every night?

It is a little weird. It'd be like 'So what're you doing Friday night? or What'd you do last night?' Ah I just killed some teenagers. 'What? What're you talking about?' No, it's hard not to squeal and act like youre a 12 year old girl in a school dress. People talk about it and you have to be very professional. It's been a blast. It's really been an actual treat working on the show. Just the cast itself and everyone genuinely likes each other for who they are. Nobody knew, like none of that Hollywood crap. 'I've worked on this or I've established this. I'm so powerful. I have my own TV show.'

Nobody really knew, well I didn't anyways. And everyone became friends and I felt a little retarded because later on little bulletins would come out. I never planned to meet anybody and a bulletin would come out like 'Ryan Hansen from VERONICA MARS and EPIC MOVIE.' And I'd be like 'Dude! Congratulations, that's awesome!' and he'd be like 'That was like... two years ago.' So I just felt like a giant dork. It's really, really been fantastic. It's basically playing with your friends. Or like I said before in a different interview, where you run around playing Jason and having Hollywood go 'Hey, your pretty good at that. Why don't you come do it for everybody else.' Like, what? Are you serious? So I'm taking my shot at it.

So you guys have a lot of opportunities to sort of goof off. It's not like there's no willful distance between you and say, your victims?

Oh no, no. We get teased. In the very beginning [producer] Andrew Form was at dinner and he was teasing me like 'Dude, you seem really really nice.' Thanks. 'No, no. Really nice. Youre going to be able to switch right?' I go yeah, it's called acting. Its fun because we'll do scenes, like [Amanda] Righetti just keeps making me crack up. Amanda and I will goof and she'll start doing this little laughter thing and I'll be like 'Will you shut up? I'm trying to kill... I'm doing stuff!' 'Youre being unprofessional.' 'YOURE being unprofessional.' Some of the talent, I think it was Danielle [Panabaker] said she thought it was hilarious that you'll switch into this really intimidating like thrashing things and throwing things, chasing people down, incredibly brutal. Like smashing people and cut! 'You ok?' 'No, no. Are you ok? Did I hit your mask?' 'No, no I'm fine. Are you ok?' And everyone starts laughing. It's amazing. It's been so much fun, it really has.

So Jason chases people? Usually he just walks.

(laughs) Not anymore. Not anymore. No. (laughs) No, for this movie they changed it around. They wanted to make him more human. They wanted to make him an actual character and not just a machine that starts to get into like zombie robot movements. They want to get into the essence, or like you feel for the character. You have sympathy for and understand where he comes from. Mark [Swift] and Damian [Shannon], the writers did a really good job with that. When I first read the script... I've been a fan of the serious forever. When I got a copy of the script I read it through and I was like 'Ah, it's kind of cool I don't know if they're going to do the whole reboot. Let's check it out.' And I read it. I got extremely excited and tingly and like 'I have to be on this!'

Because this is what I want to see as a fan. You have the intensity of the kills. Before they're really known, like your watching it for the unique kills. It was never really big on the plot or the character development. But with this one I was so excited because A. You got [director of photography] Daniel Pearl. The way he likes it, like TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. You know it's going to look great. Secondly, the characters. Each of the characters you actually care about. Not in the cheesy sense, like some of them would do comedy in some of the 80s films like 'Here's my one line joke! Ha ha ha this is where youre supposed to laugh.' Kind of bored with it. But it's actually well written comedy, the parts where the comedy is. But it's not overpowering.

It's helping relieve the tension in certain areas which is fantastic. But it's not like people saying 'Oh it's a giant comedy.' It's not at all. It's just little tiny parts. So you care about the characters and they have they're own individual story arcs. Which excited me was the characters, different times during their arcs, before they've been completed or they just start to discover something for themselves, they get taken out. So it sets up the premise, or sets up the game that anyone can go at anytime. There are no rules. That's what I really really dug about it.

As far as a lot violence, and violence in a horror movie. How does this compare to the originals?

