Jasper Cole Interview: 'Macgruber' Co-Star Talks About the Film and His Life
A native of Athens, Georgia, Jasper Cole has flourished over the past 20 years as a successful actor, writer and producer. As a veteran character actor, he has managed to compile a distinguished list of over 100 television and film credits, including such fan favorites as CSI, Married with Children, Touched by an Angel, Party of Five, Tales from the Crypt, and Clueless.
Known for playing the “bad guy,” Cole once again flaunts his sinister side as Val Kilmer’s sidekick, “Zeke Pleshette,” in the action comedy MacGruber that was released nationwide in theaters on May 21.
“The director had me play him like he was just way out there like he was having fun being crazy.”
On top of his acting career, Cole is the CEO of Wey-Man Productions.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Jasper, I understand you’re from Athens, Georgia. That’s only a couple of hundred miles from me in Montgomery, Alabama.
Jasper Cole: Well, you know, I did pick up on a little southern accent there. I’m familiar with Montgomery, pretty country.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you still have a home in Athens?
Jasper Cole: It’s my grandfather’s … it’s like five generations of my dad’s family that lived there. My parents live there now. So it’s just so great to go back. I love it and miss it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you always wanted to be an actor?
Jasper Cole: I think I always did. I didn’t actually pursue it until I started college, but I actually dropped out of college to be an actor. My parents are okay with that now, but they were devastated about that originally (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): They didn’t support your decision to become an actor in the beginning?
Jasper Cole: Well, you know, they’ve been great, but now that I’m old I understand.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was your major in college?
Jasper Cole: The irony is I was going to major in Exercise Physiology because I’ve always been into fitness and I had a health club briefly. So I was going to go the route of trainer in exercise. Actually I continued to do that for four years when I first started acting. It was a great day job.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When you first landed in Hollywood, would you say that your southern roots were a hindrance or a help to you in such a competitive industry?
Jasper Cole: It was actually a big help because I came out here with a southern comedy stage show that I co-wrote with a fellow Georgian, Becky Canady. She was from Swainsboro, Georgia. But, we wrote a play in Atlanta and it got produced out there and it was a southern spoof. So when I first got here a lot of the parts I got were playing a southern character, which was great.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you ever taken acting lessons?
Jasper Cole: Yeah, I studied for many years and I’m in the Actor’s Studio. I try to go back as much as I can but thankfully if I’m working, I figure that’s probably the best training. During the first years out here I always studied.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you get your first break from someone who saw you in the play?
Jasper Cole: Yes, because the play ran for about two years. After that I started doing commercials. Actually I would attribute almost everything to the play – it was called Willow Springs Now. It was sort of the beginning.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was your first professional job?
Jasper Cole: My first was a Seiko jewelry commercial. I don’t even know if Seiko is still around. Then my first TV job, I believe, was Charles in Charge. God, I’m really aging myself now (laughs).
I moved here in 1987 so that was ’88 or ’89. My first day here was the big Whittier earthquake, which at that time, had been the biggest they ever had. Becky and I weren’t sure if that was a good sign or bad sign. All I know is that my mom said, “You need to get yourself in a paper bag and come on home.” But, I figured I’d stay and it turned out to be a good sign, I guess.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, bless her heart, that’s a mother for you.
Jasper Cole: By the way, I used, “Bless her heart,” in a script recently because you know how in the south you can pretty much say anything as long as you say, “Bless your heart,” before or after. It can be good or bad. I love it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Absolutely (laughs). Let’s talk about MacGruber. How did you get the role of Zeke Pleshette?
Jasper Cole: Well, the casting director, Sheila Jaffe, also cast Entourage the series. I had been in for Entourage a few times so I did know her, but it was just another round of auditions. I mean, you just never know.
At one point, they had actually re-released the casting because they were looking for a totally different type for that character. So, I had let it go and had forgotten about it. They were looking for a really tall, skinny guy and that’s not me. Probably about a month later, I got the call and to be honest, had to try to remember which one that was. Sometimes the one that you don’t think about as much is the one that you get.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You play a villain?
Jasper Cole: Yeah, the bad guy, but I played Zeke a little more comically. The director had me play him like he was just way out there … like he was having fun being crazy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So he’s not an evil kind of guy?
Jasper Cole: No. I mean, they are trying to take over a nuclear warhead, but I don’t think Zeke knows what he’s doing anyway (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was it like to work with Val Kilmer?
Jasper Cole: Val was terrific. I’m a big fan of his work and I think he was great. He lives in New Mexico so he would drive to the set every day. He had fun. He’s very funny in the movie from just the stuff I’ve seen of him.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are Kristen Wiig and Will Forte just as funny off-screen as well as on screen?
Jasper Cole: Will Forte is not only funny, but in all of my years (and I’m not blowing smoke) he’s the most supportive of other actors I’ve ever seen. He treated all of us supporting players like stars. Kristen is brilliant.
They all work together on Saturday Night Live and they genuinely love each other. It was just great … no egos … just a set of people who were happy to be there.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Had you seen the MacGruber sketches on Saturday Night Live?
Jasper Cole: Oh yeah, I try to catch Saturday Night Live all of the time or TIVO it. I remember one MacGruber sketch where Richard Dean Anderson guest starred and played the character of MacGyver.
You know, when I first got the script I wondered how they were going to do this but they do and it’s an amazing action ride with the comedy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It’s close to the Saturday Night Live sketch?
Jasper Cole: Yeah it’s close, but yet it’s expanded. MacGruber has this one great mission he’s on and that way you get a beginning, middle, and end. He’s out to avenge Val Kilmer and the bad guys. Then Ryan, Powers Boothe, Kristen, and Will are all on the good side fighting evil.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You get to learn more about MacGruber’s background in the film?
