John Tucker Must Die - Jesse Metcalfe interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
FORMER Desperate Housewives co-star Jesse Metcalfe talks about his big screen break in John Tucker Must Die as well as fame, thongs and dating a Girls Aloud singer…
Q. It would be very easy to dislike John Tucker, but we’re still kind of on his side. Was that part of the challenge of this role?
A.* That was the main challenge that I faced with the character – I had to make him likeable. I looked at old teen films that I grew up with, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Can’t Buy Me Love, where the stars of those films – even though they were the cool guys and it would be easy to hate them – you’ve got to make the character likeable. And I think the character does evolve. I think the difference between this film and other recent teen genre comedies is that this movie is based in reality, it’s not that over the top.
Q. Will your friends at school be surprised at this role?
A. I think my oldest friends, the ones I went to elementary school and Junior High School with, would be probably like: “That’s him to a tee!” But I definitely wasn’t a John Tucker at High School, I was kind of a weirdo. People don’t believe it when I say that, but that’s the honest truth. I was like an outsider. I was kind of a self-imposed loner, one of those kids who dyed his hair different colours. I was really into the band Green Day – I’d always wear my Green Day concert T-shirts, and I bought my clothes from the Salvation Army. I thought I was cool, but no one else did. I was actually more like the brother in the film.
Q. Were you in a gang?
A. I had two really good friends. I went out with the same girl for three out of my four years at High School, who went to a neighbouring school, but she was like the hottest girl around, I must say. So I had a good-looking girlfriend, but I just wasn’t in the in-crowd. I didn’t get invited to the pool parties. I don’t even know if I’d have gone if I was invited, but it’s nice to get an invite.
Q. Have you ever worn ladies’ underwear?
A. Never. That was a first for me. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get laid. That’s what John Tucker does in the movie.
Q. Did you have a back, crack and sack wax?
A. What! [Laughs] No, but I definitely did some maintenance.
Q. What’s the most outlandish thing you’ve ever done to get a girl?
A. I really don’t go over the top to impress a girl, because if you try too hard it might appear that she really likes you for you, when she doesn’t. It’s all about finding out if she really likes you for you, especially a person in my position. Having just the minimal amount of notoriety I have, I can only imagine what it’s like for big stars with regards to dating and stuff. But I want to know a girl likes me for me, so I’m just myself and I don’t go over the top. But I have bought some expensive gifts for girls from time to time, not to impress them, but to show them I care.
Q. Any examples?*
A. Jewellery and stuff like that.
A. [Laughs] I don’t like my girls chubby.
Q. Is it true that you performed most of your own stunts in the film, especially the basketball stuff?
A. That’s me. The only thing that wasn’t me was that front flip dunk. They got someone to come in, a mascot for a team in Vancouver, to do that. I’ve been playing basketball since I was a kid, and I play a lot now – I’m in two celebrity leagues and I play in charity games. I thought that was one cool aspect that I could bring to the character, a little bit of authenticity – because there’s nothing worse in a movie when there’s some sport involved, and you can tell the actor has no athletic ability whatsoever. It takes me out of the movie.
Q. After you left High School and became famous, did you suddenly find you were a lot more popular than you were at the time at High School?
A. It can go two ways. You can either go back to your home town, and people will either celebrate you and love you, or hate you. I have a lot of support back where I live, but I just know that the type of people that I was friends with, they’re not the type of people who would celebrate you. I don’t go back home a lot, because they’re the type of people who would assume, “he probably thinks he’s so cool now, he’s so full of himself”. That’s a shame, because that’s never who I’ve been. But some people resent your success.
As soon as Desperate Housewives came out, it seemed I couldn’t go anywhere without somebody noticing me. And then as time went on with that show, and now with this film, it seems that 50% of every person I walk by notices me. That’s something that takes a little getting used to. There’ll always be someone staring at you in a store shopping, or someone whispering, and you’ve got to not care. Or you’ll be at dinner and somebody will be behind a post taking a picture, which is when I’ll get up and go: “Do you want to take a picture with me? Cos it’s cool.” But I don’t want to be eating a mouthful of spaghetti when someone’s taking my picture…
Q. With this level of success and fame you’re receiving now, is there a comparison between where you are now and High School popularity?
