"That's Real Fear in My Eyes." Jack Quaid Talks Snakes, Guillotines and Alice Cooper

HBO

What appealed to you about the role?

Jack Quaid

What I like about Clark is that in a job that is historically very cool, he is the least cool person in that office. I think that's who I'd be if I had the job. I'm a little too square for it. I found that bringing a character like that -- a guy who is uncomfortable in situations that involve sex, drugs and rock and roll -- bringing him through that world is a real fun thing to do. I brought a certain side of myself to the role, and that's always the most fun work for me.

Also, I've always been into classic rock. I'm a child of the '90s, when boy bands were the thing. I remember being very frustrated because all my friends were into them and I wasn't. My dad introduced me to classic rock -- he'd play it in the car on the way to school. One of my first concerts -- I don't know how this happened, we got wind of a Rolling Stones secret show at a bar in Toronto -- I was like 10 or 11, in a bar, and the first time I heard "Satisfaction" was Mick singing it on stage.

HBO

Have you imagined any backstory for Clark?

Jack Quaid

Before any role, I write out a little fake autobiography for myself. As the show developed and I read more scripts, certain things would diverge from what I imagined, but there were a lot of things that were eerily similar -- so much so that I wondered if someone had read my notes! Martin Scorsese has this childlike energy and passion for his characters, so he knows these guys even before you step into their shoes. But he lets you take over certain parts of the role too, so you're collaborating together to find a character.

HBO

Obviously you didn't live through the 1970s, so how did you prepare for the role?

Jack Quaid

To get a sense of what it was like to live in that time period, I watched a lot of movies. I watched Klute to understand 1970s New York City; the documentary Woodstock, which was all about free love in the 1960s; and Gimme Shelter, which is all about the Rolling Stones and the Hell's Angels at Altamont Speed Way, and how all this free love and lightness turned into darkness in just a blink of an eye. Those really helped me nail down the identity of the period and what we as a culture had to face back then.

HBO

There was some other things that you probably couldn't have prepared for -- like donning Alice Cooper's boa constrictor.

Jack Quaid

I met the snake at rehearsal, and I remember asking the animal wrangler, whose name was Tarzan -- he had the long hair and everything -- "So, what's the snake's name?" He was like, "Oh, it doesn't have a name." I think it would have been a lot better if his name was like, Terry. Terry the Snake.

The thing about that scene is that we shot it so it'd look like sunrise, but the sun was actually setting and we only had a limited amount of time to get the shot. The snake was on me most of the time so I'm more or less getting used to it, though it's still a little scary and also very heavy. Eventually, the snake started getting tired of being on me, like a guy who's been standing for too long, and his head goes limp. The animal trainer started tapping it in the face to get it to perk up, and the snake bit him. I didn't have to act too much in that scene -- that's real fear in my eyes. Thank god I didn’t have to be Alice Cooper and pretend to be totally comfortable with the snake. That would have been the worst.

HBO

Speaking of fear, what was it like to film the scenes in the guillotine?

Jack Quaid

Well, we added the actual blade in post-production, so that took one element out of it, but it's still pretty scary to hear that "THUNK" right above your neck take after take. That was Alice Cooper's guillotine that he used on the Billion Dollar Babies tour, so the fact that we got to use a real piece of rock history was absolutely incredible.

HBO

Did you have a personal connection to Alice Cooper's music before the show?

Jack Quaid

I knew "School's Out" and a couple other songs, but I didn't know much about him as a person. I watched a documentary called Super Duper Alice Cooper, which really helped me get inside of his head and understand how pivotal he was to rock and roll back then. He used a ton of theatrics in his shows and nobody was really doing things like he was at the time.

HBO

Why does Clark think he can sign Alice?

Jack Quaid

Because signing him would be a goldmine. If he could pull it off, he can save his job, no matter what happens to American Century. That's why Clark follows him everywhere -- if he can just pull this off, no one can talk shit about him anymore. I think that's one of Clark's follies -- he goes so far as to try to poach somebody. He'll steal an act before he finds what's next, and I think that's something that Clark genuinely tries to get over [this season]. He has to learn to stop listening for what's popular or what's going to make him money and to listen for what's next. Vinyl is very much about this turning point in music, so he has to ride that wave or sink.

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