An interview with James Ransone

Illustration by Aleah Green

Actor James Ransone has appeared on-screen frequently for the last 20 years, but some probably wouldn’t recognize him on the street. With almost 70 acting credits, including “Sinister,” the American remake of the Korean classic “Oldboy” and most recently “It: Chapter Two,” Ransone is a small name with a big career.

Although “IT: Chapter Two” is his largest production thus far, Ransone said he’s not picky when it comes to his roles. At the end of the day, he’s a new dad working to support his family — he just happens to have Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy as coworkers.

Ransone portrays the anxious hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak in “IT: Chapter Two,” harnessing the same nervous energy that Jack Dylan Grazer’s performance as a young Kaspbrak emitted in the first film. Alongside Chastain, McAvoy and Bill Hader, Ransone had a challenge: live up to the hype “IT: Chapter One” left the audience anticipating.

Ransone explained his career, the real-life Stephen King and the process of movie making on the scale of “IT: Chapter Two.”

If possible, could you summarize your career thus far?

I don’t know if I could do that, that’s like 20 years! I think I could summarize it by saying I have been an under-the-radar character actor. I’m just a scrappy, punk rocker who ended up in this weird, big cultural phenomenon. That’s what I’d say if I had to summarize 20 years worth of work.

You have a pretty impressive rap sheet when it comes to your acting credits. What’s your favorite project you’ve done?

I’m supposed to say “IT: Chapter Two,” but that’s not the truth. It was really fun, don’t get me wrong. That is definitely up there, but I’d have to say “Generation Kill,” which was a seven or eight part miniseries I did for HBO in 2007. I lived in Africa for almost a year shooting that — eight or nine months — and that was so awesome for a number of reasons. I got to spend a lot of time with vets who had just come home from the Iraq War, and my family has a long history of that. We have a lot of veterans in the family. It was just a really big, great, fun adventure that also means a lot, personally.

Do you have a favorite genre of film to act in?

No. I will act in whatever someone offers me.

Fair enough, what about to watch?

You know, I’ll tell you something about me that’s kind of surprising: I don’t really watch movies or TV. I haven’t turned on my TV in almost five years. I work in the sausage factory, therefore I’m not eating sausage for dinner.

I totally get that. If you know what goes on behind the scenes, there isn’t that intrigue.

Oh yeah, you would be like, ‘Oh no, absolutely not.’

Jumping into “IT,” what did the audition process look like?

I had known [the director, Andy Muschietti] for a while. I met him at a party, and he had seen some of the other stuff I’d done, and I auditioned for the first one. Then at a certain point, I had this weird feeling when they were making the sequel that they’d call me about it. I had a family member see “IT” and tell me I looked so much like [Grazer] that I just had a feeling Andy would call me about it, and he did. We sat down and talked about it for a while. I really like Andy as a person, so I knew we would have fun making it, but I still had to put myself on tape and sent it to the studio for them to watch. The process wasn’t that hard on me, but I still had to jump through hoops.

How did you all get along with your kid-actor counterparts?

Everybody got along, but the thing you have to remember is I’m almost 40 years old and those kids are teenagers. When you were 15, did you want to hang out with anyone who was 40? Probably not. I just feel like we’re not cool to them.

Did you know how big of a production this would be before you got into it?

No, I was blown away.

Is that in terms of production value? Length? What specifically blew you away?

I think there was enough footage for two movies, to be honest. I was there for a really long time. I had no clue how big it was going to be. Another thing was there was a lot of [computer-generated imagery], but the sets were practical, which isn’t very common anymore.

How long did filming last?

I got there the second week of June [2018] and didn’t leave until October.

What was it like working alongside Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, etc.?

I had known Bill Hader for a while. We weren’t really good friends, but we met at an audition for this Michael Mann movie called “Public Enemies” like 10 years ago. But I was really nervous to work around Chastain and McAvoy. They’re like these huge celebrities. I’ve been in a lot of movies, but I’m not famous, so that stuff can always be intimidating.

Would you say that you formed a bond over the course of filming?

I think it’s like going to summer camp. You have a really great time with these people, and you’re all in it together, and the rest of the world gets shut out. But then when summer camp’s over, you go home. Sometimes you stay friends with people you meet at summer camp, but you don’t stay in touch with most of them. That’s just the nature of my job. It’s like being in the circus.

How was meeting Stephen King?

He is a really warm, open, sweet man who is totally down to talk about anything. I wanted to talk about the making of “The Shining” with him, because he infamously did not get along with Stanley Kubrick in the ‘70s. Kubrick was probably the greatest director on the planet at that time, and he did not get along with Stephen King, and he was really open to talking about that stuff.

How did you hone into Eddie Kaspbrak? Your performance was so dead-on. I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the first one numerous times and you just honed into that anxious energy so perfectly. What was it like getting into that character?

I just tried to talk as fast as Jack Dylan Grazer did in the first one. I know it’s a lame answer, but it’s totally true. All I did was look at the first one. Then sometimes Andy would be like, ‘Make it more anxious,’ and I’d be like, ‘What?’ He would want me to amp it up. Sometimes I think I played it too big, but I guess not.

I really appreciate the comedy — that you guys carried on the charming dynamics from the first one.

Well, I know kids love Finn Wolfhard, and I didn’t want to disappoint the kids.