Another classic icon of horror movies is that hockey mask that comes to haunt us while camping! We lose all common sense, and run outside to face the unstoppable force that is Jason Voorhees. I mean, its just not Halloween unless at least three waist-high Jasons come trotting to your door with a bag of candy screaming, “TRICK or TREAT!” It may not transport any of us to Crystal Lake, but we all giggle and reminisce about the movie that made us pee our pants in our youth.
Imagine our delight when we were granted the opportunity to talk to the man behind the mask in Friday the 13th (2009), Derek Mears. We discovered that behind that mask is a charming and loquacious conversationalist. Read on and see the many layers to Derek!
Hey Derek! How’s it going?
It’s going well! How about yourself?
I saw that you are doing Improv tonight. Tell us about that! That is a side of you that I was not aware of! How do you swing between the horror stuff, the comedy, and acting?
It’s pretty wild. I’ve been doing improve comedy professionally since I was 17. I moved to L.A. to do acting and comedy, and because I have a martial arts background, I fell into some more violent roles. Being that I look like a cave-man thug, it helps to get cast that way. I love doing the “make-em-ups”, which is a huge risk on stage, and I love it love it LOVE it! It is all improvised. There is nothing scripted. I think improv is one of the purist forms of creations, because when you are on stage, and you are creating, the audience is there watching, you have this symbiotic relationship. When something comes out that is funny, I’m enjoying it, they are enjoying it at the same time. It is never videotaped. It is kind of a tribal form of creation, where you make a painting and burn it afterwards. Now that I’ve said it, it sounds weird. (laughs)
I just started doing a new show called The Resistance. It’s a show were we memorize an entire movie. It’s a mix between improv and performance art. It is very physical, and has a lot of fight scenes, we move around, build scenery, and we don’t discuss what is going on in the scene, we just do it. It turns out really well, because there are always many talented actors. It’s fun.
Out of curiosity, since you can’t go back and look at it, how do you know whether or not you are successful at it?
Uh…nobody yells at me after the show, and nobody stabs me on my way to the parking lot.
There you go!
That’s not a hard criteria: “You aren’t trying to kill me. Yay! You liked it!” (laughs)
“You will like it, or you will LIKE IT!”
(laughs) Right! In all honesty, hearing the crowd laugh. People will also hang out afterwards and have drinks. It’s very flattering. I’m thrilled. It’s very positive.
Nice. I’m sure that when you walk away, you feel good about yourself, especially when they say, “This was really wonderful!” Have they ever said, “This piece sucked, please don’t do it again?”
No, never! Not to sound egotistical at all. Maybe they are afraid of me, but that has never happened really.
(laughs) How did you get into acting? When did you decide that it was the path you wanted to go down?
Alright! Here I go! I’m going to wave the nerd wand. I grew up in Bakersfield California. I actually went to school with the rock back Korn, which was awesome. I was a different kid. I have Alopecia, so my hair would fall out. My body sees hair like a foreign obstacle, so it rejects it. So, I was the nerd that was into horror. When I was younger my mom would ask me what I wanted to do for a living. I would say, “I don’t know. I want to play with my friends and make a career out of it.” At the time, I was playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends. “I want to do this for the rest of my life. How do I do that?” So, the closest thing is acting. In school, I saw a show called “Comedy Sports,” which is an improv comedy show. It was the first one I ever saw and thought, “This is amazing!” I went and took a class where it just taught you how to play the game. At the end of the class they asked if I wanted to be part of the main company. They were all adults, and I was just 17. They were like, “sure! We get it.” So, I joined, and then started taking all sorts of acting classes. I moved to L.A., and with my body type I was cast as the star football player in high school. I had a minor background in martial arts at the time. When I moved to L.A., I found that if I worked out, I could be a big bad guy in film. So I started training and trying to eat right, and learned every martial arts style that I could. It started taking off. I was lucky.
Nice. You mentioned going to high school with Korn. What is your favorite musical genre?
It actually is metal! There is such a weird relationship between metal and horror. We are all fans of something, you know? I don’t think I’m anything special, but if I can get back to somebody and make them happy, I know what that feels like because when rock bands that I am a fan of will message me and say, “I’m a fan,” and then ask a question. At that point I go, “Oh my God! This is so cool!” and I try not to nerd out and lose my mind! (laughs) I know what that feels like, and I try to give that feeling back to my fans. I love to pass that joy along.
(laughs) I LOVE that phrase! Yep! That is fantastic. Nerd-gasms.
Do you have a preference between playing comedy or horror?
I don’t have a preference between the two. I’m a huge fan of the mythologist, Joseph Campbell. I just want to tell stories and create. I love it.
I know you’ve also done some work with Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. What about between Family and Horror. Is there any difference in preparation?
