By: Jaimz Dillman
At 6'7" and weighing in at over 300 pounds, Jay Peterson is a self-described "walking dumpster with fists." However, during our recent Zoom chat he was all sweet charm and polite conversation. You could possibly chalk that up to Peterson having spent his formative years in the south - after being born in Michigan, moving to Syracuse, New York, and then landing in Atlanta, Georgia, which he's called home since the age of 13.
Audiences will better know him as The Linebacker from the most recent installment of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. As I stated in my review of the movie, there was more heart to this round than I usually like in my horror, but I will say, Jay's part was the most memorable. No spoilers, but his two appearances in the film caused a few screams in the theater... and not because he's in the buff. More on that later.
Growing up as a Ren Faire brat, with a Celtic, harp-playing mother and chemical engineer father, Peterson's early horror influences came from Crestwood Monster series picture books. "Orange-covered horror classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon," says Peterson. That led to the slasher era and late night cable, featuring personalities such as Joe Bob Briggs and Rhonda Shear, showing old Godzilla off-shoots or cut-for-cable movies; whatever was coming out. "I turned 13 the week a Friday the 13th sequel came out, and I think I used that to my advantage to see it," he said.
With a fondness for 80's rock, and shows that are musically-inspired, such as The Muppets and South Park, he also leans toward groups that give a twist to mainstream music, like Post Modern Jukebox and American Murder Song.
After graduating with a theater degree from Georgia State - which is no longer offered, unfortunately - and not wanting to set up in New York or Los Angeles, he found his way to the Marines. After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as a machine gunner, he returned home, and to the arts, as an actor, fight choreographer, armorer, and technical advisor. He landed roles in fan films such as Juggernaut in Uncanny X-Men. He was also featured in Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.
Calls for casting increased, and with the 2009 boom in Georgia, he proved he could be in films without having to be located in California. Mostly picking up roles as "The Guard" or "The Giant," he said his part in The Conjuring got bigger the more he looked at it. Being a part of a franchise boasting eight films also provides a rabid fan base.
So back to being on a giant screen in the "all together," as he says. Peterson knew nudity was going to be involved, but after his makeup test with Blue Whale Studios and having to spend over two hours shaving everything from his beard down, he realized he was in a "cross between preparing for a doctor's appointment and a hot date."
In case anyone is wondering (and who isn't, right?) a variety of different "concealments" were offered in various flesh tones for him to use, whatever he was comfortable with. Once they realized a g-string wouldn't work, a sort of sock device was decided on for his complete wardrobe. After spending over five hours in all-over body makeup, standing up, and having to... adjust... things, he says, "While the sock required regular adjustment, it only fell off two or three times. Not that bad when running at full speed was part of the job."
But he also said the crew were complete professionals, and highly respectful, with a PA at the ready with robe and slippers for downtime, so he could be as comfortable as possible. Having such a technical scene, he didn't get to talk with his costars much, as he was pretty much surrounded by the makeup team. Reshoots during COVID proved to be a little jarring in changes on set. During principle photography, he'd high five his stand-in, Jesse, in and out of scenes. But with safety precautions during the pandemic, he never saw him, and Peterson had to wear a mask to and from the set.
When asked how it felt to be completely exposed as he was in front of all those strangers, and then knowing he'd be forever immortalized on film, he says "Everyone has their 'something.' In this industry you'll always have something that you feel is problematic, like you're never enough." Being happily married and polyamorous with multiple partners, and two cats, he knows he's well-loved for who he is.
Looking forward, he'd love to play a romantic lead. He says, "I had one shot before, but I think I blew it. I'd like to take on a romantic lead to see what I could do with it." Dream roles include getting a chance at Porthos in Three Musketeers or Frankenstein's monster, a role he'd like to reprise, or something in the Monster Hunter International series by Larry Correia. "I love working with new people every time I get a chance," he says.
Peterson has his own project up for self-publishing this year. Adding author to his list of credits, with The Grunt's Grimoire, the first in his series will be Renfield Blues. He describes it as an "urban fantasy genre," like "Harry Potter meets Burn Notice." Down the road are ideas to add a Djinn tale and prequels written in first person, diving into the characters he's created during their high school years.
In between writing and doing the audition juggle, he's teaching acting for teens and assisting with taping their auditions at Actor's Breakthrough. He credits owner Gregalan Williams with getting him where he is today. And that, ghosts and ghouls, is on the big screen all over the country right now in the number one film in theaters.
Check out more about Jay, his upcoming work, and soon-to-be-published works at jaythebarbarian.com