Brian O’Halloran, star of the Clerks movies, talks about his appearances on Comic Book Men, the craziest interaction he’s had with a fan and what people can expect from Clerks III.
Q: How did you and Kevin Smith first meet?
A: Unlike most of the cast of Clerks, who had been friends with Kevin before, I met him during my audition for the part. I had been acting with a group in a neighboring town and heard about the audition. I just thought, “Oh, cool. I’ll go check that out.” I could tell immediately he was someone I wanted to work with and get to know better.
Q: Did you ever think that Clerks would become the huge phenom that it did?
A: Not at all. We got deferred pay and were promised a VHS copy of the film, which I still have… I thought it would just be something that I would show the VHS copy to all my acting friends, from time to time, and we would watch and think it was hysterical. I remember at the first screening, there were like 12 of us in the audience — 10 of which were those who made the movie. But, luckily, Bob Hawk from Sundance was there. It wasn’t until Sundance when we saw it go gangbusters. The four screenings were sold out. And we thought, “OK, great! People are getting this. Wow, that’s cool.”
Q: What do you think was the secret to the movie’s success?
A: Well, for one thing, it was right at the cusp when independent filmmaking was coming into the mainstream. Quentin Tarantino had just had a big success with Reservoir Dogs. Pulp Fiction was coming out the following year. I think if Clerks had come out a couple of years earlier, or a year later, I don’t think we would have been picked up the way we were, or received as well.
Q: What’s the craziest interaction you’ve ever had with a fan of Clerks?
A: I had this one brother and sister from Kentucky who stalked me via fax. Somehow they got my home fax number — this was in 1994-95. They would send me photos and weird notes, like where the letters are not in the right direction. They sent me a Kentucky Wildcats jersey. They were like, “We’ve never been to the big city. We can’t wait to come up and see you sometime.” They shot a photo of the two of them in clown makeup. I had to change the number… I had a few people who came to my house. I was nice, I let them in. But the whole time I’m thinking, this is just so wrong. They asked to take a picture with me. Then I was like, “Let me take a picture with you guys on my camera, too.” I wanted evidence in case I went missing.
Q. In Season 2, you help Ming run the shop for a day. What was it like being a clerk in real life?
A: The character of Dante was always like, “Everything has to be done right, we have a job to do!” In this case, it was more Ming. So it was nice not being the one to stress out. I have to say, it was fun seeing Ming sweat a little. Bryan Johnson was there as well. Being the real-life Randall… he was putting the kibosh on everything.
Q: In Season 3, Episode 11, the Clerks bowling team goes up against the Stash guys. Who was the best bowler?
A: Actually, one of the best bowlers was Ming, surprisingly. I think at one point in the day Ming got a turkey — three strikes in a row. We were all shocked. And, Bryan Johnson was pretty good too. I think Johnson was on a team at one point. That was pretty shocking too.
Q: Are you a collector of any kind of memorabilia?
A: Star Wars stuff was my big obsession as a youth. I pretty much collected all the figures as kid, but I stupidly played with them — not knowing how much some of these characters would cost now if you want to buy them mint, in the box. Now, I know better. When the new series of movies came out — the Jar Jar Binks ones — I started to collect the figures again. I think at some point, I may head down to Kevin’s store and sell them off.
Q: Anything you’d like to share for fans looking forward to Clerks III?
A: I think it’s the best script that Kevin has written for these characters. We all have grown so much over these years — um, decades. So Kevin has put in a lot of that depth of growth into all of these characters that we’ve come to love. I think the fans — even new fans who aren’t familiar with the previous two movies — will enjoy and love them. There will be quite a few surprises, too. I just can’t wait to be on set and to have all the people that we love working with around us again.