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The “Clerks II” Interviews – Trevor Fehrman

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
The “Clerks II” Interviews – Trevor Fehrman

As we continue our look at “Clerks II,” which hits theaters July 21st, we catch up with actor Trevor Fehrman who plays Elias, one of the clerks at Mooby’s – a rather naive and innocent character in love with all things “Lord of the Rings,” “Transformers” and Jesus. As one of the newest members of the Viewaskewniverse, one might think his lack of history with Smith’s films would necessarily make him an outsider compared to the rest of the cast, but Elias fits in perfectly with Dante and Randal (with Randal doing his best to open his eyes to the realities of the world and destroying his innocence) and even steals many scenes by the end of the film. Especially during the donkey show. Without getting too into it – we don’t want to spoil it for you, but we need to give you some context – let’s just say Elias enjoys the donkey show a bit too much.

Note: The following interview includes adult situations and language.

So, the donkey scene!

Yes, all roads lead to the donkey scene.

We have to start there. How much alcohol did you have to consume before doing that scene?

[laughs] It wasn’t so much the alcohol; I’m more a crystal meth kind of guy. [laughs]

Was it an uncomfortable scene to do?

No, I have sort of a twisted sense of humor, so I like stuff that pushes your buttons.

You play a stereotype of a very real type of fan you see at comic and genre conventions. Are you at all like that guy?

What I like so much about this character is he doesn’t fit the mold of the kind of nerd I’m used to seeing. Our notions of what’s nerdy and geeky were invented in the ’70s and ’80s and they’re not really relevant anymore. As we’re seeing now, with these big blockbuster [scifi and fantasty] movies, things like comic books aren’t that nerdy anymore. They’re kind of cool. In the late ’50s, early ’60s when film was seen as a medium largely of entertainment rather than a medium of art, people would ask “Why are you wasting so much time watching films?” Well, those nerds went on to be George Lucas and Steven Spileberg and that’s how franchises like Indiana Jones get made. This character, what I find so interesting about him, is that he’s kind of this new nerd.

Kind of an uber nerd?

Well, yeah. I think we need to come up with another word like a “gerd” or a “neek” or something like that! [laughs]

As to the second part of your question, I’d like to think no, but I started to think about it the other day and I like to describe Elias as a guy who has three things that are important to him: the “Lord of the Rings,” the “Transformers” and Jesus. So, I thought about it in terms of myself and, well, I like the “Lord of the Rings” and I do like the “Transformers.” Jesus? Kind of a stand offish guy. He kinda gave me the cold shoulder. [laughs]

You did that film with Jeff Anderson, “Now You Know,” and that’s how Kevin found out about you, right?

Yeah, that’s right. Jeff wrote and directed “Now You Know.” It’s a really cool flick and there’s a lot of really funny stuff in it. I got the call, auditioned for it cold, went in and Jeff was kind enough to cast me for it. Kevin saw that, liked it and that’s what got me this gig. Getting that role in the first place was this act of sheer serendipity. Before I even found out about the audition, I happened to catch “Clerks” on TV. I didn’t really get into films until I was around 20 – I’m a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to film. So, when you start talking with people about films, one of the first movies brought up is “Clerks” and for good reason. So, I was flipping through the channels and just happened to come across “Clerks” and I checked it out. There are significant differences between Jeff’s film and Kevin’s world, but there are also some significant similarities. “Clerks” was Jeff’s first movie, so of course it could do nothing but greatly inform his approach to film making. And then seeing “Clerks” at this extremely fortuitous time greatly informed my audition for Jeff’s movie. Had I not been in the right place at the right time, I still maintain to this day I may not have gotten the aesthetic of Jeff’s script, I would have botched the audition, I never would have been cast and Kevin would never have seen me and I wouldn’t have got this gig. It’s true about everything, but especially with show business – it’s all about right place at the right time. 90% of it is luck. At the end of the day you have to be competent not to shoot yourself in the foot, right, but that’s why we see so much mediocrity in television, film and in music because so much of it is just who you know and what parties you go to. That’s why there are so many flashes in the pan because 90% of these people aren’t competent enough to not shoot themselves in the foot when the rubber hits the road. Now, the jury’s still out on whether or not I’ll be able to not shoot myself in the foot, but for the time being I’ll take it slow and steady.

What was it like working with Jeff, having him direct you, and then have him there with you on the same side of the camera?

