This weekend, Doug Jones and three other Star Trek: Discovery stars are participating in InHouse-Con, a new virtual convention experience that includes a panel and more online events. TrekMovie spoke to Doug Jones remotely about the event. He also talked about what to expect for Saru and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery in season three and more.
This weekend you are headlining InHouse-Con, is this your first virtual con?
Yes, it is my first virtual convention ever. I don’t want to call it the new normal because I don’t want this to last. I will call it the for-now normal. Thank heaven for technology so we can do an online convention with a worldwide reach so we can connect with our fans that we can’t connect with at all those conventions that have been canceled. I had several planned for the spring and summer and they are all postponed or canceled. This is one way we can sit at home and turn on a device and connect and have virtual hugs and laugh.
Can you give fans a preview of what to expect?
InHouse-Con is being put together by the management company that handles me for conventions, Coolwaters Productions. They have a few of us from Star Trek: Discovery, so on Saturday, May 9th we are going to be doing a four-person panel with me, Hannah Cheesman who played Airiam in season two; Patrick Kwok-Choon, who has been playing Lt. Rhys for all three seasons, including the one you haven’t seen yet; and Raven Dauda who is Dr. Pollard. We spend a lot of time on the bridge, but we keep forgetting there has been a doctor that has been on a ton of this show. This will be her first time doing something public like this.
There is going to be a group panel and it is just $4.95, so it is the cheapest door fee you will ever pay. The group panel is open to everyone and then there are tiers of more things, like a smaller group chat with all four of us and they will take a few people at a time. And we will each do individual one-on-one chats after that. This is all via Zoom, all day on Saturday the 9th.
I am very excited about it. I have got a couple of new things to show. There are two photos I found in my iPad I never shared on my social media, and I also found a video on there from season one behind the scenes that is one minute and forty seconds that nobody has seen. It is a little bit of behind-the-scenes post-production with Saru. That is your teaser. That will be shown exclusively at InHouse-Con.
Do you think virtual cons are here to stay, even after in-person cons start up again?
That is a great question. Because we are finding out how to do this now, I do think it will stay in the universe after this. I don’t think anything can replace the in-person convention experience, though. When you are meeting fans across a table, I want to get back to that. I am a huggy-touchy person, as you have witnessed in person. [laughs] When someone has been waiting in line all day to meet me and this has been a day that has cost them time and money and they have been watching my career for 34 years and especially if it is a Star Trek event. The Star Trek fans are so loyal and so family-like, I just can’t help myself. I want to hug everybody, and I do. I cup faces. I pet heads. I hug people! That is going to have to look different now. The virtual cons eliminate that fear.
I know you wrapped up Disco season 3 in February, how has the lockdown impacted other projects you might have done during the hiatus?
Normally throughout my career, whenever I have had a hiatus from a show I absolutely worked in as many things as I can. But last year between seasons two and three of Discovery, I told my manager I need to lay low and lick my wounds and recuperate. So, all I did was live convention appearances last year. I didn’t do any filming, especially if it required rubber and glue. After the eight or nine months it takes for us to film Discovery that is just a lot of rubber and glue and memorizing of paragraphs of science-fiction dialog, which is not easy. And there are contact lenses and shoes that make my feet swell and the whole nine yards. Last year I needed a break and I came back into season three ready to go and felt really good about that.
This year I was more open. Even though season three was… oh my gosh. I have a tad more screen time in season three. [laughs] But for some reason, I came out of it feeling I was ready to do other things this time. So that was unfortunate that there was a world shut down that includes our industry too.
Do you consider yourself on hiatus, or out of work? Have you got any indication of a season four?
I always consider myself on hiatus, for 34 years I have done so between jobs. It is just the nature of being an actor. It is a gig community. When you get a gig you do that and then it is over, and you move on to the next gig. So, I am used to this kind of downtime, and that is okay. It can’t go on forever, can it? The industry will come back.
We are finding too that during the shutdown, people have been turning to entertainment with force. Anything that streams on your smart TV or computer, we are consuming all of it now. The need for content, that is not going to go away. They will find a way to bring our industry back and to bring our show back, I hope. I wish I had something juicy to tell you about season four, but I don’t know if or when we will go back for a season four if that happens.
Are you keeping in touch with your Discovery family during the quarantine?
Oh yeah. We have been keeping better in touch this hiatus than any other year. Emails have been coming around asking, “Hey, you want to do a Zoom call?” Yes! So, we have been. Not every day, but it has been regular.
Wilson Cruz recently asked fans for patience waiting for season three, have you been getting updates on that?
I thought I had a guesstimate of when season three was going to start airing, but I have been proven wrong because post-production not being able to work at the pace it would have normally without a pandemic. So, I don’t know when season three will air. I understand why people are wondering. It has been a while since season two wrapped and the storyline left you hanging with us jumping into the future. That leaves everybody wanting more. I don’t blame you for that. But I got the same message, which is it is coming. I promise you it is coming.
