An appropriate question as we approach Friday the 13th: Is machete-wielding, hockey mask-wearing Jason Voorhees a misunderstood miscreant, tragic figure, or just a really evil dude?
Bakersfield actor Derek Mears, who played the lead character in the popular 2009 reboot of the “Friday the 13th” movie franchise, has some strong opinions on this one. To prepare for his transformation into one of horror’s most feared (and beloved) characters, he started with some deep thinking prior to his audition.
“In the audition, I talked about Greek mask theory and child psychology,” recalled Mears during an interview from his SoCal home.” I explained how I’d approach a character who doesn’t have dialogue and the importance of the emotion behind the mask.”
That was a bold move for the then-aspiring actor, who had landed some cool roles ranging from the "don’t blink or you’ll miss me" on TV (“The Shield”, “ER”) to the occasional big budget Hollywood flick (“Wild Wild West,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”) as well as some stunt work.
“I was told that the producers asked different industry professionals who’d they’d recommend for the role and my name kept popping up,” recalled Mears, 45. “It was hard not to geek out about it.”
And who could blame him? While many had elevated the Voorhees movie character to the pantheon of classic Universal horror movie icons — alongside Frankenstein's monster, Dracula and the Mummy, all of which debuted onscreen decades prior — Mears recalls discovering the original 1980 film.
“If I remember correctly, the original 'Friday the 13th' was one of my first VCR rentals. I fell in love with it and the entire franchise. Jason gave me a gazillion nightmares as a child.”
And while the Jason character didn’t appear until the 1981 sequel (I won’t spoil it for you first-timers), the iconic hockey mask became so immediately popular, Mears says he drove his family crazy with his fandom.
“I had the cheapie grocery-store version when I was younger that I used to scare my older sister with.”
One of the most successful movie franchises of all time, the “Friday the 13th” films enjoy year-round popularity. With storylines that have taken the Jason character to camp, a showdown with horror arch-nemesis Freddy Krueger (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”), even outer space to wreak havoc, all 12 movies (including the reboot) remain as popular as ever — especially on Friday the 13th.
“I have an appearance in Worcester, Massachusetts, for a half-horror, half-heavy metal convention called 'Rock N’ Shock,'" said Mears who says he enjoys attending fan conventions when duty, and work, calls. “The horror conventions are a blast. My appearance schedule varies according to my filming schedule.”
Mears will also discuss his famous role and career in the Oct. 20 episode of the Horny 4 Horror podcast, created in part by fellow Bakersfield performer Adam McCabe.
And while it may be that time of year and this Friday was the second unlucky day this year (along with Jan. 13), don’t think Mears' career has been stranded at Camp Crystal Lake since 2009. He’s continued to be cast in acting roles of every kind from TV to the big screen.
Mears said you can catch him in "#FromJennifer," an experimental dark comedy that was shot all on GoPros, which just came out on video on demand. He also played a tough guy who squared off against the Bad Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in the new "Twin Peaks: The Return" series and has upcoming guest star spots on Seth McFarlane’s “Orville” and "Marvel’s Agents of Shield.”
And if you’d like to see something really cool and gory, check out Slayer's music video for “Repentless." In the video, Mears and a host of other actors who’ve portrayed horror icons go at in an all-out prison riot as the band rocks on.
According to a Tweet from the official “Friday the 13th News” Twitter account (@F13Franchise) in April, no plans for another horror sequel will be discussed, if any, until 2019.
Would Mears be ready to don the hockey mask again? My bet is yes, but you never know.
He said he hasn't heard any whispers of a possible return for another swing of the blade but is always looking forward to the next role.
“My job is to tell stories. I always want people to remember the character and not me.”
Before departing, our man in Hollywood sends his best to Bako: “Thank you for the constant love and support.”
Rayford Brothers and Muleskinner Revival, 10 p.m. Friday, Rustic Rail, 147 E. Norris Road. Free. 393- 0456.
In the spirit of the season, Orange County rockabilly trio the Rayford Brothers will transform themselves into what? The Rocking Dead, of course! Primed to rock one of the coolest dives in Oildale, the Rustic Rail, fans can enjoy some chunka-chunka, tombstone-rattling rhythms with their favorite ghoul by your side. The Rayford Brothers have become semi-regular visitors around these parts, and on behalf of the local rockabilly greaser, hot rod contingent — welcome back.
Also appearing are Bako’s own Muleskinner Revival.
The Get Down Art Show 6, 6:30 p.m. Friday, No Image Photography, 4040 Easton Drive. Free.
The team at Project Oh! are always down for some offbeat shenanigans during the Halloween season, and this time around they’ve spared no expense on being eclectic. Showing off their work this edition will be artists Sammy Moncada, Gabrielle Steiger, Kevin Gardner, Deja Nunez, Tania Feldt, Kenneth Williams, Omar Jacinto, Madeline Romans-Kroll, Patrick Spurlock (El Patron), Daniel Fonseca, Jeremy Gonzalez, Moses Fernandez, Leslie Tellez, Rachael Keene, Albert Vargas (Nimak). There’s also live music by Heavy Vinyl and The Secret Sauce. Guaranteed not to resemble a peddler’s faire. Highly recommended.
Motorbabe, Jesus Christ Muscle Car and more, 9 p.m. Friday, Sandrini’s, 1918 Eye St. $5. 322-8900.
Although the saying goes "if it’s too loud, you’re too old," in some instances — like this Sandrini's show — it's more like "if it’s too loud, it may be just too loud." This is a bonafide rock show, underscore rock. A killer collaboration between some of Bakersfield’s best hard-rocking, original acts: Niner Niner and Jesus Christ Muscle Car, both of which will melt faces as you swig your favorite craft beer. Throw in two equally killer tribute acts: Ramones-style rockers The Cretins and Motorbabe, an all-female Motorhead tribute, and you have the perfect pre-Halloween smash up.