‘Planet of the Apes’ Actor Jocko Sims on Gary Oldman, CGI Apes, and Drake
Chances are, you know Jocko Sims. He's been a mainstay on TV shows like Crash, Masters of Sex, and The Last Ship. And he's appeared in movies like Dream Girls and Jarhead. This weekend, you'll see Sims as "Werner" in the latest installment of the Planet of the Apes movie series, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
But did you know that Sims is also an aspiring music producer, a radio show host, and a diehard San Antonio Spurs fan? We caught up with the renaissance man to discuss all that, plus everything from his personal style to his experience working with acting legends, and his role in the new Apes movie, which hits theaters nationwide today (July 11). Check it out below.
You're from San Antonio, so what was it like watching the Spurs beat the Heat in the NBA Finals this year?
Man, listen. Words can't express what that meant to me. I had a great passion for the Spurs growing up in San Antonio, and I've been going to games since I was seven. I've been a diehard fan. The first championship in '99 was incredible, and the three after that were great. But something about living here in Los Angeles, where I have a lot of people hating on the team—I'll never forget, I had a friend tell me in 2008 in December, he was like, "The Spurs are done, they're old." And that was six years ago, with the same three key players. And here we are going to the Finals two straight years, Game 7 we really should have won last year, and then winning it again. I'm proud of my squad man.
What's it like growing up in San Antonio?
San Antonio is a quiet, peaceful place. All we had was the Spurs. We had a little minor league hockey team for a little bit called the Iguanas, which I tried to get behind, but that didn't last too long. We built the Alamodome hoping to get a football team but never got one, so the Spurs just moved in there and played in half of it. I loved going to the Alamodome and watching Spurs games. I have very fond memories of that. I had a great childhood, a great life growing up in San Antonio. I'm glad I grew up there. But it's really sick how much I love the Spurs. I sometimes wonder if I grew up somewhere else, would I be as fond of them, or be privy to how amazing they are as a team. I'm glad I grew up there so I could be appreciative of such great basketball.
Who's your favorite Spurs player of all-time?
I'd have to go with Timmy [Duncan]. There was a time that I loved Manu [Ginobili] especially when he was younger, he'd do some things that were Jordanesque, and it'd blow your mind. Some of his passing—he does some incredible things. I haven't looked up a highlight reel of his passes online, but I bet somebody's put something together. It's mind-blowing, so I was a huge Manu fan for a while. But the one over the last 17, 18 years who's just been consistent is Tim Duncan. And for him to come last year and have his greatest free throw percentage year of his career last year, just to show that he's even better, it illustrates that no matter how great you are, no matter how many accomplishments you have, there's always room for growth.
Are you big into sneakers?
I'm jumping in the game a little bit. I appreciate sneakerheads. I don't know what's going on, ever. I have a couple of friends who help me out. I'm just now studying up now a little bit on Jordans and catching up. I wasn't a big Jordan fan growing up as far as the kicks. I didn't have to have them like a lot of people.
How many pairs of sneakers in your closet right now?
It's disheveled. It's awful. I probably have one Creative Rec shoe in one corner, and then I can't find the other shoe. That's one thing I really want to get in order, is my kicks. I've got two pairs of Jordans right now—low-top Is, and I have some black and white IXs that I just got not too long ago. Those are in a glass case as part of my Spurs shrine.
More generally, how would you described your personal style?
Right now, I'm feeling blazers and jackets. You can't go wrong with that. You can wear it and be casual if you're wearing it with jeans and just going to a dinner, or you can wear the same blazer and change it up with the shoes and the pants and hit the red carpet with it.
I like stuff from Zara actually, it fits really nice. It's like Italian cut type jackets, it's pretty affordable, and every now and then they'll have something in there that's pretty dope. I advise my fellow peers to not sleep on H&M as well. You can find some good stuff there for a good price.
How did you get involved with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?
Debra Zane, who is probably the biggest casting director on the planet—she’s Steven Spielberg’s casting director, she does all his movies, and much more, all the Ocean’s Eleven movies. I did a couple movies with her, Dream Girls and Jarhead. She called me in for Planet of the Apes. And it was weird, because I auditioned for a couple of parts, and there was no script available to me at the time. They were very secretive about it. So I’m doing these obscure lines, and she actually auditioned with me on tape, playing the other character just to make it more realistic. The thing with movies is, it takes so long—it took three weeks or a month to know that I actually got the part, and then another month before I could say anything. They were being insanely secretive about this. In fact, the first time I got to read the script, I had to do it supervised at Fox. It was nuts.
They watched you read it?
Well, they don’t sit there with you and watch. But somebody is in the next room, and they come check on you every half hour to make sure you’re not taking pictures of the script. But I understand, I heard James Cameron was the same way with Avatar—you couldn’t find out anything about that movie. He’s probably got two in the can right now that nobody knows about. It’s insane how they do.
Had you seen the previous Planet of the Apes movies? Were you a fan?
Dude, I was a huge fan of Planet of the Apes. I saw clips of the ones back in the day with Charlton Heston, but I love the Tim Burton one with Mark Wahlberg. And then, when I saw the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was the first one in this new installment they’re doing, that blew my mind. I saw the movie, loved the movie. I just forgot about the idea of a sequel. That movie was so good stand alone, that I forgot about a sequel, let alone that I’d be a part of it in any way. So when I auditioned, I was hoping and happy, and when I got the word that I’d be in it, I couldn’t believe it.
How would you compare this movie to the previous installments of Planet of the Apes?
I like the first one… I’m trying to figure out a way to say this without shitting on the first one [laughs]. But damn, [director] Matt Reeves took this to an entirely different level. When I saw the footage, I was like, This is crazy. It’s insane. I’m so excited. It’s like, fuck the part that I’m in it, I just want to see this movie.