Yeah, you’d wonder if maybe it would be a hard transition for Jeff to go from director/authority mode to being more like my equal, but it wasn’t a hard transition because Jeff is such a creature of integrity. I would have welcomed any suggestions from Jeff because he’s a funny guy, but I guess he never felt like it was his place. He’s also a really great director to work with. He’s like Kevin in the sense that he knows exactly what he wants and he writes his dialogue very precisely, and I like that. I don’t like adlibbing. I hate adlibbing. Unless you’re really good at it, when I watch a film it always reads like adlibbing to me. Best case scenario I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, that person’s adlibbing really well.” Unless you do it so well that it seems like conversation and, appropriately enough, there is a scene like that in this film with Wanda Sykes and Earthquake. They adlibbed so much and it’s so sharp. When Earthquake says, “Baby, you can’t talk like that, you’ve been saved” and immediately, without even thinking about it she says, “Man, there’s nobody from my church here!” [laughs] If you can do it that well, then go with it. For me, I like being told what to say. You might think that causes an atmosphere of oppression or something, but for me it’s liberating because it takes the pressure off the stuff I shouldn’t have to worry about.

Was there ever a scene where you couldn’t keep a straight face delivering your lines?

Yes, the pussy troll scene. [laughs]

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking of. What the hell was that?

The pussy troll scene was one of those scenes that is a real nothing ventured, nothing gained scenario. When I first read the script I thought, “Whew, he didn’t fuck it up.” The second thought was, “How are we going to make this scene work?” There are a couple of golden rules that always exist in comedy. There’s the rule of three – two times isn’t funny, four times isn’t funny, but three times is funny. The second rule is you have to believe it. In order for the audience to find it funny they need to believe that you believe what you’re saying. The dilemma with that scene is how the fuck do you convince the audience that this person actually believes there’s a malevolent troll living in his girlfriend’s vagina? How do you fucking sell that? That’s hard. We rehearsed that hard core for like a week, it was real touch and go. Literally seconds before we did my close up on that scene where I was going to have to really sell the lines, Kevin came up to me and he’s had an epiphany. “Dude, total change of plans. Just think ‘The Shining,’ do it creepy.” I was like, “I don’t know man,” and he just said, “‘The Shining.'” [laughs] We did it in this creepy way and it turned out really well. I have all the lines in that scene, but in a way – and I promise that I’m not trying to be cosmetically humble here – that really is Jeff’s scene. If you watch the film with an audience, listen to where the laughs come from. It’s not when I’m talking, it’s when the camera cuts back to Jeff’s blank stare. [laughs] The audience needs to have a proxy to know it’s not a completely insane world they’re watching, that there’s someone as shocked and appalled by this as they are.

The part where I couldn’t stop laughing to the point where we couldn’t actually use it is the line where I’m like, “Boyfriends and Girlfriends talk to each other about sex stuff, Randall. You’d know that if you ever had a girlfriend.” Kevin originally had me holding up this hamburger and pouring ketchup on it, just staring at it. [laughs] So, I’m delivering the line while staring at the hamburger and for whatever reason it tickled me so much that I could not stop laughing. Kevin just said, “Allright, dude, put the ketchup down.”

You’ve got a pretty tight nit group of actors in this movie. Did you find it at all difficult coming into this group?

I’m a bit of a neurotic person, so I have certain social anxieties about meeting people and being accepted by them. I didn’t grow up with that many friends – that probably had something to do with me being very rude. [laughs] I was nervous about going in. I’ve admired all these people and wanted them to all like me.

Two things made it really easy for me. One is I’d known Jeff for four years and knew worst case scenario I would just be able to hang out with Jeff all day. The second thing was this was an extremely cool group of people. In this left handed way they’re incredibly warm and inviting. They go out of their way to make you feel more comfortable. They engage you intentionally. It’s little things they do. They have this whole system of etiquette that’s really a breath of fresh air, especially in this city. Little things like they don’t interrupt you or they’ll make fun of themselves more than they’ll make fun of other people. Kevin’s wife Jen really went out of her way to include me in things and hang out with me and opened up to me, which was great. You quickly grow intimate with these people. And Mewes is one of the most congenial guys I’ve ever met. I fucking love that guy. He was more subtle. He was just the kind of guy who’d hang out with you. And it’s hard not to feel comfortable around somebody who after only knowing him for three days, you’ve seen his testicles. [laughs]

We were playing poker one night – and you know how they say all roads lead to Rome, well, all conversation topics eventually lead to Jason’s scrotum – and he’s talking about his testicles for some reason, I don’t know why, and he’s like, “I’m going to show you the brain.” I’ll let you imagine that little moment yourself. So, we’re playing poker and I’m kind of in the mood to call his bluff and I say, “Mewes, I’ve known you for three days, you’re not going to show me your testicles.” “Ahhhhhh yeah, really?” Immediately! [laughs] No coaxing whatsoever. He’s probably already done with you guys, right?

