In 2007 I got a scoop saying Jeffrey Dean Morgan had been cast as the Comedian in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. I ignored it; this Morgan was a nobody, and the scoop sounded like somebody just trying to get him some print.
Double oops: early reports have Morgan as one of the standout actors in the film. Watchmen could be a movie that really catapults this guy new places. Sorry, Jeffrey, I just had never watched Gray’s Anatomy or Supernatural!
This interview, which takes place on the huge set of Dr. Manhattan’s lab, contains some spoilers, so be warned.
Q: You’re playing a character who spans 40 years. How do you do that?
Morgan: My first week of filming is the first scene of the movie, the
Comedian’s death scene. Although The Comedian doesn’t die. You can put
that in your thing: we’re re-writing the script, the Comedian lives…
just kidding. [laughs] That makeup was five or six hours every day. So
my first day of work started at 2:30 in the morning to be on set at
9am. I’m more worried about being the 19-year-old, to be honest with
you. That’s gonna be a tougher makeup. But it looks great, the stuff
I’ve seen is phenomenal.
Q: Can you talk about that fight sequence at the beginning? We heard it’ll be extended for the film.
Morgan: We shot it for a week. It’s extensive. I came up here to
Vancouver two months before we started filming just to do choreography
for that fight. It’s cool, that’s what I can tell you. It’s a lot more
than what’s in the comic book, obviously. With no reveal of who is
throwing the Comedian out the window, but in the way Zack shot it, it’s
something to see. I just saw portions of it and it’s good. It’s a
helluva way to open up a movie.
Q: Were you familiar with the comic?
Morgan: I knew of the comic and had read parts of it, but I never
read the whole thing. When I went in to meet Zack I read it and I’ve
now read the thing probably 20 times. My dad is a huge fan and he’d
never heard of it even though he’s a huge fan of the genre; he’s now
read the thing 300 times. When I had questions about anything I call
him up and he’ll cue me in on what’s happening. You guys know it,
every time you read it you something different, there’s something new
that catches your eye. It’s an amazing piece of work. I go online – and
I’ve never done this before when I’m involved in a project – the way
that people talk about this, it literally is the holy grail of graphic
novels, and people are so concerned about what Zack is doing with the
movie, and what Warner Bros is doing with the movie. I will say this,
the fans are not going to be disappointed. We’re not going to make Alan
Moore look bad, or his brilliant piece of work. It’s going to be a
helluva movie; the scope of it…. You guys know, you saw some of it
today. It’s just huge. Seeing this [gestures to the giant machines in
Dr. Manhattan’s lab] – fuck! Who built that? The detail is insane and
Zack is a mad scientist, the way he’s bringing it all together. It’s
going to be something to behold.
Q: Can you talk about your approach to the Comedian as a character? He’s very multi-layered.
Morgan: On first glance, he’s just a really unlikable guy, but then
again you don’t hate him. You just don’t hate him. So the tricky part
for me – and this is a work in progress, we just started filming, so we
have a ways to go – the nuances and how to make him not sympathetic
but…you don’t hate the Comedian, even when he shoots the pregnant
woman from Vietnam in the face, you might go, “That’s a little bit too
much Mr. Comedian.” But at the same time, you don’t ever end up hating
the Comedian. So it’s a fine line and we have to find our way. At first
glance, this guy is horrible, no morals whatsoever. But at the same
time, he’s a superhero and he’s out there trying to do good. It’s
really interesting, and every day we just find another layer that I
didn’t think of the day before. When all is said and done you won’t
hate the Comedian. I find him to be the most interesting character, but
I’m sure every thinks his character is the coolest!
Q: How did seeing yourself in the costume for the first time change your feelings about the character and how to play him?
Morgan: You’re ready to kick someone’s ass, I’ll tell you that.
