DIABOLIQUE: I’ve always been interested in the nature of character actors, I think—and of course this isn’t an original idea—that character actors are kind of the unsung heroes of film. Was the idea of character acting something that you were always interested in, or something that you landed in?
Jasper COLE: It is interesting, I’ve always felt I was a character actor trapped in, well [pause] I didn’t always look like a character actor, in the first part of my career. I was kind of boyish, and kind of trapped between not looking like a leading guy and not really looking like a character actor. But, my work, and inside my head, I always felt like I was a character actor. But, I was lucky to work. I always had work. I would really say when I turned 40, about ten years ago—yeah I do tell my age [laughs]. One of the few actors, right?—my whole look changed. I sort of grew into this older, sort of grizzled character. I grew my hair my hair out. I grew a beard. I sort of just went with it, as far as I could. I wanted to create a look that would sort of separate me, give me a character look. Part of it was just getting older and part of it was a conscious effort on my part.
DIABOLIQUE: That is so interesting because, past the idea of being incredibly good looking, like a lot of lead actors are, people don’t really think about the physicality of looks in relation to acting. Where people might think that looks only affect those who desire to obtain leading roles, you prove that looks can even affect becoming a character actor.
J. COLE: I sort of fell between the cracks. I mean, for a while, I could play the college kid, the nice guy. But you know, there are good-looking guys, and then there is Hollywood good-looking. It is the same with women: the prettiest girl in your hometown is probably average in Hollywood. I’m not six-feet tall, but I wasn’t five feet tall. But, I was always able to do theatre, and that gave a chance to do more stuff on stage. TV and Film is really about branding, and really about typecasting. And, I finally realized, I want to get typecast. The industry needs to pigeonhole you if you want to be a working actor.
DIABOLIQUE: I’ve heard a lot of character actors say that, that they never have to worry about the next job. It is always waiting for them. Whereas, leading actors, if they do a movie that bombs they may not do another movie for a few years: people think they are box-office spoil. I think character actors are safe from that, there is always a role for them.
J. COLE: Right, and I always say you use the stage to really do your craft, and stretch. And, I am not saying that you don’t have to have talent to do TV and Film, but truly TV and Film is all about a type and a look. It is the same group of guys that all show up at the same auditions, generally, give or take a few new ones. Any of us can do that part; it is just a matter of what are they going for that day? Do they want the long hair, the tattoos, the tall guy? After you’ve been doing it for so many years, it really doesn’t come down to who was a better actor that day, because we all have a body of work that shows that we can work. It is so impersonal. You just realize, ok it’s Andy’s part today, because they want a guy with red hair.
DIABOLIQUE: What do you considered—I want to use the phrase ‘big break’ loosely, since a character actor doesn’t necessarily get a ‘big break’, so to speak—the first film, or maybe even television show, you were in that solidified that this was a career? That you were no longer worried if you were going to continue doing it.
J. COLE: So, I’ll be coming up on my 30th year, and it has kind of been in decade increments. I would say in the first ten years [in LA], the first break, aside from coming out from Atlanta with a play that ran for about a year, and that was a break, in terms of: I got an agent; I got a manager. But, I think commercials were really my first break, because I supported myself. Then, I booked a pilot, I booked small co-starring roles on Married With Children, but again, I had to keep my day job. I was a temp for almost four years at an ad agency. It was about six years into being here that I was able to book enough roles to support myself. In terms of character acting it was really ten years ago, when I started getting the ‘bad guy’ roles. It started with a pilot called Guilty Or Innocent? that didn’t really go anywhere, then CSI, and more TV stuff. Feature-wise, honestly, I would really say that it was with McGruber. McGruber was the biggest break it terms of a studio feature. It also gave me a chance to do more comedy, even though I had done Everyone Hates Chris, and I had done tons of comedy, before I made the transition in my look. But, yea I would say McGruber was the last change in the career. And, then more recently, I’ve sort of moved into the horror genre, with Hansel & Gretel a few years back. I think it has been in small increments. I don’t think it was one huge break, it has just been a whole journey of little breaks.
DIABOLIQUE: And definitely expanding. Rather than being constricted, and I know you said you want to be typecast, you are finding these different markets that you are thriving in. It is rare that people can cross genres so much. As far as genre is considered, do you find the comedy work more satisfying? Or do you prefer the more serious/drama work? Or, even horror?
