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Lore - Exclusive Interview - Josh Bowman

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If you're unfamiliar with Amazon's show Lore, based on a series of podcast with the same name, it is a docuseries centering around various real people and stories from our past with mysterious, scary, and sometimes downright strange origins.

Each episode focuses on one person or story in particular and I had the chance to interview Josh Bowman who will play the iconic rocket engineer/occultist, Jack Parsons, in the show's upcoming second season.

Mads: This episode was a little different than a lot of the other episodes this season, it has a more philosophical and even romantic tone to it, did that appeal to you? The difference in horror, it’s not really a conventional type of horror.

Josh Bowman: Yeah, no it’s not. It’s definitely - well me and Sean Crouch call it the "San Junipero" of this season of Lore because, I don’t know if you’re a Black Mirror fan, but it’s tonally, a little different than the rest.

It appealed to me in that it’s an idealized version of events through Jack Parsons eyes so you literally go through him, it’s really almost like a flashback. The episode starts from where he dropped the beaker of explosive fluids which then, obviously, ends in a bit of a catastrophe. They stop, they slow down the frames. They basically had the image of the beaker dropping and then you’re going through Jack Parsons head and you go through his life story. But it’s an idealized version of events and how he met Marjorie Cameron, gets into a jet propulsion laboratory, gets into some of the occult and Pastor Crowley, in addition to the rockets obviously, and a look at the sex magic that he is very into.

M: Definitely, now that you mentioned "San Junipero" I can see that comparison. In regards to Marjorie, she kind of becomes his muse and obviously he believes that he summons her but what do you think it was so specifically about her that intrigued him?

JB: I think she was an artist, I think she loved him very much - she was enamored by him. He was a libertarian, he was a pagan, he was into free will. And she was too. She may have been painted slightly more conservative in this episode than she actually was but she was right up there with him in terms of, you know, they would do a lot of things that were very out there, and she believed in free will and he wanted that and needed that.

Of course he felt that he conjured this woman up. He was doing a lot of this with Brock Hubbard. I mean he was summoning demons as early as 13 years old. He summoned Satan, and that's an actual, and that’s meant to have actually happened and that terrified him - which then lead to a lifelong interest in the occult and Pastor Crowley.

I think she was well on board with all of this. They were almost like twin flames, if you like. He loved her dearly, there’s no doubt about that.

M: I think you can see that in the episode too. There is a lot of heaven and religious motifs in this episode. Do you think Marjorie was sort of the angel to Jack’s devil or vice versa, or is it maybe a little more complicated than that?

JB: Maybe. Maybe she was, now that you put it that way, the angel to his devil. I don’t see him really as a devil in that he was ahead of his time. And I think she encouraged him. I think in any relationship it's a symbiotic thing, isn’t it? When one is doing something the other is uplifting, they're, like I said, twin flames.

I think she encouraged and supported his, what many would seem as whacky, ideas and far-out ideas. I think he was ahead of his time like a Steve Jobs-type character or Elon Musk. These guys aren’t normal people. They are way ahead. Their mind works faster than their own body. They’re sort of constantly on this frequency, a higher frequency, than most, and I think that’s what he was all about.

You know, he obviously died too young, but I think he could have achieved a lot more than he actually achieved. But he’s responsible for finding solid rocket fuel which can help people get to the moon faster - helped Armstrong get to the moon. Yeah, all of that. He’s ahead of his time and I think she’s definitely supportive of him and that’s why he loved her as well, even more.

M: Absolutely. His story is really fascinating I didn’t actually know all that much about him before the episode but I did a little more research about him afterwards. Had you heard about him before you took the role or listened to any podcasts?

JB: No! Honestly I heard about Pastor Crowley just through my experience with Led Zeppelin [Laughs] and they sort of swallowed a similar libertarian streak I guess - pagan, if you like. That’s how I knew Pastor Crowley, but I did not know about Jack Parsons. So it's fascinating. And we’ve only really scratched the surface of this and, like you said, it’s a love story, probably much more of the psychological thriller aspect than the love story aspect and again, an idealized version of events.

There is a lot more story we could have told but Sean Crouch, who wrote a lovely script, he concentrated on just this one part. It's a lovely homage to Jack Parsons' life.

M: You actually had to do a couple of scene where you're, sort of, really performing these rituals and incantations. Did you feel ever like creeped out by out?

JB: [Laughs] No I didn’t! I think when you get this mindset, where you’re like, "Oh I’ve got this script", "I got the part", five days before I was filming in Prague. So, I had to really throw myself into it and just throw all obstacles out of the way and just throw myself into it. I loved it. I love rituals, not black magic, but I think we’ve all been to church - it’s not too dissimilar in a way. People manifest things. We all kind of, in our heads, play out what we wish and hope for in life.

He’s an extremist and just being an extremist for this character, you just jump straight in. And that's what he did so let’s just get on to it. There were many other things that were really, really far out that he did. He was said to have masturbated onto magical tablets, tables, and he did this to Sergei Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto for like a month straight, while summoning. It was called the Babylon Working and that’s how he said he summoned Marjorie Cameron. We didn’t show that obviously, but this guy was on a lot of drugs, you know LSD, peyote, mushrooms, coke, amphetamines, and marijuana. You know, he was experimenting with micro-dosing.

Much like Steve Jobs came about later in life, he was doing this on his own because he believed in his heart that he could do that. Whether or not she came about because of that we’ll never know but it’s a theory and it’s sort of a theory that we tell in the story.

