My first introduction to James Ransone was in the absolutely terrifying film Sinister, where he played the wide-eyed and innocent Deputy So & So, instantaneously winning over my affection and making me a fan. He has since gone on to star in many films that I love such as Tangerine and In a Valley of Violence but most are familiar with his work in David Simon’s highly acclaimed HBO Series, The Wire. When it was announced in 2018 that Ransone was cast as the adult version of Eddie Kaspbrack (portrayed by Jack Dylan Grazer in 2017’s IT) in IT: CHAPTER 2, I was over the moon. As an integral part of the Losers Club, Ransone transformed himself into a fast-talking hypochondriac that can never be too far from the comfort of his inhaler (that he doesn’t actually need). In IT: CHAPTER 2, Eddie, now a risk management analyst, finds himself returning to Derry, Maine, 27 years after first coming face-to-face with Pennywise the Dancing Clown. It’s here where he is reunited with the rest of the Losers Club in hopes of defeating Pennywise once and for all. During our chat, James and I discussed everything ranging from when he found out he got the role, to bringing adult Eddie to life, as well as his experience working so closely with Bill Hader. (Possible spoilers ahead).
What was your reaction when you found out that you got the role of the adult version of Eddie Kaspbrak?
James Ransone: I was pretty psyched! I had auditioned for the first movie, I’m not going to say [for what role], but I kind of got this weird feeling that I knew [Andy Muschietti] was going to have me play that role because I looked so much like Jack [Dylan Grazer]. Then [Andy] called me and told me he really wanted me to do this but they had to convince the studio. When I got the role, I didn’t know the movie was as big of a deal as it was. I didn’t realize that I had kind of hit the Powerball, I got really lucky. I’m not joking and I’m not being facetious or down playing that, a movie like this is like lightning in the bottle, I just got super lucky – right place, right time.
How did you prepare for the role and were you familiar with the source material at all?
James Ransone: Yeah, I had seen the 1990 mini-series and I didn’t read the entire book when I was kid because that book is really long and [Stephen King] meanders. There’s chapters in that… oh, and by the way, when I met [Stephen King] we were talking about the book and he was like, “I gotta be honest, I don’t remember writing a lot of it, I was on a lot of cocaine” (laughs). There are spots in that book you read as an adult and they are so superfluous and they don’t have anything to do with the plot. But, I was a huge fan of the mini-series when I was a kid, it really shook me. My preparation for it was…you know, people who saw this movie love those kids in these specific roles so I didn’t need to do anything to bring my middle-aged actory bullshit to it. All I had to do was try and do what Jack Dylan Grazer did, that’s it, nothing else outside that. He speaks very fast so it was hard for me. I talk fast but that was on a different level, he made me feel old and slow.
Speaking of Jack Dylan Grazer, did you get to work with him at all on set?
James Ransone: No, not that much. I told this to a couple of people but I don’t think he thinks I’m that cool. I think he thinks I’m lame. He’s actually a fairly good skateboarder from the little bit that I’ve seen on his Instagram and I grew up in the skate world. I know a lot of pro skaters and was around when no one cared about Supreme – I’ve just been around it my whole life so I know all those people. But you know when you’re like old and you’re like, “Listen to this band” and some teenager is like, “Uh, okay”. That’s how he was with me. He’s like, “That’s not cool” and I’m like “Oh, alright then, sorry.” (laughs).
Eddie’s relationship with Richie Tozier is pretty significant. What was it like to work so closely with Bill Hader, who portrays Richie? When you guys were riffing on each other was some of that improvised?
James Ransone: Yeah, a lot of it was improvised. We had a full script but Andy likes to shoot a lot and have a lot of takes and a lot of film and does a lot of different stuff with the camera so I couldn’t tell you everything that was improvised versus what was scripted. The first stuff we shot was [the scene] at Jade of the Orient and Andy relied on me and Bill to do a lot of the improv at first. It was super scary and unnerving – that scene took the whole first week of shooting. I’m in front of [Jessica] Chastain and [James] McAvoy and they are classically trained actors. I was in Tangerine and that was all improv but we shot that at a donut shop on a phone, you know what I mean? (laughs).
But I was really lucky to work with Bill, like really, really lucky. His background from SNL requires that in order for the scene to work both parties have to be funny meaning he’s not jockeying for position. He’s not asserting his “I’m the more famous one here” and making it difficult for me. I got to learn about how those guys put their bits together and how to stay in a joke and exhaust it and run through that. Just for me as a performer I was really lucky to be able to work with him because he taught me a lot about how to measure comedy and it was super fun. To be honest, we do get along really, really well. We have similar sensibilities in terms of the music we like and the stuff we grew up around. He had a weird intro to this business too, he was a PA and movie stars treated him like shit and I worked for Patrick McMullan, a celebrity photographer, and celebrities treated me like shit (laughs). It’s a weird thing but what’s cool is, for me, I wanted to do comedy for a long time and I feel like Bill has wanted to start doing more serious stuff so it was nice because I felt like we met each other at this cross to where our careers are going.
I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a scene in which you find yourself covered in what looks like liquid vomit. What was that experience like?
James Ransone: It was fucking horrible, what do you mean? (laughs). It took so long for the set up and I had my hands around that thing and I’d be like, “Are we going to fucking shoot this thing or not?” (laughs). It was so much puke, it was so much puke that I almost passed out from holding my breath. What makes me even more mad is that on my dumb phone my favorite PA, Jacqueline, was filming the monitor and I could hear her fucking snickering and I got so mad every time I heard her laugh at my misfortune (laughs). I almost passed out and they’re all laughing at me and I’m like, “Fuck you guys, you guys are the worst!”
I honestly can’t even imagine shooting that scene so good on you for making it through! Lastly, what was your reaction when you finally saw Bill Skarsgard done up as Pennywise?
James Ransone: You want me to be honest? I never saw him as the clown. If you watch the movie again, I never have an interaction with him when he’s in full makeup. Isn’t that crazy? I saw him drive by once in an Escalade as Pennywise, though (laughs).
He kind of gets the short end of the stick on this stuff because the amount of patience it takes to go through that makeup, it takes hours, and then he’s still sitting around waiting for the rest of us to get to his stuff and he’s just ready to go. Then he comes in and delivers without being like, “Fuck this, I’m going home” or losing his patience. I would, I’m just an impatient, lazy person, I’d be like, “I’m done, fuck you, you made me wait all day I’m done” (laughs). But to deliver that over and over and over again and have it be so terrifying, he gets my respect and is the MVP on this because it’s super easy to come in and tell a bunch of dumb jokes (laughs).
IT: CHAPTER TWO arrives in theaters and IMAX on September 6, 2019.