The fourth episode of the Winchesters, Masters of War, had a very vintage Supernatural feel to it. In this interview, I spoke with James MacDonald, who played both Jimmy Mixon and Nato, the monster of the week.
Tell us about your role on the Winchesters.
I played Jimmy Mixon, a World War II vet who in the first act you think I'm one thing and I turn out to be something else. It's kind of hard to describe. It turns out that I'm actually this God Nato who's trying to save the world from the Akrida. I view myself as a good guy, even though it could appear that I'm not a good guy, because I do kill quite a few people. But I'm trying to train our hero of the story [John Winchester] to become a warrior and save the world.
Did you do any of your own stunts or was it mostly a stunt double?
I did a lot of 'em. The one stunt I didn't do is when he runs up the tree, the one shot of him running up the tree and coming down and trying to slash him with the spear. I did not do that one, but most of the other ones I did. I have trained in martial arts for a few years and oddly enough we did do staff training because a lot of that you saw was with the spear.
I knew how to do quite a bit of that and that was really fun because this is a role that I typically don't get to play. I don't play a lot of Gods in my career, mostly FBI or play a lot of bad guys or else military. I'm usually not the God type.
It was really fun to get to do that epic battle scene. We were down in New Orleans -- I live in California and I'm not used to the humidity. It was probably in the nineties, but with the humidity I almost got heatstroke. I had to stop for about a half hour and get iced up and take some salt tablets because I was just overheating. It was so hot and I wasn't used to it. But it was really fun to do.
Were you familiar with Supernatural before you were cast?
No, I wasn't. But I was amazed how big a show it is because I would tell my friends, “Oh, I'm doing this prequel to Supernatural.” [They would respond with], “That's one of my favorite shows.” And I'd be like, “Really?”
There's so much on now. I never caught it. I hadn't really seen it. I had to do little research and see who this person was and this show versus now.
How did you prepare for the character?
In terms of preparation, I mean, showbiz is funny because I auditioned for this on a Thursday or a Friday and I found out Monday that I got the job and they said, “You're flying, you have to fly in two hours.” Oh my God, seriously. And I was like, ”Oh, are you kidding? I can't fly.” I mean literally two hours. And they said, “Okay, well you can fly in six hours.”
In preparation I did not have much time to prepare. I had to make bold choices fast. And the cool thing was is the director called me when I got to my hotel room and he said, “We really wanna not give away that Jimmy is this Nato guy.”
He talks a little different if you watch it, Jimmy's accent and the way he talks is a little more rural. Nato is very kind of straight, kind of just strong classical. I played around with differentiating the characters which was fun and great, it's a great thing to be able to do. You don't usually get to do that in one on a guest star. So that I really worked on. And then like I said, having not played many Gods, I can't die.
He had to be so different from Jimmy Mixon, the World War II vet. But I really wanted to show this crazy strength, just have this kind of real solid in control presence. As an actor what you have to do is be confident in what you're doing. Which just meant that every second I wasn't eating, I was doing my lines.
If you have your lines then you can be relaxed and then you can connect and feel grounded and you can do the work. If you're worried about your dialogue, that's the worst.
I was lucky that big scene we shot with Drake, I had been there six days already. I really had the time to work in the role memorize my lines and get ready. And funny enough, they cut quite a bit of it out. There was a lot, few more speeches, that did. But that's typical. They get thing together and they're like, this is too long. But they kept quite a big chunk in. So that was kind of my process.
Please tell us about being on set.
I must say that Jojo Fleites and Drake Rodger could not have been nicer. The cool thing, I've worked on a lot of TV shows and if you come on a show that's been running for 10, 15 years and those people who started out were unknowns are now really famous, they might not be as friendly and nice and as approachable and it could be more of a job. But when you come on a show like this where the two actors, it's their first thing and everybody on the show is excited. It had a real amazing energy of everyone was really positive. They were super nice, everyone was super helpful.
The prosthetics that I have on my face, those deep cuts at the end of the Nato scene. The people who do the makeup on that show are amazing. They're incredibly talented artists.
When you do makeup that has a lot of prosthetics, sometimes your whole face can be covered in plastic and you feel like you can't breathe. If you have any claustrophobia issues, it can be rough. And I do. I told them, I said, “Look, I can get a little anxious if things start to and I can't really see or breathe.” And they handled it so well. They made sure I was comfortable and I didn't have a problem with it. But I mean you're literally for those big cuts at the end when he is smashing my head with them, you're in the makeup chair for three hours.
Because first they lay the molds, it's a rubber mold on the face and they glue. They usually have two people working and they glue it on and then they have to paint it. They paint it and they put blood in it and they've got all these tools. It's like they're making this painting on your face, this piece. And it's really cool to see and it just takes an amazingly long time. So that was kind of intense.
From the director down to the camera crew to the actors could not have been nicer. And I've been on a lot of sets. It's so exciting when it's a new show for these young folk. Can you imagine there they are just doing scene after scene outta nowhere and on this show that's got a huge following. So that was nice. It was nice to have that positive energy.
Do you have any upcoming roles you’d like to share?
I do have a little stint on All Rise, which is a show about judges in La. And I play a judge for the first time, which is again, my first judge. You know you're getting older when you are starting to play the judge. It was fun.