A. I think High School is like a microcosm for reality, for adulthood and the real world. And really specifically, I think that High School is very much a microcosm of Hollywood because the relationships you have in Hollywood are so superficial at times. It’s funny how people follow the popular guy in High School, and how they follow a celebrity. If a celebrity is doing it, it’s cool. In the social hierarchy of High School, it’s the same way.
I kind of find that five or ten years removed from High School you look back and say: “That’s the girl I was obsessing over for five years? She’s not even that pretty!” Or: “That’s the guy who was cool? That guy’s a loser now!” It’s a whole other planet, High School. It seems like the be-all-and-end-all of existence when you’re there, and when you get out, it seems so insignificant.
Q. What were your ambitions when you left?
A. I wanted to be a film-maker. I thought I wanted to be a writer and director. I was studying writing, directing, cinematography and photography at NYU. That’s where I first took a couple of acting classes, and got the acting bug.
I was always into film from an early age. My Dad took me to the movies when I was about eight-years-old. But I remember the first movie that I really got me to start thinking critically about film and acting was The Breakfast Club. I was only eight or so, but I remember leaving the theatre being deeply affected by that movie and thinking: “I want to be a part of that.” My initial inclination was to make films, to try to move people that way, then I fell into acting.
Q. Do you think there’s a risk that you might start to get typecast as a teenager?
A. I’m far from being a teenager and I’m definitely going to age up in my next role. I guess I can’t really help that I look young. It’s a curse and a blessing, I guess. It’s fun though, playing these younger roles and it’s easy. I don’t really find it that challenging. The older the character you play, the more experience that character’s had, the deeper and more complex that character is. So when you go back in time, it’s a simpler time. When you’re 17-years-old, you’re only thinking about a few things, so I find it easy to go back, acting-wise. But I’m tiring of it, so I’m not going to play any more teenage roles, that’s a promise.
I won’t have a problem playing early 20s roles. Sometimes it’s a difficult transition. I think a lot of actors have had a difficult time right at this stage of their career that I’m in, because you’re not quite old enough for the older roles, and you’re a bit too old for the younger roles, and you’re caught in the middle. But I actually have an older role on the horizon that I think will come together. It’s a romantic comedy, kind of in the same vein – the character’s a cool guy but he’s a bit older.
Q. Will you be returning to Desperate Housewives at all?
A. I just shot another episode actually – I think it’s going to be the third episode in the third season. It’s probably one of the funniest episodes I’ve been a part of. Gabrielle and John have a chance meeting. John’s a bit older, a bit more sophisticated, kind of has a little bit more to offer Gabrielle, and she’s definitely intrigued, and they get back to some of their old business, but there’s a great twist.
Q. Do you stay in touch with Eva Longoria? Have you become friends?
A. I consider Eva to be a really good friend. I had all my scenes with her on the show, so she’s the only one I really cultivated a meaningful relationship with.
Q. Do you ever find filming love scenes embarrassing?
A. I guess when I first started, but I’ve done so many of them now, I don’t care. I just run out on set, and say, “let’s do this”. At a certain point, the embarrassment has to fall away. If it works for the scene, that’s fine, but if it’s like an ongoing relationship, like John and Gabrielle’s, and I seem embarrassed, it wouldn’t make sense.
Q. Is it true that you’ve popped the question to Nadine?
A. It’s just a rumour. Things are going great and I couldn’t be happier.
Q. Do either of you have plans to move?
A. I don’t thing so. Her career’s rolling on here, so she can’t move anywhere, and I have to be in LA to establish myself in film. Just because you do one film it doesn’t mean you’re set for life, so I have to meet with directors and executives and get other projects.
We’re just doing a long-distance thing but it’s been working out because I’ve had a lot of work to do here, promoting the film. This is the fourth time I’ve been out here in the last two-and-a-half months, I’ve been lucky. Maybe in the future we may have to go longer lengths of time without seeing each other, but right now things are working out great.
Q. How do you go about maintaining a level head when there is so much publicity surrounding you?
A. Somebody told me you can’t believe the positive or the negative things that people say about you – you can’t believe the hype or the criticism. You gotta do what you do and hope people respond positively to it and like to see you on screen. But I think it’s really important to have a separation between your public persona, your career and your personal life, who you really are.
I was always raised to be a humble and grounded person, so I find it easy to stay that way. I guess the challenge lies in keeping your personal life sacred. People want you to share everything, the ins and outs of your relationship, but some things you have to keep sacred.