For J. August Richards, kicking undead butt just became a full time job. The 26 year old University of Southern California-trained actor — who guest starred last year on the WB’s ”Angel” as ”vampire slaying tough guy” Charles Gunn — becomes a regular for the show’s second season (debuting Tues., Sept. 26). Richards, who has appeared on ”Sliders” and ”The West Wing,” talks with EW.com about what ”Angel” fans can expect to see — and what that mysterious J really stands for.
C’mon, give us the inside scoop on what we’ll see this season. We won’t tell anyone.
Well, I’m still going to be the leader of this street fighting vampire team, so it’s not like my whole lifestyle is going to change and I’m going to suddenly move in with Angel now that I’m a regular character. But I will be in alliance with him. There are a lot of changes coming up that I am not able to disclose. And you’ll be glad I didn’t, because it would just ruin the surprise.
So what’s with the name? You have to admit, J. August Richards sounds kind of stuffy.
It is kind of grandiose, isn’t it? I changed my name at 14 because no one outside of my family could pronounce my first name correctly. My parents are from Panama, and so there’s a primary AND a secondary stress on my first name, Jaime, so it sounds like HIGH-MAY. And my middle name is actually Augusto [Ah-GOOS-toe], so that’s tough too. The funny thing is, I have so many nicknames that no one calls me by my given name anyway. Still, I have thought about changing it just to Jay Richards.
Too late for that now. Since you appeared in three episodes of the show last season, what was it like for you being the new kid on the set?
It’s a tough schedule, 12 hour days and lots of night shoots. But the tone on the set is anything but dark. David [Boreanaz] is an ”up” kind of guy, which you certainly wouldn’t expect from watching the show. You forget that he has a smile, but he does.
You’re 6’3” — could Gunn beat the stuffing out of Buffy on the next crossover episode between ”Angel” and ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”?
You know, I don’t think my character would ever hit a woman, so we’ll never know the answer to that one.
How did you prepare yourself to play a homeless gang leader?
I have a friend I play chess with who is kind of like the character, so I pick his brain. My friends say I have obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to my work, because I love research. I get a little overzealous. But that obsessiveness is now developing into a thing with me and my coffeepot. I don’t know how many times I have rushed home because I’m sure I left the coffeepot on. I finally bought one with an automatic timer that shuts itself off.
Are you ready to be hounded by diehard ”Angel” fans?
Oh, I’ll talk to anybody. Alyson Hannigan [Willow] said the first year it’s ”Don’t I know you from somewhere?” The second year it’s ”Aren’t you that guy on that show?” And the third year it’s ”Hey, J. August Richards!” I’ve already gotten so much of ”Don’t I know you from somewhere?” But I won’t ever tell someone that they know me from TV, because I’ll feel really stupid if they recognize me from somewhere else.
Speaking of fans, have you read what’s been written about you on the Internet?
I’ll admit it, I have done that. I was a little nervous when my first episode aired because I know fans of the show are very devoted. But I read roughly 50 letters about me, and only one was negative. And it was so negative it was actually positive. This person wrote, ”He shouldn’t be a regular, because he needs to go back to school!” So that viewer must have really believed I was a homeless high school dropout.
Why do you think people are so into scary, supernatural themed entertainment these days?
I know I’m very interested in the supernatural, and I think we’re all becoming aware that 90 percent of our existence isn’t a part of the physical world. I can’t count the number of times something strange has happened to me. I have Spidey sense all night and day, I’m telling you. It amazes my friends sometimes, because I can tell so much about other people in the instant I meet them. Of course, I think it can all be explained in physical, scientific terms, but we have to ultimately boil it down to instinct.
So, time for the really important question. Who’s your favorite island dweller on ”Survivor”?
My friends and I are all rooting for Sue. I loved her the minute she said, ”I’m a redneck and none of that corporate stuff is going to go with me.” And Richard is evil! And ruthless! He can’t win! People would riot.