Jasper Cole: Exactly, There’s a whole storyline (without giving it away) where he comes out of retirement due to something that happened maybe ten years earlier. That brings in Maya Rudolph from Saturday Night Live who plays a character from his past. Actually, there is quite a bit of back-story on him in the script.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): We can describe the film as a funny action movie?
Jasper Cole: Well, the opening of the movie is maybe a homage to the 80s action movies. It’s a pretty spectacular action sequence and then you’ve got this comedy thrown in throughout. I think he blends it really well.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I heard the film stirred up some controversy. The creator of MacGyver claims he has the right to a MacGyver series and was attempting to keep MacGruber from being released.
Jasper Cole: Oh really? Well, I had heard there was or is a MacGyver movie. But, you know, a MacGyver movie would be an actual real one, not a spoof, so they could still do that and probably get a big audience for the film. The truth is, if MacGruber did well it would probably only help the remake of MacGyver.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ve appeared in many television shows. You were in The Forgotten, but not playing a villain, right?
Jasper Cole: No, just creepy. I was playing an apartment manager of a building where a lot of the criminals lived. It was a step up. I was not a criminal, but I was managing the criminals. I’m sure I had a criminal past somewhere (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have a favorite television role of all of the ones you’ve appeared in?
Jasper Cole: Probably in recent years it would be Prom Queen, the Michael Eisner series. It’s on all over the world, but just on the Internet here. I heard that it was coming to WB or CW or whatever you call it eventually. But, that’s probably been my favorite part because I play the stepfather to one of the leads.
Then I did the sequel to Summer Heat when I had supposedly been killed and came back from the dead. That got so much worldwide attention from the Internet and all of the teenagers.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s always fun when you come back from the dead.
Jasper Cole: I know. Every time I get killed in something, I always think, “Well, maybe I could come back.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Daytime dramas use that plot line so many times. Have you ever considered appearing on a soap opera?
Jasper Cole: That’s funny you should ask because I just went in for The Young and the Restless just recently for a character named Charlie that’s recurring, He’s like a dock worker guy.
I’ve worked on some soaps before like Santa Barbara, but never had a major contract. The Young and the Restless would be fantastic. It’s three blocks from my house, too, so I have been laughing that I just want to walk down the street to work.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Early in your career you played “boyish” characters, then you graduated into bad guys. Would you rather play the villain?
Jasper Cole: I think the bad guys are much more fun. I’ve had more fun in the past five or six years. I turned a certain age when you can’t do much with what age does to your look, so for me it was a blessing.
There’s sort of that double standard in Hollywood. You know, guys get older and they work more. I’m not really saying that right but that’s the way it is. It’s peaks and valleys, different phases of careers. I’ve gone though so many different phases so I just enjoy the ride.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You own a production company also, correct?
Jasper Cole: Yes, Wey-Man Productions, and we have several projects right now that are in the works. I have a reality show called The Secret Truth that’s been bought by a really big network. I can’t announce it yet but it will come out in The Trades probably in July. I’m sworn to secrecy right now.
I have a one-hour pilot, a drama called CIT, which is Crisis Intervention Team. We’re going to set it in Atlanta, but it’s based on a real-life division of the Houston Police Department where they specialize in mental illness and mental crisis calls. My producing partner is Denise Boutte. She stars on Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns on TBS. It really was her creation – she and I co-wrote it together. She would star in it and I would have a supporting part. So, a lot of good things are happening with Wey-Man and hopefully they’ll come to fruition.
The Secret Truth is a done deal and you’ll hopefully hear about that soon. It’s a reality show where people come on and they sort of reveal a lifelong secret. We see them before the secret, we seen them when it’s revealed, and then there’s the follow up of how it’s affected their life afterward.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any other upcoming projects?
Jasper Cole: I just guest-starred in an HBO show called Funny or Die Presents. It’s from the team of Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow. Judd is the director who did Knocked Up. Anyway, it’s a sketch comedy series on HBO. I worked on that a few weeks ago.
I’ve been doing comedy sketches for The Tonight Show. They’ve kind of put a troupe together with sketches that they’re stockpiling and will or won’t use on the show. I’ve been getting much more comedy which is great because for so many years it was drama. I think Everybody Hates Chris and MacGruber probably helped me get more comedy stuff.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You enjoy playing comedy.
Jasper Cole: I love comedy. For a while, so many of the bad guys were in dramas so I wasn’t getting as much comedy but that is changing. Again, like I said, it goes back and forth.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Jasper Cole: Well, I’m hiking as we talk. I’m a big hiker. I love working out. I have a house in Palm Springs so almost every weekend if I’m not working I head there on Fridays and come back on Mondays. I love the desert. I’m pretty low key and low maintenance, especially the older I’ve gotten.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you visit Athens regularly?
Jasper Cole: Yes, I was there three weeks ago for a big family reunion. I did Good Day Atlanta and Atlanta & Company, some of the TV shows, which was great. I was there for about four days. I get back at least twice a year. I have two brothers, one in Athens, and one who lives in Mississippi. Lately we’ve all been meeting in Palm Springs.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s a beautiful place.
Jasper Cole: Yeah, as long as its not in June, July, or August when it’s 120 degrees. But we usually meet in the springtime. There’s the humidity in Georgia and the dry heat out there.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Jasper, I enjoyed the conversation.
Jasper Cole: Well, what a pleasure. It’s great to hear someone from the south. It makes me feel like I’m back home. My accent is probably getting thicker as we talk because whenever I talk to my mom, by the end of the call, I’m like, “Alright now y’all.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I had noticed that, but it’s not a bad thing.
Jasper Cole: Yeah, it comes right on back. But, I love it!
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