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Watchmen - Jeffrey Dean Morgan interview

Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchmen

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JEFFREY Dean Morgan is probably best known for his romantic roles in TV series Grey’s Anatomy and films PS I Love You and The Accidental Husband. In Watchmen, however, he plays a murdering, raping, psychopathic superhero known as The Comedian.

The actor talks about why he’s somehow still a likeable guy and why Zack Snyder’s film, based on the revered Alan Moore graphic novel, isn’t just another superhero movie…

Q. Some of the characters in Watchmen have to wear some pretty dodgy costumes. But you’re all required to do some serious acting as well… So how was getting the chance to add some depth?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: I think what my initial response, or take, was: “Oh, another superhero movie…” I thought it was going to be ridiculous. But then you read the novel and you realise the complexities and the layers not only of the material, but of the characters. As an actor, this is what we want. It’s what we want to do. In particular, our two characters [The Comedian and Rorschach] walk these really fine lines. We get to explore the fringe… well, not even the fringe! We’re utter psychopaths [laughs]. But that was a real treat because you know you’re doing something special and something that’s not been done before in this genre. So, you just grasp onto that and you go for a ride. It was a fucking blast.

Q. How did you go about making your characters seem heroic when they’re not particularly likeable with regard to a lot of the things they do? You still have to get the audience on-side…
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: I don’t know how on-side you need to be with The Comedian! [Laughs] I get trying to be on Rorschach’s side. What always fascinated me with The Comedian was that you should just hate this guy. The actions that he makes happen, and that he’s responsible for, are atrocities. They’re horrendous. And yet every time I closed the book I liked him… maybe it’s because I was so overjoyed to be playing the character. But there was something almost sympathetic about him. So, again this goes to the kind of complexity of the characters and my job, and what I relished so much in the conversations I had with Zack [Snyder, director] in the beginning, was trying to find this humanity within this man that can shoot the woman that’s pregnant with his child and yet somehow you don’t hate him. So, that was the challenge for me as an actor… finding that humanity.

Q. The film has been so keenly anticipated. Do you feel much pressure on the eve of the film’s release?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: I’m going to throw up right now! We’re nervous as hell. There’s been so much speculation from fans and press as to whether we’re screwing the pooch doing this film. Is Zack the right guy? Are we the right actors? So, we felt the pressure from day one and now that the world premiere is upon us… I woke up this morning with butterflies.

Q. How did you cope with the pressure?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: I drank a lot! We’ve taken a beating as a whole before even shooting this film. But having seen the film, I think that Zack took this unfilmable novel and he knocked it out of the park. Having said that, I sure hope people respond that way. But I have a feeling that we did our job and that’s all we can do. Now it’s time to let the world see the fruit of our labours because it was two years of really hard work.

Q. Have any of the fans, or any of the three guys that were involved in the book, seen it?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: [Illustrator] Dave Gibbons has been a very important part of the process every step of the way. Everybody knows the Alan Moore story, so I doubt we’ll hear anything about him. But Dave was there when we were shooting and he’s been on this tour with us, talking about. He was instrumental in the making of this film and by all indication, from talking to him, he’s incredibly proud of it. It’s like getting approval from your parents. It was awesome seeing his face [when he came to the set for the first time]. You can imagine him drawing this some 20-something odd years ago and then he walks on the set and sees Archie for the first time. I mean, talk about a kid in a candy store!

Q. Is it easier to play a character that’s based upon a graphic novel, rather than just one that’s contained within a written screenplay?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: Well, yeah, especially this novel, “the Citizen Kane of graphic novels”. Certainly! In a lot of ways, it’s completely different. The script, for instance… they did a great job of adapting this book into script form but the reality is that we used this graphic novel far more than we used the script. There was a copy of Watchmen sitting on the monitor where Zack was the whole time we were filming. We did most of our work based on the graphic novel. A lot of our character study is right there, on the page.

For instance, The Comedian’s scene with Moloch the Mystic, if I just saw that in script form I don’t know how necessarily I would have played it. Would it have been this huge breakdown? But when you see it in the graphic novel, you see not only where he’s sitting on the bed, but also the pain in his face and what he’s going through. And that’s a hell of a thing to be able to use as an actor. It’s a great weapon to put in your arsenal.

Q. Do you have any plans to appear in more films or TV series where your character actually survives until the end? I gather there’s a Facebook page campaigning for you to survive in your roles?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: [Laughs] That’s awesome! I don’t know about it, but that’s fantastic. I’m not going to complain about my career. I don’t know how it’s worked out that I die in everything, but my career is alive and well. So, it’s been OK for me.

Read our review of Watchmen

Read our interview with Zack Snyder