It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly 15 years since we first saw Haley Joel Osment appearing in the hit film The Sixth Sense. Since that role, Haley has been extremely busy in film, television and electronic media. His latest role is in IFC’s The Spoils of Babylon, an unconventional comedy miniseries executive produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Starring alongside heavyweights like Tobey Maguire and Kristen Wiig, Osment plays Winston Morehouse, a less-than-ethical character from a remarkably dysfunctional family. Osment spoke with DIRECTV about The Spoils of Babylon, and what we should NOT take away from the series.
Your character Winston is, um, complicated to say the least. What was your approach to playing him?
To me, Winston is like a Shakespearean Bastard with a capital “B”. He’s deeply wounded and insecure about the circumstances surrounding his birth, so he compensates by maneuvering for power whenever he can. He’s a rageful megalomaniac and though he dotes on his mother, he wouldn’t mind elbowing her aside on his way to the Morehouse throne. His motivations are so clear and strong that everything else about his character filled in very naturally from there.
It’s great to see a return to the miniseries format. Did you check out any of the 1980’s classics, like The Thorn Birds or Lonesome Dove, for research?
YouTube wound up being an invaluable resource during the process of preparation for Spoils. Many of the series that inspired its creation were available and aided me in getting the rhythms of this sort of melodrama down. We also mined the era in which Spoils was supposedly shot; they gave us the opportunity to create the characters of the imaginary 1970s actors that played the roles you see in the miniseries. That 8mm EPK footage is bound to turn up somewhere, but needless to say, we went very far down the rabbit hole of assumed identity.
Every family deals with drama in its own way. Is there anything we can learn from the Morehouses that can help us deal with our own family drama?
Honestly, I wouldn’t direct anyone to use the Morehouses as a model for dealing with family drama! There are members of the clan with good intentions but even they cannot keep everything from spiraling out of control as the series progresses. I think we have some posters that feature a house consumed in flames… that’s a pretty good illustration of where the Morehouses are headed.
Everyone on The Spoils of Babylon cast is hilarious. We already know the DVD extras are going to be amazing! What was it like working with that group?
I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I first got an email describing the project. It was quite something to see so many actors of that caliber collaborate as beautifully as they did on Spoils. But the most obvious thing on set was how much fun everyone was having. The premise is so ridiculous that we just had to throw ourselves into it head first.
Matt Piedmont, the director, had a wonderful way of keeping the madness consistent with the tone while at the same time allowing whatever lunacy that popped up in improvisation take its course. Most of my scenes were with Kristen Wiig and Tobey Maguire and it was some of the most fun I’ve had in my career.
You’ve been doing so much voice acting over the last 10 years. What prompted your recent return to the screen?
The main obstacle to making movies over the past few years was college. I studied experimental theatre at NYU beginning in 2006 and when I was at school, Voiceover work was a lot more feasible. You can knock out entire projects in a matter of hours. That said, I enjoy it so much that I intend to keep at it even now that I’m back working on television and film. One notable series I’ve been recording is the Kingdom Hearts video game series. I did my first installment back in 2002 and added the latest just last summer! There’s a lot of parallel universe/time travel business in this series so the journey’s lasted more than a decade for me. Some of the games take around 100 hours for players to complete, so the dialog we do for the story is massive. The variety of projects the recording booth offers really is amazing.
The Spoils of Babylon premieres Thursday, January 9 at 10/9c on IFC (channel 564)