Tribute's Bonnie Laufer talks to D.J. Qualls about growing up in the sci-fi thriller, The Core.

B.L. You were really great in The Core and I understand that you spent a lot of time preparing for your role.
D.J. Q. This is actually the first time that I ever had to do prep for a movie, which is an interesting thing in itself because I primarily have a teen comedy background and you don't have to prepare for that. You were a teenager once, you remember.

B.L. Who wouldn't like to have the chance to relive their teen years and get paid!
D.J. Q. Exactly! But for The Core, I spent about two weeks in a computer-style boot camp going to Paramount every day talking to these technicians that they hired to teach me about what was going on. I spoke to a number of people who have gone to jail for hacking and now work for the government. So it was really interesting to understand the full scope of what was going on and it's kind of terrifying: the more I learned, the less I really wanted to know how vulnerable you are every time you want to log on to the Internet.

B.L. Do you think after working with these people that you could actually log on and send something to everyone on the Internet at the same time?
D.J.Q. I do know how to hack one Internet server. I could get into someone's account if I wanted to and they taught me how to do that. It's fairly easy but it's not smart. Unless you have a firewall in your computer or things to divert the path they can find you immediately if you do it. I do have a certain amount of know-how that I did not have before.

B.L. So are you a little bit more cautious now when you go on the Internet?
D.J. Q. I was right after I made the movie because I thought wow, I buy so much stuff online but they told me, you almost have to be targeted and even then it's hard because they do put up things that when you type in your credit card numbers it comes up as little dots instead of your numbers. I mean they can be decoded but it's so difficult and it is traceable. Who really has time for that kind of stuff?

B.L. In playing this character you've gone from playing the nerdy high school guy to somebody who ends up helping to save the world. How was that?
D.J. Q. As I get older it's just logical that I am now being offered "big boy" roles and I've become a grown-up! I am just fortunate that I haven't been pigeonholed in a genre and I have been able to move on past that. I'm really lucky and I truly appreciate every opportunity I have been given in this business.

B.L. There's no question that Road Trip was your big breakout film that started to get you jobs. You even started to model for Prada! Did you enjoy your modeling career?
D.J. Q. 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 phony. 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 modeling world people will just say anything right to your face and what do you do? I hated it.

B.L. You are doing so well with your career; you have even started co-producing some 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 and I feel like when I do something, especially as personal as The New Guy, because it was my movie and I know that I would be blamed if it was horrible and if it didn't do well. I am just happy that I made something for somebody. 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 am not producing because it helps me understand some of the decisions that are being made.

B.L. Do you want to direct?
D.J. No, my actors would hate me. I see other actors who want to be directors and you know that they are at home at night reading those lines, looking in the mirror thinking how the lines should sound. It's funny; I remember the director of The New Guy (Ed Decter) did that to me. Ed is like a Jewish guy from New Jersey and I am Southern Baptist. He would say the lines and I would argue with him because he wants me to say it like him and I turned to him and said, "Ed, I am not Jewish—no matter how many times I say that line that way it's going to sound ridiculous coming out of this head!"