What can you tell us about season three?
This is the toughest question. It is such a blessing where our series has gone where no Star Trek show has gone before. A jump to the future that goes 930 years ahead is unheard of. It has given us story possibilities that can go anywhere and that is the blessing. The curse of it is, there is absolutely nothing we can say about it, outside of what you have seen in that teaser trailer.
As you say, you have jumped forward in time to a totally new era. Does it feel like a different show to you or the same show?
It absolutely feels like the same show to me. The same show, but with a different backdrop. The cast is still the same. Of course, we are going to meet new people in the future. If you are going to have any interactions with people or species in the future, they are going to be new. That will infuse the show with some fresh. But the Discovery crew is still intact and doing our thing.
You have seen clips in that teaser trailer from New York Comic Con in October. It was interesting to see Sonequa Martin-Green with a little time-lapse with her hair growing. There is a lot to be explained there. You see me with Mary Wiseman as Tilly in different garb, and what are we dressed in that for? What mission were we on for that? So, we do make contact in the future and it is a bit of a journey. And there is a mystery. I think there is more mystery in season three than we have had before because we are going into a world of the unknown. It takes a while to unfold and peel back that unknown to find out where we are and what we need to do.
You and I last talked around the end of season two, and one of the big open questions was the captain’s chair.
That is the biggest question for me, for Saru, the captain’s chair. He has always wanted it. Burnham has always also wanted it, ever since we were both in Starfleet before and after we knew each other. It has always been the climb. Season two was an emotional ride for both of us and our relationships. Our brother/sister dynamic really cemented. It was great to explore that, and we got to meet each other’s brother and sister, with my sister Siranna and her adoptive brother Spock. And we both were estranged from our siblings and it helps explains why we found each other in the brother/sister way we did. We were both stand-ins for our siblings. The competition we had turned into a deep respect we had for each other. The underlying thing is a complete deep love and respect for each other. When you ask someone to cut off your threat ganglia because it is my time to go, that’s a very intimate moment. The person who you hand that knife to is someone you trust implicitly.
So, we went through that together and the surprise and glee of me not dying that day and coming into a new phase of life and she was there to support me the whole way. So, now we had Captain Pike all of season two. He had to return to the Enterprise. Even before he left, he said let’s discuss the captain’s chair. At some point I intimated we needed to get through this particular battle we were facing with Control and make the jump and do all that and then we can talk about the captaincy later because there are many things to consider. I threw a glance over to Burnham and she threw a glance back and we have an understanding, it is either going to be her or me, probably. We are both capable. Who is going to get it is again a mystery that comes in season three.
Last year you also told me that you wanted to see Saru “find a balance with his newfound freedom” in season three. Did you get your wish?
Yes, with his freedom from fear. I don’t think his fear is completely eradicated, but freedom from unreasonable fear. The constant looking over your shoulder, that is what he got rid of. But when you walk to the edge of a cliff, you should have a good healthy fear not to take another step. He still has that. I think in season three he finds his balance. But yeah, in season two when the fear left, he was a bit reckless. Fans were commenting as that was airing. What is happening to Saru, is he going to go off the rails now and make poor decisions because he is not afraid of anything? He does find a new maturity to his newfound fearless feelings.
You mentioned how you and Sonequa have that chemistry and so many bonding scenes. Does season three give you more opportunities to develop chemistry with other actors and their characters? And is that something you have enjoyed?
Yes, and yes. I do interact with other characters more and have been loving it. It has already established that Saru and Tilly have kind of a father/daughter thing going on. He has been very nurturing to her, but of course, rolls his eyes at everything she says, but at the same time there is something about her that is very special, and he recognizes that. He recognizes her brilliance and enthusiasm as a good thing. So, he is helping her hone that because he sees leadership capability in her. In season three we will explore more of that, and I love that dynamic.
Another question that remains in the future is when you jump almost a thousand years ahead, are we going to find a Federation running up and strong? Are we going to find no Federation? Are we going to find a Federation in disrepair? That is another huge mystery, perhaps the biggest mystery. Who do we connect with? What friendly faction are we going to find in the future that will buy our story of where we come from or do we have to hide that story and blend in. There is a lot.
That would be like a Model T Ford driving down the street and saying, “Hey everybody, I’m home!” Wait, what? So, when that Model T comes driving into the new neighborhood, there are a lot of relationships to be established there. So, I do get to interact quite a bit with that new neighborhood.
You mention working with Mary Wiseman as Tilly. Both Saru and Tilly have been leaned on in the first two seasons for moments of comic relief. The preview for season three had a serious tone. Are they still looking to you guys to lighten things up? And is playing for humor something you enjoy?
