Emmanuel Itier: Why are you wearing a chain around your waist?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: It’s to beat on you if you say anything bad about this movie.
EI: How did you feel doing Watchmen, since it is based on such a successful and even iconic graphic novel?
JDM: When you have this piece of source material -- and we knew going in with the great script that the goal was to stay as faithful as we could to the source material -- being able to look at The Comedian on the page, he’s psychotic. Other than that, I found some similarities. I referenced the work and remained faithful to the character. I think that helped so much in making in a great film.
EI: Did you have a favorite scene in Watchmen?
JDM: The fight scene.
EI: How did you prepare for it? Did you get hurt at all?
JDM: I had gone up two months prior in Vancouver, and I went up to train. It was my first walk into the Watchmen world. We shot that for six days. I was very happy when Jackie (Earle Haley) and the rest came. I felt like I was the only one. It helped me to be less grumpy because I was hurt all the time. I’m still limping around. [Laughs] It was rough getting into that costume. It was a three-and-a-half-hour process. Actually, depending on where I was age-wise, the makeup could take anywhere from two hours to seven. Sometimes I got there at 2:00 in the morning to start filming at 9:00 am.
EI: Did the other members have to go through that process too?
JDM: No, not all of them. Jackie would bust my chops every morning when he got in at 9:00. He would just laugh. When it was 2:00 in the afternoon and I would go, "I can’t take this anymore," I would just look at him and he was laughing. Six months later, when Jackie was working on Shutter Island, and ended up spending an hour-and-a-half in the chair, he sent me an e-mail during filming saying, "I’m so sorry." [Laughs]
EI: Your character, The Comedian, is a very violent guy. What do you think of The Comedian?
JDM: All of us would be in prison or dead if they hadn’t found these outfits to kick people’s asses and be vigilantes. Of course, at one point, he kills his pregnant girlfriend, so I’m not saying he’s the greatest guy in the world. One of the most fascinating things about The Comedian, in having first read the book and reading it over and over again, is I realized that I quite liked him. I thought it was just me, but most people like him. I won’t make excuses for his actions, because I felt sympathy for him. He’s a very lonely man, and he’s a guy on his own journey. He doesn’t hang out and have friends. So I had to find the humanity in him that I felt he had. The most important thing for me was to convey that as an actor. I was fascinated and kept asking fans, "Why don’t you hate a guy who shoots his pregnant girlfriend or has a brutal rape attempt on the woman he loves?" I mean, he should have just sent a Hallmark card. [Laughs] So the biggest responsibility I had was to make sure that you didn’t walk out of the theater hating this guy.
EI: How did you feel about the way (director) Zack Synder cast Watchmen, without big celebrity stars in the main roles?
JDM: Great, but we were always nervous that we might get replaced. We just knew that the other shoe could drop at any moment. [Laughs] I’m so glad that Zack didn’t do the Ocean’s Eleven kind of cast. This film needs to be about the material. He hired actors -- maybe not as well-known ones, but actors that were committed to their roles. This movie will stand as what it is and not turn into a Tom Cruise movie or whoever else big they could put in this thing.
EI: How would you classify Watchmen? Is it a superhero or a comic book movie?
JDM: It’s the deconstruction of what we have come to know as the superhero movie or the comic book genre. I’ve been talking about this movie for while now, and everyone wants to classify it and put it in a superhero genre, but it doesn’t fit into a superhero genre. I don’t know how to classify this movie. I walked out of this movie the first time not knowing what I just saw. This film is really hard to process. It’s a real testament to Zack. He has been under so much pressure because the detractors have been many, and I just want people to see this movie. This was a big project. We are exceedingly lucky to be a part of it.
EI: Did you get a chance to talk to Alan Moore, the author of the original Watchmen graphic novel?
JDM: I talked to him all the time. We’re tight. He made it perfectly clear his feeling about this. It’s too bad, but I’m not Alan Moore. I can understand his contempt for how and what was done to his previous projects, but we have (graphic novel illustrator) Dave Gibbons, who is our biggest fan, and that’s pretty great. It took me a while to figure out how important this was to people -– especially Watchmen fans.
EI: How did you find out about all these Watchmen fans?
JDM: I made a mistake of going on the friggin' Internet. [Laughs] At first, I wanted to do research, and some of these people found out we were doing this movie and were ripping us a new one before we even started filming. I don’t want to say we were making the movie with the weight of the world on our shoulders, because it is just a movie, but we certainly worked under the weight of the comic book world. [Laughs] Zach wanted to make this movie for the fans of Watchmen, who ultimately embraced it. Our most nervous moment at was at Comic-Con, when there is our audience right there, ready to kills us. They showed a clip from the film and the air was sucked out of the room. Tears came to my eyes for the two years of work I had done for the film.
EI: Do you think there will be a Watchmen sequel?
JDM: Well, they never wrote any more comic book or graphic novels, but I can’t imagine that there isn’t a guy sitting in a little room at Warner Brothers working on one. But if Alan Moore isn’t writing another one, then I don’t see it happening.
EI: How was it being able to do something other than Grey's Anatomy?
