Actor James Ransone has a pretty great role in the upcoming It: Chapter Two, playing the adult Eddie Kaspbrak, the role played by Jack Dylan Grazer (Shazam!) in the first movie, but also a role that allows him to riff with Bill Hader’s adult Richie Tozier.
For most people seeing the movie, it might be the first time they’ve seen Ransone, unless they’ve watched the “Sinister” movies and remember him as a mild-mannered local police officer, or his very different role in Ti West’s In the Valley of Violence, playing a pretty despicable villain towards Ethan Hawke. Ransone has been around long before that, though, starring in the second season of HBO’s The Wire and playing so many different roles since then.
Playing the adult version of Jack Dylan Grazer’s character certainly does look like Ransone had fun other than some of the grisly and gross things he has to endure like being spewed upon by a ghoul, funny mainly because Eddie is still a germaphobe 27 years since the “Losers Club” first encountered Pennywise, the killer clown, as played by Bill Skarsgård.
The Beat spoke over the phone with Ransone last week for the following interview.
THE BEAT: This seems to be your most high-profile role to date, I would think?
James Ransone: Yeah, that’s right. I’ve never been in anything that’s… you’re okay to make that assumption.
THE BEAT: It’s a high-profile movie but it’s also a great role. Eddie has a great arc in the movie. It’s an ensemble piece but he has great moments, just like Jack Dylan Grazer did. Had you seen his performance in the first movie as Eddie before you heard about this?
Ransone: I didn’t see the first movie until I was talking to Andie [Muschietti] about possibly coming onto to do the second [movie]. That’s the first time I saw Jack Dylan Grazer. I remember kind of being a little bowled over by just how fast he can do stuff. I’ve seen behind the scenes, literally cellphone footage, of him off-camera riffing. What that kid does, you can’t teach to people, and I couldn’t have done what he does at his age period. It’s some freak, weird Tiger Woods talent type of stuff.
THE BEAT: When you saw that, how long did you take studying him or did you actually spend any time with him as well?
Ransone: No, I thought… First of all, he’s already doing this thing where he kind of plays against type from the book a little bit, because [at this point, James raises his voice to a high pitch] a little bit like wild and… [back to normal] I like that. It’s a little bit more high energy, so I could match that, but it was going to be difficult to match his speed. And then we met, as well as the rest of the Losers, in Toronto, right before we started filming in this weird speed-dating type luncheon type thing. Which was really strange, actually. It was really awkward, because it was like, “Okay. Now you’re going to go meet with your kid, now go,” and I was like, “Uh…” and I think he felt very similarly about it.
THE BEAT: I don’t know how many of the adult cast have kids. I think quite a few do, but still, it’s like, “Here, go hang out with this kid for a while”…
Ransone: Yeah, Bill Hader keeps telling the joke about how Finn Wolfhard gave him a picture of himself when he was a young boy. He was like, “I can’t have this in my apartment. You’re a young child.” Every one of the male cast members felt exactly the same. I was like, “I have to throw this out immediately.”
THE BEAT: Playing Eddie, you must have known that Andy was going to slime you from head to toe ‘cause that’s part of what’s so funny about Eddie is that he’s such a germaphobe, so he’s going to get the worst…
Ransone: No, when I came into meet the hair and make-up team for the first time, there’s this great woman named Sarah McCreethan, who is the key make-up person, and she was like, “Get ready, dude,” and I was like, “What are you talking about?” She said, “He’s going to use so much puke and blood on you,” and I was like, “Oh, no…” He’s relentless about it. It’s not a little, it’s not sparing. He goes full… he never thinks, “If this happened in reality… No, let’s use all of the puke and all of the blood.”
THE BEAT: How did you prepare for that day? Did you know in advance when that was on the schedule?
Ransone: The puke thing was literally the last thing that I shot of the entire movie, like literally the last thing. That’s more of a bummer, because when you’re shooting a movie and shooting a movie like this, or even a TV show, you read the script, and as an actor you clock these mental notes of what you know what you have to film next, and you kind of pick out the big ones. It’s anything else you do. If you clean your room or you rebuild a car, you know what the hard parts are going to be, and you want to tick those boxes off fast, because then it feels like you’re going downhill. So mine was all the way up the hill to getting puked on, which was the very last thing I filmed. The next day I went home.
THE BEAT: The scenes with the whole group together are all pretty intense even from the first meeting at the restaurant and the whole ending is absolutely insane. How intense is that on set? I imagine the whole last act in the caves, was that weeks and weeks of shooting?
Ransone: The end bit was the hardest for all of the actors to film. [There were] a lot of strobe lights, and you’re in the dark for 18 hours a day with all these strobe lights going on, and again, I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because at the end of the day, I get to be scared of a clown. Someone gave me money to run away from a giant space clown. That’s not a horrible life BUT you start to feel a little bit water-tortured after a while, not just on this movie but certain things like this. That set piece at the end is so big, that took at least three weeks to film, and at least 18 hours a day of just being in the dark with the strobe light, I would come outside and not know if it was 2AM or 2PM.
THE BEAT: What were the strobe lights for?
Ransone: If you go back and watch it, there were flashes of lightning, out of sync strobe lights. It’s not like strobing. It looks like there’s lightning in there, but when you’re there, and it’s practical, it gets really unnerving after a while. It’s fun to go through a haunted house, but imagine being in a haunted house for 15 to 16 hours a day for three weeks.
THE BEAT: It always looks more fun on our end when we can watch it over the course of 20 or 30 minutes.
