Jonny Lee Miller has played a wide variety of roles since starting his career in the 1990s – computer hacker (Hackers), drug addict (Trainspotting), apprentice vampire hunter (Dracula 2000), hallucinating lawyer (Eli Stone) and motivational speaker (Dexter) among others. In Dark Shadows, Miller dons a combover wig to play perhaps the most normal member of the highly unusual Collins family, a complicated role he told The Hollywood Reporter he enjoyed sinking his teeth into.
“I connected with the fact that I thought he’d be very fun to play,” Miller said. “[But] with any character you’re playing even if there’s funny stuff involved, it all comes based in reality. You get that squared away, and then you can worry about the other stuff.”
Miller plays Roger Collins, the troubled but hedonistic descendant of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), who returns home after spending two hundred years in a coffin to help restore their family name. Miller has worked for a number of high-profile directors in the past, including Danny Boyle and Woody Allen. The actor said that he leapt at the chance to collaborate with Tim Burton on Dark Shadows. “You know that you’re going to enter into Tim’s world and what a great opportunity it is to be asked to be involved in one of his movies,” he explained.
In addition to his decidedly unflattering hairstyle, Miller wore a lot of period fashion to fully immerse himself in the movie’s 1970s setting – all of which he said was as enjoyable as actually playing the character himself. “Put on those suits and I’m there,” he said. “I had a shaved head when I started the project so we created the wig look we wanted. This beautiful wig was made -- and I say beautiful as in its quality, not in the way that it looks.”
At the same time, Miller said that the character offered some interesting dramatic challenges, despite the often comical context Burton created for Barnabas Collins’ misadventures. “We know that he lost his wife,” he said of Roger Collins. “He’s been lost, so I kind of figured that he’s given up. He’s come to a point in his life where he has to make a decision – you either stand up for yourself and those around you or you give up and go down a darker path. And I think that’s what Roger’s done – he’s given up on himself.”
Watch the video above for more details from Miller about his work in Dark Shadows. The film opens nationwide Friday, May 11, 2012.