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Not My Job: We Quiz 'Shape Of Water' Star Doug Jones On Frozen Sculptures

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME - the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here's your host, a man who believes 2021 is the year he starts wearing bow ties - Peter Sagal.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill. So it really was a great year - really, at least in one-hour weekly increments or, to be strictly accurate, in certain parts of one-hour weekly increments - usually when we got to talk to somebody cool.

KURTIS: For example, Doug Jones is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood, but you'd never recognize him. That's because he plays most of his roles buried under 20 pounds of latex.

SAGAL: He's played monsters and creatures in movies like "Hellboy" and "The Shape Of Water" and an alien crew member in the latest "Star Trek" series. So I asked him if he grew up dreaming of becoming the go-to guy for anything with claws or fins.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DOUG JONES: No, actually, I started as a mime back at Ball State University in Indiana. And being 6-foot-3 and 140 pounds and having a mime background, it's like, oh, the creature-effects people were just all over me the minute I got to LA.

MAEVE HIGGINS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: All right, we skipped a bit. Why, out of all things, did you decide to become a mime?

JONES: Oh, right. No one chooses that, do they?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah, it seems like - I assume people were just...

PETER GROSZ: No, it chooses you.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I assume people were just born into, like, the mime cast.

JONES: Right?

SAGAL: And they had no choice.

JONES: No. At my dorm that I lived in at Ball State, I was a freshman, and a senior is the one who ran the mine troupe. The mime troupe was called Mime Over Matter. Get it?

EUGENE CORDERO: Whoa.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Oh, my God.

JONES: And so he saw how I talked with my hands and how lanky I was and said, you know, you should come see one of our shows and think about auditioning for our troupe. And that's how the mime thing started with me.

SAGAL: Wow. And did you...

GROSZ: The same way a drug dealer likes to get on the street, you know, and, like, ropes him in.

JONES: Exactly.

SAGAL: The first fake elevator is free.

JONES: (Laughter).

SAGAL: But were you that kind of mime? Were you out on the sidewalk doing, like, oh, there's a wind, there's a wall - that kind of stuff? (Laughter).

JONES: Right. My first job out of college was working at Kings Island, a theme park in Cincinnati, Ohio. You know, Cincinnati, Ohio, is kind of, like, on the cusp of Indiana, Kentucky, and so there's not a whole lot of people in that area that knew what a mine was. So it's like, oh, honey, look at the clown. Look at the clown. Why isn't he talking? I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: So it was like - oh, it was sad.

SAGAL: I know this is a very weird question to ask you. But can you think of, like, the weirdest thing you were asked to play? And I say this to somebody who has literally played the Angel of death.

JONES: Yeah (laughter). I think a giant cockroach-y (ph) bug thing. I did a movie, a horrible movie called "Bug Buster."

SAGAL: (Laughter).

JONES: And I had a huge fight scene with Randy Quaid. But I was a giant insect that was guarding my pile of eggs, and he was coming to kill us. So we had a big knockdown drag-out in a cave. He came in there with weapons.

SAGAL: Right.

JONES: Bullets didn't kill me. He - then he pulled out, like, a flamethrower. I don't burn. Then he pulled out a CO2 gun. I don't freeze. So he threw all of his weapons down and said, come on, man, you and me - mano y mano. So that's when it got weird, right?

(LAUGHTER)

GROSZ: That's when it got weird.

JONES: We have a knockdown drag-out, choreographed fight around this cave, bouncing off walls and rolling around on the ground.

CORDERO: Wow.

JONES: And I got up from that. And I asked my handler - I said, can you go check on Randy? I didn't see him get up after that fight, that last take.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: So across to the cave, I hear - Doug, buddy, can you hear me? Randy Quaid. Yeah? He said, do what you're doing. It's great. We can go again. I'm fine. You're doing great. The next voice that I heard was a young PA, a production assistant, going - can I get some ice over here? I can't stop the bleeding.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: I did not want to be remembered as that young, lanky fella who killed Randy Quaid.

SAGAL: Yes.

HIGGINS: (Laughter) My God.

SAGAL: As a bug. As the bug who killed Randy Quaid.

JONES: In a bug costume, yeah.

SAGAL: Right. And in "The Shape Of Water," you had a particular challenge because not only did you have to be otherworldly and alien, but you had to be attractive.

JONES: Sexy. Yes, I did.

SAGAL: Yes. So how did you work that out, Doug?

JONES: Well, I will say this - they sculpted me a sexy-ass body. I mean, like...

SAGAL: Oh, they did.

