The man behind Jay is shifting his energy to transforming himself into a one-man media army.
This article appears in Volume 5 – Issue 6 of SKUNK Magazine.
JASON MEWES is a real stand-up guy. Prior to meeting the man behind stoner-rebel Jay (of Clerks fame), it would only seem fair to expect the same brash and obnoxious juvenility which so many have yearned to emulate for almost 20 years.
But in reality, Jason is sort of the anti-Jay. Sure, the familiar New Jersey drawl shines through, as does the steady stream of curse words that attach themselves, seemingly effortlessly, into every answer. But the real Jay can be defined by his actions pertaining to a particular cancelled appearance some three hours outside of the Toronto area. His demeanor ranged from genuinely apologetic to fear over the potential of a damaged reputation. He didn’t want to be perceived as “one of those” actors and represents a severe contrast to the foul-mouthed ignoramus he’s most recognized as.
In actuality, Mewes, in his 35 years, is someone who has endured more highs and lows than an entire season of Beverly Hills 90210. He has struggled through the tumbles of a difficult childhood and a severe drug addiction to go along with the affluence of not just celebrity status, but of being adored and inspirational to so many.
Now more than five years sober, Mewes has shifted his energy to transforming himself into a one-man media army. From video games to comics to his own production company – Seven Star Pictures – oh… and, of course, perfecting the role of the smartass, Mewes is continually solidifying his reputation as one of the Silver Screen’s most recognizable funnymen. Snootchie Bootchies!
Are you sick of answering questions about your personal life in that it takes away from what you
do on screen?
I’m not really sick of it, but I get what you’re saying. People, if they’ve read, if they know, if they’re interested in anything about me, I’m sure they’ve read about my stuff and what’s happened and gone through and all that business by now.
Kevin [Smith] did a really good story about the whole thing in his book and everything so, I mean, it’s out there. I won’t use the words sick and tired of it, but yeah. It’s…
Yeah, redundant. I like that word. That would be a ten dollar word today.
You seem pretty comfortable talking about
It feels nice that every so often I’ll get people to come up to me and say that they’ve helped their brother or their sister or whatever; they’ve read Kevin’s book or saw an interview and that they were like, “oh well, if he can do it, I can do it,” and all that. So, that’s really flattering to me and nice that I might have maybe even helped one person and kept them from going down the same path or worse… it’s a pretty sweet thing to be able to say, thinking about it, while I’m saying it out loud. I would think that a lot of people would like to make a difference one way or another and help out in some way and to be able to do that is pretty awesome. You know what? I’m a fucking hero, dude! (laughs) Naw, just kidding.
Do you choose the roles? Because they seem to follow along the same threshold.
Yeah, the other roles I’ve played have been pretty much all the same. People call and offer me roles and just send me the script and I like it. I like playing the slapsticky, funny, either smartass stoner or just a stoner or just a smartass, and [with] some of them, there’s no weed or drugs involved, but there’s the silly guy, and I would say that is what I’m best at. But I definitely want to broaden out. I’ve done a few movies that haven’t come out yet that are a little more serious and all that… I don’t know if I did a good job, but we will see (laughs).
When I was getting really bad after Jay and Silent Bob, I got really, really deep into the drugs because I had a lot of money and my mom was passing away and I had access to a lot of drugs. So I didn’t work for a couple of years and then I came back when I was sober and the first thing I did after not working for a couple of years was this movie. I don’t want to mention it just because I feel like I didn’t do a very good job at playing a more serious role. So, hopefully, these other ones I’ve been able to work on that and do better.
What about the upcoming movie Science of Cool, which has a bit of that Can’t Buy Me Love Feel to it.
Yeah, it’s weird, the business. I get offers and they have some money and they’re like, “Oh, we’re gonna get more money. Do you like the script? Do you want to do it?” and I’m like, “Yeah,” and then I’m waiting around. It’s been a while since I agreed to do that and they were waiting on more money and sort of put it on hold, and I’m just waiting to hear more.
And same with Intertwined and a couple of the other ones
No, K-11… not only am I gonna be in that, I started a production company with my friends – it’s called Seven Star Pictures – and we are producing it. We’ve got financing, it looks like it’s gonna happen and that’s a movie we’ll hopefully be shooting in the middle of June. We were supposed to shoot last June – we had the money, we were moving forward and, believe it or not, one person shot the whole movie down and put it on hold. There was only a small window of opportunity for Kristen Stewart and Nikki Reed because they had to do Twilight 2, and then Kristen did Runaways, so we had a small window, and this guy… [by the time] we dealt with what this guy wanted… it was too late. So that financier had backed out and now we’ve found someone else to finance it and it’s still in the middle of negotiations and such. I don’t want to say it’s 100%, but it’s looking pretty good.
Is Midgets Vs Mascots the greatest name and premise for a movie ever?
(laughs) People seem to like little people or they’re scared of them, and I feel like it’s like that for a lot of things: monkeys…
Clowns… So yeah, I don’t know, I haven’t got to see the movie yet. It’s one of those things where it was a small part; I was literally there for like one day, and I didn’t get to see anything or what’s gone on with it, but I do know the DVD is coming out because I just got asked to do commentary on there. So, I’ll get to see the movie and see how it turned out. But I’ve talked to a couple of people who have seen it at press screenings or what have you and they said it’s pretty funny.
As a matter of fact, also, I’m waiting to find out, I did a pilot for a show called “Emerald Acres,” and it’s about this kid who steals a magic penguin and [after] a drunk night of partying with the magic penguin, he wakes up and he’s in like a town of little people and little houses.
It seems like you have a bit of a fascination with midgets.
I don’t, but it just seems that, for some reason, I’ve had a few offers for that. It’s funny because, you know you’re not supposed to say midget in film, so I’ve worked with a few movies now, two movies and a TV show, with little people, and I’m like, “Make sure I don’t call ‘em a midget, make sure I don’t call ‘em a midget,” that now it’s just like, “Hey, what’s that movie with the thing…” and I’ll be like, “Oh, you mean the one with the little people?”
You’re in a movie called Midgets Vs Mascots!
I know! But I’m saying, if you’re around little people, then you’re not supposed to say, you know… “How does it feel to be a midget?” You’re not supposed to say that.
How did you hook up with Joe Eckhardt (High Hopes)?
It’s weird how I get some of these jobs. Someone will be a friend of a friend or they’ll just send someone to View Askew – we have an office – and they’ll send a script or they’ll email View Askew or through my agent or what have you. I get these offers and, I don’t know, I enjoy working, I want to keep working. As long as it’s not super cheesy then I enjoy doing a couple of days here and there.
Does it irk you that people expect the ‘Jay’ character?
Yeah, well I mean I get it. People like it. But I feel like the reason too, of course, is that a lot of these movies are independent and they go straight to DVD and they don’t really hit the theatre so there’s not a lot of press about it and really stand out, where I feel like Jay was all studio movies… So, we’ll see. I’m hoping to get that movie role that comes out and does $150 million or more in the theatres and will start hitting me off on other stuff. I really want to do some TV. I wanna get that steady work and be on a TV show and be part of that. So, hopefully, that’ll happen soon.
In Clerks 2, you played a born-again Christian drug dealer. How much of that was mixing the Jay of old and the Jay of new? Was that something you came up with?
No, that was what Kevin wrote in the script. A lot of it was what it was really like when I first got back and I was sober, and you know, the deployed air bag that I mentioned, that really happened, and going to rehab and reading the Bible – I don’t really necessarily read the Bible, but that’s sort of a reference to, there’s the “Just For Today” in A.A. and you read “just for today I will work on blah blah blah…” or “just for today, I will see someone close and talk about my feelings and blah blah blah…”
Clerks 1 was how I was back then when I was younger and Clerks 2 was like how I was at that time. From the age of, you know, 12 years old to 17-18 years old, Clerks 1, besides selling weed, that was me 100%. And then Clerks 2, again, at that time, a few years ago, is how I am today.
How about Lester in Zack and Miri?
Yeah, yeah, I would say Lester is definitely half and half. I definitely like to fuck (laughs). I think I dumbed it down a little bit. I wouldn’t say I’m that ignorant.
Jersey Girl was the only Kevin Smith movie you didn’t take part in.
That one and his new one (A Couple of Dicks) – he directed but he didn’t write that one. So yeah, I was supposed to be in Jersey Girl, I was supposed to play Jason Biggs’ part, but I could not at that time cause I had a warrant and I was really in bad shape… they couldn’t chance me getting arrested halfway through the movie and screwing it all up.
That’s sort of when I realized like, fuck, Kevin’s not even gonna let me work with him, I’m fucked; I need to stop. I mean not that there weren’t many other events; that was right when I was getting really bad and that was sort of the last straw. And Kevin met me outside – and I get it, I don’t blame him – but he wouldn’t even let me upstairs… I was like, “Look, I’ll go away right now and get sober and stuff before you leave,” and he was like, “It still don’t matter because, one: how do I know you’re gonna stay clean, and two: even if you do stay clean, you have a warrant.”
So, I had gone into detox and then when I got out, I asked my buddy, I said, “I need to go turn myself in and get rid of this warrant in Jersey.” But I had lost my passport and license; I had no I.D. to get on a plane. So my buddy was like, “Look, dude, I got like four grand saved up. Jump in the car, we’ll drive there.” And we did and I went and turned myself in and they sentenced me to six months in rehab and that was that.
Would you look at that as the best thing you ever did?
Oh yeah. I mean yeah because it was at that point… even when I went to detox, I was supposed to stay 10 days but I stayed, like, 6. You can leave; you don’t have to stay anywhere because you put yourself in there. So, when I got out, I was sort of detoxed, still a little sick and I wanted to go use and that’s when I told my friend. Because I knew if I turned myself in… one: I wanted to take care of that and get it out of my hair, but two: I knew that they were either gonna sentence me to rehab or sentence me to jail. So I was facing, like four years and I was hoping they’d only give me, like a year, and they sentenced me to six months. Shit, every week I wanted to leave, I hated it. But I couldn’t leave then because if I left the consequences were four years in jail and that wasn’t an option.
How do you see things in retrospect now?
It’s crazy and thinking about it… I don’t know, it still turns my stomach at times and it makes me think I can’t believe some of the stuff I’ve done. I can and I can’t believe it. I can believe it because it’s a disease and I get how it works because I’ve been there and I see other people too, but at the same time… I’m a different person now. I don’t know how to explain it, really. When I’m sober it’s like, wow I can’t believe I’d go sit in a Burger King bathroom getting high and going down in places I would go to get drugs and things I would do. I mean I never sucked cock or anything, but I’ve done some disgusting things.
Do you get a lot of people offering drinks and/or joints and asking to smoke with them? How do you deal with that?
It’s not hard for me to turn down drinking and smoking, I don’t know why. I do like doing both of them, but… I never did anything bad to get weed and I never went anywhere or did anything bad to get alcohol. I like to do both, but exactly as much as I like smoking cigarettes, you know what I mean? As addicted as I am smoking cigarettes, I won’t do anything crazy for a cigarette. But the opiates and the cocaine and stuff, that’s a different level.
What do you say to them?
Sometimes I’ll just be, “Look, I don’t drink anymore; I’m sober. I don’t smoke weed, I’m sober,” and usually they’re like, “Oh, ok that’s cool.”
But then, of course, there’s drunk people and there’s the people like, “Fuckin’ what are you talking about? Why not, man?”
I think people automatically assume I’m smoking pot all the time. It’s weird when you think about it… you think Leonardo Dicaprio shoots heroin because he did Basketball Diaries?
On the issue of cannabis. Where do you stand?
I think it’s great. I know people who get nauseous and stuff and it does help them and I guess it does help in ways like that – medical ways. And I guess it’s easier to go to the store – I got friends who can just drive to the store and pick up different types and baking goods and stuff. I went into a store not too long ago and they had like lollipops and popcorn and… I don’t know; it’s interesting. When I smoked though, of course, they didn’t have all those fun things, maybe they did and maybe I just didn’t see them because they didn’t sell them at stores.
But yeah, I think it’s great.
When you do hang it up, what do you best want to be remembered for?
I don’t know, I guess making people laugh and stuff. Our movies are pretty popular with the military and it’s pretty cool when we do signings, sometimes we get some military guys. They’re like, “Dude, man, I was over in Iraq when it was really tough and we had downtime, we’d watch your movies and it’d make us happy.” So you know, that’s pretty fuckin’ cool. So I guess that, making people laugh in bad times.