JDM: It was great. A lot of the reason I wanted to do it so bad was to get out of the Denny mold -- the nice guy. P.S. I Love You. I did another movie called The Accidental Husband, and I really wanted to get out of that realm and do something completely different. In reading this, it doesn’t get any worse than this guy. I couldn’t dream of another 180 of anything I’ve played in my career. I relished every minute of it...except for the moments that were so brutal, even I had to step back -- wow, that was a lot. There were a couple of those moments, as an actor, I couldn’t make excuses for.
EI: Can you tell us more about that?
JDM: The attempted rape is one of the more brutal things I’ve seen in my life. I couldn't watch the footage. It was three days we filmed that sequence. On day two, I made a mistake of being a dummy and walked back behind the monitors where Zack was and asked for playback to see a little bit of what was happening. It took my breath away and made me want to throw up, it was so violent. I have to get away from playing these nice guys, and boy did I. There are no regrets. There are very specific reasons why I want to do these kinds of things. As an actor, you want to challenge yourself. It was a departure for me. I loved this.
EI: You underwent some incredible make-up work.
JDM: We had to age me quite a bit. I think I age from 18 to 70-something. That was a lot of work. You sit in that make-up chair for seven hours. I would watch seasons of every television show, during the course of making this movie. I would look up, “Holy shit, who is that old non-disgusting guy? He’s debonair," I thought.
EI: I have heard that your fans are looking forward seeing you as The Comedian.
JDM: I have a great fans. I’ve been very lucky with my fan group. I think my fan group is not going to take kindly to this movie. This is going to come as a huge shock to them. I got a taste at Comic-Con -- I have never seen anything like it. It was, at the same time, the coolest and scariest thing I’ve ever been a part of, just those three days being there.
EI: How do you think fans of the graphic novel will react to the film?
JDM: I feel this book has such rabid fans, I don't know how else to put it. The fan boys for Watchmen are crazy, and this movie -- and Zack is the first one to say this -- is for them. We stay so true to this. I don’t need to be looking at a script for this movie. There was one. Whenever we were referencing anything on set ... this graphic novel was the Holy Grail of our set. It was unlike any experience I’ve ever had, and I don’t think I’ll ever have another one like it. It’s brought back all these crazy people that feel the same way about the material as I do. I’m such a huge fan of it now. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read it, and every time I do, I find something else that surprises...some nuance I never noticed before. To be a part of it is just very surreal. The last four years have been surreal. This movie has taken it over the top for me.
EI: What else is going on with your career?
JDM: I’ve been busy. I have five or six movies in the can. I’m ready for a nap. Ang Lee -- Taking Woodstock; I did this thing called Shanghai with John Cusack; a movie called All Good Things with Kristin Dunst and Ryan Gosling... There’s a bunch of stuff. And somewhere The Accidental Husband is fighting their way out to get a release date.
EI: You must be exhausted!
JDM: Right now I would love to pop into my bed and sleep. I just bought this house and I haven’t bought shutters yet. The first time in three or four years, I don’t have to work right now, but the sun comes in my window at 6:00 am and I’m so mad. I’m tying T-shirts around my head and I run into stuff.
EI: Well, I am glad to see that things are going well.
JDM: I’m the luckiest guy in this town. Careerwise, having the ability to say “no” is such a blessing. It didn’t matter what the script was, I did it. I wanted to work, so I have a resumé that is crazy. I’ve done every show in the history of television, I think, and I never once said "no" to anything. And now, for the first time, I can look at project to see who's attached, who's directing, and I can choose, based on writing. It’s the first time in my life I would get a chance to do that. I’ve given up years ago. I thought I was a journeyman actor -- a blue-collar actor.
EI: What advice can you give up-and-coming actors?
JDM: I think perseverance is what pays off. It’s a lot of luck, unfortunately, and for me it was Grey's Anatomy. It put me on the radar I hadn’t been on before. God bless that show. If it weren't for that, I wouldn’t have gotten P.S. I Love You, and half the reason Zack saw me was Grey's Anatomy, because it’s a complete departure. It put me on the radar of those studios, and I’m on this great roller coaster ride.
EI: Are you going to do more episodes on Grey's Anatomy in the near future?
JDM: It’s a little hard to say "no" to anyone who gave you a career. I love playing that character and I love that cast. If I can fit in a couple and do them, I will. But for the past five months, I've been concentrating on Watchmen, so I’m gearing up for Watchmen craziness now.
EI: Where you a fan of the graphic novels before this?
JDM: I remember staying at grandma’s house -- this is before the term "graphic novels" -- I remember reading my father’s and uncle’s comic book collections as a little boy -- anything from Archie to Spider-Man, but they were all sort of one-note books. There wasn’t a dark side. Then nothing until Watchmen popped into my life. I read a couple. I read The Spirit and one of the Dark Knight ones. I’m fascinated by them. They’re quite fun to read. Even reading this -- the first day, I read it three or four times. It’s a different style of reading. But now I’m fascinated with them. My feeling is this is the best one, and I hope the movie reflects the talent that went into that book.
EI: How is your life different, now that you are a "star"?
JDM: I get to do things I wasn’t able to do. I get to travel. I get to spend time with my friends and family. I keep saying I’m going to take a vacation and some great script that Ang Lee is directing comes, and so much for going on vacation!