To the originals? I think, in my opinion, it ups it. I'm excited because it's not just your stereotypical slasher where you 'move and kill move and kill the cat jumps out of the closet.' It's actually smart. As fans, it's seeing Jason set people up. I don't want to give anything away but seeing him, like there's something going on and someone does something and then you realize 'Wait a second. That's a f*cking trap! Jason just set a trap for somebody?' And that was smart. He's actually, you see him thinking. Myself, that's what I would like to see with where the character is going to go and that's what they're doing with this. I'm super excited.

What, if anything, would you say is the core of the character for you in terms of feeling like you could comfortably get inside of him?

In my opinion, especially in the script Jason is a victim in general and he represents victims. Anyone who's been teased as a kid. We've all gone through different stages in high school. I had hair loss, stuttering problems. The outcasts. The misfits. That's what he represents. That's what everyone kind of ties into and that's what I myself tie into. When I was younger I realized that he was a victim of society and the way I'm taking it is he wants to be left alone, society has rejected him. He's pulled away from them and now these kids come in to desecrate his area. He has nowhere left to run. It's very much like John Rambo in FIRST BLOOD. Where he basically is the victim and he has to fight back. People ask 'Well what's it like playing the villain?' He's not a villain! He's the victim. They're like 'Your kind of crazy...' (laughs)

Does Jason talk?

Not in this.

So how do you prepare to play Jason Voorhees? Like what kind of mentality, how do you prepare for that?

It's a mixture of father issues (laughs). No, a lot of the physical aspect of it, because this Jason is a lot leaner than the other Jasons, where they're a lot more bulky and slow moving. [Producers] Brad [Fuller] and Drew [Form] wanted to go with someone who was more functional. Someone who is still intimidating but leaner, who would be living off the land and running into the forest and hiding. Basically he's a hunter. So preparation wise I did a lot of crazy training. I did a lot of stuff called cross spec. Where it's just a full crazy workout and each day is something different. It's a mixture of weights and core training and it's all designed for strength and function. And the mental aspect, I did a lot of research on child development. In the script, where Jason loses his mother and sees her get killed in front of him he's like 9 to 10 years old when it happened. So in research finding out that when youre that age, what kind of process is that. And what would the child be developing and I found out that at that age he starts to be integrated into society. Where your parents get you in group sports or group activities so you find out that youre not alone.

So I discovered that he missed that aspect. He's already an outcast of society from looking different and being disfigured. His only connection to love and reality was his mother and he loses her, he never got the chance to learn to be a team player as it were. So just exploring the psychological aspects of that and different parts about serial killers research. Where something traumatic happens at one point in their younger life makes them not think clearly like everyone else. And also some research into wilderness survival. Like the psychology of wilderness survival and what happens to soldiers when they get separated from their platoons or the different stages and physical aspect. The adrenaline and then the adrenaline dump. The psychology of realizing that youre alone and what that does to you. And just kind of play on those aspects. You put all these ingredients into this giant recipe and mix it together and change it up. It's a lot of different aspects of the preparation.

Did you look back at any other different Jasons in the FRIDAY THE 13TH films?

I've been a fan of all the Jasons since before this. Richard Brooker from part 3, Kane Hodder. I've definitely done my own thing on where I come from with the character but I've added sprinkles of little homages. I don't know if they'll be picked up in the film at all, to them. Like one time in a scene I have an homage to Part 2 where I go through a window and grab a character. It's very similar to that. Or in Part 4 with Tommy Jarvis comes down the stairs and sees Jason for the first time. Like that slow, that Jason sickening head tilt. That slow look. So the meat and potatoes. Kind of like my, like I said before in acting there's like Greek mask work where the object is the mask and the actor. And individually they're two separate identities but when you put them together they become a brand new identity. And either one of these can change, like you can change an actor and it's a different recipe when you put them together your going to get a different outcome no matter what. To me it's like handwriting. Like how you guys make a B and how I make a B are totally different. It's our own style, but it's still a B. So you bring your own experience and your life lessons to do whatever youre doing.

There's the process then, is it very internal and emotional? Or is it largely technical? Once you hit the set do you just internalize all those things that you explored or is it something where you really summon all that every time youre in a scene? How do you process all of that stuff when you actually get to the set and youre on camera.