Ransone: Yeah, and that’s the tricky part, because #1 you don’t want to sound like you’re complaining as an actor, because my job is so awesome and easy, but when you’re actually doing that part, too, you’re like, “Oh, this sucks. You gotta get me out of here.” (laughs)
THE BEAT: Well, the results turned out great. What’s Bill Skarsgard like on set playing Pennywise when you’re doing stuff like that?
Ransone: Is this coming out after the movie comes out?s
THE BEAT: It will be before, so I would be a little careful with spoilers. I assume people will know that there’s a lot of FX involved with creating Pennywise.
Ransone: I never actually shot any scenes with him, me and him in make-up.
THE BEAT: That’s crazy.
Ransone: I saw him drive by in an SUV in full make-up, and I was like, “Hey, Bill!”
THE BEAT: But you worked with the other actors when they were shooting the ending, right?
Ransone: No, if you’ll notice. I wasn’t the only one that didn’t. I don’t even know if that’s spoilery or not. You saw it, right?
THE BEAT: I saw it.
Ransone: I’m just saying that I never worked with him in full practical make-up. I was the only one of the cast that didn’t. I don’t even think that’s a spoiler. I think you can say that. [Publicist chimes in that she doesn’t think that’s a spoiler, so don’t freak out in the comments, please.]
THE BEAT: It’s interesting, because I saw Bill in another movie coming out soon called Villains, where he just plays sort of a normal guy, and it’s so different, so I can’t imagine what he’s doing on set to get everyone so petrified.
Ransone: I saw him do some stuff, just out of standing around set. He’s a really, really talented actor, man. He would do this thing where I just appreciated as an actor who is thinking about stuff, and not in a way where they’re really self-involved. They’re just thinking about things. I like people who think about things. He would do the thing where you look glitchy. He looked like he was glitching, and I liked that here’s this thing that’s attempting to be human, and this was the best thing they could do in a human form. That felt like, “Oh, that’s a cool choice,” you know what I mean?
THE BEAT: What I also liked about the way you played Eddie, and I’ve seen a lot of your other movies, including Tangerine and the “Sinister” movies, and I think in Tangerine and In the Valley of Violence, you play a scumbag, but now you’re playing these nice guys, and Eddie’s the nicest guy you’ve played I think so far. I assume like most actors you’re trying to mix it up and do different things, but is it harder to get auditions playing a character like this?
Ransone: I don’t know. My experience with a lot of that stuff, as soon as I let it go, like the thing comes along. Like “Why am I always playing these fucking assholes?” and the second that I was like, “Ah, okay, if that’s what they want me to be, fuck it. Alright.” I’d kind of relax, and that’s how… I just feel like the faster I let that stuff go. I’m even lucky enough to have a “thing” that I do? I just feel really lucky. I will say this, though, because I think on some level, me and Bill Hader’s careers are… and he’s getting obviously a lot more… I’m talking just creatively what we like to do, I feel like we’re meeting at some crossroads. I feel like he’s going towards more serious, and I was trying to go towards more funny, and that’s always kind of what I wanted to do from the beginning of my career. As weird as this sounds, and I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but even when I was doing The Wire, I was trying to play it as comical as possible. However that came across, I don’t know how it showed up in a drama, but that was really what I was trying to do, so I’m just happy that now at some point. Nothing would make me happier than doing some early 2000s Matthew McConaughey rom-com. I’d be so happy to do that stuff. If I landed there, I’d be happy for the rest of my life.
THE BEAT: That’s so funny, because a few actors I’ve spoken with over the years have wanted to go route, even Anthony Mackie was one of them. He’s dying to do a rom-com despite doing all these action movies and dramas. It’s funny how many actors want to do that at least once.
Ransone: I don’t even know if it’s at least once. I had a kid this year, and I’m married, and me and my wife have a pretty good thing, and we’re happy. I’ve kind of a small life, and I just don’t have anything to prove. I just don’t.
THE BEAT: You mentioned Bill Hader, and I do want to ask about recreating that Ritchie and Eddie dynamic from the first movie, which was so huge, and doing that with you two. Some people love the comedy in the movie – I certainly do – and some people are put off by it or think it’s too much. I just think what you two do is perfect. I have had people from high school I’ve reconnected with after 30 years, and the relationship is the same. How did you guys come up with that and do that? Did you spend a lot of time together?
Ransone: We met at an audition for that Michael Mann movie, Public Enemies…
THE BEAT: Wow, that would have been a very different movie if you two were in it instead of Johnny Depp and Christian Bale…
Ransone: Yeah, and I think we were auditioning for different parts that we both knew that we were kind of wrong for. I always liked him and what he did, and he’s like a film buff. I think we shared a lot of mutual friends, but it was pretty easy for us, because we share a lot of similar sensibilities, like our taste in music and kind of how we grew up and what our childhoods were like. It was pretty easy to fall into a rhythm, because he’s probably the type of person I would have been friends with. We would have been friends when we were younger in the same town.
THE BEAT: Do you have anything else coming up that you’re excited about since filming this?
Ransone: Man, I have nothing coming out. Nothing. I’m basically on paternity leave now. I have nothing lined up. [laughs]
THE BEAT: How long are you taking off before going out to audition or work again?
Ransone: When the next person hires me.
THE BEAT: Well, hopefully someone will see this movie and go, “We have to get that guy who likes being vomited on…”
Ransone: Yeah, total. “We need a good puke guy. Who is the good guy for puke? Who does puke good?”
It: Chapter Two opens nationwide on Friday, Sept. 6 with previews Thursday night.