A Conversation with Jamie Kennedy
I spoke with Jamie Kennedy about his role in Last Call, in theaters, on Digital and On Demand March 19, 2021. We also discuss cancel culture and what he learned from horror legend Wes Craven on the set of the Scream movies.
Yanis: How have you been? How has COVID been treating you?
Jamie: Pretty good for me. Just trying to stay masked up and distant. I’ve been trying to be more productive and attend to things I normally don’t attend to. It’s been OK.
Y: What kind of things are you attending to?
J: I just have a lot stuff in my life that I don’t usually get to do because I’m on the road and on set. I’ve been fixing my house, redoing certain things. Taking all my clips and making them digitized.
Working on my social media, my YouTube. Really just organizing my life and trying to get things streamlined.
Y: I loved Last Call. Tell me about your character Whitey. What’s he like when we first meet him? What kind of journey does he go through?
J: Oh thank you. I would say he’s a guy who’s a local town hero. He’s the big man on campus, but he never left the hood. He’s the guy who Mick is really close to and gets to see what his life would be like if he never left.
At the end of the day he’s one of Mick’s boys. And so he always convinces him to come back and have fun with his guys and try different things.
Y: As an Irish-Catholic from the Philadelphia area, was it easy to tap into Whitey and did other cast members rely on you for guidance on how to play these kinds of characters?
J: Definitely. I mean there’s a lot of the movie that I can relate to and understand because I’m from that area.
A lot of the cast aren’t from there so Delco (Delaware County, Pennsylvania) the area is becoming its own thing and they definitely would ask me local things but everybody has their own process of how they’re doing it but they definitely were into it.
Y: How did the other cast members handle putting on a Philly accent?
J: There’s an actress by the name of Betsy Beutler. She plays the local town “easy girl”. I think she’s from New Jersey. She kept saying “wuter” [water] and “oagie” [hoagie]. She was just good about getting in her accent and doing it and working on it.
Y: The wuter falls on the oagie!
J: The wuter!
Y: I love Philly so much. I can’t wait to go back once it’s safe. As I watched Last Call, I thought about how novel it was to see people out and about and congregating in bars.
Do you think this film can provide escapism for people who can’t wait to visit their local drinking establishment again?
J: I mean it seems like a different world right, but I guess it depends on what city you’re in. I think so. There’s nothing in it about COVID. It’s a small town story. It’s a nice little feel good story.
I feel that a lot of people can relate. There’s a lot of people in our country that live in small towns, and big business is taking over so much. They have that small town charm and I think its an advantage, even though its a tough town.
Y: I think people are going to love the film. Care to share your thoughts on cancel culture?
J: The term is harsh. “Cancel culture.” Just cancel people. As opposed to “redemption culture,” or “another try culture,” or “I made a mistake and let’s get better culture.”
Cancel culture, its only getting worse; to “erasure culture.” I think eventually everything is going to be looked upon. Everything is going to be looked upon as offensive, or its sexist and misogynist and some other types of “ist.”
They’re going to start looking at everything, and if you look at everything they’re gonna start taking bits of entertainment away. We should evolve, but we should also forgive.
The person that can cast all these things without having one piece of glass from their house break is fascinating. We have to look at the conversation and the nuance of things instead of painting everything with such a wide brush.
Y: People are comparing cancel culture to the Hollywood blacklist from the 1950s. It’s a fascinating thing.
J: It really is. I think it’s going and I don’t know where it ends, but at the end of the day we’ve got to be able to create. We’ve got to be able to make art and we’ve got to be able to separate what’s art, what’s reality, what’s a mistake and what’s a lifestyle.
Y: I look back at 80s comedy and I cringe at some of it. By today’s standards, do you think some of the comedies you were in 20 years ago still hold up?
J: I think it holds up fine, but it depends on what lens you look under. I have an argument for everything I’ve done. I don’t think there’s anything bad in them at all, but if you look at things and you say “oh well this and this and this.” It’s all how you’d interpret it.
We’d have to go project by project. We would have to talk about each project. You could scrutinize each project, but I could make an argument that everything holds up. I mean it’s a different time now and things have changed, but still it wasn’t attacking any type of people.
Y: Right. But there’s an “in your face” style of comedy from that era. It’s interesting.
J: What does that mean to you? I think I know what you mean by that, but what do you mean?
I can tell you what I think you mean. You know what you’re saying? You’re basically saying there was comedy from that era which was unapologetic. It made a joke because it knew it was a joke.
People knew it was a joke, and what I believe you’re saying is now if you say a joke, you have to qualify it because people might not get that it’s a joke, and that’s what scary.
Y: Yes absolutely. There are certain standup comedians I see coming up where it’s not even comedy. It’s recounting anecdotes.
Comedy has changed. It’s morphing into something different.
J: I hope not. I don’t believe that you should punch down in comedy, and I don’t think you should go for the easy joke, but there things that you should be able to joke about. Everything is on the table.
What you’re saying is you could do a joke more freely [20 years ago] and not worry about consequences, but now the term “joke” has consequences to it, where before it was safer to do a joke, and that’s weird to me.
Y: Well let’s examine other people. Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report or Jimmy Kimmel on The Man Show, or even Joe Rogan on The Man Show and Ashton Kutcher on Punk’d. Just the stuff that was generally around back then. It was so aggressive.
That’s what I mean by “in your face.”
Y: But Jimmy Kimmel now and Stephen Colbert now… It’s much more restrained I suppose.
J: We’ve got a lot more eyeballs…critical eyeballs if you will. There’s a lot of…how do I say this (laughs). We should get better at evolving as a society as a whole. There’s some fun being cancelled.
Y: Scream 5 is coming up. Have any cast members come to you for advice?
J: No one has reached out. Oh baby, Scream is on a life on it’s own now.
Y: That’s all right. Scream was released at a time when it was praised for its self awareness. In this interesting time we live in, what do you think Scream 5 might make fun of? Do you think the characters will die in order from least to most “woke?”
J: I have no idea. It’ll be interesting. I’ll be the first one to buy a ticket.
Do you have any fond or distinct memories of working with Wes Craven? Why do you think he was able to tap into our deepest fears time and time again?
J: Just a really smart, intelligent, empathetic man who really understood the basic fears of people. He really enjoyed making movies, especially of the horror genre. He is a real craftsman.
If you love what you do, you can become very good at it. He became great at it. He was always very open and really encouraging, and that’s because he really loved working with actors.
Y: He loved working with actors. Is there a moment in your relationship where he said something that really stuck with you?
J: When we were doing the “rules scene.” When we did the first take, he said “we got it,” and I only got one take. I was nervous. It was my first big scene in a movie, I was like “I’d like to do it again.” And he was like “why? We got it.”
I just really thought I could do more, and then I did it again. He asked “do you want to do it again?”
I did it one more time, and he said “You know I had it the first time, but I really want to thank you for doing it again. Because I didn’t think I needed it again, and I didn’t, but you brought some different things to it.
So now you and I have built a new level of trust where I’m going to let you do more if you say you want to do more. You have an instinct.”
That was an early scene we did in the movie, and from there on we really worked hand in hand. That was just a beautiful moment.
Y: That was beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing that story with me and for speaking with me.
J: Thank you so much Yanis. Have a good one my friend.