Dean O’Gorman on The Almighty Johnsons, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Trumbo, and superheroes
Dean O’Gorman is a known name in New Zealand as an actor, artist and photographer, but soon became known to audiences worldwide as Fili, a dwarf, in the blockbuster trilogy The Hobbit. Now, the international audiences can watch a clean-shaven, suave O’Gorman as the god of poetry/Anders Johnson in the Syfy hit series The Almighty Johnsons.
Nerd Reactor had a chance to chat with the talented star about The Almighty Johnsons, Trumbo, The Hobbit and superheroes.
Nerd Reactor: The US audience just received the first season of The Almighty Johnsons, even though there are already three seasons of the show shown in New Zealand. We will wait patiently for the next seasons, but what can you tell us about the next season [2nd season]?
Dean O’Gorman: Oh man, I need to think back to it. The second season pretty much picks up where the first one finishes. For me, it was a slightly different experience because I was shooting The Hobbit at the time. All my things were pushed to a month’s worth of shooting. I was seen a little bit later, so I had a slightly different experience on the second season. It goes more into the characters’ backgrounds. We get to see how Ty’s relationship works out for him. Anders…I’m trying to think what I did in the second season. [Manager whispers: You’re in the Netherlands.] Oh, that’s right! Thank you for that. Yeah, basically, I am on this mission to find the stick of life, which is going to be crucial to Anders. Increase the powers for Anders specifically. Even more for him to transcend his status into a mighty god.
NR: I know you were filming both The Almighty Johnsons and The Hobbit at the same time. How difficult was that for you?
Dean: No, I really liked it. I mean, I was really tired. I really enjoyed it. For me, I really liked when I’m working and stayed working. Once you’re on a roll, it’s much easier to continue that energy. When I do a job, I build a lot of energy and when I stop doing a job, I came to crash for a few weeks. So pushing on through for me was good, especially for those really long hours on The Hobbit. So I think that, it’d good to have a break. I really liked it. We were filming over the summer in New Zealand, which is a really fun time. I haven’t seen the guys for about a year. It was really nice to be on set with everybody and committing so much of a social life that our work schedule would permit.
NR: I know The Almighty Johnsons ends at the third season, but we will see any specials?
Dean: Personally, I would love to see something like a Christmas Special. [That] would be fantastic. James Griffin [creator] never wanted to do too many seasons because he liked the idea of having a final amount of series to work with. But, we also left a sufficient amount of questions to warrant another program or special. They also tie up a lot as well. It would be satisfying to explore what happens to the characters, especially since they lost their powers. It might be a completely different show, but I think [we’ll be] watching Anders or Olaf trying to deal with living their life without their powers. Those two specifically relied on their powers and defined themselves by their powers. To see them without it would potentially be very funny and interesting to watch. But, in terms of anything at the moment, I don’t know. I was pushing for a Christmas special.
NR: Your character Anders is a romantic, arrogant, ladies man. But, of all the characters on the show, who do you relate to the most?
Dean: I don’t think I’m like any of the characters, to be fair. I mean, I think Ben Barrington who plays Olaf is truly an eccentric, unique individual. Tim Balme [who plays Mike/Ullr, who] is like a fiery Tasmanian Devil. Emmitt [Skilton who plays Axl Johnson/Odin] is like a big puppy. Jared is kind of like a UFC Fighter.
In terms of my character Anders, there are elements of him I could relate to. I don’t think I’m like Anders, because that would put me in an unflattering light. Everyone has a bit of the character that they can relate to.
NR: Since you were filming two things in one year [The Hobbit and The Almighty Johnsons], do you prefer being a dwarf or a god?
Dean: I think I prefer the facial hair of a dwarf to the clean shaven of a god. It depends. I think I rather be a dwarf in Middle-earth for a period of time other than the god of poetry. Because, the god of poetry doesn’t get much respect as opposed to playing Thor or Odin. Yeah, Anders is a fun character to play, but he’s sort of a powerless character. He’s always searching for power. He’s kinda of neurotic about it whereas playing the character of Fili…he’s more crazy. The character is more aspirational.
NR: Will we see the character Anders have a happy ending?
Dean: Yeah, I think Anders gets a ‘happy ending’ every night.
NR: Oh no, not that kind. Will we see him finally settling down – a happy, healthy relationship in life?
Dean: I don’t want to answer that because I don’t want to give the ending away, but I will say one of the things I like about Anders is he wasn’t asking for sympathy and he wasn’t asking people to like him. To play that as a character is really freeing. I said to James, “Please, please don’t search for goodness in Anders.” It’s not that Anders doesn’t have goodness in him, it’s just that I think it’s better for people to find that as opposed to him [showing] it. So that’s what I would want to say really. I want people to watch the whole season so they could see where Anders ends up. I think in terms of characters, having to play the nice guy can be a real burden. As much as I could free myself of that burden, the better.
NR: Do you like playing the ‘good guy’ or the ‘bad guy’?
Dean: I think it’s just in terms of perspective. I think anyone playing the bad guy wouldn’t call himself ‘the bad guy’. They just have a different perspective than the hero. The good thing about playing “the bad guy” is that if people don’t like you, that’s fine. If you’re playing the lead, who is considered a pretty heroic nice guy, in theory, you want to keep your actions in line with that. I think what is more interesting about a character is to have a more empathetic response as opposed to whether they like the character or even agree with them, as long as they can some way sympathize with the character’s choices. That’s the biggest challenge and the most fun.
