By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Thomas Jane has been making a living by getting naked for two years on HBO's dark comedy "Hung." And so has his character -- broke, divorced, middle-aged, recession-hit Detroit teacher Ray Drecker.
Jane, 42, who starred in the 2004 action movie "The Punisher", talked with Reuters about portraying a male prostitute ahead of the 'Hung" Season Three debut on Sunday. The Season 2 DVD and Blu-ray set was released this week.
Q: How was the Ray Drecker role first pitched to you?
A: "Alexander Payne (executive producer) called me up and left me a message that I have saved -- I still have it on my answering machine. It says 'Hello Thomas. This is Alexander Payne. I am directing a pilot for HBO about a man with a very large penis. We thought of you. Give me call.' So I had to call him back. It was such an unusual message and that started the journey."
Q: On the surface, "Hung" seems like a show that is just about sex. But what do you think it is really about?
A: "In Season One, the creators said it was a journey through the female mind by way of a male protagonist. By Season Two, the writers were saying it was a journey through the male mind by way of females. I think that is probably more true. Ultimately, I think it's about men coming to grips with the female side of themselves, men learning to accept the more tender, emotional, less masculine side of their personalities, which is funny because it's a show named after male genitalia, but really it is about loving the woman in you."
Q: Has being on the show changed the way you look at yourself and your relationships with women?
A: "Absolutely. What's great about really good writing -- and 'Hung' suffers from excellent writing -- is that the actor does go on a journey that mirrors the character's fictitious journey because you are dealing with real emotions and real situations. I have learned an awful lot about male/female relationships and how I personally negotiate my way through that jungle."
Q: There are a lot of sex scenes in the show. What's it like filming them?
A: "I spend an awful lot of time naked in front of an awful lot of people. I think it is harder for women to shoot sex scenes because the women are the object of attention and desire and the focus of the cinematographer is to make the women look beautiful.
"My job is mostly to make the women feel comfortable. Some actresses won't do certain shots. Every actress has their own personal limitations and fears and that always dictates the way a sex scene is handled."
Q: Playing a male escort means you have to look good with your clothes off. How much working out do you do for the part?
A: "I have had a great trainer for the past 8-1/2 years. Every time I take on a new role she and I decide what the character should look like and design a workout based on that."
Q: Life seems to be looking up for Ray in Season Three. But how long can he keep his secret life from those near to him?
A: "Not much longer at all. You just can't hide some things forever. The fact he has kept it secret as long as he has is miraculous. The cat might be out of the bag this season."
Q: What other projects do you have coming up? Will we see a different Thomas Jane or are you forever typecast as a hunk?
A: "I did a really dark movie called 'I Melt with You' -- and that was really great, acting with Jeremy Piven and Rob Lowe -- that no one will see because it's a drama. And I helped write a Western called "A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand" that I am going to star in and direct next year. I am very proud of that.
"I've been wanting to do a Western for a long time, and I am really happy to get behind the camera again. It's exciting to get some Westerns back in the world. Actors love Westerns. I know I won't have any problems casting because actors die for this stuff. There is just something about putting on a cowboy hat and riding a horse and having a couple of guns on your hip. What's not to like?"
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney)