Oscar winner JK Simmons recently discussed the motivation behind his dark, rage-filled performances in the likes of Whiplash and Oz… and it’s not what you think.
When it comes to playing intimidating characters, not many can match the intensity that JK Simmons brings to the screen. The 68-year-old actor has over 200 film and television credits to his name, yet the performances that many remember feature Simmons at his raging best, especially that of neo-Nazi prisoner Vernon Schillinger in the HBO series Oz, and abusive music instructor Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash for which Simmons won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
During an appearance on the Inside of You podcast, hosted by Smallville actor Michael Rosenbaum, Simmons was asked about the inspiration behind the rage and anger that manifest in his portrayals of men of power, among them Schillinger, Fletcher, and Colonel Nathan Roy Jessup in Aaron’s Sorkin’s original stage version of military court room drama A Few Good Men. Simmons’ response was surprising, to say the least.
“The common thread, and people shake their heads at this, between those three characters that you mentioned, and what is to me so important as an actor almost always, is that for Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men, for Fletcher in Whiplash, for Vern Schillinger in Oz, those incredibly deeply angry powerful men with their powerful emotions, it all comes out of love, however twisted that love may be.
In Vern Schillinger’s place, it’s like ‘Boy, I love me some white people!’ That’s the way he views his philosophy, his worldview. Not that I hate this; I love that! In Colonel Jessup’s place, so beautifully written: ‘Unit. Core. God. Country’. That’s what he loves in that world, and that’s what motivates everything he does, including the illegal, dangerous, immoral stuff and the justification for it. Fletcher loves jazz so much and is seeking perfection every second of his waking life, that when anybody or anything gets in the way of that, his love for that, then they are gonna by God hear about it.”
Simmons will next play the role of Santa Claus in the action-adventure Christmas film Red One, alongside Dwayne Johnson and Chris Evans. Red One will release later in 2023 exclusively on Amazon Prime.