NR: Let’s talk about your new role as Kirk Douglas [in the new movie Trumbo]. Congrats on that role! So what can you tell us about that?
Dean: I have to be honest, because we are still in the early stages of filming. I would rather not talk too much about it in this stage because it’s a fairly new job. Other than the fact that I found out about this role about a month ago. I auditioned via Skype in New Zealand. I’m a fan of Helen Mirren, Bryan Cranston, and John Goodman. When I found out I had the opportunity to work with these guys, I was really excited and nervous. It’s quite an opportunity I’m excited about.
NR: When I heard you were cast, I was really excited about it. Great casting choice.
Dean: Thank you. Yeah, Jay Roach [director of Trumbo] is one of the loveliest men I’ve met. He’s a really good director. He saw something in me that had the interest for the character. I’m very fortunate in a way that he’s a real person. It means I have a lot of information and to find out who he was and what he is like.
NR: I know you can’t talk more about it, but when does filming begin?
Dean: We started. I’ve been in New Orleans for two weeks. Just under two weeks. Still the early days for me. Getting used to New Orleans, which I love. The weather here is perfect. It’s really hot, which is a change for me versus in New Zealand, which is cold and rainy at the moment. Here, it’s really warm and rainy.
NR: When will you begin the press tour for The Hobbit?
Dean: Yeah, it’s coming out in December. We will begin the press stuff and it will be the final hurrah for us. It will be the end of an era.
NR: How are you feeling about this final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies?
Dean: I think there will be a lot of feelings, because one of the greatest things about that job is the friendships that we formed. Each year knowing there was going to be a premiere or press [event] was nice because I knew I’d get to meet up with some of the guys again. So there will be a sadness there that it is over. Also, too, looking towards a new chapter. So in a way, something new. When I started that job, it felt like it was a job that would never end. It was three years and then premieres after that. So it was about four or five years of my life involved with The Hobbit. I’m actually really interested to see what that feels like. I had no idea what the job would be like when I did it. Then I discovered what the experience was. Now I don’t know what it’s like to finish the job completely of this size, of this scale. I guess I’ll find out the morning after the premiere.
NR: Did you take anything with you from the set?
Dean: We were given some pretty extraordinary gifts at the end of shooting. I was given my sword – a steel sword. We were also given our LEGO figure, which we were all excited about, and a painting by a really great New Zealand artist who painted each of our characters. We got that gifted to us and I thought it was really special.
NR: Do you ever miss the dwarf facial hair and the prosthetics versus being clean-shaven Anders?
Dean: Yeah, at times physically it could be annoying at times, but it’s an extra thing to hide behind as the character. As for Anders, it’s freeing because there is no mask to hide behind.
NR: Since we are a geek site, I wanted to ask you some geeky questions. Would you rather be Thor or Loki?
Dean: Thor, definitely. Loki’s a jerk.
NR: Thor or Odin?
Dean: I think I probably go Odin.
NR: Would you rather be a Marvel superhero or a DC superhero?
Dean: Which one is Batman?
Dean: Okay, DC.
NR: You would like to be Batman?
Dean: I think Batman is badass. I didn’t read a lot of comics when I was younger, but the only comic I did read was Batman. I loved it for the art. I love the Killing Joke [graphic novel]. I’ve been reading it since I was a kid and I thought it was fantastic. All that stuff with Batman I thought was really great. So, I’d be Batman.
NR: Joker or Riddler?
Dean: Joker, definitely. Riddler, I don’t know about the type.
NR: If you could play a part in any Batman series, who would it be?
Dean: I don’t know. My repertoire of comics of not very wide. Oh… who knows? Batgirl. I have no idea. I’m sorry.
NR: No problem.
Dean: You know what! Flash is Marvel?
NR: No, he’s DC.
Dean: I’ll do the Flash because I hate waiting in traffic, so it would be good.
NR: Batman versus Flash?
Dean: Batman, definitely. Usually it’s Batman versus Superman.
NR: Which character from The Almighty Johnsons would you like to be?
Dean: Anders. I love Anders.
NR: So you’d remain the god of poetry?
Dean: [laughs] Yeah, I could use him against the gods themselves. Odin is a good character because he’s the god of everything, but he gets blinded later on. So I don’t want to lose my eyesight. I think I’ll stick to Bragi [which is Anders]. It’s kind of nice to do what you want with your voice.
NR: As your character Bragi/Anders, if you could convince anyone to do anything you want, what would you do?
Dean: The great thing about persuading people, whatever you want to do, you can persuade them at the moment. I think I’d just use it all the time. I’d use it on casting directors. I’d use it on my parents…I thought about a god power! I think I’d choose the ability to choose when I need to take a piss. Honestly, there is nothing worse than not being able to do it.
NR: If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Dean: Oh man, the ability to think of witty answers on the spot.
NR: Thank you so much for this interview. Do you have anything to say to your fans?
Dean: Yeah. Honestly, thanks for your commitment. We got a lovely base of fans. They are all really supportive. Every time we have a chance to meet them, they are all really nice and supportive. Thank you.
The first season of Syfy’s The Almighty Johnsons will be released on Blu-ray and DVD this Tuesday, but you can still catch some episodes on Syfy.