DJ Qualls has had a lot of different acting jobs in his career, and right now he’s doing two science fiction shows at once: Z Nation and Man in the High Castle. In the press room during San Diego Comic-Con, Qualls told us about how he thought he was going to be fired and, more importantly, how brilliant being stupid can be.
On Man in the High Castle, Qualls plays Ed McCarthy, a factory worker in the Japanese Pacific States—the part of the United States under the control of Japan in the alternate universe in which the show takes place. Qualls was offered the role several times and turned it down repeatedly. He met with the producers one more time, read the pilot the night after the meeting, and was off to shoot the show three days later.
“But then when I got on the set I felt the whole first day I was going to get fired because everyone seemed grounded in their characters and I didn’t even understand the scope of the world,” Qualls said. “I was like, ‘Oh shit, I’m going to get fired.’ Like I really thought it.”
It took some kind words from Isa Dick Hackett, executive producer and daughter of Philip K. Dick, to give him “a) the confidence to do the part but b) a sense of responsibility to the family and the book to just put all my actory bullshit away and just get into what needs to be done.”
Qualls spoke rapidly and intelligently about the show and his character, and about how much time everyone spends getting into this world. However he admitted he needs to stop overthinking when it comes to his roles.
And that’s when Qualls described the two kinds of actors:
Actors are two kinds of people: either super-smart or super-dumb. Super-smart meaning you know yourself so well and you know how to manipulate emotion and be truthful. Super-dumb is just too stupid to know you can fail so you just do stuff. Like I meet idiot actors all the time who are fantastic.
Idiot actors sound like the brave ones.