When director Colin Trevorrow landed the coveted job of directing Jurassic World, many weren't familiar with the young up-and-coming filmmaker. He had one movie under his belt, 2012's Safety Not Guaranteed, a low-budget indie that wouldn't normally be considered a springboard to a massive studio tentpole, especially one as anticipated as Jurassic World. One person who wasn't surprised about his meteoric rise is Jake Johnson, who starred in Safety Not Guaranteed and plays Lowery in Jurassic World, one of the control room employees who provides a lot of comic relief. I had the chance to talk to Jake Johnson over the phone, where we discussed his early days in Hollywood, the importance of an improv background, working with Colin Trevorrow and co-star Lauren Lapkus, who plays a control room colleague, and more. Here's what this talented comedic actor had to say below.
I saw this last week, and I was just blown away. I hope this does as well as I think it will do.
Jake Johnson: That's awesome, man. Yeah, I'm fired up about it.
Jake Johnson: He was, yeah. He was cool enough to say that, if all this went down, and he got the job, that he had a part for me. He knew who he wanted me to play, so I was kind of crossing my fingers that he got this one, because I knew we'd be able to go do it together.
I can't imagine he was working on the script at that time, but that's really cool that he thought of you ahead of time.
Jake Johnson: Well I know that there was a draft of the script that they rewrote, and he knew that he wanted me to play the tech guy, and he knew that he and Derek would come in and re-think it and keep me in mind as they were working on it, but he wanted me there because he wanted a little bit of comedy in it, a little bit of lightness, so it was pretty cool.
That scene at the end got the biggest laugh in the theater, by far.
Jake Johnson: (Laughs) Oh, it did? That's awesome. That's incredible.
I don't actually know Lauren Lapkus personally, but I hang out at iO West a lot and I've seen some of her shows, so it was cool to see her in a role like that.
Jake Johnson: iO West is actually where I started in Los Angeles. When I first moved to L.A. and I didn't know anybody, I met James Grace, and he was cool enough to let me audition for a Harold team, and I got put on my first Harold team and then I got on the iO Main Stage Sketch Show. I did a show called The Seminar with Craig Cackowski and I met a bunch of my friends who are still my friends today from that theater. I love iO West.
I moved out here not knowing anyone either, and I ended up living right down the street from that place.
Jake Johnson: So did I. I lived on Las Palmas.
I lived on Whitley, and it was the first bar I went to and it was just so much fun I kept going back there.
Jake Johnson: My old buddy was actually at Whitley and Franklin.
That's exactly where I was, just up the hill.
Jake Johnson: OK, so you know the Ardmore, that big high rise right on the corner? My buddy Eric Edelstein, who plays the paddock worker who gets eaten, he and I met at the Las Palmas Estates, where we both first moved, and then he moved there. He and I would go to the iO all the time and perform with our other friend all the time. That whole little world and circle... I moved to L.A., I didn't have any friends, and that area was the big start for all of us. It's a cool place.
That's awesome. Can you talk a bit about your scenes with her and the back-and-forth that you had? It was a really fun dynamic, to see you both play off each other like that.
Jake Johnson: The thing about Lauren Lapkus, who was great, going back to iO West and UCB, when Colin cast us... he gave me the job, and he said he wanted someone next to me who I could go back and forth with, who is a really good improviser. Lauren got the job because of her work on stages, where she's just funny. He knew she could do the job and deliver the lines, but he wanted to open it up between us. Like that scene at the end, all of that dialogue was improvised. The reason that I got the job and she got the job was because of the improv.
Was there anything technical you had to delve into, as far as what your job was, or was it all on the page?
Jake Johnson: Yeah, it was kind of all on the page. Derek and Colin did a really great job in writing this, and a lot of times you'll write a script and it will be very underdeveloped, and you'll have to add a lot, but that wasn't the case. Anything we were improvising, we were just adding, but it was all right there.
I know they shot the exteriors in Hawaii, but were your scenes in the control room there also, or did you shoot those elsewhere?
Jake Johnson: No, I was in Louisiana. We took over a NASA facility, a little bit south of New Orleans, but yeah I shot all of my stuff at the end of the shoot, so they had the entire movie done in Hawaii, and we finished off in the control room.
So did you get to see any of the stuff they shot in Hawaii when you were in New Orleans?
Jake Johnson: No, I didn't, actually. I mean, I got to see the footage, but none of the animatronics or anything like that. Colin wanted stuff on the screen so we could watch it, so I was able to see some stuff very early.
It doesn't happen too often where you see a guy like Colin, who made this shoestring budget feature, make such a huge leap from that to this.
Jake Johnson: I know, it's crazy.
Did you always have a sense that his directing style would translate to a big-budget world like this?
Jake Johnson: Yeah, I wasn't surprised. The way Colin runs a set, he knows exactly what he wants, and he's really smart with it. Somebody who has that kind of confidence, it's only a matter of time before they get bigger opportunities, because if you're going to do a movie with a $150 million budget, you have to know what you want, and you have to pitch what you want. He was able to be clear with what he wanted, and they gave him a job.
I have to imagine there will be sequels after this...
Jake Johnson: I honestly haven't heard anything, but, you know, I would love to be a part of it. I had an absolute blast doing this movie, and I hope, if there's more, Lowery sticks around. I'd like to see what Derek and Colin do with the character.
Is there anything else that you're developing or working on now that you can talk about?
Jake Johnson: Yeah, of course, thanks for asking. I've got a movie coming out in August, directed by Joe Swanberg, with Rosemarie DeWitt, Chris Messina, Anna Kendrick, Mike Birbiglia, the list goes on and on. It's kind of an adult relationship movie called Digging for Fire that premiered at Sundance. I'm really excited for people to see that, and yeah, coming back to New Girl next season.
Sounds like a Drinking Buddies reunion.
Jake Johnson: Oh, yeah, totally.
That's awesome. I love that movie too.
Jake Johnson: Thanks, man. It's a little bit older characters than Drinking Buddies. It's about a couple who have a small child, and they spend a weekend apart and go back to their lives before they had a kid, to re-find each other.
Well, that's my time. Thanks so much, Jake. It was great talking to you.
Jake Johnson: Yeah, you too man.
You can watch Jake Johnson as Lowery when Jurassic World hits theaters nationwide on June 12. Be sure to stay tuned for our interviews with Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson later this week. You can also check out my full review of Jurassic World before you head to your local theater this weekend.