I’ve been doing costume fittings for about three months and yesterday
we did it all for real. We did a camera test yesterday, and I’ll tell
you, when you see it, it’s the comic book come to life. Mind you, on
top of the makeup I have to do, getting into costume takes three and a
half hours, but it’s something. The first time I saw myself in the
mirror I got the giggles. I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s no
resemblance to me whatsoever, I’m the Comedian, I’m Edward Blake.’ It’s
really exciting and it’s going to be fun seeing everyone in their
Q: When you’re playing a guy over the course of 40
years you’re not playing the entire arc. You’re jumping in every now
and again and just playing some moments from those years. Is that a
Morgan: Of course it is, but what helps a lot is the makeup
process. That helps in finding my way as an actor when I can look in
the mirror and see where my sideburns are and how many wrinkles I have.
I’ll put some music on my iPod from 1960 and start feeling that vibe.
They’re so good in each department that by the time I walk on to a set,
I’m feeling however old I need to be. I’m there. Believe me, when I do
69, I’m felt like I was 69. That was a long first week and I felt every
ache and pain in my body.
Q: The Comedian is killed because he stumbles onto the plan, but as a person, whose side are you on in this story?
Morgan: Well, being the Comedian, I’m going to go with his side. In
any character you do – especially something like Watchmen- if you’re
going to do this, you’re going to do it right. I’m fighting for The
Comedian every step of the way and there’s not even a question: Adrian
is a scumbag, not Blake. That’s how I approach it. I can’t see both
sides. I have to be the Comedian. And I am at this point, I don’t like
Matthew Goode at all. [laughs]
Q: What’s your reaction like being a toy?
Morgan: Again, you have to go to the scope. of this, it’s so
amazing. Who ever thinks they’re going to be a toy? I don’t know, I
haven’t seen one yet, but when I do I’ll probably get the giggles and
get excited and sleep with the damn thing. All this stuff… The
possibilities with this, the toys, the video games… it’s just huge.
I’ve never been near anything this big. It’s a monstrosity. You don’t
realize how big it is until you talk to you guys or go on the internet
and see the passion people have for this thing, I’ve never seen
anything like it. We’re staying so true to this, I can hardly wait for
people to see it. I know it’s not going to disappoint.
Q: Well, that said, knowing the following, it has to be intimidating for you coming in know there’s so much scrutiny?
Morgan: Coming in, when I originally got the role, I had no idea
how big and important it is for so many people. As we get closer to the
countdown of this thing coming out… right now we’re involved in the
making of it so we’re blocking out as much as we can. I’m ashamed of
myself for even looking at the internet because it freaks me out a
little bit. This is a year and a half before the movie’s even gonna
come out and people are already ripping us apart. So I don’t know if I
should got on the internet anymore and read anything because it is a
little intimidating because you want everyone to be happy. I know in my
gut everybody is going to be exceedingly happy, so you shouldn’t have
any doubts. All I can say is no one will be disappointed. But the
passion – I’ve never seen anybody so impassioned about a project ever.
It is intimidating, I’m not going to lie. The Comedian is not
intimidated, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan is.
Q: Of the stuff you have not shot yet, what are you looking forward to doing the most?
Morgan: I’m really looking forward to Vietnam. And also the
Watchmen headquarters stuff is going to be fun just because everybody
will be there too. There are very few scenes in this movie where we’re
all together and that’s one of the few scenes where we can all bounce
off each other and that’ll be fun. It’s such a great cast. These are
such great, generous actors with the exception of me. We’re all on
these weird schedules where we never see each other, so we’re like
ships in the night, I’m looking forward to those days.
Q: That ship in the night aspect must give you something to play in the ensemble scenes since you are sort of the outsider.
Morgan: Yeah, I like it. And that’s actually not bad for me to not hang
around with everyone because, as much as I like everyone, as an actor
there is a certain dynamic, if I’m not hanging around with these guys
24/7 it will bring something to the set a little bit different. I don’t
want to be friendly with anybody over the course of these scenes, and
obviously the Comedian is not very friendly to anybody except maybe
Laurie. We haven’t spent much time together except maybe at the
beginning -w e had dinner a lot when we were training. But I think
we’re all excited to see one another in costume. Literally someone will
be coming in at 4 in the morning as someone is leaving. It’s going to
be cool though.