You basically kind of program it ahead of time. For myself, as an actor, my background before I started acting in general was role-playing. Like doing Dungeons and Dragons. So you basically have your character sheet in your head. Like this is how you act, this is how strong he is, there are different skills, different weaknesses. And you have that going in and you basically memorize the likes and dislikes. So once youre in a scene you don't pre-think what's going to happen. You improvise; you go along with your character like... it sounds so silly... like your playing Dungeons and Dragons. Whatevers thrown at you, you roll with.

Can you talk about your favorite stunt that you've done in the film?

Hmm my favorite? What would my favorite be? I can tell you my not so favorite but the craziest thing so far. I don't know if I have a favorite. What would my favorite be... it's so weird, there's so much crap it's all kind of a blur right now and having little sleep. Like up and down crashing with sugar. I'm like 'Yeah everything is great!' Cut to me three hours from now and I'm like 'hey guys...'

Have you done all the stunts yourself?

Yes and no. I had a double come in. If you see the whole body and face, it's always me. I went to get married during the middle of the shoot. For a couple of days I had a double come in so if you see like hands coming out of the floor and grabbing a guy pulling him down. Just his hands. A friend of mine who's been dressed like me for certain shots I do. Like walking shots of my legs and he did a roll over from the dock into the water. Occasionally it's like 'Dude, what's up with your stunt dude? That's a huge stunt.' Its like 'Shut up.' We've been friends for years so I guess yes and no.

Well congratulations on getting married.

Oh dude thank you. It's amazing. I'm excited, I mean I love working on the show and it was literally like I flew out, got married, and came back. My wife came out for like a day and a half. It was like 'Hey hunny! Okay cool.' We've been married for a month now and I haven't seen her.

What does she think of all this?

She's actually really supportive. She was the one... I had other opportunities before this for other shows. Before I even auditioned for this, but I knew this was coming up and I knew people were throwing my name around for possibly doing this. The other jobs were great, but I talked to her and she completely understood. So she was like 'Well you really want to do FRIDAY THE 13TH.' And I'm like 'Yeah but I have an audition and I'm turning jobs down like a leap of faith. I don't even know if this is going to work out. There are tons of people.' She goes 'Well would you kick yourself if you got it but you weren't able to do it because youre on another show.' I'm like 'Yeah that would suck.' She goes 'Okay well there's your answer. Go for it, I'm totally supporting you.' So it's a complete leap of faith and I'm so blown away that I'm here and it worked out. She's been really really supportive.

What is your favorite FRIDAY THE 13TH?

That would be Part 4. I like Part 4. I really like Part 4 because I really identify with the Tommy Jarvis character. I'm very lucky. Everything happens for a reason. When I was younger I had alopecia, which is like a hair loss with little hairs growing here and there. It fell out. It'd like fall out in patches and grow back in. When I saw the scene where [Corey] Feldman came down the stairs and had his head shaved to look like Jason, that's kind of how my head looked at the time with little patches here and there. And I was like 'Oh my god... he's Jason... like the picture of Jason as a kid.' And then I totally identified even more with Jason then I already have. I guess subconsciously that's one of the reasons I really identified with the character. Like it wasn't cool to be bald at the time so I was a weird kid. But everything happens for a reason so now, in full circle, I get all my work, a lot of it is from being hairless. Like the creature stuff it's so easy to apply the makeup and glue and it's really been an absolute blessing. So that's a good lesson for me. It seems like at the time there was a reason for it happening, so the flipside was positive.

When you were filming on location at the lake and places like that, did you ever walk around in the mask and freak people out?

