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Clerks II - Rosario Dawson interview

Rosario Dawson in Clerks II

Compiled by Jack Foley

Rosario Dawson talks about appearing in Kevin Smith’s Clerks II as well as why she has always been a huge fan of the director and his innovative filmmaking.

Q. What made you want to appear in a Kevin Smith film?
A. The donkey show. Hands down. I was excited. I was in. I’ve always wanted to work with Kevin. I really loved the first Clerks; it was something monumental for that time in filmmaking: new voices in filmmaking taking on the independent world. That’s when I really started paying attention to films for the first time, because it was right around the time that I made Kids [with Larry Clark] and decided that I wanted to be an actor.

So I started watching movies like that. And I thought all movies were like that. As I started working more in the industry, it was refreshing to see someone who’s maintained his integrity. As popular as he’s become, as many films as he’s done, as many big artists he’s worked with, he’s always maintained working on controversial things, having really smart dialogue, really growing as a filmmaker. He’s never watered down anything.

Q. Did you see his other movies?
A. Yeah. When Chasing Amy came out it was a really big deal in my household, because it was a whole thing about comics. It was a really big deal because my Uncle Gus is a comic book artist. I was so proud of him because he was a penciler and not an inker, because the film made fun of them for being a tracer. It was a big deal!

So Kevin has always had a warm place in my heart and I was excited when I heard that he was even interested in me for this film… it’s really striking to me. I understand that people just don’t know me personally, so they don’t necessarily see that I was reading the script and laughing my ass off and going: “I’m there, sir!” I was so ready for it, but it’s not necessarily something that you could get from watching me in Rent or Sin City, you know?

Q. When did Kevin come to you?
A. I guess the Weinsteins said they really wanted to have sort of a known name in there, because they were bringing back the old cast members and Kevin had a lot of sort of unknowns. It was a definite risk, coming back after 10 years to do this, and even the fans were like: “I don’t know, man, it’s 10 years later and it’s in colour… I don’t know.” And so I think they wanted a seasoned actor, and I was very flattered that I fell into that category.

Q. What was it like being the new girl in Clerksworld?
A. I had a really good time. I mean, I think more of a newbie experience on Rent, because that was such a real family thing – they broke ground with that. I guess they did with Clerks too but in both situations I really clicked with everybody pretty soon. We all share the same sort of sentiments and humour, so that helped a lot.

Also, my character’s a new character and the experience of being a new person was good, because I got to really enjoy what we were doing, even the homage sequences, like the nail-painting scene and the roof scene. But I knew we were making a whole other movie. Even though the first Clerks still totally stands up and is a brilliant movie, you don’t have to watch that in order to get Clerks 2. And this one has such heart. And that’s really nothing to laugh about, to some degree – there are references to ass-to-mouth, porch monkeys, there’s a Bollywood moment and a donkey show, all in the same movie! That’s really hard to pull off, and Kevin does such a great job – structurally, storywise and character-wise. And it’s moving at the end. It’s so surprising that he actually pulled at some heartstrings and made you feel happy – you’re, like: “I didn’t realize I missed these characters.”

Q. Was it hard to create a credible relationship with a guy like Dante?
A. That was Brian O’Halloran’s concern. But I really do think so. Because it’s about the person. It’s about the friendship. It’s about the relationship. If you’re gonna spend any time with somebody, they’d better be your best friend. And I think that’s a really important thing.

Q. Why do you think people respond to Kevin’s films?
A. He’s talking about real people, in real situations having real conversations. It’s only controversial because it’s in a movie. People are like: “Oh God, he’s talking about George Lucas! He’s talking about Lord Of The Rings!” I’m like: “Yeah, and so were you when you saw those movies, because you didn’t feel like anyone was listening.” And Kevin has the audacity to put it on screen – which makes it seem controversial but it’s not. It’s just real.

He’s honed his skills on it but it was always apparent – it was there in the first Clerks film and that’s what launched him. These guys were not your normal sexy protagonists, it wasn’t the most glamorous film – shot in black and white and extremely independent – and it still holds today as a really great film. That’s the work of an auteur. It’s hard to make a movie, let alone a good one.

Q. Are you going to become part of the Askewniverse?
A. I hope so! I mean, I laughed at all of Kevin’s jokes, I said all the crazy lines, I better have earned that! I wasn’t there for any of the cameos [by Jason Lee and Ben Affleck] but I think the fact that all those people came in was a really amazing thing and a true testament to Kevin. People really respect him and love him. I will always be a phone call away from Kevin. Always.

Read the review of Clerks II

Read our Kevin Smith interview