Doug Jones has played many beloved and recognizable characters in movies like Helboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. But Jones himself may not be all that recognizable to audiences — he typically appears onscreen with his appearance totally transformed. The 53-year-old actor has developed a specialty in portraying fantastical characters created with heavy prosthetic makeup. He currently appears on TNT’s Falling Skies as the alien Cochise.
Showrunner Remi Aubuchon told EW that while they were casting Cochise, “we didn’t think we could ever get [Jones for the show]. He’s in great demand. But he was the first name that ever came up.”
The relationship between Cochise and Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) as they strategize fighting the Espheni aliens was key, Aubuchon explained. “I felt strongly that having a tennis ball and the script supervisor reading the lines off-stage and then filling it in later would not give us that kind of intimacy that I felt was important with that relationship,” he said. So it was essential to cast an actor who could work with practical makeup effects on set. Enter Doug Jones.
Cochise is a warrior who’s never seen his home planet — like Earth it was invaded by aliens, so Cochise was born on a ship in the middle of the Vohm’s ongoing battle against the Espheni. That lifelong warrior identity informed how Jones moves while playing the role.
“I wanted to give him a walk that isn’t exactly human, but to get too far from human, it starts looking slithery, and he needs to look stronger since he’s a warrior,” Jones told EW. “I keep him graceful so his head doesn’t bob up and down too much when he walks. I like his head to just float and look forward.”
Jones, who got his start as a contortionist and as a mime, develops unique mannerisms for his characters with the aid of directors and writers. Only once has he worked with a movement coach for a movie role — for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The movement for his Silver Surfer villain was created by Terry Notary, who has worked such actors as Brandon Routh (for Superman Returns).
“What he helped me find was a strength ’cause I have a flair to me physically, but the surfer has a subtle, throttled back presentation of himself. He’s superior, he’s got strength, he’s got the cosmic power. He doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody,” Jones said. “Cochise is a little bit of a blend of the Silver Surfer and Abe Sapien from the Hellboy movies. He has an intellect like Abe. He has a strength like the Surfer. He has a calming effect like the both of them.”
Not expecting to develop an acclaimed specialty in acting with effects makeup, Jones discovered this niche in 1986 when he first played Mac Tonight in a McDonald’s commercial. The actor went on to play the mascot with a crescent moon-shaped head in 27 commercials that he says “marked me as the tall skinny goofy guy who moves well, wears a lot of stuff on his face and doesn’t complain” — and that last one is key in an industry where actors who sit in the makeup chair without any gripes aren’t as common as directors would like them to be.
For Falling Skies, Jones was actually more comfortable when the effects team decided to add makeup to his transformation into Cochise routine. Initially, his head and neck — but not his face — was covered with prosthetics, with CGI creating Cochise’s face later. A few episodes into the season, Jones was given complete face makeup instead. “Without the face on, I felt very exposed and naked,” he said. “I felt like I look like a kids TV show alien — ‘I’m Douggie the alien!’ Now I feel more alien like again with the face glued on.”
But in tonight’s episode, Jones got to appear in one scene without effects makeup. Yes, he’s a human, not an alien in this scene. Weird, right? That’s only the beginning of the weirdness for this unusual episode that airs at 10 p.m. on TNT today.
As for what’s next for Cochise on the show, Jones said, “In episode 9 [airing July 28] you’re going to see Cochise hit his all-time low. This is going to be the worst he’s ever felt. Feelings and emotions are not really a part of his culture, but he’s finally found them, and they hurt.”
And what about beyond season 3? Jones wouldn’t spill any major beans on that topic, but he did note that the show has a three-season option on him, and he teased, “You will be left at the end of season 3 with a strong notion that you’ll see more of Cochise.”
Want to know more about Jones’ work on Falling Skies? Check out the exclusive featurette below.
TNT’s Falling Skies airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT