CS Interview: Julia Jones Talks Think Like a Dog
Think Like a Dog is a fun, cute, simple family comedy about a young boy who is able to hear his dog’s thoughts. To celebrate the film’s release, we reached out to one of the film’s stars, Julia Jones, to discuss her role; and the actress opened up on everything from working with animals to the difficulties of doing comedy.
Think Like A Dog is a whimsical family comedy about a boy and his dog, and a science project that will change all of their lives forever. It follows 12-year-old Oliver, a tech prodigy whose middle-school science fair experiment goes awry, creating a telepathic connection between him and his furry friend, Henry. The bond brings Oliver and Henry even closer as they join forces to comically overcome complications at school, and help Oliver’s parents rekindle their marriage along the way.
The film will be starring Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out, Child’s Play), Josh Duhamel (Transformers films, Love Simon), Megan Fox (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Transformers, Jennifer’s Body), Janet Montgomery (Black Swan, The Space Between Us), Julia Jones (Twilight films, Westworld), Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory) and Bryan Callen (Ride Along, Joker).
Think Like A Dog is written and directed by Gil Junger, who is best known for his directorial debut film 10 Things I Hate About You which starred Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The film is produced by Cory Chen, Andrew Lazar, and Linshu Zhang.
Think Like a Dog is available to stream now on Amazon and you can order your copy here!
ComingSoon.net: Thanks for reaching out to me today. I watched the film yesterday and I thought it was a lot of fun, just a fun, cute little family movie and I thought you were great in it.
Julia Jones: Oh thank you.
CS: So how did you get involved with Think Like a Dog in the first place?
Jones: I read the script and I really responded to it. I really loved the relationship between the 12-year-old Henry, or sorry, Oliver, and his dog, Henry. And I put myself on tape just for fun, really, because it was a pretty broad comedy, which isn’t what I usually do. And I just thought, why not? I’ll just do this for fun. And I almost forgot about it. I didn’t think I would ever hear anything from it. And then, they asked me to come and do the table read with everybody. And so, I went and did that and we all just had so much fun and everybody had a great chemistry and it felt really right. And so, that’s how that happened.
CS: Well, your character spends the majority of the film with Agent Callen, played by Bryan Callen. What was it like working with him?
Jones: That was like, the biggest part of the experience for me, because right, I’m working with Bryan Callen all the time, and Bryan Callen is very much a comedian. So he’s always making jokes and he’s always being funny. And that’s the best part because you’re just laughing all the time. You’re just constantly laughing. And I think he almost tries to like, one-up himself. So it just gets more and more ridiculous. And I had this thing in my head that I didn’t really like, know how to do comedy, and I was trying to sort of like, learn from him, in a way. And he would kind of teach me, like try to give me tips. I don’t know if I’m hopeless, but I don’t know that that actually worked. And fortunately for the film, it was fine because really, Bryan is just the funny one, and I just react to him and try to do it in as grounded a way as possible.
CS: How much freedom did you guys have to mess around with your characters?
Jones: Oh we had a lot, I think. And I do recall there being a lot of last-minute changes and suggestions. And Gil, the director was really open to what we had in mind. And certainly, Bryan does a lot of improvising, so you just kind of put yourself in these sets, in these scenes and just see what happens. And then, sometimes, you know, you have to sort of start from scratch and actually do what’s on the page so it makes sense. But I mean, that’s a great part of comedy.
CS: So what I liked about the movie was the fact that it was almost like a callback to the old 90’s family flicks of yesterday that I grew up with, and that’s what I really enjoyed. It’s just very simple, it’s very positive and similar to a film like Beethoven. Was that an aspect that drew you to the film as well?
Jones: You know, now that you mention that, that really does make perfect sense to me. And I probably grew up on those films in the ’90s. So I mean, yeah, there was something just very familiar about the film and the kind of tone of it that I was attracted to, independent of the actual theme and the story. Yeah, it was just a very like, pleasant, kind of soothing environment to live in as a reader, and then I think also as a viewer.
CS: Were there scenes you filmed that ended up not in the film that you wished were included?
Jones: You know, I don’t think – it wasn’t so much that there are scenes that we filmed that aren’t in the movie, but there are definitely big chunks of scenes that we filmed that are not in the movie. And most of that probably involved Bryan doing some kind of like, improvisational genius dramatics and me kind of going with it. Yeah, we definitely shot a lot more than is in the film, but I can’t think of a scene that we shot that didn’t make it in.
CS: You’ve starred in some really intense dramas like Westworld, The Mandalorian, and Goliath. How refreshing is it to film a movie like Think Like a Dog that is more tonally upbeat and more family-friendly?
Jones: Well, it’s funny because you’d sort of think that it would be like a breather, in a way, because it’s a break from all that heaviness, but actually, I remember right before we started filming there’s just this feeling of like, I have no idea how to do this. I have no idea what this is or like, why am I here? I honestly was like, I couldn’t figure out why they’d asked me to do it. And I guess I gradually kind of just got comfortable with the dynamic between me and Bryan. And I started to sort of understand what Gil had seen as a potential, I think for that dynamic. And as it started to make more and more sense to me, I started to chill out a little bit more and just like, relax and have fun. And I think I did get a little bit, a little tiny, tiny bit of confidence around comedy and more significantly clarity on like, the extent of my ability.
CS: That’s interesting right there because you would comedy would be no big deal. But it sounds like from what I’ve heard and from experiences talking to different actresses and actors is that comedy is a lot more difficult than drama in a way. Is that true?
Jones: Yes, here’s the thing. This is the thing. For me, 100 percent, but that’s because I’ve spent the vast majority of my career like, crying and trying to get other people to cry. And so, you become like, comfortable with that and you have a confidence in the mechanisms of emotions and of eliciting emotions within yourself and from an audience to some extent. But with comedy, it’s very technical and I think in some ways, it’s more mysterious how you make someone laugh. Wow, I just remembered, I have done one other really big comedy and it was the same thing, extremely technical, extremely competitive. There is no time. You have a very limited amount of time to figure out what is going to make this work, how is it going to be the funniest, how is it going to land the best? And it’s a little bit more like black and white. I think drama can be more nuanced and you can kind of like, maybe you first read the scene and you thought that it was going to go in one direction and then it winds up going in another direction, and that’s totally cool because you’re just figuring it out as you go along. But funny is funny or not. People laugh or they don’t.
CS: Right. So the other comedy you’re talking about I assume is Ridiculous 6, right?
CS: How was that type of comedy different from the comedy in this film?
Jones: Yeah, I mean, I think that this film, it has a kind of more realistic emotional journey and it’s sort of tethered to that and the film wouldn’t work if the emotional journey wasn’t really intact and well done. And so, the comedy in Think Like a Dog really interplays with that emotional journey and you’re always aware of that. Whereas I think with Ridiculous 6, it is about making people laugh like as much as possible and being as funny as you can possibly be from like, moment to moment, from scene to scene. And the goal is to just make a really, really funny film. And with Think Like a Dog, you are trying to tell this story and you’re trying to get this message across and you’re trying to do it in an uplifting, positive and funny, sure, entertaining, touching, all of these like, nuanced sort of details.
CS: Was there ever a scene that you filmed that afterward you were like, I’m not sure if that’s going to work? And then you saw it in the finished film and realized that it actually worked quite well?
Jones: Yeah, I mean, honestly because of my inexperience, relative in experience with comedy, definitely didn’t know if any scene that I shot was going to work. And I really – but I knew that I was having fun. And that became the barometer. I was just like, if you’re present in this and you’re having a good time, then like, I trust Gil. Bryan is obviously really funny. Everybody’s great and good at what they do, so yeah, don’t worry. I really just had so much fun on it. But watching it come together was a bit of a relief because I saw what I think Gil, what he had seen when he was conceiving of it and when he was writing it and rewriting it and when we were filming it. And so, it was a bit of an a-ha moment, you know?
CS: Did you find it difficult working with the animals on set?
Jones: I didn’t. I kind of loved it because first of all, those dogs, there were I think three of them, who would sort of like, come in and out as one dog. They all looked the same. And they are extremely well trained. I love having an animal on the set, having a dog on the set. There’s something relaxing about it. People just respond to the energy of a dog in a really like, I don’t know, it softens things. And technically, yeah, it can be challenging because it’s a dog.
CS: They have their limitations, right?
Jones: Yeah, you know, I remember there was one day with like, a ton of – oh, there were a couple of days that were just like, the moving parts were really extraordinary, so you’ve got these three dogs coming in and out who are having to do these complicated tricks and things. And then there’s drones and then there’s children everywhere. And I mean, it got pretty out there sometimes, but it always somehow came together.
CS: That’s cool. You’re essentially reflecting on the plot of the film which is to keep it simple and think like a dog and have fun.
Jones: Yeah, yeah, it’s very meta. Who knew? Think like a dog.
CS: Do you have any projects in the future that you’re working on that you’re excited to talk about?
Jones: Well, nothing specifically that I can talk about, but I am developing something that I’m really excited about and that’s sort of what I’ve been working on and it’s been really nice to have something to work on in these times.
CS: Yeah, I bet. So is it a comedy or is it a drama?
Jones: Oh no, it’s a drama. I just was taking a little breather in the comedy world. It’s definitely a drama.
CS: So moving forward, would you much rather stick with drama?
Jones: I would not say that. I just wish I were funnier. Like I love doing comedy and being around those people and just the lightness and the levity of it. It’s one of those like, how is this my job? Like is this work? This doesn’t feel like work at all. Yeah, I would ideally like to be able to do as many different kinds of things as possible, but I’ve definitely spent more time honing dramatic skills, I guess.
CS: Well, just so you know, and the part of the comedy that I thought I laughed at at the most was the reactions that you had to Bryan’s character.
Jones: That’s what Gil would say. That’s what Gil was saying. And like, it was like he was speaking a foreign language to me because I just couldn’t see – like I just felt like my own dramatic self, I was like in the wrong movie all the time. And Gil would try to say, no, but that’s what’s funny. Like you’re taking him so seriously because that’s all I know how to do as an actor apparently.
Gil got that and was like, trying to explain it to me the whole time and I just like, felt like something was wrong and everyone was going to see eventually. And that was the ah-ha when I watched. I was like, oh, Gil. Like, fortunately, you just learned to trust people that you respect and when you can do that, it takes a huge amount of burden off of the pressure that you might put on yourself to do a good job. It’s often a lot easier to just stop yourself from wondering about that by thinking, well, look at this director, look what he’s done, look at his instincts and what he sees and believe in his vision and then just trust that he is trusting you to serve that and it’s that simple, like a dog.
CS: Perfect! I really appreciate you reaching out to us and talking to us today.
Jones: Yeah, absolutely.