He first came to prominence in the ’90s in movies like Clueless and Remember the Titans before getting his television medical degree by playing Dr. Christopher Turk for nine seasons on the hit comedy Scrubs, and now Donald Faison receives a Ph.D. from Crime Fighting University as Dr. Gravity in Kick-Ass 2, in theaters this Friday. We sat down with Donald to discuss being a superhero, running on adrenaline, how multi-cam sitcoms compare with single camera ones, and a possible spinoff for Dr. Gravity.
NERDIST: In Kick-Ass 2, you’re Dr. Gravity. So he’s a doctor of Gravity?
DONALD FAISON: He would like all of the villains to think that. You know what I mean? The truth is, no, he’s a copywriter for some ad agency. He’s inspired by Kick-Ass to put on a costume and go out and fight crime. He also introduces Kick-Ass to Justice Forever, which is sort of like Justice League, a bunch of superheroes or a bunch of vigilantes fighting crime together. As always, there’s strength in numbers, and I don’t know if you’ve seen the first one, but Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked. Mainly because he’s by himself and he only gets good when Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are around. The odds are in your favor when you have more people, so with Justice Forever, Kick-Ass feels safe.
N: How much training did you have to do? Your character is a superhero but is not a born superhero. He becomes it, so how much training did you have to do?
DF: I had to do a lot of training. Originally, Dr. Gravity was supposed to be, not a wuss, but he was afraid. He wasn’t that good of a fighter. I did all this Dutch Muay Thai training, all this MMA training before I got to Toronto to do the movie. When I got there, I could pretend like I couldn’t fight, but it felt better to really be able to fight. It changed a little bit to where Dr. Gravity became actually pretty efficient with the bat and his hands and feet. I did a lot of training. I trained for a really, really long time. I’m still doing it now, but by the time I got to London, I had been training for, like, four months.
N: It’s probably safer to be aware and pretend not to know how to fight than it is to just not know what you’re doing.
DF: Absolutely. If I didn’t know how to, I probably would’ve gotten hurt or something like that. The best thing that happened was me having to learn how to fight. It opened so much other things for me.
N: What is it like to be a superhero? Did you ever think that you’d get to be a superhero in a film?
DF: When I was a kid and you would’ve asked me that, I would’ve been like “Yeah, I’m gonna be in a superhero movie.” As time went on, with Scrubs and with Clueless, it seemed like I was going further and further away from action/adventure. Thanks to Jeff [Wadlow, the director] — I really appreciate Jeff giving me the opportunity to be in this movie. Because now, I know I can do action. I don’t know if I’m good at it yet, but I know I can do it.
N: This movie, as the first one did, merges comedy and action. You come into it knowing comedy. You’ve been doing comedy for a long time, so how much different was it for you to be the action man on top of it?
DF: It was completely different. The first night, Kick-Ass and Dr. Gravity have a team-up. They take on a few guys and they do really well. We choreograph the scene and shot it in 5 hours, which is really no time to shoot an action scene, but we were losing daylight. It was our last night in Toronto and we were about to fly off to London. We had to get this scene. I remember we shot it and maybe it was because I had so much adrenaline rushing through my body, but when we finished I slept for 24 hours.
N: Oh, jeez.
DF: Yeah. The very next day Aaron [Johnson, who plays Kick-Ass] did have a scene and he got up early in the morning and worked. Then the next day we flew out, but I remember being like “Man, I don’t know how this kid does it.” Then I found out he’s like 20-something years old and I’m like, “Oh, that’s how he does it.”
N: You mentioned Scrubs earlier. Scrubs is a show you did for nine years and now you’re on The Exes on TV Land. We talked to John C. McGinley recently, and he was saying that going from single camera sitcom to multi-camera sitcom is a huge departure. Have you found that to be true as well?
DF: Yeah, well you learn a lot about yourself once you get in front of a live studio audience. What I learned is that I’m a huge ham and I didn’t realize I was that big of a ham. Don’t let my demeanor fool you, but when there’s a crowd around, I like the attention. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but in front of a studio audience you’ll go really hard after a joke. If you get a laugh because of a look, you might continue the stare, you might milk it for a little extra. That’s the big difference. With a single camera, it’s best to do the lines and keep it moving. If the audience watching doesn’t catch the joke, it’s fine. There will be several more coming afterwards. With traditional multi-cam shows, you get that immediate reaction, so you tend to milk it a little more.
N: Was it much of a change for you to get used to? I mean, other than the fact that the studio audiences there. The pace of multi-cam is so different from single-cam.
DF: No, actually, I’m not gonna say I prefer it, but the hours are great. You come in for an hour on Monday, maybe three hours on Tuesday, and the only day that you’re there for the whole day is shoot day, but you’ve rehearsed the show so many times that usually you don’t have to go that late. You’ve worked it out and worked it out and worked it out and rehearsed and rehearsed and did the run-through for the writers and did the run-through for the network. The hours are great, so it makes it so, I’m not gonna say easier, but you have a life. Which is great.
N: Are we gonna get a chance to see a Dr. Gravity spin-off movie at all?
DF: That would be so cool. I dare them to do that. I dare Mark Miller to write a Dr. Gravity comic book and then for Universal to spin it off. Will it happen? Probably not, but it was great to be in Kick-Ass 2 and hopefully, if the movie does well, we get to do Kick-Ass 3.
You can catch Donald as he bashes some bad guy skull when Kicks-Ass 2 smashes into theaters on Friday, August 16th.