Published on January 18th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
The Character Behind the Character: Derek Mears Talks Halo, Friday the 13th and Movie Theater Etiquette
Have you ever wondered just who is behind the Jason mask in the “Friday the 13th” movies? In the most recent reboot, you’d might be surprised to find that Derek Mears, the actor behind that mask, found his break doing stand-up comedy.
Many seasoned movie industry folk often get their start busing tables in Hollywood or simply being in the right place at the right time. It isn’t often, though, that you get a martial arts trained 6-foot-5 comedian who is into sci-fi and action films. If you were wondering which big screen actor might fit that mold, well, look no further than this elusive Bakersfield, Calif. native.
So, where exactly is Bakersfield? Technically, it’s Los Angeles’ cap, or San Francisco’s beard. It’s right smack dab in the middle of California, the Central Valley California to be exact. This might seem like a distant place to most but it is a region in which I just happen to be a native to. While our stories are much different, Mears comes from humble beginnings which could easily be heard in his responses and tone during brief conversation.
Even though the time was brief, we did manage to cover quite a few topics. Most of which were projects that Mears has worked on in the past and doesn’t seem to be slowing down making his mark in on the big screen or the one in which your gaming console is currently hogging.
First of all, of course just a general question, tell us a bit about yourself? How you got into the industry and how you got your start?
Sure, sure. I am crazy lucky. My background as an actor…I would say I’m a huge fanboy. The rest of my career, while I’m telling stories, it involves: superheroes, comic-books, sci-fi horror…you name it I’m completely happy.
Grew up in Bakersfield, Calif. People ask me how I into acting. I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons. I’m like, “Hey, how do I do this the rest of my life?” “How do I play with my friends and make a career from it?” And acting was the closest choice.
I was kind of a different kid. I had/have a disorder called “alopecia,” so I wasn’t able to grow like hair. At the time was not “cool” to be white and bald. People think you have cancer or your’re like a skinhead.
I fell into improv comedy, and I learned to do acting and comedy. I have a background in martial arts also. I basically trained all the time.
I started doing that and it’s been great. Each year gets bigger and better.
[I’m] so lucky and so fortunate.
You talked about some of your background and how it’s shaped some of the roles you’ve taken. One I came across was that you were one of the motion captures for Resident Evil: Degeneration?
Yeah, we shot that in Japan, which was amazing. I did the motion capture for the main creature and also Curtis Miller.
I see that you’ve been a part of the CG Resident Evil series. Do you have any interest in continuing on with this Resident Evil series?
I would love to. I mean it in the most adoring way, I’m such a nerd. I would love to be able to do some other stuff, if that were to be possible.
And the new technology, with the motion capture being there, it’s ‘performance capture’ and is such a plus. They don’t have to break up the capture from different bodies, face, dialogue; we can capture it all at once and be in the moment.
From someone with a background in improv, I love to be able to create and do it all together. Also, like with acting, you can catch those spontaneous moments that you wouldn’t have if you were to break it up in layers.
Do you see any more video game tie-ins to what you are doing? You have that background, you’re a nerd at heart, is there anything that you’d love to go into?
Dude, I was super stoked when I got to work on Halo 4. The hard part is trying not to smile the entire time, you know, I’m working with the actors and their voices.“That’s…it’s just so cool”.
I would love to do more especially that they are hiring more and more straight actors to do video games. I’d love to get on Call of Duty and, just, “yes” in general — bold-faced capital letters, yes!
Out of all of your roles between playing Jason and moving over to Pirates of the Caribbean between those sets, what was more your favorite movie and favorite role?
I really love working on the “Friday the 13th” movie. Jason is my favorite horror character and, growing up, him and the Bigfoot in the “Six Million Dollar Man” gave me so many nightmares. It’s so surreal now being that I’m the adult and being able to don the mask. And, to give a whole new generation nightmares, is mind boggling.
I see that you’ve been to Comic-Con. Do you ever go to any events as the characters you’ve portrayed?
I’ve gone to ‘Cons before where you do autograph signings and Q&As. It’s pretty amazing as a whole. I love to do conventions from time to time, if I’m not doing a TV show or movie. I love the idea of someone calling, going, “Hey do you want to go to come do this convention.” I say, “What’s it about?” “So, we are going to pay you to fly out and have a good time, have fun with people with people that love the exact same thing that you do.”
What’s the downside of that?
The fun part is also for me, being a fan of the older actors that I grew up loving, having them at these ‘Cons, and being able to hang out and hear their stories. It’s funny.
There was one point last year, I’m in a limousine with Robert Englund who played Freddy Krueger and Lance Henriksen [“Aliens”] and they were giving me relationship advice. I’m like, if 12-year old Derek knew this was going to happen I would have A) Never believed it and B) I would have lost my mind at the time. So cool, so freakin’ cool.
I know we are kind of jumping around a bit; we’ve touched on a few things, but let’s dig into the Halo series and what you’ve been a part of. What did you know about Halo before taking on the role?
[Jokingly] What do I know about Halo? I know I’ve spent many hours back in the day when we had LAN parties at friends’ houses, yelling and cursing at each other about who was better. No, I’ve been playing the series since the first released. It was a treat to get the phone call, to go “Hey, your name was mentioned, would you be interested in doing this new thing we want to do with Halo 4?” “Yep, that’d be great!”
So, which game in the series is your favorite and why?
So far I’ve been playing part four — I’m digging 4. I like the loadouts, its customizable loadouts. The gameplay is smooth, the new maps, so probably 4 out of the entire series.
So your character [Gek] has quite a few weapons. His character is known to carry the Storm Rifle and Type-51 Carbine. Speaking in terms of video games and violence, what is your take on some of the most recent events? Do you feel like Halo 4 being a bigger game can be influential to a younger audience to a certain extent?
For things like [violence and videogames] it’s on an individual basis. When someone is mentally unhealthy, it is, pure that, they are mentally unhealthy. I don’t think everyone should be put in the same category if someone decides to say that the influence of a story or a video game, or the influence of the two made them do harm to others.
People need to take responsibilities of their own actions, and not try to scapegoat them by saying any ties of the media are the cause of that [violence] as it’s not the case, in my opinion.
Have you been impacted personally in your job because of this?
Not so much personal. I know they change certain things in films to reflect whatever tragedies have occurred. But personally, I have not.
Our website is GAMINGtruth.com and we try to present the utmost “truth” about video games or whatever it may be that we are writing about. What is your gaming truth, if you could convey one message that is the most honest truth about the industry you work in, or something that you believe personally, what would you say that is?
I think I’m the champion of being quiet in the movie theater. It drives me crazy. I can’t tell you how many times that I go to a movie theater and I have to get up. “I’ll go over and I’m like, “Can you guys please stop talking?” “It drives me crazy that people don’t have respect for other people, and we’re here to have a group story. It’s our modern tribe, we’re listening to it taking place on screen.”
My truth: “Shut up in movie theaters!” [Jokingly] You don’t know what angry, bald white guy is sitting next to you with anger issues.
A big thanks to Derek Mears for spending time out of his day to talk with us. To catch Derek online, follow him on his official twitter page, check out his IMDB information, or simply go see “Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters” releasing Jan. 25. For big time horror buffs, he also noted its heavy use of makeup special effects vs. CG inclusions.
I asked Derek one last thing towards the end of the interview, and that was to describe “Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters.” This is what he had to say:
“What evil dead is to horror, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is to action fantasy–with a huge horror element.”