(laughs) This is a funny story. There was one part where we were at a Boy Scout camp and at one time they didn't know what we were shooting. The Boy Scout camp had 200 boy scouts in these cabins right next to where the base camp was. Brad and Drew the producers came over and told me to go over there and say hi to the kids. I was like 'No way! They'd totally freak out plus they're Dad would pull out a gun and I'd get shot. And I'd scar the kids. Plus you guys are thinking about this all wrong.' Then they go 'What're you talking about?' I go 'What you do is you choose one kid. You go over, scare the shit out of the one kid, he runs back and yells 'Oh my god! I seen Jason Voorhees.' Everyone thinks that kids crazy.' They're like 'Your worst then we are.' I'm collecting comic books and the Dungeons and Dragons background, horror, sci-fi. Like Wonder-Con, San Francisco Wonder-Con. I'm like there are so many nerds here! There's this guy next to me like trying to run and I'm like 'No, no no! I totally am a nerd... never mind.' So I'm reading different blogs and IMDB and people trying to take pictures like blurry shots. I never answered your stunt question. My favorite stunt. My not so favorite stunt so far was when there's a scene where there's a dock and I had to burst through the dock.

I don't know how many times we did it. We did it the day before, like 5 times. The next day we did it 3 times. And then I'm like 'Oh I'm used to it.' Blasting through, so ready and action. I shoot up and my hands and my head go at the same time and nothing happens. I thought one of the actors had stepped right where I was supposed to go as a joke and I totally just gave myself spinal compression. And of course I yelled some sort of lovely creative profanities and all I hear is the other actors start laughing. He didn't actually step on me at all, just the board didn't break. So everyones kind of giggling and they set everything back up again and it's like 'Alright, let's do this. Alright for real this time, for real. Going through, action!' The same thing happened! Ughh f*ck me this is the worst. I just kind of sank in the water. That was the most painful. The craziest was the swimming in the lake. Absolutely crazy. I had this full gear on, the prosthetics which of course take on water. We're testing everything out, had the full giant jacket which you haven't seen yet. It's like a Frankenstein kind of piece together, bits and pieces kind of jacket. I have like this real chain, like pieces of metal. And I have prosthetics like teeth and its craziness. So I can't close my mouth at all. And I learned that even if youre swimming like this and water comes into your mouth that you have to push your cheeks together to spit it out. I'm scuba certified and I didn't really know that.

So I'm out at the little buoy and they have to pull the safety buoy away so I can actually start to tread water. The respirator won't fit in my mouth so I can't do any of that so they have this underwater shot of seeing me go down. Let's try it out. So they pull it away and immediately I go under. My jacket gets caught on my shoulders, I can't raise my hands so I'm doing this and I'm like 'Oh okay, this sucks.' I realized at that time that I can't close my nose because the prosthetics are on and the teeth so I'm taking in water and I'm like... start to panic. I'm going down and this is really bad so I'm kicking my feet crazy, come to the surface, trying to get the dive sign for need help. Can't get my hand up to do it and they're like 'We're rolling!' One of the safety guys was finally like 'No no! He needs...' Once again one of my creative profanities came out like 'This f*cking sucks! Oh man!' So later on we got rid of some of the stuff and tested it again and everything was fine but it was one of those 'Holy shit!' Like a headline 'Remember that time that guy died on FRIDAY THE 13TH?' That was a tough one to do.

How has [director] Marcus [Nispel] kind of got into you in terms of knowing that level of intensity that's sort of allowed? Obviously in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE it was very brutal, but is this going to be the same level? Is he encouraging you to be as rough and violent as possible?

He is, he is. He loves it... I love seeing his eyes become like a little television like you can almost see what he's seeing. He gets animated like a child. He's like 'No, no you've got to be... when you come in and it's ferocious! You have to come in like your attacking like an animal! Like a tiger, like this! Freak out!' He gets so excited. Some random things come in and out. Like there's this one scene, one guy was doing a death scene. I think they have a Marcus quote book, just random things that come out of his mouth. Which are little bits of gold and sugar. He'll sit there, for this one guy's death scene like.. 'No, no no. Scream... scream to the heavens!' He's yelling louder than the actor is. 'No no no, now they've abandoned you... THEY'VE ABANDONED YOU MOTHER F*CKER! YOUR ALONE MOTHERF*CKER!' And I'm trying not to laugh.

He's so passionate about it and he's getting the performance that he wants. It was wild. Actually in that same story I turned to Scott Stoddard in makeup effects, I was watching the actor who was doing the death scene who was crying and begging and I looked over and said 'Holy shit dude.' And he goes 'What?' I go 'This might be the first FRIDAY THE 13TH where there are some really good actors.' Because they yelled cut and the actor was still in the moment and still sobbing and trying to come back out of it. I was like this is really cool, like one of the guys got emotional and was like 'Hey you ok? It's ok it's done.' So I'm really excited a lot.

