Tech whiz saves day

Jake John­son talks about help­ing make the con­trol room safe again and more on ‘Juras­sic World.’

Los Angeles Times - - CULTURE MONSTER - By Mered­ith Wo­erner mered­ith.wo­erner@latimes.com

For ev­ery dash­ing pa­le­on­tol­o­gist and flir­ta­tious “chaoti­cian,” “Juras­sic Park” has al­ways (for bet­ter or worse) re­lied on the con­trol room techs to make the di­nosaur trains run on time. As the new­est face for “Juras­sic World’s” con­trol room, Jake John­son had his work cut out for him.

The com­puter pro­gram­mers are the se­cret hands that move the guests, steer the at­trac­tions and un­for­tu­nately un­leash a com­puter virus that in the orig­i­nal “Juras­sic Park” dis­ables all the se­cu­rity fences, doom­ing park guests to cer­tain death and may­hem. So how does the new crop of desk jock­eys fare in the flashier se­quel “Juras­sic World”?

We spoke with “New Girl” ac­tor John­son about his char­ac­ter, Low­ery, the su­per-meta, di­nosaurob­sessed pro­gram­mer in Colin Trevor­row’s “Juras­sic World,” and asked him about res­ur­rect­ing the be­smirched rep­u­ta­tion of those who work in the con­trol room, his place in the long line of “Juras­sic Park” com­puter techs (in­clud­ing Sa­muel L. Jack­son, who played Ray Arnold, and Wayne Knight as the ne­far­i­ous Dennis Nedry) and why a per­son would deem it ap­pro­pri­ate to wear the T-shirt that rep­re­sents the bloody in­ci­dent that hap­pened on Isla Nublar back in 1993 at his place of em­ploy­ment. Mi­nor spoil­ers ahead. Could you take us into the mind-set of Low­ery? Who is this guy?

Yes, it’s funny you ask, be­cause Colin and I and Derek [co-screen­writer Con­nolly] ac­tu­ally did a lot of back story on him. We view Low­ery as the kind of guy who would be ob­sessed with the orig­i­nal Juras­sic Park. Not the movie, but the ac­tual park, but was too young to have gone. We see him as a guy that, af­ter col­lege and Juras­sic World came about, felt like he couldn’t pass up the op­por­tu­nity to work there. He’s a guy who’s work­ing there in that con­trol room in or­der to be close to the di­nosaurs ev­ery day, like some­body who’s ob­sessed with an­i­mals who works at a zoo. Just to feel as close as he pos­si­bly can, live in a lit­tle hut on the is­land and have his own gar­den in the back. Just a cool, kind of stony guy who’s just trip­ping out … that his day job is on some weird is­land with di­nosaurs. I’m glad that you men­tioned that he was too young to have gone to the park, be­cause the big mo­ment (for your char­ac­ter) is when Claire [Bryce Dal­las Howard] re­al­izes that he’s wear­ing a Juras­sic Park T-shirt. I’m cu­ri­ous, what kind of per­son wears a Juras­sic Park T-shirt in the uni­verse where Juras­sic Park ex­ists?

The idea that we wanted to do with it was that, of course he would wear it be­cause he thinks vintage is cool. He’s only there be­cause he re­ally wanted to be in Juras­sic Park. It’s like he just got the shirt and he hates the way 2015 is go­ing, he just thinks that the early ’90s were cooler. Like the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who have that cool slant to them, the year be­fore was al­ways bet­ter than the cur­rent one. I’m cu­ri­ous if you think he’s the voice of the au­di­ence, be­cause he feels like the gen­er­a­tion who may wear a Juras­sic...

Yeah, that’s right. Colin’s orig­i­nal idea was that we have a friend who we based our look on, a guy named Clay Allen, who’s a writer. He’s a friend of Derek, Colin and my­self. He’s just a guy we re­ally re­spect and we re­ally like, and he is kind of the voice of the au­di­ence. So we wanted to put some­body ... if a guy like Clay was go­ing to go see the movie, what would he think of all this? Then, Colin’s idea was, “Now I want that guy to get swept up in the story and go on his own arc and get in­sane about it the way we hope the au­di­ence does.” Where do you think Low­ery ranks with the past tech guys from Juras­sic Park, like Sam Jack­son’s char­ac­ter and Wayne Knight’s char­ac­ter?

I can’t do, I can’t say that! That’s up to you guys! How do you think that con­ver­sa­tion would go if they were alive and they could ...

If Sam, Wayne Knight and Low­ery were all talk­ing? As their char­ac­ters to your Low­ery?

I think Low­ery would be hav­ing an anx­i­ety at­tack from pure ex­cite­ment. I think the whole thing would be Low­ery ask­ing ques­tions. The movie plays a lot with tropes. There’s a “some­one has to stay be­hind” gag. And your char­ac­ter is the cham­pion of “Juras­sic Park” nos­tal­gia. Were there fun ac­tion tropes you wanted to bust in this film?

The game of it, for Low­ery, was that most peo­ple in ac­tion movies aren’t fans of ac­tion movies, they’re just in it. The game of it for us was, “What if you take a guy who doesn’t be­long in these who hap­pens to find him­self in them?” … Ev­ery­thing he has to do, he just can’t be­lieve he’s in­volved in this, then gets caught up in it. It’s ac­tu­ally kind of re­fresh­ing, be­cause so many movies to­day, or TV shows, refuse to ad­dress the ob­vi­ous. Just say it’s a zom­bie, you know that’s a zom­bie! They won’t ref­er­ence the pop cul­ture ma­te­rial that’s right in front of their face.

Au­di­ences are re­ally smart now. [Colin was] like, “Let’s just have some­body who can be part of the joke with peo­ple.” Did you set up your own desk for your char­ac­ter or did you have set do that?

Colin re­ally put those di­nosaurs how he wanted, but then the pa­per­work and ev­ery­thing was just kind of he and ... I like to al­ways be writ­ing lit­tle things ev­ery­where I go. It was a com­bi­na­tion of both of us. You and Trevor­row have a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship from work­ing to­gether on “Safety Not Guar­an­teed.” When you found out he got the job, were you ex­cited, did you want a part?

I think ev­ery ac­tor, when their buddy’s a di­rec­tor and they find out some­thing, we all want to be in the movie. You’re kind of not al­lowed to say that. Colin called me pretty quick af­ter and said, “If this goes down, I got a part for you.” So I was root­ing for him, not only as my friend, but self­ishly, through­out. I re­ally wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence this and I re­ally wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence it with him. Do­ing a big stu­dio movie where you’re not close with the di­rec­tor, it can be great if you guys hap­pen to get along, but if you don’t, it can be a night­mare. Be­ing able to do this with him was such a plea­sure. At the very least, you saved the hacker, Nedry. The prob­lem with him is that he is the vil­lain. He gets his come­up­pance and he sets a bad ex­am­ple for hack­ers and tech peo­ple ev­ery­where. Your guy kind of res­ur­rects that stereo­type for the bet­ter.

You know, that’s a big pri­or­ity for me. I think hack­ers get a re­ally bad deal. My brother-in-law, a guy named Adam Fisk, he is es­sen­tially a hacker. He is the builder of Lit­tleShoot, and a thing called Lan­tern. What he does is he makes it pos­si­ble for peo­ple to get around In­ter­net things. In for­eign coun­tries, where some­thing’s illegal, he’s build­ing soft­ware that you can get around things. Well, he and I bat­tle all the time be­cause part of what he’s do­ing is part of the world where you can steal con­tent very easily. That con­tent is stuff that I’m in! So yes, in terms of Adam Fisk, my brother-in­law, I am very happy mak­ing sure that they don’t seem like the bad guys.

Chuck Zlotnick Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures

JAKE JOHN­SON

de­scribes his “Juras­sic World” char­ac­ter, Low­ery, as “a cool, kind of stony guy.”

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