James Duval on the Craftsmanship of Acting and Beast Mode Image

That’s what I thought was really cool. When I talked to Spain and Drew, I was saying “two characters,” and they were like, “no, no, no, it’s four.” It is four characters, and that’s insane.
What helped is Chris and Spain would say, “This is just a Huckle day. You’re just Huckle today.” Then, “This is a Michael day; you’re just Michael.” Then, “Now, you’re the monster.” Even with direction that simple, you’re like, “Oh, okay, this is what I’m doing now.” Having a full understanding of the characters, which, in a lot of ways, wasn’t difficult. I could go crazy with being Huckle Saxton and make fun of the people I don’t look up to. We’re all in awe of how they do so well and getaway, really, with murder.

Yeah, I was going to ask you this later, but how often do you find yourself in a situation where you’re working with somebody like that? Is it rare or not?
For the most part, it’s rare. I would say that may be out of 150 jobs. I’ve only experienced that a handful of times. You can steer away from it for the most part as well. Most people are pretty gracious. Most actors are really creative people, and they’re gracious, and they know that what we’re doing is fake, so they don’t fall into it. Sometimes, it’ll be some of the younger actors, only because they haven’t been able to differentiate what’s happening with them yet. Being treated with such adulation, and at the same time, living in the real world where most people don’t live like that.

So, yeah, for the most part, I’ve been lucky. I can say that the few times I was not as fortunate, I questioned whether I would continue acting. Whether this was something I wanted to do because it was such an unhealthy work environment that I would be willing to do anything else, other than acting, if I had to be with these people constantly. Because ultimately, it’s a collaborative effort. You all work together. We all have different processes, different ways of approaching and seeing things.

So, it’s really trying to work together, which is one of the things I love about it. I love that we don’t all have the same processes, so I’m forced to learn to work together with people. I think that goes without saying. It’s really about that collaborative effort in any profession where we can all win when we work hard and work together. I’ve always equated it to sailing a ship. We’re all on a ship going to the same destination, and I’m not one to mutiny. I’m going to do my best to get where we need to go. Sometimes you’ll have people who are not so conducive to that, and it becomes a challenge. It becomes a challenge for everybody across the board.

“…I was not as fortunate, I questioned whether I would continue acting.”

I can’t imagine because it’s like, why wouldn’t you realize how lucky you will be doing this? Like how does that go away?
I say that on every job. We could be anywhere else, doing anything else. I know some people look at me crazy sometimes because they’re not asking for a speech, but I give one. I’m like, “You guys, let’s make the most of this, right here, right now. We also need to understand some people would literally kill to be where we’re at, even for a day, so we owe it to them, and we owe it to ourselves.” If you keep that in mind, you’re always going to have a wonderful experience. You’re always going to walk away with something. You’re going to empower people, and people are going to empower you. What more could I ask for?

So, Huckle, we’ve already sort of established, is kind of an a**hole, alright? You seem… I don’t know you, we haven’t hung out a bunch of times, but you seem like a very nice, very chill person, like the opposite of Huckle.
I think I’m very much the opposite of Huckle.

Is there a kind of catharsis in playing somebody like that? Do you use that as an outlet, or how was that for you?
I don’t feel like I need to act out like that, at least not anymore. I might’ve when I was younger. There was a catharsis in the sense that I don’t have very much respect for these types of people. I don’t have the most favorable point of view of them. I can deal with that kind of negativity, and I can lighten it up and make fun of it. Because I wasn’t just thinking about actors, I was thinking about a lot of musicians, as well. Really, celebrities in general. It was my chance. Instead of scolding or trying to tell people how to live their life, I just play it. It’s like, this is what you should not be.

Were there any particular horror movies that you watched before playing this part?
Hmm, let me think about that a little bit only because it’s been a few years since we filmed it. I always tend to dive into whatever genre of film I’m working in. I’ll start watching a lot of television and movies revolving around that. I think it was about ’80s horror movies for us. I know I watched House and House II with Spain and watched House 3.

I watched John Carpenter’s Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China because you know we have James Hong in the film. I watched the original Halloween and the original Friday the 13th. You know, these are all films, to be honest, I grew up with them. I’m 48 now, so when I was a little boy in the first grade, so that was maybe ’79-’80. All my friends’ brothers and family were much older than us. They’d be like, “Oh, you don’t know anything. If you want to be cool, you gotta watch Halloween.” Michael Meyers, Jason, I was completely frightened of that.

So, it was kind of like watching it through my hands over my eyes and then getting this dark fascination with it over time. It was something that I was truly frightened of as a child that later on became something that I kind of relished in because as I got older, it turned from fear to admiration. Because we see them for what they are, especially as young children. You know the horror movie is just straight horror, but you start to see the subtext underneath it once you get older.

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