Mickey Jones: The Character-Actor's Character-Actor
If you’ve seen Mickey Jones once, you’ve seen him a thousand times, only you might not realize it. Mickey is a character-actor that has appeared in so many films and TV shows (and even some commercials) that it’s impossible to name everything he’s done, at least not in two or three paragraphs. If you’ve seen a tough biker in a film or show – or a random badass with a thick beard who can kick the piss out of anyone at any given moment – that might just be Mickey Jones.
But his acting talents aren’t limited to tough-guy/biker-villains. He has played sensitive, intelligent characters as well. The bottom line: Mickey Jones is the epitome of a character actor… He’s done pretty much everything.
His career began as a drummer. He was behind the skins during the groundbreaking 1966 Bob Dylan concert where crowds booed Bob for going electric. He also played for a band called “First Edition” with Kenny Rogers on vocals. But it was in the late seventies when Mickey, tired of the road, branched into acting.
And he hasn’t stopped since.
What was your favorite TV movie that you appeared in and why?
My favorite TV movie was actually the min-series "V: The Final Battle". Working with my best friend, Michael Ironside, was the best. We became life-long friends and it was also the highest rated mini-series in the history of television.
One of my favorite character-actors is Paul Koslo whom you appeared in several shows with… When did you first work with him?
Paul Koslo is one of our very best actors. We first worked together and became friends on a pilot called, "Down Home". I was very new to the business and Paul sorta held my hand. He is the best.
What was your favorite theatrical movie that you appeared in and why?
My favorite theatrical movie was "The Fighting Temptations". It was exciting to get up early and go to work on this film. Everyday was great fun. I will never forget that job.
Along with Dennis Burkley you have been a biker in many films – have you two ever been in the same project?
The only time Dennis and I worked together was in the Kevin Costner film, "Tin Cup". We used to go up against each other all the time but this was the only time we actually worked together.
What are some of the other actors who you’ve played in Biker movies with (fellow “Biker role actors”)?
Big Bill Smith [William Smith], Charlie Dierkop, John Quade. It's hard to remember all of them.
When did you realize you wanted to switch from musician to actor?
I dreamed of being an actor when I was 8 years old but I did not believe that this kid in Texas would ever have the opportunity. I was at the movie with my dad when I was 8 and remember asking myself, "I wonder how you get to do that?” It seemed so far away. After I moved to Los Angeles and got to know a number of actors and people in the business, I then believed I could do it. I say, "Never give up". I was tired of going to the airport everyday on concert tours. I just had to get off the road so I gave up a great career to try and get in a business that I loved but starting at the bottom.
Was acting always something that came natural to you?
I think so. I never studied. I went to one acting class with Jeff Corey, one of the best acting coaches in the business who told me: "You don't need the class, you are a natural actor". I think he was right.
Who are some of your favorite musician-turned-actors?
I can't think of anyone except Rueben Blades.
Who are some of your favorite actor-turned-musicians?
NONE! I think actors are all wannabe musicians.
You worked on a memorable scene with (Governor) Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Total Recall” – how was it working with Arnold?
Arnold is the classiest guy I have ever met, let alone, worked with. I love Arnold. A few weeks after I got home from Mexico City, where we shot "Total Recall", I got a large envelope in the mail with the return address reading, SCHWARZENEGGER. I guess the post office knows where he lives. Inside were several photos of Arnold and me doing scenes together. He signed them and sent them to me. He did this jest completely unsolicited… A CLASS ACT!
In the movie “V: The Final Battle”, when one of the good guys (Michael Wright as “Elias Taylor”) finally casts the deciding-vote to nuke the aliens, your character “Chris” holds up his hands and does a silent round of applause – it’s hilarious and a scene I love to re-watch. Was that improvised or scripted?
That silent applause was just my way of saying THANK YOU for doing the right thing. It was not scripted but it was the right thing to do as “Chris Farber”.