JONES: I - my skinny bones slipped into this beautiful rubber muscle suit with a fine derriere. I mean, it was...

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: In fact, every time I stepped - I stood up and walked away from our set chairs, where we're - you know, where we rest between takes, if I was in a scene with Octavia Spencer, she would sit there and watch me walk away and just say one thing.

SAGAL: What?

JONES: Mmm (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: That's when you know they sculpted a fine ass, OK?

SAGAL: Yeah. And did, like, the latex artist lean out and go, thank you - that was mine?

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: Exactly, right.

SAGAL: Well, Doug Jones, it is an absolute joy to talk to you - as much fun as it has been to watch you do stuff, which is really saying something.

JONES: Oh, you're very kind. Thank you.

SAGAL: But we have asked you here to play a game that this time we're calling...

KURTIS: Hey, Check Out the Shape of This Water.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So as we've discussed, you were the lead in "The Shape Of Water," so we thought we'd ask you about actual shaped water - that is, ice and snow sculptures.

JONES: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of their choice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Doug Jones playing for?

KURTIS: Lane Owens (ph) of Los Angeles, Calif.

SAGAL: All right, you ready to do this?

JONES: OK, Lane. I'm rooting for both of us here.

SAGAL: All right, here we go. Here's your first question. Now, one of the most notorious ice sculptures ever seen was the one commissioned by Dennis Kozlowski, the CEO who served eight years in prison for fraud and embezzlement because he spent company money on things like which of these - A, an ice sculpture of himself, which he kept in a $300,000 clear glass freezer for display; B, a full-scale ice sculpture of Michelangelo's "David," which dispensed cold water to party guests through, well, his natural spigot; or, C, a thousand tiny handmade ice sculptures of individual bird species made for his evening cocktail?

JONES: I'm going to go with the A because that sounds more narcissistic.

HIGGINS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: That's a very good idea. But what he really did was he commissioned the ice sculpture of Michelangelo's "David"...

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SAGAL: ...Which dispensed vodka through his little...

JONES: Through his hee-haw (ph). Yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah, I have no idea - the question is - and there are photographs of this. But I don't know how the guests - what they had to do to the "David" to get it to dispense vodka.

JONES: Oh, to get it - (laughter).

SAGAL: You see what I mean?

HIGGINS: Oh, believe you me - it's not easy.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, here's your next question. The U.K.'s Channel 4 came under some criticism for its creative use of an ice sculpture. Why? A, Her Majesty did not appreciate being represented by a sculpture titled Ice Queen; B, after Boris Johnson refused to participate in a debate on climate change, they had a melting ice sculpture take his place; or, C, to counterprogram a Theresa May speech on the BBC, they showed an ice sculpture of her for an hour with the caption - which seems more human?

JONES: Can I go with A again? Because I do love Queen Elizabeth, and I would want to think of her as an ice queen, either.

SAGAL: You can go with A again.

CORDERO: But...

SAGAL: I mean, it's possible.

GROSZ: He seems to be dissuading.

HIGGINS: He seems to B dissuading.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: Or it could be the answer B.

SAGAL: Yes, it's B. Very good. Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)

SAGAL: The...

JONES: Good instincts I had there.

CORDERO: Yeah.

SAGAL: Although the melting ice sculpture of the planet did hold its own in many fine points of debate. All right, last chance - if you get this, you win it. A local news reporter in California went viral when he knocked over the carving of the ice sculptor he was interviewing on live TV at the state fair. But there was another twist to the story. What was it - A, the reporter had faked the accident because he was bored of doing stupid human interest stories all the time; B, he was carried away by rage when he realized the ice sculpture was of his ex; or, C, the ice sculpture was his childhood enemy, and he had planned this vengeance for decades.

JONES: OK, I'm going to go with A one more time.

SAGAL: And this time it paid off, Doug.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

JONES: Yeah. OK, good. OK, good. Yeah.

SAGAL: Yes, that's true. It was an elaborate stunt. He didn't want to do the stories anymore. And it worked. Now he has his own news channel on YouTube.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: That worked out well.

SAGAL: It did. Bill, how did Doug Jones do on our quiz?

KURTIS: He loved A so much, he turned out a winner.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)

SAGAL: Congratulations. Yay. Doug Jones is an actor. You can see him now as Commander Saru on "Star Trek: Discovery." Season 3 is streaming on CBS All Access now. Doug Jones, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME. What a joy to talk to you.

JONES: Oh, the joy has been mine. Thank you all so very much for having me.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXANDRE DESPLAT'S "THE SHAPE OF WATER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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