Jeremy King is a prolific and in-demand actor, having graced our screens for the past 15 years, popping up in the likes of I Like You and As Night Falls. His partnership with filmmaker Aaron B. Koontz has proven particularly fruitful for the Chicago native, however, with King appearing in Camera Obscura, western The Pale Door, and taking center-stage in Shudder’s celebrated horror-comedy anthology Scare Package.
As the cowboy hat wearing, piranha-wrangling, JoeBob-worshipping video store owner Rad Chad, King has an absolute blast whether he’s tussling with diminutive co-star Hawn Tran or espousing the virtues of the best horror movies. Wicked Horror caught up with King to discuss failed piranha promotions, the importance of being allowed to play as an actor, and plenty more besides.
WICKED HORROR: First off, I have to ask; was this movie as fun to make as it was to watch?
JEREMY KING: It was probably more to fun to make than it looks like it was [laughs]. When things got a little too out of control, we usually had to cut just ‘cause we had to get back to the story, so honestly it was probably more fun than it looks.
WICKED HORROR: What was the best part for you, personally? Was it hanging out in the video store all day?
JEREMY KING: Aw man… I can’t really put my finger on one thing because as I’ve been talking about it more, I’ve realised that every single section we filmed was just such an absolute blast for so many different reasons. Obviously, in the video store, I got to work with Byron [Brown] and Hawn [Tran] and those guys were both so funny together and in our scenes that literally I had a hard time keeping a straight face most of the time. There were more than a few takes screwed up by me laughing. And then, when you get into basically where I get abducted, now you’re working with a legend like JoeBob Briggs, a legend like Dustin Rhodes, who was the wrestler Goldust, and then you have everyone else in those scenes too – Chase Williamson, Zoe Graham, Josephine [McAdam], even Justin [Maina], who was the guy with the 18-pack abs, and was just a funny guy and a great guy to work with – the whole thing was kind of just, like you said, it was almost like being away at summer camp, and you didn’t want to leave.
WICKED HORROR: What about your death scene? Was that good fun to film?
JEREMY KING: [laughs] The best part of that was JoeBob had gone off to talk to Aaron Koontz, the director, and every time we would do a scene, he would go up to Aaron and be like “oh I think I’m gonna do this” or “I think I’m gonna change this” so I had no idea, at the point where he’s dying and I’m super upset and he sort of calls me down to him, I had no idea what he was going to say every single time. So just that in general. There’s also a moment where Zoe Graham comes running up to me and she puts her hand on my shoulder, I grab her hand, and I go “no, it’s my destiny” and we give each other this look. And I think that one, just itself, took around eight or ten takes. I don’t know whether it was late in the night when we filmed that one but neither of us could get through that scene either so, yeah, that was nuts.
WICKED HORROR: But the physical elements don’t bother you? The blood and the prosthetics, you like all that stuff?
JEREMY KING: I love doing prosthetics, I love doing all that stuff. When I get my arm ripped off, obviously they had to pin my other arm behind my back and kind of strap it up, but after a while my arm was cramping up so they would usually let me out of it in between takes while they were throwing all the extra blood on me, which was pretty cool. Any movie I’ve ever had to do prosthetics for, I actually really enjoy it, especially just seeing how they make all of it, I love seeing how all that fun stuff is done.
WICKED HORROR: Are you a horror fan yourself? You sound like you are!
JEREMY KING: I am. I grew up with all the classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. I remember my dad took me to see Aliens when I was in second grade. I promised him, I swore to him, I was like “I will not have nightmares, you don’t need to worry about me” and he was like “I dunno, I really don’t think I should take you to see this” and literally I had nightmares about those aliens falling into the grass in front of my house and crawling into my bedroom for a solid two weeks after I saw that movie [laughs].
WICKED HORROR: What was it that attracted you to the role of Rad Chad himself? Was it a stretch for you, or did you slip into it pretty easily?
JEREMY KING: The great thing is me and Aaron and the producer, Cameron [Burns], who was also a writer on it, we’ve worked together for a few different projects now, so they sort of told me what they had in mind probably about two years before we filmed. They were trying to originally put my character as sort of a cop or a detective and I was going to weave in and out of the different stories, but they just found that that was impossible to pull off and it was putting a lot of restraints on the other filmmakers as far as where their stories had to go. So I was kind of involved in the process all along and kind of got to shoot back and forth with them over different ideas for the character. Then, by the time we were shooting, I was super comfortable. Aaron had given me a list of 12 or 15 different movies to watch, just based around every single reference my character makes in the movie. And if I’d already seen the movie, it was just about going back and getting familiar with it again. Because sometimes when you see something as a kid or a teenager, you kind of forget the specifics. So by the time we filmed, I was definitely ready.
WICKED HORROR: This is, like you said, your third collaboration with Aaron Koontz. What is it about that relationship that’s so fruitful for both of you, do you think?
JEREMY KING: I think Aaron has a deep dislike for me deep down inside and he likes to see me die [laughs]. Honestly, though, the great thing about the relationship that Aaron and I have is that he lets me play when I get on set. There aren’t a lot of directors that would take the time to allow you to just explore a scene or to let you… You know, once we get good takes that are close to the script – he calls them “Jeremy takes” so he’ll be like “okay, let’s do some Jeremy takes” and we’ll all just let loose. A lot of the stuff that actually made it into the movie was just off the wall stuff where we all just went off the rails and they just kept filming. As an actor, you don’t really get a ton of projects that are like that. For me, it’s just an absolute blessing because it brings back that love you had for it in the beginning. That’s why you start doing it in the first place, it’s just to be creative and to just have fun, at the end of the day.
WICKED HORROR: It really does have that improvisational feel to it, particularly the scenes with the three of you in the video store, which really just feel like you’re all standing around vibing off each other, shooting lines back and forth. It’s a very natural rapport.
JEREMY KING: Yeah. Well, I mean, the great thing was once we were comfortable enough with the script – the scenes with me and Hawn, there’s a lot of very fast, rapid fire back and forth – and then Byron comes in and man that guy is so funny. Every time he would come in I would usually ruin a take because he’d throw me off and I’d just start laughing. Even behind the camera, I would watch their scenes even when I wasn’t on camera because I just loved watching them so much, and I remember the scene where he says the thing about Goldie Hawn, I think everybody on set laughed so hard that it absolutely ruined the first one or two takes because it was so ridiculous.
WICKED HORROR: It’s such a good line. Is there any difference between making a short like this that’s around thirty minutes – I know you pop up elsewhere, but still – and making a full length feature film? Did you feel rushed at all, or like you didn’t have enough time with any particular aspect of it?
JEREMY KING: I actually felt like we had more time because of that. Aaron shoots things really tightly, he knows the shots he wants, he knows exactly what he needs to get before he moves on, so that actually gives us more time to let loose and play, like I said before. You’ll find with some directors they want to shoot it 85 different ways with 85 different angles, you know, they’ll shoot it super close, medium close, whatever, and it’s because they want to decide what they’re going to do with the movie in post, whereas I think Aaron has such a good grasp of what he wants beforehand, I felt like we had more time just because he did what he needed, he got what he wanted, and we’d move on.
WICKED HORROR: Right, because he was so sure of his vision for this?
JEREMY KING: Right, he knew coming in “these are the angles I’m going to use when I cut it,” like he already knows the cuts he’s going to use in his head so it’s not like 85 different angles once they got in the editing room. And, like I said, he’s great at scheduling too. A lot of a film comes down to pre-production, so if you schedule it properly and you give yourself extra time, because things are always going to come up, you know? I remember when they brought the piranhas in – they weren’t actually piranhas, I forget what they were, some kind of fish that looked like piranhas – but when they got them shipped in, two of them died during shipping so they had to rig them to make them look like they were moving if they were ever in the background of any of the scenes [laughs]. But it’s one of those things, it’s all a part of film-making, and you’ve just got to roll with the punches.
WICKED HORROR: That is dark. That is a dark tidbit you just shared there.
JEREMY KING: Yeah, if you go back and watch it, there’s one of the fish that you can definitely see is just moving up and down on a string, and just watching the setup of that was pretty funny [laughs].
WICKED HORROR: It’s kind of charming, in a clunky, sort of low budget horror kind of way. It’s fun.
JEREMY KING: Oh yeah. It was the most ridiculous thing to watch and the fact that it took so much time to, like, rig up this fish to make it look like it was swimming the proper way instead of falling sideways or turning upside down. It was a pretty elaborate setup, actually.
WICKED HORROR: And it probably isn’t at all convincing in the final shot.
JEREMY KING: Which is even better, I think. It’s actually funnier that you have this ridiculous fish just floating around back there with a real fish.
WICKED HORROR: Story-line wise, it makes sense to think that Chad himself might have put that back there and just rigged it up to try to convince people. It seems like something he would do.
JEREMY KING: [laughs] It was from a failed promotion back in 2010, when Piranha came out, so the fish might have died and Chad might have set it up to make it look like it was still alive so he didn’t have to replace ‘em. I think Rad Chad would be on a pretty tight budget, judging by the amount of customers he gets in his store every day. Thank goodness he lives in his mom’s basement!
WICKED HORROR: That’s right, no rent!
JEREMY KING: No rent for Rad Chad [laughs].
RLJE Films will release Scare Package On Demand, Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray on October 20, 2020
** This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity