For every dashing paleontologist and flirtatious “chaotician,” “Jurassic Park” has always (for better or worse) relied on the control room techs to make the dinosaur trains run on time. And the newest face for “Jurassic World’s” control room, Jake Johnson, has his work cut out for him.
The computer programmers are the secret hand that moves the guests, steers the attractions, and unfortunately unleashes a computer virus that disables all the security fences dooming all the park guests to certain death. So how does the new crop of desk jockeys fare in the flashier sequel “Jurassic World”?
We spoke with “New Girl” actor Johnson about his character, Lowery, the super-meta, dinosaur-obsessed programmer in Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic World,” and asked him about resurrecting the besmirched reputation of those who work in “Jurassic World’s” control room, how he thinks he fares in the long line of “Jurassic Park” computer techs (including Samuel L. Jackson, who played Ray Arnold, and Wayne Knight as the nefarious Dennis Nedry) and, finally, why a person would deem it appropriate to wear the T-shirt that represents the bloody incident that happened on Isla Nublar back in 1993 at his current place of employment. Minor spoilers ahead (and no, we didn’t ask him if he knew how to use a UNIX system).
Could you take us into the mind-set of Lowery? Who is this guy?
Yes, it’s funny you ask, because Colin [Trevorrow] and I and Derek [co-screenwriter Connolly] actually did a lot of back story on him. We view Lowery as the kind of guy who would be obsessed with the original Jurassic Park. Not the movie, but the actual park, but was too young to have gone. We see him as a guy that, after college and Jurassic World came about, felt like he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work there. He’s a guy who’s working there in that control room in order to be close to the dinosaurs everyday, like somebody who’s obsessed with animals who works at a zoo. Just to feel as close as he possibly can, live in a little hut on the island and have his own garden in the back. Just a cool, kind of stony guy who’s just tripping out on the fact that his day job is on some weird island with dinosaurs.
I’m glad that you mentioned that he was too young to have gone to the park, because the big moment (for your character) is when Claire [Bryce Dallas Howard] realizes that he’s wearing a Jurassic Park T-shirt. I’m curious, what kind of person wears a Jurassic Park T-shirt in the universe where Jurassic Park exists?
The idea that we wanted to do with it was that, of course he would wear it because he thinks vintage is cool. He’s only there because he really wanted to be in Jurassic Park. It’s like he just got the shirt and he hates the way 2015 is going, he just thinks that the early ‘90s were cooler. Like the majority of people who have that cool slant to them, the year before was always better than the current one.
I’m curious if you think he’s the voice of the audience, because he feels like the generation who may wear a Jurassic...
Yeah, that’s right. Colin’s original idea was that we have a friend who we based our look on, a guy named Clay Allen, who’s a writer. He’s a friend of Derek, Colin and myself. He’s just a guy we really respect and we really like, and he is kind of the voice of the audience. So we wanted to put somebody ... if a guy like Clay was going to go see the movie, what would he think of all this? Then, Colin’s idea was, “Now I want that guy to get swept up in the story and go on his own arc and get insane about it the way we hope the audience does.”
Where do you think Lowery ranks with the past tech guys from Jurassic Park, like Sam Jackson’s character and Wayne Knight’s character?
I can’t do, I can’t say that! That’s up to you guys!
How do you think that conversation would go if they were alive and they could...
If Sam, Wayne Knight and Lowery were all talking?
As their characters to your Lowery?
I think Lowery would be having an anxiety attack from pure excitement. I think the whole thing would be Lowery asking questions.
He’s also very meta. The movie plays a lot with tropes. There’s a “someone has to stay behind” gag. Did you and Colin sit down and ask, “What sort of tropes do we want to play with?” There’s so much “Jurassic Park” nostalgia in there, your character is kind of the champion of that. Were there fun action tropes you wanted to bust in this film?
The game of it, for Lowery, was that most people in action movies aren’t fans of action movies, they’re just in it. The game of it for us was, “What if you take a guy who doesn’t belong in these who happens to find himself in them?” Everything stand up after pressing a button, to ... Bryce’s character, Claire, yelling at him to press the button. Everything he has to do, he just can’t believe he’s involved in this, then gets caught up in it.
It’s actually kind of refreshing, because so many movies today, or television shows, refuse to address the obvious. Just say it’s a zombie, you know that’s a zombie! They won’t reference the pop culture material that’s right in front of their face.
I think the idea that Colin and them wanted to do is our audiences are really smart now, there’s so many options. He’s like, “Let’s just have somebody who can be part of the joke with people.”
Did you set up your own desk for your character or did you have set do that?
Colin really put those dinosaurs how he wanted, but then the paperwork and everything was just kind of he and ... I like to always be writing little things everywhere I go. It was a combination of both of us.
By the time you were done, how many “things,” and what did you write all over your desk?
Constant stuff, every day. I do that in almost everything I’m in, I like having the space that I work in as an actor feel very personal, and I like writing little things to myself that mean something so that during a scene, you can reference something that is personal to either me or to the character I’m playing to keep me in it. There’s countless, countless weirdness.
You and Colin have a previous relationship from working together on “Safety Not Guaranteed.” When you found out he got the “Jurassic World” job, were you excited, did you want a part?
I think every actor, when their buddy’s a director and they find out something, we all want to be in the movie. You’re kind of not allowed to say that. Colin called me pretty quick after and said, “If this goes down, I got a part for you.” So I was rooting for him, not only as my friend, but selfishly, throughout. I really wanted to experience this and I really wanted to experience it with him. Doing a big studio movie where you’re not close with the director, it can be great if you guys happen to get along, but if you don’t, it can be a nightmare. Being able to do this with him was truly such a pleasure.
You admitted that this character’s kind of like the voice of the audience, the eyes of the viewers. Did you feel responsibility taking on that character?
I think one of the reasons why I play characters who are somewhat similar and somewhat…. If it is the voice of an audience, I don’t feel responsible. I don’t feel like I have this great responsibility, I just want to come to what’s honest to me. If we didn’t get it right, hey, I’m sorry. I’m doing as best I can, I don’t feel like one of those actors who has.... Certain actors are like a piece of clay, and you can mold them to be anything you want. I’m not that guy, I’m like a weird rock with a hook nose. This is kind of what you got.
At the very least, you saved the hacker, Nedry. The problem with him is that he is the villain. He gets his comeuppance and he sets a bad example for hackers and tech people everywhere. Your guy kind of resurrects that stereotype for the better.
You know, that’s a big priority for me. I think hackers get a really bad deal. My brother-in-law, a guy named Adam Fisk, he is essentially a hacker. He is the builder of LittleShoot, and a thing called Lantern. What he does is he makes it possible for people to get around Internet things. In foreign countries, where something’s illegal, he’s building software that you can get around things. Well, he and I battle all the time because part of what he’s doing is part of the world where you can steal content very easily. That content is stuff that I’m in! So yes, in terms of Adam Fisk, my brother-in-law, I am very happy making sure that they don’t seem like the bad guys.
“Jurassic World” will premier in theaters this weekend.