Jamie Dornan opens up about his seagull serenade in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

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Devan Coggan
·9 min read
Jamie Dornan opens up about his seagull serenade in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
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Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar Official Teaser Trailer

Jamie Dornan may be best known as a very serious actor who plays very serious roles — whether that's as a serial killer in The Fall or as an obsessive billionaire in Fifty Shades of Grey. But with his latest project, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo's goofily bizarre comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, the 38-year-old Irish actor shows off his supremely silly side.

Dornan plays Edgar, a lovestruck henchman to an evil villainess hellbent on killing everyone in the town of Vista Del Mar. But upon arrival in the small Floridian burb, he finds himself romantically entangled with Midwestern tourists Barb and Star (played by Mumolo and Wiig). Absurdity follows: At one point, Edgar sings a show-stopping ballad on the beach, appropriately titled "Edgar's Prayer." A completely committed Dornan leaps about in the waves, serenades a group of seagulls, and sings lyrics like, "Watch me climbing / I'm going up a palm tree / like a cat up a palm tree who's decided to go up a palm tree."

"I may never be in a job again where I say so many times, 'Uh, what are we doing?'" Dornan says with a laugh. "'Like, what is happening here? This is the craziest s--- ever put on celluloid.' We thought it was funny, and we thought if other people find this funny, then we're maybe we're on to something here. But there were times where we thought the world would be like, 'What were you guys smoking in Mexico?'"

With Barb and Star now available to rent, Dornan opened up to EW about sand, seagulls, and unleashing his silly side.

Cate Cameron/The CW

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How was this initially pitched to you? How did Kristen and Annie even try to explain what this movie was about?

JAMIE DORNAN: It was one of those things where the title said so much about it. [Laughs] I feel like I could tell so much of the tone of it, based on the title. They kind of are like magic, Kristen and Annie. I'm just such a fan of everything that they both do, so you just know that it's going to be good. But I read it and was like, "What the f---? This is mad."

But I'm such a fan of the sort of '80s, '90s, really silly comedies like Airplane and Hot Shots! and Naked Gun. I just love that stuff. It felt like that, but it also had real heart to it. That's an interesting combination and also really hard to achieve. And I've wanted to do comedy for a long time, so it was exciting to jump in to such a deep end.

You're right, you've never really done anything like this before. What was it like to jump into that deep end and throw yourself into this zany world of evil villains and beachside ballads?

It's just so great. I've played a lot of very serious characters; I will continue to play very serious characters. The thing I'm about to do next is a bit of a mix: It's sort of genre blending, I would say. And I think I'm spending all of 2022 being very, very serious. [Laughs] I love exploring that, but the truth is that I'm very rarely not being silly. That's kind of who I am, a lot of the time. Anyone who knows me well knows that.

So, it was this chance to get to have this limitless fun within this crazy world that they created. There was nothing that was too silly, and that just suited me. I was like, If I can just get over the first day, and get comfortable… The thing about Kristen and Annie is that they made me comfortable so quickly. I'm in there going, "I've never done comedy before, and I'm with two comedy titans. F---, this could go wrong." But they just embraced me in a really great way, and we were all making each other laugh quickly.

I have to ask you about your excellent musical number, where you sing about your feelings, surrounded by seagulls. What went into choreographing that?

More than you'd think! When I first read the script, I think it was only like two lines of stage direction. It said something like, "Edgar emotionally dances in a Footloose fashion," or something. I hadn't even picked up on it. I was speaking to the director a few weeks later, and he was talking about coming out to Mexico and setting out early for pre-production stuff. He said, "Obviously you need to come out for choreography," and I was like, What is he talking about? He said, "For Edgar's big number!" and I said, "F---, I need to look at the script again. I have no idea what he's talking about." It turns out that those two lines were this massive two-day affair of Edgar's musical number.

Kristen and Annie wrote the song, and by the time I got out there, I knew it. They were like, "Do whatever you want. Whatever you think is going to be funny," and then we would sort of riff on the day. There's some scenes I love, like when I'm doing the things I'm singing about: Like, I'm going up a palm tree, and I'm singing about the palm tree. [Laughs] It's so absurd. But singing it was tough. I can sing a bit, but that's a hard song to sing. I got it out, just about.

It's sort of a classic emotional ballad, in the best way.

Yeah, it's a sort of '80s power ballad. It's a big song!

Do you think a musical would be in your future?

You know what, I was going to do a musical this year, a comedy-musical, but it ended up being a lot of schedule-y, change-y things, and I had to pull out of it. But yeah. I'm not a good enough singer to, like, front a musical, but I could definitely do something in that world, maybe. I do like the idea of it. I'm all for testing boundaries in this industry, and what I think the best opportunity about being an actor is that you get to explore all these different worlds, so I intend to do that.

I've said this a lot in interviews before, but I would be so bored if I would just an action guy and did, like, three action movies a year. I don't care how much they would pay me. I would just be so sad! [Laughs] I would be so sad if that's all I was doing all the time, playing these one-dimensional characters.

I would imagine that would be the most rewarding part of doing something totally bonkers like Barb and Star.

Yeah, and you never want to be in your comfort zone as an actor, ever. That's my belief, anyway. Barb and Star didn't feel easy. I was having fun, and I was happy a lot, but f---, it wasn't easy. Comedy is just a totally different beast.

What did you find most challenging about it?

To be honest, not laughing was half the battle for me. Edgar lets his guard down at times, but often he's playing it straight, particularly when he first arrives in Vista del Mar. He's sort of the straight guy, and I had so many scenes trying to be relatively serious, while having Kristen and Annie bring me to my knees with absurdity. [Laughs] Someone sent me a gag reel the other day, and it's seven minutes long of us corpsing.

There's one moment where Edgar has tied [Barb and Star] up and they're getting out of ropes, and every time I turn around, they've got further out of the ropes, but I'm not meant to notice. That was absolute torture that day. This has literally never happened to me, but it floored me. I dropped to my knees laughing. I've never done that! I was, like, heaving! The craziest thing about watching that gag reel is that Kristen and Annie stay the same way, and I'm on the floor, turning red, and they're totally poised. They're total pros, and I'm out of the game, on the floor.

I know you filmed on location at a beach resort. What for you was your most memorable day on set?

It was so hot. We were in Cancun in July, and there were a lot of people at the resort. It was obviously pre-COVID, and it's a busy place, and I don't know how people go that time of year. I'm Irish, so that's a lot of heat for me. But [while I was] doing my big dance number in that heat, I had to change my shirt after every take. I was sweating so much — but I was also kind of having the time of my life.

I remember that day, my family were with me for part of it. My wife came down to set that day, to sort of watch a bit of the dance on the beach. It was the bit where I was on the jet ski, but I'm on land. [Laughs] I'm on the jet ski, but I'm on the beach, and I'm acting like I'm on water. We finished the take, and I walked up to my wife, and she was like, "Do they know how much like you this is?" I was like, "I think they're starting to work it out."

I love that that was the day she came to work, like, "So this is what he does at work every day: sit on a jet ski and sing about his feelings."

We'd just had our third baby, too, so she was dealing with the baby all day in that heat — while I was pretending I was jumping waves on a jet ski that was beached. [Laughs]

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