Jackie Earle Haley on ‘Dark Shadows’, Working with Johnny Depp and Why He Loves Being a Character Actor


It’s surprising that it has taken this long Jackie Earle Haley, known for his creepy roles, to work with Tim Burton, but it has finally happened with Dark Shadows

Haley plays Willie Loomis, a cranky butler for the Collins family, and in an interview with New York Magazine he talks about his approach to the role, working with Johnny Depp, and what he likes about being a character actor.

Though Haley’s role is on the goofy side, he reveals that he purposely made sure not to go overboard.  He explains, “We didn’t want the tone to get too slapstick-y. We wanted a tone that was kind of real but sort of comedic and a little dark when it needed to be. So we just searched together. One of the interesting things is I worked with him on the first day, and while Tim knows what direction he’s heading, you could definitely sense that he himself is finding the tone within the scene he’s directing. And as that search solidifies for him, he perpetuates it further. I think that was one of the things I was curious about, the tone of my character. Should it be big or pulled back? And I think we went with a less-is-more approach on Willie Loomis. It was really fun finding that tone with Tim.”

It was also the first time that Haley worked with Johnny Depp, of whom Haley has nothing buy praise.  He says, “He was pretty much spot-on throughout the entire shoot. He would attack this one long scene that would take a couple days to shoot and he would just have reams of dialogue in that scene and the guy, from take one to all the different angles, was completely spot-on.”

Though Haley is mostly known as a character actor in genre films, he embraces that reputation.  He admits that he likes the variety, saying, “I think being a character actor is exciting in that it allows you to embody completely different things, whether it’s through wild accents or a crazy bad guy or a drunken good guy. It’s neat that, as a character actor, I can increase the number of different types of characters I can sink my teeth into. And in so doing, find a different way to embrace, a different way to think, a different way to speak, to move — but to do it in such a way that you’re owning it and that it’s not just a caricature.”

Dark Shadows in now playing in theaters.

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