Tribute's Bonnie Laufer sits down with rising young star D.J. Qualls to talk about life and his new comedy, The New Guy.

B.L. This is your first starring role, you must be pretty excited, D.J.
D.J. Yeah, who would have thought that a guy like me would be doing what I am doing today.

B.L. Well there's a lot of funny stuff going on in The New Guy. When you read the script, what made you think that this guy was you?
D.J. It just played to my sensibilities. I have this thing when I read a script that I can tell how the jokes will play. With this one, I had to re-work some stuff and tone done some. The brutality was a little bit more and the bullying was a little bit more and the heroic element wasn't as strong in the original script and I thought why do the movie?

B.L. So obviously you had a lot of input into making this guy how you wanted him to be.
D.J. I had total script approval. It's my first time to lead a movie and I felt like everything had to be right . I'm such a control freak, that I thought anything that I could possibly have control over I really wanted it.

B.L. There are so many cameos in this film; literally every two minutes you see someone like Henry Rollins or Vanilla Ice to Lyle Lovett and Tommy Lee. Did that even phase you?
D.J. There was so much happening to me while I was doing this movie. It is so physical and the transformation of the hair and make-up took so long that I didn't really have time to think about that. I was really glad to see everybody and work with them, but I really had to prioritize what I thought about. I also knew that I had a lot riding on this movie and that they were giving me a huge shot to do my own thing. I guess the most exciting thing for me personally was meeting Vanilla Ice, because VH-1 Behind the Music had recently done a special on him. I remember that blonde black hair that he had, so that was pretty cool for me.

B.L. Did you have any challenges working on this film? There were a lot of physical scenes.
D.J. The hours were horrible. I didn't realize that when you are in every scene, it means that you have to work every day. It means that you get four hours sleep every night for three months. Plus a lot of times, I would get made up for a scene as one character and I would shoot the beginning and the end. Then for all the stuff that would happen in between, I would be off on a knoll somewhere on a horse with a kilt on, because the shooting schedule was so short.

B.L. It must have been a pretty gruelling schedule because, not only are you doing the film, but your doing parodies of other well known films within the movie.
D.J. I had to study that Braveheart sequence so many times, and then they ended up cutting out a lot of it. I studied really hard for that because I wanted to copy exactly what Mel Gibson did in his film. The second intricate thing was the take-off on Connair. When I am wearing the gimp outfit and Henry Rollins and Kool Mo Dee escort me to the new school; everything that Steve Buscemi did in the movie, I duplicated for The New Guy.

B.L. One of your co-stars in this film is Eddie Griffin, who is just hysterical. I can't imagine how you got through doing scenes with this guy.
D.J. We have the same sort of sensibilities comedically. He came from a stand-up comedy background and that's how I approach a scene, going off the page and just playing off each other. I don't crack normally doing scenes. I'm kind of serious when it comes to comedy, if that makes any sense. It was such a release for me because most actors when you do movies with them, if somebody says something that is not written, it's like deer-in-headlights time. Or is it moose in the headlights up here? They don't know what to do and I really love that kind of spontaneity. You find moments that nobody could have ever thought of.

B.L. The scene when you are in the jail cell doing the dance is very funny.
D.J. And we made up all the stuff; him teaching me crazy eyes, that was just us.

B.L. Now, you grew up in Tennessee and you went to London, England to go to university, so in a sense you have been the new guy.
D.J. That's right.

B.L. So did you ever have any bad experiences being the new guy?
D.J. You know, I don't know what I was thinking when I did that. Most of the stuff that I do, I really do out of ignorance. I'm never afraid to do things. I just do it and then after, I think I'll never do that kind of thing again. I literally saw that university in a book. I liked it because it was a foreign country where everyone spoke English and I really wanted to get away from Tennessee for awhile, so I just went. It was exciting because it was so cosmopolitan and I was riding on a subway system that I thought was just the coolest thing ever. So, I never really realized that I'm the new guy; I was just so excited to be the new guy.