Yeah.

Well, had you simply said the word “balls,” he would have shown you his balls. [laughs] You wouldn’t have even needed to say, “Jason, show me your balls.” That dude is very, very proud of his testicles. [laughs] And it’s not that they’re anything spectacular. [laughs] We should have a ball-off. [laughs]

Let’s get Jason back in here!

Kevin said when Rosario walked into the first reading, everyone collectively sucked in their gut. Is that true?

The first time I remember seeing Rosario it was at the table read. I was nervous to meet her because she’s so beautiful, she’s so good looking – [Trevor motions to the female reporter sitting to his left] she’s nothing compared to you, of course [laughs] – but the thing about Rosario is she’s incredibly cool and easy to hang out with. She’s very friendly, so if you’re a little nervous she’ll just be aggressive until you’re not anymore. So, no, I didn’t suck in my gut, but I did cross my legs. [laughs]

The nerdy, comic book side of you didn’t get all shy?

I definitely got a little bit shy. I’m normally a very flirtatious guy and I love flirting with girls and Rosario was like, “Woah, hot plate.” I remember one of the first days of rehearsal, I was sitting down and she just came over and sat on my lap! And I was like [speechless for five seconds] … I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t know where to put my hands! [laughs]

Are you a comics fan?

Yeah, absolutely.

What do you like?

I love talking about comics. I read the X-Men growing up. I loved the X-Men because they’re cool and they’re adventure stories, but in my humble opinion there’s not a lot of depth to them. So, I kind of grew out of them and it wasn’t until I was 21 years old or so and I became friends with Martin Starr who I did this movie “Cheats” with. Martin played Bill in “Freaks & Geeks,” so through him I know all these Judd Apatow people and one of those guys is Seth Rogan. He’s the coolest guy in the world. He writes with Judd and he’s in “40 Year Old Virgin” and lots of stuff. So, I was over at his house one day and he’s a big comic fan and was smart enough to never loose his love for comics, he just found the good ones. So, I read “The Dark Knight Returns” and I was blown away. I studied comparative literature in college and I try to take literature seriously and I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, this is actually really good.” So, I read the whole thing and the next day I went to Golden Apple Comics on Melrose and told them I just read “The Dark Knight Returns” and asked them for their recommendations. They gave me, “Kingdom Come,” “Marvels,” “Planetary” and a couple of other ones. But I was still phasing out super hero comics and wanted to get into the underground, so I went to Meltdown in Hollywood. For a long time my favorite comic, by far, was “Jimmy Corrigan.” I thought that was so fucking brilliant. It’s so sad and sensitive and really strange and interesting. Meticulously stylized. So, I though no way could a comic ever be better than this.

Then I discovered Alan Moore.

I had established in my mind that I had seen the best super hero comics had to offer. So, I was reading online this 100 best comics thing or whatever and “V For Vendetta” and “Swamp Thing” and “Watchmen” were on there. So, at the end of shooting for “Clerks II,” I bought the “Watchmen” from Kevin’s store Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank. It just seemed so appropriate to buy the comic there. I bought it and I couldn’t put it down. That book is amazing. It is an incredible work of art. It’s this incredible anthropological discourse on American society. Amazing. That’s why I’m really afraid of the movie they’re making from it. They didn’t fuck up “V for Vendetta” as much as I thought they would, but they still fucked it up. Let’s face it, the book is still way better. It’s good, but it’s not as good as I needed it to be. If they fuck up “Watchmen,” I’m going to be so pissed off! Frankly, I really don’t see how they can’t fuck it up.

The one bit of good news is the director for the film, Zack Snyder, is a major fan of the book and has wanted this project for a long time.

Oh, is he the guy who’s doing it? I heard Terry Gilliam dropped out.

Yeah, he dropped out as well as number of others.

What has he done?

He’s finishing up “300” right now and did the “Dawn of the Dead” remake.

Oh, that’s cool. The “Dawn of the Dead” remake was pretty cool.

Have you checked out Rosario’s new comic?

No! What’s her new comic?

“Occult Crimes Taskforce”

Really? Wow, that’s cool. I wonder who’s hotter – Rosario in real life or Rosario in comic book form? [laughs] The good news is I can … no, wait, that’s way too dirty. I’ll say that around people who won’t print it! [laughs]

Thanks, Trevor!

Next up: Kevin Smith! (Look for the interview Monday morning)

Previously: Brian O’Halloran & Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Rosario Dawson

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