Tell us about the role that you play in the film.
I play Werner. My character’s job is to try to make contact with the other humans. We’re one of the last surviving humans. I play opposite Gary Oldman, I’m one of his militia men, on the radio trying to make contact. That’s basically it, without giving any spoilers. It’s post apocalyptic, the apes are thriving and we’re not. There’s a virus spreading enabling them to become more intelligent and it’s literally killing us. So billions of humans have died, [the survivors] they start to live their life, but when we start to encroach on what is now the apes’ territory, some tension builds. That’s where you can tell, is the beginning of what will be a war.
What’s it like acting alongside a CGI ape?
By the time I came on, the actors who play the apes were so well-versed in what they had to do, so to see them running around and crawling around. It’s pretty amazing. What trips me out is how the director and the producers are able to visualize what’s going to go where and when you look over here, there’s an explosion there, that stuff always baffles me. It’s kind of creepy [laughs].
Do you ever stop and laugh, like, this dude is running around in an ape costume?
No, there’s almost no time to trip out on it, because you show up, you do your scene, you do a little rehearsal, and you talk about it with the director. You’ve got to stay focused. Especially with this director, he’s the most meticulous director I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve been working for 11 years with a lot of people. He’s so detailed down to the look, the head turn, the timing. You have to stay so focused and stay in character, there’s really no time to mess around. But I’ve got to give it to the actors playing the apes. I really feel that they should be nominated for awards, because now the technology is so great that any slight subtle movement in the face is captured and re-generated so that we can see it. In my opinion, not far down the line, if not this movie, we’ll start seeing some nominations for these actors.
You’re also on TNT’s new series The Last Ship. What’s been the reaction so far?
So far, people are loving it. My favorite series of tweets I saw were from the U.S. Navy, which is all about it. To have the support of the U.S. Navy is all we need. I don’t care how many episodes we get on the air or how long we last, to be stamped by the men and women who serve our country, it feels like we’re doing the right thing. Of course we’re a sci-fi show, but if they can get behind it, that’s really all we need.
You’ve appeared on a ton of different shows in big and small roles. Do any stand out for any particular reason?
I’ve got two. One in the past was my series Crash, where I played opposite Dennis Hopper. Dennis Hopper played this crazy music producer, on the level of Phil Spector. He would pull a gun or a knife out on you in a business meeting to get his point across. I played this kid who came from the ‘hood who was his limo driver, and he started to mold me as his protégé, to become a hip-hop artist and mogul. That was a great experience working opposite Dennis Hopper, I was the last actor to be able to work with him. We worked together for two years on that show, and he loved it. One of my favorite experiences with him was during the offseason—we shot in New Mexico—we were back in L.A. and one of the episodes was airing, and I was going to have a gathering, have people over to watch it, and I called him up to invite him, and I couldn’t even get the invitation out over the phone. He was like, “I’m there, man, I’m there!” I didn’t tell any of my friends or family that he was going to come. He drove up in a Pontiac G-6 with rims on it, 73 years old, got up and walked in the house and everybody was stunned. He sat on my couch and we just all watched this episode together. He had already seen the episode, he just wanted to hang out. The entire two years we were working together before the show ended, he was suffering from prostate cancer, and I never knew. He would have hospital visits every so often, and he was just a trooper, and he’d kill it on the show. That’s something I’ll never forget. Miss and love that dude.
Currently, I’m also working on another series called Masters of Sex. That’s dope. I can’t talk too much about what’s happening because it’s very spoiler-sensitive. But I do play a character that comes in and is dealing with some racial inequality and some overtones there. Shit hits the fan, it gets really good once I show up [laughs]. I come in about the fifth episode and I’m there for the rest of the season. This is one of the roles I’ve been most excited to play in my career, it’s really cool.
Was working with Hopper the most starstruck you’ve ever been?
Yeah. The funny thing about Hopper, too, is when I got the show, and flew to New Mexico, and we were going to shoot in a week, we didn’t have his character nailed down yet. The three or four names floating around were Harvey Keitel, Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper and Tom Sizemore. And I’m like, I will take any of these. That’s when I was like, What the hell is going on, there’s no way we can get these guys. When Hopper said yes, I was over the moon. I was a little nervous to meet him, but he was just so gracious and so nice. The first scene that I had to do with him, on a scale of 1 to 10, the energy was a 10. Another one is on Planet of the Apes, Gary Oldman. He’s just an actor’s actor. He’s Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight. I’m a big fan. And just to see him there and be side by side with him—just between those guys, I’m like, I’m good. I can hang up my acting card and go find something else to do now, I’m good [laughs].
What music are you listening to right now?
I don’t think we have a choice in America but to just at least have an appreciation for Drake. He’s on every station, every other song is his song or something he’s touched. Dude is insanely talented. A year and a half ago, maybe two years, I would tell people I couldn’t stand him. Some of my rapper friends told me to take a moment to appreciate what this guy does lyrically. I had one friend say he’s the realest rapper there is, because he talks only what he lives. I’ve grown to appreciate it, and right now he’s on top. To go from hating someone to really appreciating them, I think it says a lot about him and that he’ll have longevity. My favorite artist, personally—this person is really hot right now, but I’ve been a fan of this person for over a decade—is Pharrell. I don’t know what it is about his music, NERD, his band, it just hits me in the perfect spot every time. That funk, theose bass lines, his crazy energy. I’m so happy to see him experiencing having the biggest song on the planet, and to have huge singles like Blurred Lines and Happy. I’m happy that music is making a comeback, because he’s real music, he represents that. I also produce as well, and that’s the type of music I want to make. I’m inspired by him.