Jackie Earle Haley first gained prominence in the 1970s comedy Bad News Bears as the cigarette-smoking, motorcycle-riding hellion Kelly Leak, but the transition from child performer to adult actor eluded him. It wasn’t until he got the role of Ronald J McGorvey in 2006 in Little Children, which earned him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor, that his career was reignited. Earlier this year he appeared as Roscharch in the film adaptation of Watchmen, and he will soon be seen in Martin Scorsese’s mystery/thriller Shutter Island.
In Fox’s new TV auctioneer Human Target, he portrays Guerrero, a hired gun who assists private investigator Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) with his cases. The question really is, why would Haley agree to do a TV series when his film career is on such a roll? I asked him.
After your Oscar nomination, and with Watchman earlier this year, I was pretty surprised to see you all of a sudden jump to a TV series. What are your thoughts about doing a TV series, and are you still going to be able to develop your film career?
I sure hope so. That’s the plan. I really wanted to work on something that my 10-year-old could watch, so that’s part of it. In reading the screenplay for Human Target, I was just floored by it. It seemed like an incredible job to get to work with these guys. In talking with Jon [Steinberg, the producer] about what it would entail, I think what really excited me about it was getting to develop this character over time. I think that will be interesting and fun.
I’m hoping to grow as an actor. But obviously if the show is a success, it will take me out of [the loop] for months out of the year. But this show is like watching a movie in your living room.
How long does it take you to get into the wig and the mustache on for this role?
Oh, that’s nothing compared to an earlier experience of mine. It only takes about 45 minutes, an hour with make-up and hair.
Is this a choice or is this definitely a part of the character that has to look exactly like that?
Oh, I think it’s more of we were just developing him together as we were making the pilot and putting his look together, and that’s where we landed.
Any particular reason why?
I think we’re going to discover that together, but somebody asked me today, ‘Is Guerrero Hispanic?’ Doing the pilot, I was thinking, he’s probably got a few different names, and this is one that he’s got in front of us, but now, after seeing the pilot and seeing what we’ve created, Guerrero kind of looks Hispanic to me, with blue eyes. I know a couple of guys that look like that. So I’m not sure what the answer to that is, and this is what excites me about working on this show, it’s going to be this process of developing as we go. The intent in the pilot was that he wasn’t, but now I’m starting to think maybe he is.
Not to read too much into this, but there’s this wonderful moment in the pilot when you’re telling a group of thugs that you’re going to go to their homes to kill their families. It had echoes of Rorschach in Watchmen for me. Are there certain commonalities between these characters?
He’s completely different than Rorschach for me. Rorschach was a bad ass, and that was a cool moment with Guerrero. No, I think these guys are quite different. One of the things that’s fun about this guy for me is he’s just physically different; I’m bringing him closer to my own physicality and demeanor. I think what makes this guy tick is his philosophy will be much different than Rorschach’s.
Maybe it’s just that he feels dangerous.
I think this guy is definitely kind of unhinged. I think he’s going to have a particular kind of a philosophy that will be interesting and completely different than Rorschach’s. What we were working on was trying to find a guy that could blend in, like a college professor, but yet I think when we get around to what these guys have in mind for the dangerous side of this guy that it’s going to be interesting.