Chris Jones interview
January 1, 2000
Interview with Chris Jones (AKA Tex Murphy)
Taken from Prima Publishing's Tex Murphy: Overseer: The Official Strategy Guide
By Rick Barba
Chris Jones, aside from playing Tex Murphy, is the Executive V.P. and CFO for Access Software. Rick Barba: I have a lot to ask about Tex. But first, I've talked to both Aaron Conners and Adrian Carr about how the Intel bundling deal shortened your development cycle on Overseer. As codesigner of the game, how did you adjust your approach to the game's structure and design?
Chris Jones: When Intel approached us, it seemed like a really good opportunity - first of all, because we like to push the technology window, and we'd have a first-in with their new machine. Second, we could increase the exposure of the Tex Murphy character to a million people who may not be familiar with him. The challenge was, how were we going to do this in ten or eleven months and be completely satisfied with the product? We started brainstorming, and decided we hadn't looked at the origin of the character too much. We had Mean Streets, but most people weren't familiar with that old pre-CD-ROM game. So we used the essence of the Mean Streets story, expanded it quite a bit, trying to fill in the gaps with the character.
This helped a lot. You know, it takes a number of months just to come up with a concept you feel comfortable with. So that got us accelerated, plus the fact that we'd been through the cycle several times. This was Adrian's second shot, so we didn't have to lose any time bringing another director up to speed. We were able to score with some really good actors this time, too. The tricky part was the new DVD technology. But having a deadline got us all focused; I think we hit on all cylinders, and our time was used much more efficiently.
RB:As you mentioned, this is your second time around with Adrian Carr as director. Last time [in interviews for The Pandora Directive: The Official Strategy Guide] we talked about how great it was to have all that weight lifted from your shoulders, since you had directed Under a Killing Moon. What else is Adrian doing for you now? What have you learned from him about acting and the filmmaking process?
CJ: The biggest thing I'm learning from Adrian and the other actors is focus. In Under a Killing Moon, a million things were going on for me. Could I focus on what this character is supposed to feel? Can I think back to what the character has experienced up to this point so I can get the proper reaction on camera? It wasn't easy.
Now Adrian has helped me step into the character's shoes. Hey, these aren't just lines on paper, this is somebody's life here. Can you bring him alive and make his reaction true? When you work with someone like Michael York or Clint Howard, guys who've been in the business forever, you see the way they really listen to the information the other actor gives them, how they hook into that information. From that, they give a true reaction based upon the situation. They're not just waiting to deliver their lines; they're actually tuned in to what you're saying, and that makes their reaction authentic and visible to the camera.
Working with these people and with Adrian, seeing how they work on this level - well, it's just a whole new ball game for me. The way they listen and work to dissolve barriers between you and the character; they just block everything out and say, "This is a real situation. Pay attention." To me, that's absolutely critical.
RB: I was struck by your scenes with Henry Darrow, who played Sonny Fletcher. What was it like working with him?
CJ: I've always been a big fan of Henry Darrow, ever since I was a kid and watched High Chaparral. He's filled with magnetism; you just like the guy, whether he's on-screen or sitting in your office talking. In that scene where he turns and yells at me - well, I look at the reaction I had. [Laughs] It may seem like a good acting job, but he actually scared me into an absolutely perfect reaction. The guy was just dynamite, and it was an honor to work with him. To have people like him in secondary roles brings such power to the overall production; if your subsidiary characters are strong, it makes a huge difference in the feel and the level of professionalism.
RB: Overall, in Overseer, your secondary roles are much stronger. Your Delores Lightbody character...
CJ: Isn't she great?
RB: Incredible. I found myself attracted to this big woman.
CJ: [Laughs] And there you see what a great actor she is. Her role called for being a little over the top. But from a standpoint of creating a compelling character within that framework - well, this woman is absolutely hilarious, and she hit her marks perfectly.
RB: When she does that little lip-flutter thing, my heart just stops.
CJ: You know, it's amazing. She has a bunch of "Ask About" responses. You click down that list, and every single one of them is funny. Everything is entertaining about her.
RB: So what was it like working with Rebecca Broussard? Isn't she Jack Nicholson's girlfriend?
CJ: First of all, she really has presence when she's around. She's nice, a great person. Very down to earth. But you wouldn't mess with her too long. [Laughs] Being with Jack Nicholson, I guess you'd have to be that way. Either someone drowns you, or you stand nose to nose with them. And, yeah, I think she's a person who can stand nose to nose with Jack.