I love playing for humor. I grew up dreaming of being a sitcom star as a kid. I loved the goofy variety shows like Carol Burnett. Dick Van Dyke, Barney Fife, Gomer Pile, Gilligan, those are my people. So, getting to exercise that comedic timing that I absorbed as a kid in an environment you would not expect is great fun for me. In season three, yes there is humor. But there is more at stake too. Saru has to take a more serious demeanor. But there is still humor in the right places. Tilly is always good for a laugh and remains so. And another character I adore when we get to see him is Linus. Linus is always a chuckle, so the laughs are going to be there when we need them.
By the way, Linus is played by David Tomlinson. He is a brilliant actor who finds the funny in Linus. He has been kind of a chameleon with our show. He played a Klingon or two, he has played a couple of Kelpiens as well. He has popped up here and there in different makeups. You will see him in other things too besides Linus in season three. I just want to give a shout-out to him, he is great.
What exactly is Linus’ job on the ship?
Nobody knows! [laughs] That’s what I love. He just pops up here and there. He’s on the bridge, walking the halls, in the turbolift. He just shows up. We don’t know.
Living under quarantine, what are you doing to keep yourself sane? Any new hobbies or shows you are binging?
Something people may not know about me because in public I am very expressive is that I tend to be more of an introvert in real life. So, being told I have to stay home is like [gasp] “Really?” I am actually kind of excited about it. But with all the requests for Zoom calls and interviews and podcasts, and talking to a class over the web, these requests are coming at me at a pace I have never had before. So I am actually a bit busier now than I was if we weren’t in a quarantine.
I have had a couple of writing projects on my bucket list for a while. One is a novel and as I am about to turn sixty this month and that is when one starts thinking about if one is entering the final quarter, is it time to collect my memoirs. I have had requests for that over the years. So, I have made a connection with a literary agent in New York. I am talking to him and fleshing out that novel idea and starting to collect my stories. This is going to take a long time, but during the quarantine is a great time to open the laptop and start typing.
If you had to pick one Star Trek: Discovery character to quarantine with, who would it be?
I think Saru and Linus would make a great Netflix pair. They would eat some kind of alien popcorn and watch science fiction movies and laugh.
Besides Discovery, is there anything else you have already shot coming? Like the Nosferatu movie which you shot a while ago, can you give an update on that?
At the moment that is the one thing I am waiting for. I checked with the producers on Nosferatu and because they are doing it on an independent budget, post-production had to be done in phases as money came and went. Every frame of that movie has a green-screen element to it. It took a ton of costly visual effects. I am told the picture lock is done and the visual effects are two shots away from being completed. That is great news. I saw a rough cut of what they have done so far without sound design, but what I saw is delicious. All the green-screen elements are being filled in with footage from the original 1922 silent film. Ours is a talkie with sound, but it is done in the style of the original silent film and scene for scene the same. It has the same story but with dialogue to flesh out what you saw in the silent film. I am loving it and watching myself is not always a joy for me, especially such an extreme character. But I watched myself as Count Orlok – a.k.a. Nosferatu – and oh my gosh, I am very happy. It was a dream come true.
That was a bucket list character. People would ask me what character I would love to do, and I would always say a classic vampire. Now I have played a few, including Baron Afanas from What We Do in the Shadows and I was also one of the Ancients from Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain. But I wanted to do a classic black-and-white one and Nosferatu was the one. His hideous ugliness is what attracted me. I knew I didn’t have the sex-appeal of a Dracula or sparkly Twilight vampire. I didn’t try to reinvent him, I was very respectful to Max Schreck, but I had to infuse some of my own thing into it. I can’t wait for the world at large to see it. I am told a trailer is coming soon.
InHouse-Con with Star Trek Discovery stars is this Saturday
The virtual fan event ‘InHouse-Con’ is running all May with a different franchise featured each weekend. This Saturday’s theme is Star Trek: Discovery. On May 9th, they’ll have a virtual panel with Discovery stars Doug Jones (Saru), Patrick Kwok-Choon (Lt. Rhys), Raven Dauda (Dr. Pollard), and Hannah Cheesman (Airiam).
The “virtual door charge” to attend the panel online is $4.99. InHouse-Con is also offering more virtual con experiences. You can purchase autographs and 5-minute one-on-one chats with any of the panel celebrities, with pricing varying for each one. There are also various package deals including the “Ultimate” package which includes autographs with all four Discovery stars and a 20-minute VIP group chat.
For more information and to purchase tickets, autographs, and individual chats, visit inhouse-con.com. And if you are interested in a VIP package that includes a personal group chat with the Discovery stars, Coldwaters provided us with a secret discount link (password: “podcast”).
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news, analysis, and reviews here at TrekMovie.com.