For New Girl star Jake Johnson, The Mummy was a way for him to expand his career into action films, though he still retains his small-screen witty and charming sense of humor. In Universal’s new reboot, the actor plays Vail, a soldier of fortune, who joins Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton on global quests to raid tombs and swipe treasures for profits. However, they come across one tomb they should have never unearthed, and without realizing it, they release a powerful evil bent on reclaiming what was once her’s.
We were recently invited to participate in a phone interview with Johnson to talk about his experience on set of The Mummy, his training, doing his own stunts, and more. Check out what he had to say here below.
Geeks of Doom: What are some of your favorite memories watching these Universal Monsters movies because they are so iconic and memorable?
Jake Johnson: My experience isn’t a lot because I haven’t seen any of them recently. I remember seeing the original Mummy when I was a lot younger, and I remember being terrified. But I haven’t revisited them. That is as deep as my memory for these films go. I was in a different type of movie with Tom Cruise, and I was doing what was in front of me in terms of the pages that were written. I was just trying to do what I could do.
Geeks of Doom: Can you tell me what attracted you to the movie the most?
Jake Johnson: What attracted me was working with [director] Alex Kurtzman. I spoke with him on the phone and he was the guy I wanted to work with and spend time working with. But really, I wanted to be in a Tom Cruise movie. I wanted to be in an action adventure with him. I wanted to experience training with him and working out with him. Get in that world. It was exciting.
Geeks of Doom: So what is a training regimen like for a movie like this?
Jake Johnson: Tom’s got great trainers and it’s all very crossfitish. He does training, and rowing, and squats, and jumps, and deadlifts, and all that kind of fun.
Geek of Doom: So has your training regimen improved since the end of the production?
Jake Johnson: It has. Obviously, not as intense. But I’m still keeping up with it because if you drop it, it all feels like a waste.
Geeks of Doom: Your character is very funny, and given that he, at times, gives some exposition, I was wondering if there were times where you could of played around with humor and improvised?
Jake Johnson: Yeah, there wasn’t really a lot of improv. On set, Tom [Cruise] would throw out things or Alex [Kurtzman] would throw out things. Those were guys who were deep in a collaboration with each other, and our job was to help and deliver what they wanted. It was a really pleasant experience. Both were very cool and very likable. So it didn’t feel like we didn’t want them to not get what they wanted. It felt like we were all on the same team.
Geeks of Doom: Can you talk about doing stunts with Tom Cruise, because from what I remember, this is probably your most physically demanding role?
Jake Johnson: Yeah, he likes everyone doing his stunts with him. So we trained about four months together to be ready to do them. I see why because there is a certain level of fun and there’s a different venture and adrenaline to when you are doing stunts. The scene work changes when you are doing a stunt building up to it.
This is not even close to what I’ve done in the past. And I am not an adrenaline guy. I’m not bungee jumping on weekends. I feel like when an opportunity comes up, regardless of what it is, you have to check it out at face value. The idea of doing this with Tom Cruise was too interesting to pass up.
Geeks of Doom: So was that you when you were falling into the giant hole in the film?
Jake Johnson: That was me. I had a wire on me and they pulled me down a street that was built to rumble and I get yanked and rolled off camera.
Geeks of Doom: Considering the amount of treasures and Easter eggs that are in the film, did you take anything with you as a souvenir?
Jake Johnson: I took my character’s gloves. I tried to give Vail’s, the character I play, belt to Alex Kurtzman’s son, Jack. But in the end of the day wardrobe wouldn’t let met get rid of it.
Geeks of Doom: Considering the long hours and days that go into a production like this, what did you guys do to break the ice, so to speak?
Jake Johnson: Tom did a lot of jokes. Tom, Annabelle, and I clowned around together. We like to mess with each other, and it gives a fun dynamic. Courtney B. Vance, when he came, he really added a great element to the fun. My experience with Tom, Annabelle, and Courtney was cracking each other up.
Geeks of Doom: So was there an ongoing joke while on set?
Jake Johnson: I think messing with Annabelle. Getting her pissed off was the one we went back to the most.
Geeks of Doom: Are you signed on for more Dark Universe films?
Jake Johnson: I am not. No. So we’ll see.
Geeks of Doom: Anything we should know about with the final season of New Girl?
Jake Johnson: Yeah, we are finishing it up. I believe we are jumping into the future a few years. It should be fun to see. I’m excited to see where those characters are.
The Mummy opens in theaters on June 9, 2017.