You appeared on the TV series “V” (which came out after both miniseries) for two or three episodes, and then Michael Ironside (“Ham Tyler”) leaves the show… Question: Was your part on that show as a special guest because of Ironside’s departure?
I was supposed to be a regular just as Ironside was. After he knew that I was not going to be a regular, he decided to leave the show as well. The miniseries was great but the weekly series' budget was cut to nothing and there was no production value there. The series was an embarrassment. It was time to go.
What was your first acting gig? Were you nervous filming it?
My very first acting gig was in the Steve McQueen film, "Tom Horn". I was a little nervous but the role I got was great. It was the guy that Steve shoots down in the street later in the movie after he shoots the guys foot at Brown' Hole. The assistant director switched my role with one of the drivers that was his buddy. I was relegated to playing the guitar at Brown's Hole. I was pretty heartbroken. I got screwed on my first film.
You have a classic cameo with character-actor John Diehl in National Lampoon’s "Vacation" opposite Chevy Chase – any special or funny memories of that shoot?
National Lampoon's "Vacation" was early in my career. When I read that script, I actually laughed out loud alone in my room. I had no clue it would have the impact it has. I cannot go through an airport without someone coming up to me and asking to say my lines from "Vacation", you know, "ALL OF IT BOY". We shot that in Cayenta, AZ. A few years ago, I was on the Kyle Petty Motorcycle Ride Across America. We stopped in Cayenta for gas and I pointed out our shoot location to Richard and Kyle Petty. It was right across the street. Pretty cool to go there again.
Were there any acting jobs that didn’t go that great?
I can't think of any of my jobs that did not go great. If it had gone bad, I would probably been fired. The only situation where I loved the film but not the actor was “Tin Cup” with Don Johnson.
You’ve been involved in many fight scenes in films – do you do your own stunts?
I do my own fight scenes but I do not do any of the motorcycle or car crashes. I let the pros do that for me.
Being a very confident and talkative person (you’d mentioned in your Bob Dylan DVD that you could hold a conversation with a telephone pole), are you asked by directors to improvise a lot?
I would say that the chance to get to improvise is maybe 25% of the time. Most directors like you to stick to the script. The writers like you to say the words they wrote.
Name a few directors that you really liked working for – and why?
I loved working with John Badham, of "Drop Zone". No improvising there. My favorite was John Frankenhiemer. He directed "The Train" with Burt Lancaster, "Birdman of Alcatraz", "Ronin" and many more. I love just sitting with him and getting him talking about the early days of the business and the films he directed. Robert Benton directed "Nadine" with Kim Basinger and Jeff Bridges. He won Academy Awards for "Places in The Heart" and "Kramer vs. Kramer". A good old Texas boy.
Name some of your favorite actors you’ve worked with?
Arnold, Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Cuba Gooding Jr., Beyonce Knowles, Steve McQueen, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Ironside and there are too many more to remember.
What gives you the most satisfaction – music or films?
Tough question. A few years ago, I would have said music. Today, I think there is nothing better than doing a film. However, I still like to pick up a guitar and play some blues.
Have you ever worked with character-actor Tracy Walter?
I can't remember ever working with Tracy, although he was a great friend of mine.
Which of all the characters that you played can you relate with the most (are most like)?
I don't think I have ever just played ME. I try to create a character. I never try just to be me.
Around what time in your acting career did you realize that you were really doing well (when the jobs started rolling in)?
In the summer of 1978, I did a guest star role on "The Incredible Hulk". After that show aired, I started getting calls like crazy. That was the real turning point in my acting career.
What was the final deciding factor to go from music to film?
Like I said earlier, I dreamed of acting since I was 8 years old. I had reached a point in the music business that I felt like I had done everything there was to do and I wanted to get off the road. I was on an airplane 7 days a week, 10 months out of the year for 23 years. I wanted off the road. I knew that nothing would ever happen for me while I was on the road, so in 1976 made the decision to get off the road and pursue an acting career. I did it at the right time.
When people see you on the street, what movie or show do they mention to you the most?
