Over the years, we have seen John Michael Higgins do some pretty outrageous characters, but you have never seen him like his new character, a quirky and over the top cheer camp coach in Screen Gems’ Fired Up. We talked to the entertaining star about his new role.
ComingSoon.net: I love your uniform. Does it help you get into character?
John Michael Higgins: Nothing helps me get into character because you should see my character. There is no preparation that can be achieved.
CS: Tell us a little about him.
Higgins: It’s hard to say. He’s the coach of a giant cheerleading camp and everyone figures he’s not entirely straight although I don’t think he’s ever had sex at all. He probably doesn’t even know that people do have sex and that you can do that with your body. He’s never tried. He wasn’t aware of it.
CS: Molly said he was asexual.
Higgins: Asexual. Yeah that’s it. He’s the real 45-year-old virgin. Well virgin implies that there’s something out there, but he doesn’t even know that I don’t think. He’s just completely out to lunch.
CS: What was it about this character that you liked?
Higgins: I just liked that. I like characters that are quite odd. It gives me something to do all day. I’ve played a lot of strange characters. I’m not sure what’s going on there. My career has to turn into a guy who sticks his head in Jell-O buckets and things like that. That’s okay. Someone’s got to do it.
CS: Do you get to improv a lot?
Higgins: Yeah I do, but happily this is a scripted movie. In the last 10 years every time I show up they’re like, “Say whatever you want.” I’m always like, “Can’t we just have someone write something down for us?” So I’m pleased to say that the jokes in this already funny and they don’t need my help. I feel like I’m slumming. I feel like I’m on vacation.
CS: When you first heard that this script is loosely based on the producer’s high school experience, what did you think?
Higgins: That’s a lie until I met the producer and then it all sort of made sense. Honestly, I know it sounds crazy, but I was jealous. I wanted to go to cheerleading camp. Look how colorful and pretty it is. All these young people jumping around. I never got to do that.
CS: Eric was saying he wished he was smart enough to think if that idea.
Higgins: Well Eric makes a good point. I feel like I blew it somehow and that I should have been having fun when I was that age and I just wasn’t. I was probably worried about getting into college or something stupid like that. I went to college and now look what I’m doing. What the hell was I thinking?
CS: How do you get into character for someone like this?
Higgins: I actually don’t do much of that, getting into character. I tend to show up on the set and just start bouncing around and find it in front of the camera. I don’t know why. The more I try to think about it, the less funny it becomes for me. I see a lot of people who don’t operate that way though. Sometimes I’ll prepare a lot. Sometimes I’ll do a lot of research. If it’s an improv movie like a Chris Guest movie, if Chris says me to, “I need you to be a trash man” than I will go out and research that. I’ll research trash man. I’m researching it so I can speak knowledgably about it so that jokes can come. If you don’t know anything then you can’t be funny about it. You can just sort of take jokes about it from the outside. For this I don’t know. I show up in costume, I look at the colors on the set, I look at the other people and ideas start happening. If I do that at home or in my trailer, nothing comes.
CS: As the coach do you actually have to know some of these cheer moves yourself?
Higgins: They taught me a cheer that I had to do the other day and it almost killed me. Honestly, every muscle in my entire body was destroyed. I’m 45-years-old and it almost killed me. I got home and my wife is like, “Honey what happened to you?” I’m laying face down onto the floor. It’s like just drag me into the kitchen and beat me.
CS: We know that Eric and Nick partake in some pretty crazy things at camp. What are some things that we’re going to see you do?
Higgins: Well I think you’ll have to hold that in reserve mostly because they’re so embarrassing I can’t talk about it.
CS: So we’re not going to see you run naked through camp like they do?
Higgins: First thing when they send me a script and ask if I’m interested in doing this, I quickly read my part, I don’t read the rest of it, then I ask my agent “In the part that I didn’t read, am I naked?” If I even have to take my shirt off it’s a deal breaker. If you see anything above my biceps, it’s over. There is no price for them to pay me for me to get naked.
CS: So you cannot be bought?
Higgins: I cannot be bought. If your intention is to remove my clothes, there is no amount of money that will suffice to achieve that goal.
Fired Up opens in theaters on February 20.