Jason Lee Talks 'Raising Hope,' 'Memphis Beat' & Future Projects

Jason Lee on "Raising Hope"

On Tuesday night’s episode of Raising Hope - titled “Burt Rocks” - Jason Lee reunites with My Name is Earl creator Greg Garcia on his new television venture. In it, Lee will play hair-band rocker Smokey Floyd. Smokey is character Burt Chance’s (Garret Dillahunt) music idol and in this new episode he will be rocking out at an event called Grocery-Palooza.

Lee, currently starring in TNT’s Memphis Beat, took part in a conference call on Monday to discuss his guest spot on Fox’s hit comedy.

Given his history of playing musicians in both film and TV, I asked him about the importance of music in his life and for him to fill us in on his musical tastes.

“Music is something I listen to every day, I play guitar and I’m always fiddling about. I listen to everything from classic rock to John Coltrane to The Pixies to Hank Williams. It’s a part of how I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night.”

As for the preparation required for playing a rock star, Lee says it was a challenge first to let it all go for the role, even if it was a slightly ridiculous role.

“It’s difficult at first. Musicians are a special breed, they let it all hang out and just go for it. Even with something silly like Smoky Floyd, you just have to let it all hang out and not really care because rock stars are the ultimate care-free spirits. In the case of Smoky Floyd, you have to make a complete ass of yourself.”

Highlights from the call follow, which should give us a good idea of what to expect from the former My Name Is Earl star for Raising Hope, and into the future.

On the cast of Raising Hope and re-teaming with Greg Garcia:

"It was sort of a reunion of: Greg Garcia, writers, crew members... just having fun. It was like going back to camp. They are all extremely talented. How strange it was that I was going on a set that was just like Earl, but it was their own well-oiled machine. They’re good solid people, light-hearted. I got a really good vibe. Raising Hope has a lot of good Karma."

On the role of Smoky, and thoughts on the episode:

"You feel for him even though you hate him. He’s annoying and full of himself. I like playing characters with likability, even though they are just jerks. It was like doing an SNL skit… but this episode is very redeeming. I like when people maintain the same style and don’t think they look older but they do, who wears the same clothes as the 80s because he thinks he’s badass. I tried to pull a lot of comedy out of the fact that he looks like a lizard. I made him one of those ridiculously obnoxious people that you love to hate. I hope it’s a redeeming quality."

On whether Memphis Beat is a preparation for Smoky Floyd:

"Maybe Memphis Beat is a preparation. All those episodes prepared me, but it’s a totally different character… one is likable and one’s an idiot."

On the hair and makeup required for Smoky:

"I went from bad-ass to even badder-asser. It was three hours in makeup, a lot of work… I even took a photo as it was such good work. I’m not used to dressing like that. I would walk around the set and forget that I looked like a ridiculous rock star."

On if there were a movie about his life, who he’d want to play him:

"I’m stumped. No funny or witty comeback."

On the potential of any more half-hour comedies:

"This made me miss what I had on Earl, but it was a lot of hectic work. It was nice seeing the Earl memorabilia on set. I said to Greg, ‘If you do this again, I’d want back in.’ It was an easy decision to do this one character."

On his preference between drama and comedy roles:

"Just when I think I love exploring Memphis Beat and making it better, [after] playing this part on Raising Hope [I find] that comedy is the best thing. But it’s good to mix it up."

On being a fan of Raising Hope:

"I’ve watched every episode. I love that there’s a redeeming quality to it. It’s a beautiful thing."

As for future TV projects, Jason is working on a pilot for Adult Swim, and I asked him if he could let us in on any details. “It takes place in the skateboarding world, I’m starring in it and directing the pilot episode in December. Adult Swim is doing an 11-minute episodic comedy series and if we get picked up we’ll be one of them. It’s very twisted and it’s very out there. Not much is done in that world, and I get to play with that. We’re gearing up to shoot that in a few weeks.”


Raising Hope airs Tuesdays @9pm, on FOX

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