Joel McHale Is Scared Of Ghosts

1Photo: Courtesy of Screen Gems.
Community fans know Joel McHale, and they know him well. But, even his most seasoned follower will find him nearly unrecognizable in his latest role. The actor takes on a new genre — horror — in next month's Deliver Us From Evil, and the result is shocking and impressive. McHale plays an NYPD special-forces cop alongside Eric Bana as they investigate a case of pure evil. The normally slapstick actor traded his dry humor for tattoos, muscles, and a gun, and it was a transition he didn't take lightly (especially the muscles). He rehashed his journey from the halls of Community to the halls of the precinct — but, not without a few jokes, of course.
This is your first big foray into more serious territory, but you still manage to get some jokes in — especially compared to Eric Bana.
"Well, Eric's character is going through a shitload of stuff. His marriage is in rough shape, he's being tormented by the devil. My character doesn't have the same sort of moral qualms that [Bana's] character has, so he can be funnier. These [cops] live in a dark world, and so I think they joke about things all the time. All the cops on set said as much, so I think my character serves a purpose as a guardian, but also kind of giving levity to a very heavy subject matter."
Did you get to do any ride-alongs or spend time with cops to prepare for the role?
"The real Ralph Sarchie was our chief consultant, and he was there every single day. I had lots of conversations with him, because all I cared about was looking like a real cop, and if I was taking people down the proper way. Obviously pulling knives is not a standard cop procedure, though — my character enjoys violence and seeks it out. He's a bit psychotic in that way. In fact, I think he looks at people as targets. I think he would be a criminal if he wasn't a cop."
You also had to bulk up to play this major tough guy, almost to a point where it's hard to recognize you.
"My character was drawn as larger than Eric's, and Eric is an enormous man. His arms are tree trunks. So, I hit the gym hard. I didn't have that much time to prepare though, because I think five days after I got the role I was on a plane to the set. But, also, it was the way I was dressed. And, in college I weighed 240 pounds and played football, so I can get there."
1Photo: Courtesy of Screen Gems.
What kind of fight and stunt training did you do? Did you use a stunt double?
"Almost all of the fight scenes were me. I trained for three-and-a-half weeks in this Filipino knife-fighting style. My greatest concern was that it had to look real and like I actually knew what I was doing. So, I spent two hours a day training my ass off; we started off very slow and practiced until I could do the moves blindingly fast. And, now I still do the knife fights like a second grader who's practicing a song for a piano recital."
Any accidents along the way?
"Yes, multiple times. I tumbled down a flight of stairs — the stairs were padded, but to stop my fall I stuck my right arm out, and it just ripped all the skin off. Then, on the close-up shots of knife fights, we smacked each other up a few times. There's also a part where I get thrown into a wall, and I did it first and then they had the stunt man do it. When he went in, it was way better — I asked how he did it and he goes, 'oh, I got knocked out.' He was unconscious. So, that's the take they used. Needless to say, I was sore after a lot of days on set."
The movie is terrifying — do you scare easily?
"In general, I'm a fan of horror, but I'm only a fan of good horror. Yes, I'm a snob. So, I have a number of horror films that I love, and I can't wait to show my kids when they're of age. As far as being scared during filming, the script is spooky, but it's not the same when you're in it shooting it. When I hear humans-on-humans stuff, that doesn't scare me at all. But, creepy ghost stories freak me out. The unknown freaks me out — serial-killer stories don't wig me out the way that a weird ghost story does."
How are you coping with all the Community rumors floating around?
"I am hopeful, and I'm hearing good things being thrown around, and people are talking about it. But, everything is nothing until it is something. I've trained myself not to get my hopes up about stuff. If it comes around, I'm very excited to do it. Dan Harmon writing Community that would appear on the Internet without commercial breaks — are you kidding me? It would be fucking great. I would wholeheartedly like to do it, so we'll see how it goes. I mean, it has to happen soon because our contracts are gonna be up. Believe me, if I had news I would go, 'It's fucking happening.'"

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