There's a whole generation of people that really relate to you in the Clerks movies, the whole Clerks universe. When I saw the film, I was working in a video store and I said, "Guys, you've got to see this movie. You can relate to this stuff." Did you have your own customer service years to draw from when you made the first film?
I never did. I never had a job where I'd work in customer service. Probably because I'd be too close to Randal in real life and it wouldn't sit well with me or anybody else. It's weird to do this movie and then to have people always relating me to customer service. Again, it's one of these things they come up to me and ask me about and I'm like, "I have no idea." They ask me about Star Wars
, and I'm like, "I have no idea. Sorry, dudes."
I had a couple of years in fast food, chicken fast food service, and then I had a...
Chicken fast food?
Well, it's not like burgers. I didn't flip burgers, but I deep fried chicken and made ribs and stuff like that. That's the type of neighborhood I was in. I also worked for a Super Market chain for four years where I did everything. I did the deli counter, I was a fishmonger, I was a meat cutter, and then they asked me to become management so I started to do grocery and all that other stuff. And then I left to become a big acting star.
How much of that works its way into Dante?
The wanting to please the customer part, you know, I was trained to do that back in the day. It was very rare when I would let people walk out the door and just say, "Fuck you very much." And them going, "Did he just say...?" And keep going. It took quite a lot for me to get on a customer like that. But it was in me.
Dante doesn't really do it that much.
No, not at all. I had to do it in my real life to get it out of me.
and Jeff Anderson
Dante and Randal are iconic characters, not just in Kevin Smith's askewniverse, but in indie cinema and pop culture in general. As you say, you pop up in other films, and even if you're not technically Dante and Randal, you show up as customer service guys, you're making that connection. Is it frustrating to keep being branded as Dante and Randal?
I think the amount of time that comes in between each project is good. It's not like we're doing it every year and we're not doing it in the same capacity either. We popped up once or twice in a couple of the other films, but then we did the animated series, which is an entirely different animal. It's the most fun, I think, we've ever had with these characters, because you took these two characters, kept the essence of them, but put them in this fantastical, limitless universe where you could go into space and all of a sudden we're piloting helicopters. It was that type of fun.
And then popping them again in a short film for Jay Leno, which was a different outlet yet again. So, each time we've approached these characters, it's always been some sort of new and different venture with them which I think keeps it fresh. It's not like, truck 'em out, just do this one thing, then put them back in the closet.
So what happened to the animated series? Cancelled after two episodes?
Cancelled before two episodes.
They actually were contractually obligated to air at least two episodes. If they could, they would've not even seen the light of day. That's the bureaucracy that is Disney, ABC, and the evilness that can be television sometimes. I think Kevin is planning to do an animated Clerks
movie, straight to DVD, by 2008 or so. So that's, I think, the only format you'll see these guys back in.
Was the animated lost scene on the Clerks Special Edition DVD done at the same time as the animated series, or did you reunite with the animators specifically for it?
We did that much later. We did that specifically for the DVD, so it was just within the last year or so.
And that's actually kind of impetuous for Kevin, wanting to revisit these characters in a sequel. I remember him saying, "You know, it's nice hearing you guys talk again and hearing the banter and just remembering the love for the first film that everybody had for it." And after coming off an under-performing Jersey Girl
, it was something that he felt he had a story that he wanted to tell. So thank god for that 10 year anniversary edition.
It's been twelve years now since we first saw Dante and Randal, and not a lot changed with them. What's happened to you guys in twelve years?
Pretty much the same. Not a lot has changed for us. That's why we can pull this off so well.
That's why it's effortless.
Jeff, you're in LA, and you wrote and directed a film.
Yeah, I live in LA and like to do the writing thing. That's what I've been doing. Working on scripts and doing punch-ups on scripts and things like that. I did write and direct a movie a couple years back that'll be coming out by the Weinstein Company, called Now You Know
. I'd like to direct another one and there's things in the works, so it'll be fun.
I'm still based in the New York/New Jersey area. Before I did Clerks
, I was a stage actor and I've been doing stage and I've done other independent films since, so I continue to do that. I think I'll take advantage of the mass publicity that'll come from this and take another trip out to LA.
Kevin Smith seems to be pretty loyal to the people who were there right from the beginning. He's brought you guys in for film after film. And in return, everyone seems to be pretty loyal to him. Is that what keeps you going back to his films?