What's it like playing such a franchise character? What do you think the fans are going to think? Will they accept it perfectly?

I really don't know. Truthfully I've been blown away because I was a fan myself. I understand, I feel like I've kind of flipped sides where like it's a BATMAN movie or a JAMES BOND movie and it's like 'Pfftt who's this new guy? I totally liked so and so before, what've you got? Alright we'll see.' So I completely understand where the fans are coming from. I've been blown away by how positive people have been and supportive so far. Just people wanting to see the character in general, wanting the franchise to continue and be supportive. I really haven't seen that many negative comments. Never really directed towards me, it's very respectful. It's directed in a sense like 'I really liked this guy. Why haven't they hired him?' It's not like 'Hey this guy sucks.' I feel a lot of responsibility. I really want it to be good and what I try to do on set is... a lot of the people in different departments are actual fans of the series, so they're passionate about the project. I symbolize on that that they'll go on and clock in for work rather than just being at a job, even though they have to clock out they're still working on this project because they want it to be the best it can be.

I'll do something in a scene and I'll be really intense, so Brad and Drew or Marcus will ask my opinion on something and I'll be like 'Hey I don't think Jason would do this, I don't think it's what I'm going for.' They listen to me. And after I'll always double check, I'll go over to some of the fans and go 'Hey, in that scene, was that too over the top? Was it too... I want to make sure it goes strong with this.' And I'll get their feedback and we'll kind of have a big huddle. I do make my own character choices, but I always want to make sure at 3 o clock in the morning and I'm not drunk tired or something. I want to make sure I'm on the right page. It's pretty great. Especially like Scott Stoddard, who not only worked on the character but works on the prosthetics. So it's not just me, it's like 50/50 percent teamwork. It's like NASCAR where I'm the lucky one who gets to be the pilot but I have a whole team behind me who make the car, the headsets telling me what to do and what they see from a perspective I can't see. I'm hoping that they'll tell me like 'Hey you left your chin up here or you took your eye out of the light.' Like a little flicker and it looks really cool and I'll listen to them because I want it to look good externally and as well internally. So we work together as a team and it's been great so far, whatever you've seen on the monitors. I just hope it comes out well, which I'm pretty sure it will.

Do you have any other projects lined up?

Not right now. I've been getting a couple offers which have been really really flattering. My time after this I really want to spend time with my wife or at least a couple weeks to show and then get back into what's next. I've gotten offers before this and I'm like 'Thank you so much and I mean no disrespect whatsoever, I just really want to focus on this character right now and not think about what's coming next.' I just really want to take my shot at it.

If they did ask you to come back, where would you want to see the story go?

I don't know. I was actually talking to Scott about this the other day and I'm like what would you want to see? We're kind of playing hypothetical situations, of course we've got smartassy people with the whole Freddy Vs Jason Vs Predator. Just being stupid. I would like to keep the realism to the character and think about what would actually happen if all these people were murdered in a certain area over and over and over again. You'd think they'd send in a Special Forces team or something to investigate what was going on and take it to the next level. Where people are actually trained professionals and having Jason go and use the land to take people out, that aspect of it. I don't know.

Are you satisfied with the way things wrap up this time with Jason?

Yeah. You walk a thin line between something new and something old. You want to add... the question I keep asking myself is how far do you go? Do you go 'Hey remember this part from Part 3 or Part 4, that was really cool.' But then you want something new. It's tough. And truthfully right now I don't know what the ending is because it keeps changing. We've shot a couple different ones so I'm kind of up in the air. I am excited that Brad and Drew and Marcus ask my opinion. They're really really nice and know I'm a fan. I don't know.

Is there one that youre lobbying for?

Not so much right now. I'm really kind of... like I could see it going that way. I'm really on the fence. Like 'Ok, I can see that.' So I don't know. (laughs)

Alright, thanks a lot.

Thank you guys.

Source: JoBlo.com

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