'Counterpart' star J.K. Simmons likes to let his characters do the talking, especially as he plays two Howard Silks in the sci-fi show
J.K.Simmons has played it all — the satirist, the father, the music instructor. And now he travels across dimensions as two versions of the same person in his latest show
In order to play two very different versions of himself in the Justin Marks-directed show 'Counterpart', actor J.K.Simmons made sure he was playing around with words and not simply relying on memory to recall his dialogues. As Howard Silk in the STARZ show, Simmons plays two versions of the same person, each hailing from different realities with a different backstory, but common interests. The complex nature of Silk, who is a docile husband in one version and a skillful spy in another, has been best executed by an actor who is known to put his characters first.
Jonathan Kimble Simmons (aka J.K. Simmons) is one of those rare actors whose presence looms large even when screen time has run out.
The Michigan-born (1955) actor initially began his acting career in theatre and went on to become a member of the Seattle Repertory Theatre, where he acted in plays like 'The Fantasticks', 'Pal Joey', 'An Enemy of the People', and 'Guys and Dolls', in the early 1980s. He has today played characters from every part of the spectrum — be it the tobacco smoking lobbyist in 'Thank You for Smoking' (2005) or a considerate father in 'Juno' (2007).
Commonly known to be a "character actor", Simmons always makes sure his characters get the exact amount of authenticity that is required, according to the script.
Simmons went on to gain immense appreciation and several awards including an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for his terrific performance as the strict, hard-headed music instructor Terence Fletcher in Damien Chazelle's 2014 film 'Whiplash'. As a raging, violent conductor, Flecther played the role in bringing out the best in Andrew (played by Miles Teller) by pushing him beyond all limits of sanity and sensibility.
Not only was Simmons' portrayal of the sadistic perfectionist considered to be the performance of a lifetime, but it also brought him to the limelight removing the tag of the most underrated actor. Simmons had revealed himself as an actor of many hues when he took up the role of the CIA Superior in Coen Brothers' 'Burn After Reading' (2008), where we all remember him bluntly stating that instead of handing the body to the FBI, it would be probably more convenient to simply burn it. The quirky character, as Simmons states to Filmcomment, was probably easier to bring in because of the Coen Brothers' clear idea about their own characters.
"They do have everything storyboarded, but they don’t put you in a straitjacket as far as the blocking goes. They just have such a clear idea of what they want from the time the first word goes on paper to the time the final cut is made in the edit."
The authenticity in Simmons' acting is probably the result of his long career in theatre where the actor got enough instances to use his vocal range which can either make him sound like a sincere serial killer or give him the benefit of doubt as a timid, vulnerable man. However, going back to the stage will probably be a challenge for him since "those muscles haven’t been exercised in a while. And I have a kid in high school and a kid in middle school. Maybe when they’re both in college, I’ll find myself on stage again."
Simmons is currently taking his role as Howard Silk in 'Counterpart' step-by-step, and as his own co-star, he makes sure that words do not get in the way when projecting two completely different versions of himself. Speaking with Collider, the actor had revealed that working on TV as Howard Silk in this era is far from what he had experienced as the Neo-Nazi Schillinger from 'Oz' (1997-2003). The actor believes that the difference lies in the fundamentals of the medium.
"When I did the first drama in the history of premium cable, with 'Oz' 20 years ago, Chris Albrecht was at HBO and basically gave Tom Fontana free rein to make whatever twisted, bizarre stuff he wanted to make. And here we are now, with Justin [Marks] having some creative freedom to do this show. That’s a big difference. It really feels like this kind of TV is a hybrid between television and features. We know that we’re making 20 hours of material, and we have to be making 40, 50 or 60. To have the luxury that we know we have more story to tell is great."
'Counterpart' is set to release its second season on December 9, and Howard Silk will be back to only find his alternate version replacing him in his world, while he himself is stuck in prison for a crime he never intended to commit. With new characters such as Naya Temple coming in, it might be time that Silk kicks back at his alter ego who has taken a sudden interest in his now-awakened wife, Emily. Simmons, at one time plays the diminutive Silk who barely had any idea about the existence of the other world, and at other times plays the authoritative spy who has treaded into our world to hunt down a deadly assassin.
Simmons claims that in order to portray the characters as they are, without overlapping their personalities, the actor had to maintain the fact that the difference between the two Howards is chiefly psychological. "It's all psychological and emotional. And in fact, it was not a significant effort for me to consciously go, 'Oh, I’m playing this guy, so I have to physicalize it this way'." 'Counterpart' returns to STARZ on December 9, and this time our world will be compromised with the other selves who have managed to break out of the now closed 'Crossing'. Watch the trailer below.