Alison Prato (writer),
Mike Piscitelli (photographer)
What are your other tattoos?
I have Kevin Smith's daughter's name down my spine. I have Justice League stuff, Daredevil, Bullseye. And this is Batman. This one right here on my thigh is the Road Runner tattoo I got when I was 18. Have you ever seen any Jay and Silent Bob tattoos? I have. I have a picture on my phone of a guy with one. I've seen three or four people with the Jay and Silent Bob animated characters, and one guy had an actual portrait of me, which is weird. It had the beanie cap and shit, sort of Jay, though, which was bizarre. Can you set the record straight about how you met Kevin? We went to high school together, and I knew who he was, but we didn't hang out because he was three years older. After he graduated, he worked at our town's community center, and every day after school I'd go there to play hockey, kickball, and pool. Then a group of us started hanging out and going to comic shows.
Is it true that he didn't like you at first?
Probably. Some of my friends were going to New York for a comic book convention, and Kevin was like, "I'm not driving a minor over state lines," because he didn't want me to go. But then our buddy Brian said he'd drive. So not only did I get to go –I called shotgun. I was being silly, and those guys were laughing at me. It wasn't that Kevin didn't think I was funny, it was that he was the funny one of the group and now there was this new dude. After doing seven of Kevin's movies, what's the best part of working with him? I know him and I'm comfortable. I've done maybe 10 other movies with other directors, and, not that I don't enjoy myself, but it's a different vibe because Kev and I have been friends for so long. Some of the other directors are so stressed about getting the shots, they don't really care about the actors' performances. If there's tension, I'm tense. With Kevin, it's comfy.
Aw, that's cute. So you'd never acted before Clerks?
I did a few elementary school plays, and then I did a talent show my freshman year of high school. We lip-synched to the Beastie Boys. Didn't you work at the Quick Stop, where a lot of Clerks was filmed? Yeah, Kevin and I both worked there, and then he got me a job at the video store next door, where Clerks was also shot. So I'd work there, and he'd be at the convenience store, and I'd shut down the video store and hang out with him. Were you freaked out making a movie for the first time? It was kind of a blur because I was so nervous. Even though Kevin wrote the character based on me, he remembers me being like, "Kev, I don't know if I can do this." I was so freaked out performing in front of the cameras with everyone watching.
So you combated the nervousness with drugs and alcohol.
Exactly. I'd get drunk every day on beer and blackberry brandy. I was also working as a roofer at the time, so I'd roof all day and shoot at night. I remember watching the finished movie in the video store, and I thought that was it. I didn't understand the process of making movies, and I didn't know about Sundance or Cannes. I went back to work and didn't think anything about it, and then Kevin was like, "Yo, we got into a festival and Miramax bought it, and it's gonna be out in some theaters." That was cool, but even after that, I still worked. It wasn't until Mallrats that I quit my job.
How did your new fame change your life the most?
It didn't hit me until Mallrats. This sounds corny, but I grew up in a small town in Jersey and I'd never been anywhere besides New York. I'd never been in a limo except for prom, and I'd never stayed in a hotel. The only things I knew about California were palm trees, Beverly Hills Cop, and 90210.