by Kathryn Graham
Jon Paul Burkhart is a multi-talented writer, actor, producer, and director. He has a ton of credits to his name in all of these arenas, and he’s played roles on many popular shows like This is Us, Castle, American Horror Story, and Parks & Recreation.
You can look for him on the upcoming season of GLOW coming June 29th, 2018. The important thing for now, though, is that Jon Paul and I had a chat about his latest role as one of the villainous leads in Sick For Toys, a psychological thriller that he co-produced with his partner David Gunning, he said a lot of things well worth listening to.
So, now that the preamble is over:
Sick for Toys comes out in 2018. Can you tell me a little bit more about the film?
Jon Paul: Sick for Toys is a Christmas psychological thriller. It’s also a horror film. It’s about a brother and sister who live together alone and have for years. This year, Emelia invites Roy, who she randomly meets, to have Christmas dinner with her. It turns out that every year what she wants for Christmas is a toy: a man. Her brother goes and gets that man for her. This year she chooses Roy.
It’s a very twisted thriller that flips normal horror and film tropes on their head. We enjoy that about it.
Is it a dark movie or does it have a dark comedic tone? What is the tone?
Jon Paul: It’s funny you ask that. It’s dark. It’s a disturbing, creepy film. Of course, it has moments of air, where you can giggle, but we just see it as a very dark film. However, when we screened it in Dallas and in Los Angeles, we were surprised and unnerved at first how much laughter we were getting at certain points which I never found funny.
Now that we’ve seen it with another audience, I thought: “I guess that is a funny line, huh?”
It helps because it is a dark tale. It helps to have more humor in it. Also, there are moments where you laugh because you don’t know what else to do, I think. (laughs)
Like that nervous laughter?
Jon Paul: Yeah, there were a couple of those where audiences were just like: “Oh god, what am I watching?” There is some gore in the film, but all of the creepiest moments are done without gore. It’s done with music, acting, and building tension in the film-making. Which is neat. I love gore, but…
From what I’ve gathered this film fits into the current zeitgeist of what people are talking about in terms of sexual harassment and the #metoo movement. I was wondering what you’d want people to take away from it.
Jon Paul: We’ve talked a lot about that because we’ve been very curious to see how people are going to respond. There’s rape in the film. It’s a man who’s being raped. The writer wanted to point out what it’s like when the victim is told: “You’re not the victim here. You were asking for this.” This time it’s about a man being told this, what that feels like, and how horrible that is.
We made an entertaining movie, and we want to entertain people. But if people walk away with a better viewpoint on that subject or a different viewpoint on that subject, that’s good too. But it’s not necessarily a political movie at all.
So what is it like to be an executive producer? What did you do for the film in that capacity?
Jon Paul: For starters, we found the money. Actually, we were funding a different project, a more expensive project, and this script fell in our laps. We read it, and we realized we could do it for the budget we already had. There were roles I could play, as well as my partner, David Gunning. So we decided to make the film.
As far as what goes into it: We are technically the executive producers, but I also worked as the line producer and several other kinds of producers, because we only had four producers on the project. So we did everything from getting the permits to hiring the actors and crew, vetting all the crew, etc. Basically, we put it all together. It was a lot of work, but it was really fun work.
Is there a lot of overlap as a writer and producer? Or do you find that once the writer is done with the script, it’s everyone else’s project after that?
Jon Paul: I can’t speak too much. On TV shows, there’s always a writer hanging around in case they need to rewrite something. On Sick for Toys, we were fortunate to have the writer playing a role in the film. So whenever we needed to add or change dialogue, which we did several times, he was there.
At one point I have to spout out all of these names of drugs. The writer used all of the trademarked names, and I had to learn all of these really long medical names just before we shot (laughs) – wasn’t too happy about that – but it turned out great!
Silly question: What was it like to be the pantomime horse on Parks & Rec?
Jon Paul: (laughs) Really fun. It was a really fun day. Like any job, I didn’t expect to get it. They called me three hours after I auditioned, I wasn’t even home yet, and I booked the role. I was really excited.
It was difficult in the costume. I couldn’t turn. I had to have someone behind me to carry the legs around. It was odd, but it was great working with Amy Poehler. She’s really fun and improvs. She’s sweet. It was a such fun show. Such nice people.
How can we see Sick for Toys? When is it coming out and how can we see it?
Jon Paul: It comes out to buy or to rent in September.
It was going to release in October, but we’ve had such good buzz we’re releasing earlier. It’ll be released oversees October 1st. We sold to Germany and several Asian countries.
Then it’ll be out on all streaming sites (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) in December. We are excited to have it out.
In the meantime, check out the trailer!