B.L. In the movie your character goes through quite the physical transformation. You basically go from geek to cool guy with a new look and short blonde hair. In real life you have dark hair, did you figure out if blondes really do have more fun?
D.J. No, and I'll tell you why. That haircut took nine hours! They were trying to preserve the root to keep it dark. My hair was so fine and so dark, they were afraid that if they bleached it all out in one fell swoop, it would break off! That was actually my real hair, the other part was a wig. So they would do it in sections, then wash out my whole head and start all over again. When we got the whole thing finally done, I went to see the director and he didn't like it. So we had to do it all over again and it took nine hours! I was out of my mind by the end of that.

B.L. You had another real "tough" scene in this movie when Elizabeth Dushku gave you a private fashion show wearing several different revealing bikinis! I can't imagine how you sweated that one out?
D.J. Do you know what's really sad? I was only there for two suits! They just shot my reactions. They showed me some footage and they said, do this and do that.

B.L. Well I think for your next film you should demand a full fashion show!
D.J. We did do real kissing though!

B.L. Well that's the least that they could let you do!
D.J. The stage kiss looks so bizarre, I mean who kisses like that anyway? So we actually practiced a little bit to make sure that it would look good on film.

B.L. That couldn't have been to rough, she is a beautiful girl.
D.J. She is gorgeous, but let me tell you — lipstick — yuck. This is for all you ladies, take off the lipstick when you kiss somebody. Nobody wants that, and Elizabeth wore this special lip-gloss, which is the stickiest substance known to man. I would get home and that stuff would be in my hair! What were we doing?

B.L. I remember you telling me a few years ago when you shot Road Trip that there were always crazy things going on during that shoot. Was there anything that happened on set while shooting The New Guy that was so outrageous?
D.J. You know, there was so much partying going on that I didn't take part of. It was fun for me, but I didn't get to do all the really crazy stuff that you normally get to do on a movie because I was so busy.

B.L. There's no question that Road Trip was your big break out film that started to get you jobs. You even started to model for Prada! Did you enjoy the modelling career?
D.J. No, it's ridiculous. I really didn't enjoy it. I lucked into that Prada job and I mostly shot for a British magazine. I thought that it was cool and they paid me a couple of grand and it was fun. But I realized that people are so phoney. They are like two inches from your face and they are saying all of this derogatory stuff about you and then trying to tell you how you should look. In the modelling world people will just say anything right to your face and what do you do? I hated it.

B.L. Since The New Guy you have shot something like five more movies, but the next one that we'll see you in is in Lonestar State of Mind with Canadian Joshua Jackson. What is that all about?
D.J. It's the most fun I have ever had doing anything in my entire life. We literally laughed for three months and also it was shot in Austin, Texas, so I got to do two movies in a row there. I love Texas. Josh is just the best guy ever. Each time I come to Canada everything reminds me of him.

B.L. On a serious note, you have a lot to be thankful for. When you were 14 you were diagnosed with Hodgkin's a form of cancer that could have taken your life. It's great to see that you are cancer free and are now an advocate for cancer awareness.
D.J. Yes, I don't like to dwell on myself much, but I know how lucky I am to be alive. I was truly lucky that I was diagnosed early enough that they were able to get everything out of me. My only recommendation to ANYone who feels a lump anywhere on their body is to PLEASE get it checked out. It can save your life!

B.L. You are doing so well with your career, you have even started co-producing projects. Where would you like to see your career go? What is in the cards for D.J. Qualls?
D.J. Well I would really like to executive produce my own movies. Like I said earlier, I am such a control freak that I would know that if something fails miserably, it would be my fault. I don't want it to fail of course, but at least I know that I tried. I really put everything that I have into a movie. It's a great feeling. I have really come to understand producing a lot over the last few years and it helps me when I am in movies that I'm not producing. It helps me understand some of the decisions that are being made.