When I meet people on the street they always mention "Vacation", "Sling Blade" and "Home Improvement".
You usually have a beard but in some shows you don’t… Do certain gigs require you to have a beard or to be clean shaven?
I will always have my beard. The only shows I can think of without my beard is the first "Incredible Hulk" and "M*A*S*H". I wanted to do "M*A*S*H" so I shaved for the two-parter that I did. My wife called her family in Las Vegas and told them "to watch "M*A*S*H" tonight because Mickey has a real nice guest star role". A half hour after the show was over, her sister called and said, "We all watched it but he wasn't on". They had never seen me without a beard so they missed me.
You appeared in a great episode of THE INCREDIBLE HULK (titled "Ricky", named after your character) where you played a mentally-challenged, sweet natured mechanic… Being that you usually played tough guys, was this role difficult?
That was a real challenge and it was the big break of my career. Until then, I had only done one or two line parts. In that script, I had 52 pages of dialogue in a 56 page script. On the first day of shooting our director told me that he had read roughly 70 people for this role. Most of them read the character as either a punch drunk fighter or a blithering idiot. He loved that I read the character as a little kid in a big body. After the show aired, I got tons of letters from parents and teaches of retarded kids telling me thank you for not making this kid a dummy or a moron. I hit the bull's-eye with this one and it jump started my acting career.
What kind of roles on film do you consider the easiest?
Which actor do you think you’ve appeared in the most number of shows with?
I appeared for 8 seasons on “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen. I did several "Dukes of Hazard" as Cooter's cousin, B. B. Davenport and I did several episodes of "The Incredible Hulk”, a different character every year after the 1978 season.
When you first got into acting, what acting teacher did you study with and what kind of method (if any) did you use?
The only method I use is to learn my lines and try not to bump into the furniture. A quote from Spencer Tracy.
Do you like playing villains?
I love it. It's what I do best.
Being an avid golfer… what’s your handicap?
I got down to a 12 but today, I am probably a 19 or 20. Getting older SUCKS!
During that famous Dylan show where they yelled “Judas”, who was it who said “Play it f---ing loud!” Many think it was Dylan… Was it?
I know the answer to that. For over 30 years everyone thought it was me. It was not me. In the documentary, "No Direction Home", Martin Scorsese tried to manipulate the film and sound to make it look like it was Bob. IT WAS NOT BOB! If you check it out, the picture and sound do not sync up. The answer is the true answer. In the film, Bob is whispering into Robbie Robertson's ear. The voice shouting, "Play F------ Loud was yelling LOUD. Bob was whispering. As I said, the film and the sound do not sync up and here's the kicker. The person shouting, "Play F------ Loud" has a British accent. My belief is that it was one of our stage crew sticking up for us in the moment. We had 6 road and stage crew members on the film and I truly believe that is the person responsible. I hate to open whole cans of worms but Scorsese got it wrong. I will stick to that until the day I die.
What are a few of your favorite Dylan albums?
My favorite is "Bringin' it All Back Home", then "Highway 61 Revisited" and of course, the album I played on, "1966 LIVE".
Tell us a little about your book THAT WOULD BE ME?
"That Would Be Me" took me 15 years to write. For several years I wanted to get a real writer to write the book for me while I told the stories. I finally realized that was never going to happen. I am stuck with this mess and it's up to me and me alone to get this done. The book has been out for a couple of months now and is doing quite well. A lot of musicians are buying the book. If you would like to check out the book, go to my website at www.mickeyjones.com. There you can click above and below the book cover, on the red letters and that will take you to my page on the publisher's website. There you can read, "About the Book", "About the Author", a review of the book from a media consultant from San Diego and you can also "Read an Excerpt" from one of the chapters on Bob Dylan. I hope everyone will check it out.
Interview by James M. Tate
For more about Mickey and the 1966 Bob Dylan tour:
BOB DYLAN HOME MOVIES 1966
To order the Mickey Jones autobiography:
MICKEY JONES: "THAT WOULD BE ME"
Mickey Jones Official Website:
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