J. COLE: I love doing it all. I actually believe comedy is harder. In general, I am sort of a much lighter, funnier person. People who know me think it is hilarious that I play these bad guys, because I am not that way in real life. But, my ideal situation, at this point in my in my career, I really want a steady TV gig. I liked to be 3rd, 4th, or 5th banana on a show. I’m not that ambitious [laughs] No I am kidding [laughs] I don’t want to work that hard, maybe two days a week [laughs]. I think that TV offers more stability. I would love to be like the ‘crazy homeless guy’ on 2 Broke Girls, or something. But, I’m lucky, because I can play everything from homeless to drug dealer, drug addict, cartel guy, you know, within the bad guy range there are a lot of parts.
DIABOLIQUE: Currently, you’re working on The Purge: Anarchy, and I think I saw something about Night of the Living Dead: Contagion film in the works?
J. COLE: Yeah, [Night of the Living Dead: Contagion] is going to be with Michael Berryman and Kane Hodder. That is from the same producer, Ewan Bourne, who also did Captured, that I worked on and is coming out soon. I’ve been able to work with them also on another recent film, Spirit, that we just shot. So, this will be my third time working with Ewan, and he’s just fantastic.
DIABOLIQUE: So, will this film be taking a lot from Romero, or is kind of a beast in its own right?
J. COLE: I mean, it is a little bit of both; maybe paying homage. I think it is more of an updated version.
DIABOLIQUE: Yeah, I see that it is about a returning vet, home from Iraq. So, it definitely seems to be tackling contemporary issues, which rightfully so it should be, not a rehash of a film that is entrenched in civil-rights era politics.
J. COLE: Right. I am just thrilled to be working with these horror icons.
DIABOLIQUE: So what about The Purge?
J. COLE: We wrapped and I think it is coming out July 18th. You know, we shot this in January and Februrary, and the turn around is so quick because they want to get it out so fast. James [DeMonaco], the director, was telling me, while on one hand it was brilliant and great that they got all this extra money to shoot the sequel, that he was still only given thirty days to shoot it.
DIABOLIQUE: I know that they have become famous for producing films that are extremely cheap, but still play to mainstream audiences, but that is impressive to shoot and release a film in about half a year.
J. COLE: And, it is a big film, in terms of production value.
DIABOLIQUE: You are just credited as ‘homeless man’ for the film, how large is your role?
J. COLE: You know I kind of call it a cameo, I mean I am thrilled that they are promoting in this movie, but I play a homeless man that throughout the evening of the purge people keep trying to hide because it is a big deal what is happen, they are trying to round up the unwanted. And I actually, literally live in a dumpster trash can, and I keep attacking and fighting all the people who are trying to get in the trash can. For me, it was just a real honor to work with Michael Bay, Jason Blum and James, the director. In fact, I just went up for a role in Jason’s new movie. That is what I tell actors all the time, you want to just constantly keep working with the same directors. I take everything case by case.
DIABOLIQUE: So, let’s talk about Savage Sistas coming out too, what is your role in that film? Is it another cameo role?
J. COLE: No, actually, Savage Sistas is really my first lead in a horror film. It is a brilliant concept, because you have four African American women that are leads in a horror film. Usually, they are killed off in the first five minutes—as my Black girlfriends always say, that’s not my quote, that’s theirs. These four strong Black females take a road trip, and along the way they encounter a cop—and also it is a chance for me to play a cop, because, I am usually on the wrong side of the law. But, of course, my character doesn’t necessarily turn our to be a great cop. This one is really an homage to The Hills Have Eyes, in a lot of ways, because I am actually part of a redneck, hillbilly family, back in the woods and we capture the women, and take them back. The beauty of this movie is that the four female leads really kick ass, they are really the heroes of the movie. I don’t want to give to much away, but I would say for me it was my first lead in a horror film; top billing.
DIABOLIQUE: For the final question, other than trying to land a stable TV gig, do you have any other short-term goals that you have yet to achieve?
J. COLE: For me, honestly, the one last thing I haven’t done is a play in New York City, on Broadway or even off Broadway. I am just in the works now of putting a production together, I found a play that I am going to be starring in with someone. I can’t really say too much about it. But, that is sort of my last thing, I really want to do a play in New York. That’s on my bucket list.
Catch Jasper Cole in The Purge: Anarchy in theatres July 18th