Finn Jones Finds Meaningful Layers in The Visitor
The Truth of the Character
Oct 03, 2022
Photography by Katrina Wan PR
In a way, Finn Jones was afraid of making Just Another Horror Movie—although not in the parodic sense.
The guiding light for Jones, a seasoned actor likely most familiar as the lead character Danny Rand in Marvel’s Iron Fist and The Defenders or his work as Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones, is always about the truth of a character. A role has to hold enough depth for authenticity to take root. Otherwise, he’s not interested. In the horror genre, those sorts of roles are hard to find. Fortunately, the script and the surrounding elements for The Visitor were enough to draw him in.
The Visitor is a psychological thriller of a man (Jones) and his wife (Jessica McNamee) who move to her childhood home only to find a portrait of his doppleganger in the attic. From there, a real mystery takes root, one that Jones and company had a real hand in crafting. The powers-that-be for a film like The Visitor, to their credit, were more concerned with strengthening the film than protecting any ego or ideas. The collaboration elevated the final product into the sort of film that Jones is proud to support.
We recently sat down with Jones to hear more about his new film and why authenticity is so important.
UTR (Matt Conner): I’d love to hear what attracted you to work on The Visitor in the first place.
Finn Jones: My agent sent me the script because it was with Blumhouse, which I think is a great production company, and the character was also the lead role in the movie and it was English as well. I was really interested in playing an English character. The script came to me and I read it and I saw Justin [Lange] was going to be directing it and I was familiar with his previous work. I think he’s fantastic in the genre. He knows how to elevate the genre beyond what it’s traditionally thought of as. He has an arthouse quality and he really evolves any movie he works on beyond what’s on the script. So I think it was a combination of those things. It was Blumhouse was attached Justin was attached and it was a character that I could really bring myself to in a way I hadn’t done before in shows or movies.
So then I had a conversation with Justin and then a Zoom call and I gave him my thoughts on the character and where’d I’d like to see him go. He agreed with my take on things and then they offered me the role and we got to work on it. We actually did a lot of work on it—me, Justin and Jessica [McNamee]—bringing that script off of the pages. It was a lot of changes and character development, so it really felt like a full creative experience where we weren’t just actor puppets doing our lines. We actually helped create this movie alongside the writers and directors, which was great.
That has to increase the fulfillment for you to be involved on that level.
Totally, dude. Totally. I can’t tell you how frustrating it can feel when you’re working on something and you see in the writing or character development that things don’t make sense. As an actor, you’re always trying to find the intentions. Why is my character doing this? So when you have a script and you can see there’s a friction, that things don’t make sense for the character, you want to change things but you can’t. It’s fucking frustrating, because you can’t find the truth of the character.
With Blumhouse and Justin, Jessica and me would come to the directors and say, ‘Hey this doesn’t feel like it’s resonating with us. This doesn’t land because of x, y, and z. Can we do something to make this make more sense?’ They would agree and say, ‘Yes, let’s do that.’
And so, there were a lot of things we finessed, but one thing we changed or brought in was that my character had an addiction to pills. So you have this idea that he’s unstable and he’s trying to medicate himself, and that adds to the reason he questions his reality or why he’s not just like, ‘Fuck this.’ The fact that we can add a layer like that helps me out because it makes my performance more authentic. Then it helps the audience out because I understand the motives of what is going on here. All of this makes for a better movie and so you have to credit Justin and Blumhouse.
Within a genre that can be so two-dimension, that has to be part of the draw for you then.
Totally. That’s part of the fear as well. You worry about signing up for a movie like this wondering, ‘Is this going to be another shit horror movie?’ [Laughs] One where you tick all the boxes and that’s all it is. Because Justin was on this movie and because we’d had that conversation early on, I realized he was a guy who didn’t want a make a movie like that. He wanted to make a more provocative movie, a film that was more artistic and cerebral.
So I knew within his hands, it was going in the right direction, but it wasn’t until I saw the movie back that I thought he did it. He really had that vision and really pulled it together. I’m proud of the way the movie came out and I’m proud of what he did with the script he was given.
Are you getting the feedback on that aspect of the film?
Yeah, people dig it. I showed a friend of mine and he was like, ‘Dude, this is cool. I was engaged throughout. I was constantly wondering what was going on and it was shot really well, the performances are cool, and the twist at the end lands even though it’s super-outlandish.’ Even when I watched it back, I’m normally good at being self-critical with my work. I can take my ego out of the equation and watch something as it is, and I’m often harsh, but even I was like, ‘Oh, I kinda dig this.’ [Laughs] I never say that about things that I’m in.
I love what you said about the truth of the character. Is that the guiding rudder in everything you try to do?
It’s everything. It’s authenticity in everything. It’s all about integrity and truth, especially as an actor. If you can’t find the truth, then your job becomes 100 times harder because you’re fighting the whole time to try to make something be realistic. So definitely when I’m looking at scripts, I’m asking. ‘Does this make sense? Can I understand the intentions of this character?’ I’d hope that’s true for any actor. (www.blumhouse.com/tv)