Jamie Kennedy is the brightest young comic actor rising through Hollywod’s ranks, yet in Son of the Mask, Kennedy plays straight man to Alan Cumming and a plethora of special effects, from talking babies and beyond, in the wild and crazy sequel of sorts to the film that helped turn Jim Carrey into a superstar. Can lightning strike twice? The young actor only has a few days to find out. Garth Franklin caught up with the amiable actor in Los Angeles.
Kennedy: Are you English?
Question: Australian, actually mate.
Kennedy: You are? I did some time there.
Question: I know. In jail? I heard they wouldn’t let you into the bars because you always looked drunk?
Kennedy: Did you hear that? Well, first of all I’m a very relaxed person because on camera I’m crazy. So I’m always low key, you know, and so people think I’m on drugs, but I don’t do drugs. But they just hate us. They don’t like American’s down there. I would wear my Lakers jersey and they would like, Piss off. So I started wearing rugby jerseys.
Question: Did you enjoy the experience of filming in Australia?
Kennedy: You mean Australia? It’s interesting. It’s an interesting culture. It has its ups and downs, I’m going to be honest with you. Australia is like this. I love Brisbane. I love Melbourne. I love the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast is amazing. Sydney? Ah, not that much. And people tell me not to say that. People say I hope you get a root.
Question: Did you? Do you know what that means?
Kennedy: I did.
Question: You play the straight man throughout this whole movie. Was that a challenge or a change up for you?
Kennedy: Yes it was and that’s why I wanted to do it.
Question: Because I was waiting for you to go off and you never did.
Kennedy: I know. Well I wanted to be the straight guy and see something different, a world where everything is happening to me and see if I could make that work.
Question: How reticent were you to take on a role that was made famous by Jim Carrey?
Kennedy: No, this was a sequel to the Eric Stoltz/Cher “Mask.” It was incredibly crazy and I questioned it many times because it’s Jim Carrey. How can you do what he did? You don’t. So Larry assured me it was going to be a different movie and it’s pretty different. I rarely wear the mask. It’s more about everyone getting a piece of the insanity, so that made me feel pretty good.
Question: For years they were after him (Carrey) to do a sequel to the Mask and to Dumb and Dumber but he seems like the kind of guy that although he didn’t want to do it, he’d be cool with whoever ended up with it. Did you ever meet him or discuss this with him?
Kennedy: I actually did. I met him at the Teen Choice Awards and he had known about it and he was totally cool. He was like, go. Do it. Make it your own. You’re gonna be great. He was very cool. Jim Carrey. He’s brilliant.
Question: Any advice for you on what to do when you had the mask on?
Kennedy: No. He just said go. Do it. Be happy. And when I got that I was happy so I ran away.
Question: You are the straight guy surrounded by special effects. What are the challenges in working all that time in isolation or relying on what the special effects guys do later?
Kennedy: It’s crazy. I’ve never done anything like that in my life. I, personally, think you an act by yourself. It’s not a big deal. Some people need to have other actors around them but I have no problem acting to a screen or acting to a stick because I when look in the mirror and rehearse stuff I do it all the time to see how it looks. It’s not that weird for me. But it’s crazy because you have to gauge your emotions to what you think it is going to be. But the animators are brilliant so they’ll make it into what they need, but sometimes after you see it you just hope you were reactionary enough. But I think it came together very nicely.
Question: Did it ever dawn on you one day when you got to the set that the director can say, this is a scene where you’re going to be thrown on you head and aliens are going to pull down you pants or something like that. He could make up anything he wanted to.
Kennedy: Actually, the hardest thing to get out of me was with the babies. With the big stuff, I had a vision of what he wanted because he described it really well. Then they’d have me do this intense scene at 7 in the morning. Who can act at 7 in the morning? They’re asking me to be really connected and I’d say it’s 7. I’m tired. I stayed out really late. And Larry would say, “Dude, they took your baby. Do you know what it’s like to have a baby? I have three babies.” I don’t have any babies. “They took your dog.” I don’t have a dog. Then Ashton Kutcher just got this part. And I’d be. “What? Where is he?” That’s how he’d get me.
Question: You did a rap scene in the movie. Did you have flashbacks to “Malibu’s Most Wanted?”
Kennedy: I was trying to not do a rap. That’s B-Rad. But they convinced me it would be fun for the kids so I did it. It’s kind of like the Mask’s voice mixed with my voice.
Question: You’re a producer now, producing a television series with Fran Drescher. How un-“Nanny” is she?
Kennedy: It’s very un-Nannyish. I mean you can’t kill Fran. She’s always gonna be (imitates her laugh). She’s always gonna have that. But it’s going to be her, an older woman, having a relationship with a younger man. The younger guy is a guy named Ryan McPartlin, a good looking guy from the show called Passions. And then it’s really about him and her and her son, who is 23 – the same age as the boyfriend – and how the son has to deal with this.
Question: So it’s a drama.
Kennedy: Yeah right. But it’s a big thing, woman going out with younger men.
Question: Why did you decide to produce this and not be involved as an actor?
Kennedy: Because it was a story that I wanted to tell. It happened to me. I wasn’t the guy going out; I was the guy living there. In the show you’ll see a guy who is living in the closet. That was me. I was living in a house with a woman who was going out with a guy who was my friend, we were both 22 at the time. She had a daughter and a son. They didn’t have any other rooms so I live in the closet, a big closet with a futon. And I thought it was a good story and we should tell it. Some things I just don’t want to act in.
Question: What did you like most about your character in the movie?
Kennedy: I like the quiet scenes because the movie gets so crazy I like the scenes where I didn’t have to be so crazy. As a person I liked his ability to really not want the baby and not know what to do with it and then somehow be able to understand it and raise it. There’s a big difference between the two.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about the character that doesn’t appear in the movie? I’ve heard you play a southern woman.
Kennedy: We did the scene where Alan went to a pet shop to make a special potion and I played a Jamaican woman. I was in make-up for like 5 hours to become this 300 pond Jamaican woman. And Alan said, I need a parrot beak and I’d be like What you need a beak for That’s not right. You need to buy the whole bird. It was a lot of funny stuff, unfortunately it got cut. But it will be on the DVD.
Question: How do you establish the bounds between your TV and your film career? Are you trying to do one more than the other?
Kennedy: Ultimately, I think everybody in Hollywood wants to be a film star so I wouldn’t mind doing that. But television is great. And if the right thing comes along I’d do it. I want to produce things, too, because I think there are a lot of good ideas out there.
Question: Any other movies coming out for you?
Kennedy: I’m looking at a couple of things right now and seeing which one works.
Question: It seems like the real strengths for you are in mimicry.
Kennedy: I can cry. I can cry, bro. Don’t sell me short.
Question: Which did you think was a better co-star, the dog or the babies?
Kennedy: Interesting. Well, I’ll let you decide. When you are doing the scene with the dog, the dog hits his mark and is very trained, but you have a guy standing behind the scenes saying, Come on Bear. Hit that mark, get up on there. It’s very distracting. Then you do a scene with the baby and he’s very sweet, ten all of a sudden he’ll start crying.
Question: So, no accidents with the baby?
Kennedy: No, but I would do scenes with him and I would feel his bottom getting warm. And I’d be like, that’s out of character.
Question: You imitated the bear handler, too.
Kennedy: That’s him — ‘Go on Bear. Get that.’ Steve is a brilliant man.
Question: Did the dog ever get you two confused?
Kennedy: I think so. The dog is brilliant, and he had Steve telling him what to do and me in the scene kind of doing it, too. But I always had turkey hidden on my body so when he did what I said I’d start slipping him stuff.
Question: If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
Kennedy: Probably still working at Domino’s, managing it.
Question: No, if you could do anything?
Kennedy: If I could do anything? I can’t say it because this is a family movie. Can I say it? Is this for family publications? I think probably porn because there are no funny guys in porn.
Question: Do you have what it takes to be a porn star?
Kennedy: I don’t know. I’m a grower not a shower. But seriously, this is a family film.
Question: But seriously if you were offered that opportunity, would you do it?
Kennedy: A porno movie? No I’m not going to do a porno movie.although it’s done wonderful things for Paris’ career.
Question: Were you always good at imitations?
Kennedy: I used to imitate my mom’s friends. My mom had all these old ladies over for dinner parties every week. She had a very eclectic group of friends. She had an English friend, a Danish friend. It was like a red hat society. I used to run around and imitate them and they thought it was cute, but I never knew t would be a career.
Question: Where are you from?
Kennedy: I’m from Philly. Go Eagles.
Question: When did you move to LA?
Kennedy: When I was 18. As soon as I graduated High School.
Question: Did you know when you graduated form high school that this is what you wanted to do with your life?
Kennedy: I had no direction. I had nothing. I had no idea. I was just a robot in the system. I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I was an altar boy. I did that. I did the novenas and confessions. I was in church all the time. My mother said if you don’t go to church you’re not living here so we had to do it. I was raised by nuns. So when I came out here I decided I wanted to be an actor because I’d done some classes in Philly and done well and people encouraged me, so I said this is what I want to do. I didn’t go to college. Trying to be an actor coming out of Philly is like saying you want to go to the moon. It’s a bizarre concept.
Question: Is it a surprise to you that you’ve been as successful as you have?
Kennedy: I’ve been very fortunate and lucky. I’ve worked hard, but I’ve been lucky. One of the things that helped me was that I’d read of other people from Philly that had made it, like Kevin Bacon and Bill Cosby and Will Smith. I’d read all these things and say well they grew up not to far from where I grew up so maybe I should give it a try. It was very inspiring. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had some breaks.
Question: How did that first big break happen? You’re off the boat from Philly. You’re in LA. What happened?
Kennedy: The very first big break I had was a Larry Parker commercial. He’s a big guy. He’s one of those lawyers who chases ambulances. So my friend got the audition, but he’d left LA. So I called and said, well, he’s not here but I’m here. So I went down and did the audition and got it. I didn’t have any lines. It was a non-union gig, but I was the guy that when the car was hit I had to go, OH! Then Larry came in and says, “You’ve been hurt!”
Question: What is your dream role? Is it a comedy? Do you want to do drama?
Kennedy: Dream role or dream career?
Kennedy: I’m going to say something that sounds controversial to some people, but Robert Downey Jr. is one of the greatest actors in Hollywood. Take away the fact that he’s friendly with black tar heroin and other drugs, but he is a brilliant actor. If he didn’t do drugs, he could do any type of role. His acting is something to aspire to. I think Jamie Foxx is amazing. I’ve known he was a great actor for years because I would see him in the comedy clubs. He would do insane impressions and he can sing his ass off. So I would like to be able to morph and do things like that. But my dream role.everybody is doing biopics, but I would like to do a biopic of David Lee Roth. Because he’s a really great entertainer. Not many people know his story but it’s pretty interesting. And I also want to do Ozzy, but Colin Farrell’s going to get it because he’s a funny little leprechaun. Did I say that?
Question: What about a straight drama? Is there a dramatic role you’d like to do?
Kennedy: Sure. Actually there’s a great story that Ben Stiller has the rights to and it’s brilliant. It’s called What Makes Sammy Run. That was one book that I said Man I would love to play Sammy.
Question: That’s the great unproduced script. That book’s been around since the 30s.
Kennedy: It’s brilliant. And sure I want to be dramatic, but I don’t want to be one of those comedians that says he needs to be dramatic, but I’d love to. I have a dark side.
Question: I think you’d be very interesting. I think comedians make better dramatic actors because they know truth. Truth is funny. That’s why Jamie Foxx is having such a great way.
Kennedy: I think maybe I’d be able to get away with something if I was successful in a Jack Nicholson-esque role, like The Shining because all comedians border on that. They all have that ability to get psycho. And I though he was so brilliant in that because he was also funny so they might allow a comedian to do something like that. It’s all about what Hollywood lets you do.