Credit: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

J.K. Simmons has become a pretty busy guy since winning an Oscar for Whiplash. As he told EW on the red carpet at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, he’s preparing for the release of Disney’s Zootopia, he just wrapped filming The Snowman in Norway, he’s getting ready to shoot a “little indie” called Sailboat, and he’ll be working with his wife on a “deep” and “metaphysical drama” called Steve’s Umbrella.

Somewhere in that packed schedule, he’ll also find time to shoot Peter Berg‘s Patriots’ Day about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, a film which he called “really extraordinary.”

“Honestly I wasn’t attracted to it at first because as a general rule I’m not attracted to biopics or sort of recreating real events,” he told EW. “When I met with Pete Berg and knew that Mark [Wahlberg] was attached and read the script, I just thought it was really extraordinary, so I finally signed up to do it. I think Mark and I are the only people sort of attached so far, although my part is a pretty small part of screentime in the movie, but obviously a very significant part in the events that occurred that day and the following day.”

Simmons portrays Jeff Pugliese, whom he described as “a hero in the whole aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing three years ago.” While Simmons said he has “a lot of work to do on the Boston dialect,” the actor and his real-life counterpart went on patrol together, talked through a scene, and have been generally “hanging out.”

“It’s just a beautifully put together script and I’m such a fan of Pete and Pete and Mark as a team from Lone Survivor, for example, but I was very excited to sign up and be a part of it,” Simmons said, “and now having met Sergeant Pugliese and his family and spent a little time with them I’m even more jazzed about it.”

—Reporting by C. Molly Smith.