No, because I love acting in general. It’s weird when people will say, “You are a horror actor,” or, “You are a mask performer.” For me, it is all the same thing. Some people will say, “I saw you on Sons of Anarchy, and I saw your normal face.” Yes. I am a professional actor. I use my normal face AND I can do monsters. The preparation is all the same. When you get a script, you approach it the same, for example: with the Jason character, which doesn’t have dialogue, you look at it the same as if the character did have dialogue. Your script is your blueprint for what is going on. Language is only 10% of communication. As long as you commit sincerely to what is going on with that scene, you have to trust that energy transfers through the mask and is captured on camera. Even with a mask like that on, I’m doing the same exact thing. I’m not going to act with only half of my body. That’s not acting. That is called indicating, and is something that you don’t want to see.
I’m pretty sure that you and I have met before at a HorrorHound convention, or another one. I know I’ve seen you there. Those are events in themselves. What has been the most bizarre experience you’ve ever had at one of those?
Oh man! First of all, they are so much fun. If I’m not at my table signing, I’m at another table being a nerd looking at stuff. As far as a fan story, the majority of the fans are super duper cool. Some of them are a little out of their minds. I call the cable that I have up when I’m signing my “Social Shark Cage,” because I will say, “No, you can’t come past the cable when I’m signing!” when people get a little nutso. I do have the most interesting story that happened at one of those. I met a guy before Friday the 13th came out, and he came over and he said, “So, I hear you are a super fan of Friday the 13th.” I said, yes, and he asked if I had tattoos, to which I said no. He said, “Oh really?” So he turns around, and points to the back of his head (he’s a bald gentleman). He has a Jason hockey mask tattooed to the back of his head. Wow! I told him that he might be one of the biggest fans I had ever seen. He said, “hold up.” He pulls out his driver’s license, puts it on the table and slides it over to me. He had legally changes his name to “Jason Voorheez.” I told him that he won! He is the biggest fan I’ve ever met.
Wow! That is something else.
He then tells that that he knew what he wanted signed. He points to his head. I knew right then what he was going to do. So, I work really hard, and I sign below the mask with a Sharpie. I was so paranoid about it. I wanted to make sure it was legible. He went and got it tattooed, and came back to show me. I took a picture. When I came home, I told my best friend and showed him the picture. He said, “I get it, but did you have to sign it so goddam big? The hair on his head could grow back in, and it could cover it back up if he wanted to, but your name is always going to be on his neck.” I felt like such a jerk! I didn’t even think about that. I was so worried about it being legible and looking nice. We ended up hooking up on twitter. He’s a nice guy. We say “hi” every now and then. For myself, that is a wild story.
That is pretty wild! In the spirit of Halloween, I’d like to talk a little about the horror films you’ve been in lately, to note, “Compound Fracture,” with Tyler Mane. What was it like working with him?
(laughs) It’s so funny. A lot of people don’t know that Tyler and I have been friends since before the whole Jason/Michael thing. He lives only a block away from me, so we hang out all the time. When people see us together, they either recognize us and say, “Oh my god, why are you guys hanging out?” or they think we are angry bikers. It’s fun working on the film because I was really proud of Tyler and his wife Renae Geerlings, because many people talk about their own projects, and then never do it. I remember one time hanging at his house and him saying, “Do you want to fight me?” I immediately said, “Yep!” and he goes, “In a movie?” So, I was the main bad guy to his protagonist in his film. I’m really happy, because it will be out on DVD soon. He has a distribution deal going on. Before he did that, he did a special thing for horror fans, and he traveled around do appearances, like a road show. So far the feedback has been really great about the film. People like it.
I heard about it, it came by close to me, and people just raved about it. I also read that Friday the 13 part II is in development/TBA. So, what can you share about that?
I don’t know much about it. I know it was moving forward in development, and Platinum Dunes was talking, “We are doing a sequel, and we want you back.” I was like, “Great! We will see what happens.” Now, Paramount has all the rights to Friday the 13th, and they are moving forward with it. I don’t know what is actually going on with it. So, we will see. I don’t even necessarily need to have a part in it. I just want to see more Friday the 13th. I’m a nerd for the series.
I’m sure there a throngs of fans out there that would have nerd-gasms to see that one come back too. Nerd-gasms. All over the place. It’s kind of gross. Tell us about Halloween! Do you have any traditions you uphold?
Nerd-gasms! (laughs) Not really. People think that I must go crazy on Halloween. Being that I have to wear so many masks and prosthetics throughout the year, I dress as minimally as possible – no latex or glue on my face, like a soccer player, or a guy in a suit. (laughs) I’m usually out traveling or on a shoot, or doing an appearance. I’m usually not home. It’s part of this lifestyle. It’s hard to plan because the phone can ring, and you are gone. It’s pretty crazy.