“When I read a script, I need to find a way into the character. Psychologically, I can either see and hear myself as the character or not.” – J.K. Simmons
Though The Front Runner had a blink-and-you-missed-it run in theaters, the film chronicling the failed 1988 U.S. Presidential campaign of Democratic Senator Gary Hart contains some stellar performances. One of those performances is J.K. Simmons‘ portrayal of Bill Dixon, Hart’s campaign manager confronted with one of the most infamous campaign tabloid scandals. Speaking with Screen Rant about the home media release of The Front Runner, Simmons talks about both his role selection process and why he thinks he was able to transition from stage roles to film and television roles when so many other actors struggle with the transition.
When it comes to deciding whether a role is for him or not, Simmons explains, “When I read a script, I need to find a way into the character. Psychologically, I can either see and hear myself as the character or not. A lot of it is instinctual, but a lot of it has to be hard work and building a frame of reference, too.”
Simmons first became well-known for his roles on Law & Order and Oz in the late 1990s, but he had been appearing on stage and in smaller roles over the previous ten years. Simmons admits that transitioning from stage work and bit TV parts to more substantial TV roles was challenging. He says, “It was a little bit bumpy, both in terms of my comfort level and also, you know, in terms of just getting work. A lot of people might shy away from a guy who is, you know, forty years old and basically has nothing on his filmography because he’s been a stage guy. Yeah, it was hard getting comfortable, and for a while, it was hard just getting hired. It’s one of those periods that you work through and, obviously, I’ve gotten to a point now where I’ve been more fortunate that I ever thought I would be.”
So how did Simmons manage to make that difficult leap? “I think not being a pain in the ass definitely goes a long way towards that!” he jokes. He later adds, “This is a ridiculous business, the work days are twelve, thirteen hours long. So, just being a team player and being someone people can get along with are valuable commodities.”