Following his widely applauded turn as Rorschach in "Watchmen" and his upcoming role as Freddy Krueger in the remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," it's somewhat surprising to find actor Jackie Earle Haley embracing a television role in "Human Target," the new hour-long action thriller from FOX. An actor's move from film to television was once looked at as a downgrade, but in the end, Haley didn't join the series because of the storytelling medium — he joined because of the quality of the story itself.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview with CBR News, Haley spoke about his work on "Human Target," the dynamics between his character and the rest of the show's cast, his past role of Rorschach and upcoming turn as Freddy Krueger, and his once-rumored attachment to star in "Green Lantern" as Sinestro.
In "Human Target," Haley plays Guerrero, an information gatherer that would happily take a beating from a pair of bruisers, only to slit their throats in their sleep a week later. "Reading the pilot script, it was just an awesome script with a really interesting character, Guerrero," said the actor. "He's an interesting addition [to the cast] in that he's kind of a cleaner, a fixer, an information gatherer — he's a lot of things. One of the things that's interesting about him is that it's hard to tell exactly where his loyalties lie. But I think, over time, we'll start to realize that this guy does have a philosophy. He's the kind of guy that understands the world we live in and how it really operates. He gets things done."
Guerrero is one of three characters at the core of "Human Target," the other two being carefree action hero Christopher Chance (Mark Valley, "Fringe") and the morally composed Winston (Chi McBride, "Pushing Daisies"). The trio form the unique security contracting service at the center of the series, and Guerrero's interactions with both characters couldn't be more different. "A lot of who [Guerrero] is is because of his past, and as we're learning about Chance, it appears that Chance's background is somewhat questionable, that perhaps he was working on the other side before he hooked up with Winston and decided to move forward in a positive manner, and Guerrero kind of followed him over," he described. "I think there's some history there that's going to be fun to get at, to learn how these two are involved with one another."
While Chance and Guerrero are more or less on equal footing with one another, Haley's character is constantly at odds with Winston. "Winston comes from a police background, so the way he looks at life and morals and ethics is much different than the way Guerrero does," Haley explained. "These guys are so at odds, but their goals are the same. What keeps it interesting is that the dynamics of these characters are quite different, but they always have the same mission, objectives and goals. They just get at it in different ways, and it creates an interesting conflict where these guys continually need to resolve who they are with one another."
The show's core trio isn't always on the same page with one another, but Haley said that the relationship between himself, Valley and McBride couldn't be any more different. "It's absolutely awesome," he said. "We get along great and love to joke around. A lot of the time we're split up. We work together a bit, and then we work apart. The other day we were all three on the set with some other actors as well, but I remember looking at Mark and he was referring to us three guys, saying, 'It's great when we're all together.' He's right; it's a lot of fun. We've worked together for a long time now and there's camaraderie, so it's special when we're spending one of those fourteen-hour days together. It's just great — a really great group of guys. Mark is just cool as beans and Chi is a great guy and funny as all get out. It's a real blast."
For Haley, one of the pleasures about working on a television series as opposed to a film is the unique way in which he gets to develop his character. "I'm used to doing everything out in front and then working very closely with the director as we're on the set, but this is neat because so much gets developed behind what you're doing," he explained. "You get a strong grasp of your character and you're moving forward, and with each new episode, with the writers, we start discovering more and more about the character. It's a very interesting process. It's just a killer job, just working on a continual basis on this one character and show. It's been a real learning experience for me. It's been enlightening."
Haley isn't concerned with any perceived stigma of working on a television series despite his successful movie career. "I really think the lines between movies and TV are getting blurred," he said. "I can't tell you how many movies you go to that look just like TV shows. Granted, on the real high-end side of things, movies take a longer time to craft, so there's more attention to detail and you can spend more time on a character. But this is kind of fun for me because I'm finally doing something that my eleven year old daughter can watch."
Indeed, there isn't much in Haley's recent resume that's fitting for a younger audience. Following his Oscar-nominated turn as a sex offender in "Little Children," Haley took on the iconic role of Rorschach in Zack Snyder's adaptation of "Watchmen," an experience that influenced Haley's appreciation for the comic book community. "I had such a blast working on 'Watchmen' and playing Rorschach," he said. "It was such a phenomenal introduction to the comic book world. I'd been introduced to it before, but with this, I really delved in. To get to come into the material with Alan Moore's 'Watchmen' was such an incredible experience. What really amazed me was the fan base of the comic book world. They felt such an ownership over the material. I found them helpful in my research and their passion was infectious. Going to Comic-Con and seeing how passionate they were, geeking out about not only 'Watchmen' but all of their favorite properties, there was just something about it, man. It just seemed to make sense to try and continue building that relationship with the Comic-Con world. The properties are so cool and fun and the characters are interesting, so it's a neat genre to work in."
Rorschach's vigilant stance against crime pales in comparison to Haley's upcoming turn as Freddy Krueger in the remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," a vicious role that came with equally harsh working conditions. "It was an incredibly challenging process," he admitted. "The make-up and the glue was torturous yet incredibly motivating. You're in there for three and a half hours and then you come out as Freddy. It's so cumbersome; I don't even know how to describe it. My entire head is covered all the way up to the eye — right up to the eye. Then they've got fake fingertips on my left hand and a glove with knives on my right, so I can't use my hands. Then I've got a contact lens where one of them blinds my left eye and the other I can kind of see through. It's just this odd, odd feeling. It's very uncomfortable and weird but incredibly motivating between 'action' and 'cut.' I would just take all of that discomfort and go, 'Alright, Freddy. Here's what you feel like.' It was such an arduous task, but at the same time, it was fun playing this guy."
One make-up heavy character that Haley won't be playing is Sinestro in "Green Lantern." Months ago, rumors suggested that the actor would take on the villainous role in the DC Comics adaptation, and even after he initially dispelled the reports, it wasn't until the announcement of Mark Strong's casting that Haley's name was finally removed from the rumor mill. "There's no truth to it," he said. "I'm not sure [where it came from]. I do kind of recall a while back that the DC guys mentioned it, but that was quite a while back and [the rumor] just went where it went."
For now, Haley has enough comic book material to work with in "Human Target" as he continues to develop Guerrero's history, something that he's spoken with the writers about rather extensively. "We've had lots of conversations," Haley said about his character's development. "A lot of the time, this stuff isn't completely defined — it's more like what-ifs, because a lot of this isn't defined for the writers, either. Our conversations start to inform me as well as the writers, and as time goes on, I start to see bits and pieces from all of these conversations breathe life into Guerrero and his relationships with both Chance and Winston. The writers are doing such a great job of teasing this stuff out, which is what interests me the most. I'm really interested in seeing how Guerrero was involved with Chance in the past and what their relationship is, what happened to them and what brought them to this place that we're at now.
"The thing I love about 'Human Target' is that it's such fun popcorn fare that isn't pretending to be anything but," he added. "We're having a great time creating cool, fun, believable characters within this popcorn world and it's really just a kick. The show started coming into sharper focus when I started to see [the finished episodes]. It's such a great way to blow up everybody's TV.
Jackie Earle Haley plays Guerrero on "Human Target," which airs Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM EST/PST, only on FOX.
The next episode, titled "Embassy Row," airs at a special date and time on Tuesday, January 26th at 9:00 PM EST/PST.