Absolutely. I mean, number one, it's the work. His work is always so good and that loyalty that he has for us is... It's a fun warm friendship that I'm so glad and so privileged to have.
Yeah, it is a neat thing. I knew Kevin in high school, so I still know him and he's the same person to me. He just happens to have this odd career. It is fun like that. Trevor Ferman
, who plays Elias [in Clerks II
], was somebody that I actually cast in my film and Kevin saw him in my movie, liked him in that, and just put him in this. No audition, nothing, just gave him the part. So it is kind of neat that everybody's just sort of working around. It's fun.
Jason Lee and Ben Affleck both make cameos. Obviously, neither of them had to that. It has to be some affection for Kevin.
JA and BO:
I think Ben at one point was like, "Nah, I really want to stay low" after everything that had been going on in his personal life, but Kevin then wrote an email saying, "You know, sir, this would be the first film of mine that you're not going to make any appearance in." He emailed him back, "You know what? You're right. Just make me a customer in the background. I won't even say a word." Kevin was like, "You sure?" He was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I don't want anything, blah, blah..." Then when he got on set, he warmed up to how much fun it is on Kevin's projects and they came up with a line right then and there for him to throw in.
And Jason Lee... Jason Lee and Kevin have this great relationship where they both enjoy each others work. Lee has been so fortunate to have the series My Name is Earl
, he had to come in on a Saturday, so we adjusted our schedules. He shows up on set and one of the first things Kevin said to him is, "Ok, were gonna to send you to hair and makeup. We're gonna have to shave off that mustache." And Jason pulls back and he's like, "Uh, this is my money, sir, I can't mess with that." And he's like, "I'm just kidding." And he was great. We enjoyed having Jason.
and Brian O'Halloran
in Clerks II
Here's a Dante/Randal question. Dante, after spending decades with Randal and his poor impulse control, what compels you in Clerks II to tell him your deepest darkest secret?
I think Dante can't afford analysis, so, he's his best person to throw these quips out at. And you know what? Even the secrets that are heard in the films are nothing compared to the deepest darkest secrets that I'm sure Randal tells him at other times.
I think it's just easiest to tell. If he tried to keep it a secret, Randal would drive him nuts. It's just easiest to get it out there and go, "Do what ever you wanna do with it."
Poke it, poke it, poke it, because the poking would just never end.
At the party last night, one of the guys from the film festival came in, a guy named Dan Doody, and spotted you and said, "Hey! Randal!" How often does that happen?
Dan very nearly went off the balcony. Actually, I don't get it too often. It's kind of funny like that...
I think the connection was made with Jeff and myself...
... from traveling around with him, and that's what I said when we were going to this film festival. I said, "Please. You stay away from me." He gets it a lot. My thing is just wearing a hat. Take that hat off and I'm pretty much all right.
Yeah. My ugliness is pretty, you know, spreadable. You can see that for a while. When you go, "Who's that... Ooh, it's, oh, it's that dude. Oh, my god and Randal's with him too." We have to sometimes travel in separate vehicles. Just for that sake alone.
You've kept the goatee.
Ladies love the goatee. What can I say, my friend. I shave it from time to time, which is weird because when I get recognized then, it's Gil Hicks from Mallrats
. That's what freaks me out because I'm like, "Really? You... you can remember that? God! I'm such a pumpkin head, man. How can you remember that type of stuff?"
Why do you keep playing characters with the last name Hicks?
Well, you know, that's something that Kevin has. I don't know. It's something... We're an inbred bunch I guess.
What's up next for you guys?
I don't know. I'm still that guy in my 30s trying to figure out what it is I want to do. I'm going to continue to write. I've tentatively started a production company and I'm looking to direct something else. When I did Now You Know
, I acted in it as well. That's sort of how we went about raising the money. And this time I'd like to stay totally behind the camera and concentrate on that. So I'm looking forward to that. And it's a script I wrote.
I think I'm going to take advantage of this film coming out. Since I work in the New York area, doing theater and independent film there, I think I'm going to take the final leap and come out to Los Angeles, a little bit after the film's come out, just to give that a shot one more time. Now that I've been there numerous times, I usually go once or twice a year anyway, and now most of my friends have moved out there, I think it's a little bit safer and just an easier way to go across. I think I'll do it this time. I'll move there and he'll move away. The balance will stay as one.
How far do you have to flee to stay away from the Dante and Randal fusion?
Thousands of miles.
I think that 2,400 miles is where the restraining order gets us.