Jake Busey Talks From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series

For everyone who is watching “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” on El Rey, Sex Machine might be their favorite bad guy. Now played by Jake Busey, son of the legendary Gary Busey, Sex Machine on TV certainly is different from Savini’s version in the film—a raven-haired, cock-gun-wearing, violent biker.

Busey’s Professor Aidan Tanner/Sex Machine is a tall, blonde, learned man now transformed into a Culebra with wicked snake-like fangs. Busey had time to talk to Dread Central about how he started out in acting, why he continues on, how he really feels about FX make-up, and, in a candid moment, how being bullied brought him towards the arts. This interview was conducted outside of Sante Fe while filming key action scenes from Season 3.

DREAD CENTRAL: So tell me about your character. Tom Savini played Sex Machine in the original film; what is your take? And why did they cast you in the role?

JAKE BUSEY: Because I’m an amazing actor, I think, is really why.

Jake Busey

DREAD CENTRAL: Well, I love your vicious characters, like in The Frighteners, so I know you have this great menacing ability.

JAKE BUSEY: Well you know, what’s weird is – I say that I’m an amazing actor with a little bit of sarcasm there – but you know, I was abused by the other kids when I was young. I was picked on a lot, and I think that I had a lot of pent-up rage and anger that I needed to get out.

I think most of us have experienced that, and I vented mine through [acting] – it was a very weird thing – I said, “I’ll show those fuckers! They’ll go to the movies and they’ll see me when they grow up. They’ll go to the movie theater and they’ll realize, ‘I should never have fucked with that guy.'” So I wound up playing all these bad guys – and I did – I honestly, it’s a little bit of a thorn in my side, I don’t necessarily like it – but I did, I believe, such a good job with The Frighteners and Contact, that then I got pigeon-holed and labeled as this guy who’s like the psycho-crazy-man. And with this particular role, Robert Rodriguez really went out on a limb, and he hired me as the antithesis to what the role was in the film. Tom Savini, he’s average height, average build, dark-skinned Italian, he’s very sort of common American-looking guy. I, on the other hand, am very different-looking than the rest of the cast. Tall, blonde; I really stand out. I feel like the token white guy sometimes.

But I had met Robert twenty-something years ago. We were both doing movies back-to-back, together, under the same roof, for Showtime. It was a movie series: they were remaking drive-in movies from the Fifties – B-movies from the Fifties – and it was all on Showtime. And that’s where I met Robert. We were both getting started. So then years later, after seeing all his movies and his successes, and this great… sub-culture that he’s created, of this Hispanic-American badass ultra-hero thing. I went to the Machete Kills premiere, and at the after-party – Well, I took my dad with me to the premiere, so the two of us walked the red carpet, and it was fun – and then we bumped into Robert, ’cause we moved so quickly through the line and hardly anyone was there; we were early. So then, at the after-party, it’s loud, the music’s pumpin’, everyone is swarming around Robert. – He’s standing there with his black cowboy hat on, his duster, boots, and he’s got his people around him, and I just walked right up to him and I was like, “Dude! We’ve known each other for what, twenty years? I’ve gotta work with you! You’ve gotta hire me! I want to be in Machete 3!” And he’s like, “Right on, man! Yeah! You know, you’ve got a good point there!” And a month later, I came in and read for Sex Machine, and it was like – When I got the phone call of “Hey, they’re doing ‘Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,'” I was like, “Oh my God! Wow! Incredible! I gotta be in this! And it’s Sex Machine?!'” And then I saw the dialogue, and I saw that the way that the character was written was sort of like this twisted Indiana Jones guy, where he’s a Mezo-American archaeologist-professor who is more like Belloq, you know? He’s more Belloq than he is Indiana. He wants to become one of these serpent-god-people. So that’s his quest. So in Season One – Season One’s a reproduction of the film, but with a little bit of dramatic license, and we see that Sex Machine is really a – they created the – See, in the film, originally, Tom Savini Sex Machine was just like another bar-goer, he was a bar patron, and he had really no back-story. He was just a guy that had this kind of Robert’s crazy cock-gun thing invention, which was like a cool device in the film, like “Whoa! And there’s this guy in the bar, who’s got a cock-gun!?! Wow!” And what they did in the TV series is that they expanded the role, they said, “Let’s make this guy deeper, let’s make him a professor. Let’s make him where he’s down there because he’s following the Mayan lore, for the wrong reasons.”

DREAD CENTRAL: How has your character evolved throughout the third season?

JAKE BUSEY: We’re not allowed to tell secrets. Right now, we’re in Episode Three of Season Three, so as far as where he’s evolved, he’s – how would I put it? – In the beginning, in Season One, he’s fairly self-serving. In Season Two, we see that his self-serving nature accomplished what he wants, but it bites him in the ass. And then he realizes that all his – the grandiose life that he thought he was gonna get, by transforming into one of the Culebra beings – he realizes that in fact it’s not all it’s cracked up to be because as I always say, there’s always someone with a bigger dick. He becomes a Culebra. He thinks now he’s superhuman and all this, but then he realizes, “Oh no’ There’s these nine gods. There’s Wilmer Valderama, and he’s this crazy-powerful guy that’s been there for five hundred years, since the Spaniards came to Latin America, to Southern America, you know?” So my character in Season Three is learning, at this point… and, of course, where do you go with a TV series? – so he’s learning, okay, now there are more and more levels to this – deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper, and it keeps getting closer and closer to Hell.

DREAD CENTRAL: How do you like wearing the makeup?

JAKE BUSEY: I hate it. I hate the makeup. I hate the prosthetic makeup.

DREAD CENTRAL: What do you hate about it?

JAKE BUSEY: I begged them, when we were shooting, “Please do it all on the computer.” I’m claustrophobic and the sticky, just the stuff hanging on your face…

DREAD CENTRAL: What about the contacts?

JAKE BUSEY: Contacts make it even more claustrophobic ’cause you can’t see. And then the fangs take away your ability to talk.

DREAD CENTRAL: So you have to record your dialogue after?

JAKE BUSEY: Yeah. You have to try and speak and then go back and re-record the dialogue. So first they take away your feeling in your face and your neck and it feels like somebody’s grabbing you around the throat, and it’s heavy and it’s hot and sticky – And then they put the contacts in and you can’t see – And then they put the fangs in and you can’t talk – And you feel like some sort of prisoner. It’s hard. Season Two, there was an episode called “Attack of the Fifty-Foot Sex Machine” and it was the second episode of the season and it was… What Carlos Coto, the showrunner, what he likes to do with the seasons is he gives an introductory episode for each character. So mine was that, and the prosthetics were out-of-hand, and it was two nights in a row that I wore that prosthetic makeup for sixteen hours straight, and I just about died. But this season they’re going a little lighter on us – so far. Knock on wood.

DREAD CENTRAL: What does Savini say about your characterization of his character from the movie?

JAKE BUSEY: He’s been very chill about it. He’s been very cool. He hasn’t said anything negative, you know? When I ran into him a couple years ago at a fan convention, he said – I think; it’s been a while – I think he said something along the lines of, “I like what you’re doing with it. It’s different, it’s different. I like what you’re doing.” Which, of course, what else would I do? I had to reprise Rutger Hauer’s role in the sequel to The Hitcher. The one thing you can’t do when you’ve got such archetypal roles that people have created, you can’t try to reproduce it, or you’ll get caught in a bad trap. So you’ve got to do something completely different – and that’s what we’re doing here.

Our thanks to Jake for his time!  Be sure to tune in tonight for the season finale of “From Dusk Till Dawn” Season 3 on El Rey Network!

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Heather Buckley

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