His return to Hollywood stardom after an extended absence was a rapid one, but Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, Semi-Pro, Watchmen) quickly surprised everyone by taking a role in the new action series Human Target. Playing computer expert Guerrero, Haley backs up the titular Christopher Chance, and Haley seems to be having a hell of a time. We got in on a conference call where he talked to us and the press about his upcoming debut as Freddy Krueger in the re-booted Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, as well as who he thinks Guerrero is and why TV seemed like the right idea.
Jackie Earle Haley: Jon came to me and I read the script and I just thought it was real kick-ass; I thought it was a lot of fun. I liked how it was just kind of comic-book related, that it was light in tone, that it seemed to be this really cool kind of action hero character, and I just thought, "What a well-written character." I loved the idea of getting in there and working with these guys on a long-term basis, and working on one specific character as opposed to like what you do on a movie -- you know, you do it and you're done. This is an ongoing process, and that's kind of neat. It's a different process because, instead of making one two-hour movie, hopefully we're making 100 one-hour movies.
Were you wary of committing to a regular series with your jump-started film career taking off?
Haley: It definitely was cause for pause to think about it. Especially with the movie thing tracking so well, and suddenly the notion of doing a television series, I had to really kind of consider the medium. The last time I looked at this stuff it was like the early '80s, and I think since then that the lines between television and movies have blurred quite a bit. I mean, these things look like little movies; it's amazing what you can do on TV now. Everything's probably a risk no matter how you look at it, but it just seemed like such a fun show; it was comic-based and I love that, I had such a great time on Watchmen. But it just really seemed like a wonderful opportunity, especially if this thing becomes a wonderful hit. I mean, the tone of this thing is so wonderfully kind of steeped in that '80s tone like Die Hard or A-Team. It would be just a great show to work on episode after episode and to see what it's like to work as an actor on such a demanding, ongoing basis, and also to get to develop Guerrero and to see that character become even a more integral part of what's going on in Chance's backstory. It's pretty exciting.
Guerrero is pretty mysterious. How much do you know about the character and how would you describe him?
Haley: How much do I know about the character? That's what's fun about this guy, it seems like we're kind of all learning it together. Obviously, we've done more shows than what you've seen, but this guy -- I'm coming up with more questions for him than we are with answers. But I think as each week starts to go along, we start to add a little bit more of Chance's background, and the fact that there is some event in his past that was quite a pivotal event that caused Chance to kind of go from one side to another, and I think Guerrero was a part of that. That holds a lot of interest for me; I definitely know that Guerrero has worked on the dark side of things and now he's working on the more righteous side of things with Chance, but what's neat about Guerrero is you never really quite know where his loyalties lie. It's really fun riding that line with the writers. I don't think we want to get to those answers real quick; I think it's fun kind of exploring the multi-dimensionality of this guy, and seeing where it leads and who he is -- what makes him tick.
Is revealing the three characters' backstories a priority for the show?
Haley: Yes, I think that to us from the very beginning, the backstory of these three guys was important -- not just as a mystery for its own sake, but it defines where they came from, and their shared experience defines their relationships now. I think what was interesting to us was that they all share this one traumatic, very big, mythic experience between the three of them. It was interesting to us to see how that rippled through their relationships currently. I think before the end of this season, you're going to learn a lot more about them and a lot more about that event.
So far, Guerrero has been very much a character who operates from his intelligence, but this being an action series, will he get a chance to mix it up a little bit physically?
Jonathan Steinberg (exec. producer): I would say, without giving anything away, there's a lot more to Guerrero than you've seen yet. I'll leave it at that, but there's some really fun stuff we have planned for the end of the season with him, and I think that where you met him as a guy who is -- you're not quite sure what he's capable of; I think he's capable of quite a bit more than you've seen.
Haley: Just wait until you see the master juggling episode.
Steinberg: Right, exactly.
Haley: I'm really excited about that.
Steinberg: Buzz saws and torches.
Jackie, what's with all these DC Comics properties in your resume? You did Watchmen, you're doing Human Target, and you were briefly linked to Green Lantern.
Haley: I purchased some stock in the DC Universe. I don't know; I guess I got some good buddies over at DC. It's just -- it's awesome; DC comics are awesome. Yes, some of it's -- I can't even say, it's not coincidence. I guess the DC guys kind of thought of me for this after Watchmen. After Watchmen, I really started to kind of get into the comic book world; I'm still nowhere near the fan that some of the fanboys are, but after reading Watchmen, I kind of went on an Alan Moore jag, as well as reading a few others, and I'm still poking around through some comics.
One of your biggest roles so far since your return had you behind a mask for most of the movie. And in the upcoming Nightmare on Elm Street, you've got makeup on for most of the film. Is it good to be acting with your own face, or does wearing a mask or makeup help you really embody a character?
Haley: Wearing the mask for Rorschach definitely helped to embody the character. Wearing the makeup for Freddy was grueling. It was so arduous and uncomfortable. It was a great experience, but at the same time, it was pretty harrowing in terms of the makeup. But I would take all of that uncomfortable feeling and hand it off to the character between "action" and "cut." We were doing some re-shoots over the Christmas holidays, and I have to tell you, in the middle of doing those re-shoots, I started to miss Guerrero. I really did. Getting into makeup for Guerrero versus getting into makeup for Freddy is like night and day. It made Guerrero just seem all that much more pleasant.
Steinberg: That's when we abandoned this fire Guerrero goes through for season two.
You've played some very dark characters, with morally questionable backgrounds. What about that kind of conflicting character is particularly attractive for you to explore?
Haley: I think part of it's a function of, you do a few pieces of work and then people like to gravitate towards a similar type of character. So what I've been doing is trying to kind of find diversity within those types of characters. There's definitely something very interesting to me about troubled souls and unhinged characters like that. But at the same time, I try to find the differences. There's definitely similarities to characters like Ronnie or Rorschach or Freddy or Guerrero, and yet there's huge differences in the approach and demeanor, and how these guys are, what they're about. So that's kind of what I look for; stuff that I can kind of sink my teeth into and find some diversity in.
Are there any notable guest stars coming up in the next few weeks?
Steinberg: Last week, our big guest star was Emmanuelle Vaugier (Smallville), who's a lot of fun, and she's hopefully going to be a part of an ongoing relationship that you saw teased at the end of the episode. After that, there's a fun cameo -- not really a cameo, it's a smaller role, but it was a lot of fun for us. We're all big X-Files fans here, so there's an actor who played a big role in that show, who we were able to get and come play a fun role for us in an episode called "Run" that airs next week. Autumn Reeser (The O.C.) came on to do a show, and Mitch Pileggi (X-Files), and Kevin Wiseman from Alias, who's great, and who is just so much fun. So there's a lot of fun coming down the pipe.
Human Target airs tonight and every Wednesday night at 9/8C on Fox.
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