Anyway, I thought the smoldering undercurrent of her character, plus the ability to get right in your face - you know, we've sort of joked about the Sylvia Linsky character in the previous games, like maybe she was just Tex's mistake. But Rebecca brought Sylvia up from just a caricature, somebody who could really get her claws into Tex's psyche and envelop him.
RB: Just this afternoon I was playing through the sequence where Tex walks in on a drunken Sylvia and puts her to bed. Rebecca's performance is a real seamless mix of tough girl and vulnerability, I think. You can understand how Tex falls hard for her. So you really earn that ending, with Tex staring at his wedding ring, still moved by the memory of Sylvia. If you don't have the right Sylvia, if she's still just a caricature, that ending doesn't work.
CJ: Yeah, she got a piece of him. This guy's still hooked on her. Maybe he'll let her go someday. But she's always a big piece of his life, something he really cared about.
RB: How was working with Michael York?
CJ: Geez, he's indescribable. The lines I get from Aaron [Conners, the writer], I pretty much look at, then put into my own words. Memorizing word for word, I have to put my own tone on it or it comes out a little stale. But this guy, Michael York, is so professional. I mean, we've got a couple of guys who enter in the text of the dialogue for the captioning. And they said Michael York did not miss a single word from the original pages. Not a single word! We even added a few new things after he got in for the shoot, and he had those polished in no time, word for word. Barry Corbin was like that, too, in Pandora. These guys just hit their lines perfectly on the first take, no problem. Give it a little different shading? No problem. Just amazing.
RB: And to make it sound totally authentic and genuine...
CJ: Absolutely. How do they do it? I'd have to say that Michael York's monologue in that first scene is the best thing I've ever seen in this medium. That whole sequence, opening with the camera flying up to the mansion and in through the window, is so much larger than life. It just shows the potential of this medium. It says, "We can be taken seriously." If we can get good people in here and get them the right lines, hey, it's a magical performance.
RB: As you've developed as an actor and Aaron Conners has developed as a writer, so Tex Murphy has developed as a character. Each game you've added nuance and a few more layers. Do you feel pretty good about where Tex is at now? Do we know Tex? Or does he have places still to go?
CJ: I think he has places to go. As we get into the future, we'll take a look at not only how this character has developed in this life, but how he's developed in previous lives, if you want to look at it that way. We'll see how this character came about and evolved, and we'll see how history has affected him, too. But I think we'll always see Tex as someone who's an innocent in life. He may not be the brightest guy when dealing with people, but somehow he's ingenious in situations. He'll always have that childlike innocence. And hey, he's not going to be the big winner here, ever. There's always going to be baggage that comes with whatever he does win.
RB: Before we sign off, I have to ask if you have any amusing "behind-the-scenes" stories about the making of Tex Murphy: Overseer.
CJ: We were shooting that scene with Rebecca [Broussard] at the front of the game, where she first comes in. Well, we kept having trouble with it - first, a boom problem, a shadow showing, then the sound cut out. More things went wrong. Everybody was getting anxious, and we said, OK, this time shut up, let's hit it right. So we're shooting and I look up at the sound guy, who's ignoring the sound and staring down at Rebecca. He leans over right in the middle of the scene and says, "Excuse me." I'm thinking, not again, what do you want? Well, she'd dropped some cigarette ashes in her lap and her dress was on fire! [Laughs] Yeah, that was a good one.
Monique Lenier [who plays Wanda Peck, the CAPRICORN agent] had a good one, too. In the game, I get Knott's disc and trade it to her for information. Her line goes, "Robert Knott's disc was unbelievable." Well, she flubbed it. You can probably guess how it came out, but suffice it to say we laughed for hours about that one. That one stayed on the set for quite a long time.
Clint Howard would keep dropping into his Gentle Ben character, keeping us quite amused. "It's gonna start raining, Ben, we gotta get out of here." And when Henry Darrow was doing his death scene, Adrian [Carr, the director] had arranged to get the music from Henry's old TV show High Chaparral. So we started playing it while Henry sat there trying to be dead. He found that awfully amusing.
Copyright © 1998, by Prima Publishing. All rights reserved. From the book Tex Murphy: Overseer, by Rick Barba. Portions © 1997-98 by Access Software, Inc. Displayed with the permission of Prima Publishing. To order this book, call (800)632-8676 or (800)531-2343 in the United States or (916)632-4400 for international calls. http://www.primapublishing.com
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July 24, 2012