M: Certainly, I think that’s a good point, that we all have these rituals that we don’t think twice about like you said, church, and even within our educational systems - just various things like that. Do you think that if Jack Parsons was alive today the reception to him would be different or the same as it was back then?

JB: Well we’ve come along way since what, the mid-30s, since when he was doing all this stuff. I don’t know how he’d be perceived today, to be honest. I think there’d be a lot of press on him. He’d definitely be someone who looks at things from a different angle. He’d probably rub people the wrong way. But you know, he was an individual and I think that should be celebrated in the democratic society that we live in. I don’t know, he's definitely an innovator.

What I like to say is - that it was all sex, drugs and rocket fuel.

M: That’s a good quote. When you started to learn about him, did you take any specific steps to prepare to get into such an eccentric and unique mindset?

JB: I work a lot in rhythms so when I see a character on page or feel it from the dialogue, I will identify a rhythm, and his frequency is very energetic. That's what I kind of ran with anyway. The voiceover as well plays a lot in the background so he’s constantly talking, his head is constantly working. So I felt like he’s like a hamster on a treadmill, he just needs to keep going and he’s searching and searching and searching and this is all going on his head, this story, so I felt, for me, if I was on that path and then I throw the vernacular into that and the 30s, 40s, kind of dialect - and he’s obviously got an American accent - so I've to throw that in there with it, and it kind of just came together.

I didn’t have any audio on him, there’s no real video on him, there’s no pictures, not a lot of photographs, it’s sort of people documenting his behavior and what he was like so I took a bit of that and I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Which kind of, as an actor, saved me from getting in my head. I had a really, really great experience and I had a great scene partner. It was a lot of fun.

So I think for him, a character like that, it’s about just throwing myself into it. As much as I was figuring out the character I think he was figuring things out. It worked in my favor, that kind of rhythm. I just ran with that.

M: You mentioned that he narrated a lot of the episode, we got to hear his inner monologue and I found it to be a really nice personal touch to the story and really in character for Jack. I think it was definitely an asset because some of the episode is so complex to get into because it’s so introspective and metaphysical. What were your thoughts about his ideas that science and magic are, kind of, this marriage, and two sides of the same coin?

JB:Yeah, I think that’s true. I agree with that. How did we come about? Was it God? Was it magic? Or was it science, was it the big bang? There’s a constant debate of science versus magic and what’s real and not real. What are illusions? Are they real? Are they not? I don't know, do I believe in magic? I don’t know. I definitely believe in another world and the afterlife and things like that.

But at the same time I’m a big believer in facts and science, and chemical reactions, biology. It’s a mix of the two. I believe, like you said, science and magic. I totally believe that. I think he was onto something. Like I said, he was ahead of his time.

The voiceover did help us a lot it because it sort of acted as a vessel for telling the story in a quicker way, since we had to tell it in 40 minutes or something like that, it helped a lot. It also helped the audience get inside his head and how this all just flew into his head while he’s telling this story. It was helpful for me as an actor to have that.

M: That makes sense too. And he also mentioned the possibility of other dimensions existing, do you think there’s maybe some truth to that?

JB: Yeah, do I believe in other dimensions?

M: Like you know, other realms, he kind of touches on the idea of a paranormal world or things going on without us even realizing.

JB: I definitely believe in other dimensions, paranormal activity, I’ve experienced that firsthand. There’s no doubt in my mind that ghosts exist, aliens, all of that. No doubt about it. I’m a firm believer in that. I’ve seen too much and heard too many things. I’m not someone who believes what I’m told by the media. I think a little bit more outside the box. So I could relate to this guy, I really could.

M: I think that’s one of the big draws of Lore as a show, it explores all these unexplained and strange things out there that we kind of just get obsessed with because it’s such strange phenomenon, and people want to be able to experience that. I think people want to believe in magic out there.

JB: Of course they do. A lot of us live such mundane lives, a lot of people doing the 9 to 5 thing. And you know, they want to dream. That’s one of the main things that keeps us going is dreams and hopes and spontaneity and things that could happen. It’s exciting and it keeps getting up in the morning and I’m a big advocate for that.

M: Okay, I’ve got one more question for you. We talked a lot about the paranormal and occult side of him. But he was also a rocket engineer. How do you think those two sides of his personality coexist?

JB: Well, he was part alchemist, part magician and I think we sort of touched on it. I don’t know how they coexisted. I think he was just a leader in science in that he invented solid rocket fuel, that’s documented, but at the same time he was a firm believer in magic and a lot of it was sexual, sex magick. He was an eccentric, this guy.

M: He shoots off a couple of the model rockets in the beginning. Did you actually get to do that yourself?

JB: Yeah, I actually didn’t shoot them myself but they kind of made another set-up, another shot. The pros came in and did it and blasted a little rocket off and they shot that, we saw it.

M: That’s awesome! Well thank you Josh so much, that pretty much wraps up the questions that I had.

JB: Great, well thank you so much for the chat see you soon. Cheers.

M: Thanks so much I look forward to the season!

Just wanted to extend my thanks to Josh Bowman, his publicist and team, and Amazon's publicists Alex and Allie for putting this interview together, I really appreciate it.

"The Devil in the Divine", centered around the life of Jack Parsons, is just one of six brand new episodes of Lore that compose the second season of the show, due to begin streaming on Amazon October 19th! You can check out season one now. If you want to learn more about the other upcoming episodes you can read my preview for the second seasons here!

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