Kids either hated or loved the character of Chaka on the TV series Land of the Lost. When casting the devious ape-boy who will do anything to survive for the movie version, director Brad Silberling chose Saturday Night Live writer and performer Jorma Taccone, who spoke with me about his own love/hate relationship with Chaka.
People either loved Chaka or despised him in the TV series.
I did know that. Brad said he didn’t like Chaka in the original. He was saying that he was the President of the I Hate Chaka Fan Club. One of the first big meetings that they had with everyone from the studio, Sid and Marty [Krofft, who created the series were there, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I was President of the I Hate Chaka Fan Club,’ and they looked over and went, oops, really embarrassing talking to the creators of the show.
Weren’t you too young to have seen it on TV?
I’m 32, so yeah that is too young actually. I probably could have seen the second wave that I think aired in the early ’80s, because a bunch of my friends had seen the original and they would act it out on weekends after they saw it, and apparently everyone I talked to said that the shortest person always had to play Chaka, and they hated it. So I relate now.
What was the make-up and costume process like?
Three and a half hours, I did nearly 60 days on it, and I think it got down to about 3 hours at the very quickest, but usually it was around 3 ½ to get it on, and that was mostly just trying to get the prosthetic on, because obviously there’s no veins or anything to sell that it’s real, so they would have to do all these really cool little extra veins and all the spotting, and flicking paint at me for like an hour, so it was a really wonderful process to go through. At four in the morning you definitely want to have as much adhesive medical-grade glue put on your face as possible.
What about learning the language?
I was sent a list of 400 words that were Pakuni words and I would construct sentences. I made up this monologue all about how the Sleestaks came in and killed my tribe, probably overkill I imagine, but I was really excited.
Did you ever get to go out in your Chaka costume?
No, because they wanted to keep everything under wraps I had to wear this giant emperor’s cloak that went down to here and so, beyond being super hot, I could never ride on the golf cart [in case visitors on the trams saw me], and I’m just so glad that the movie will be out now, and if we do a Land of the Lost 2 I can ride a golf cart. That will be my big goal.