Doug Jones is an actor millions have seen, but most don’t realize it. He’s had starring roles in blockbuster movies like Hocus Pocus, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Hellboy, and Pan’s Labyrinth. He even played the lead role in 2017’s Oscar Winner for Best Picture, The Shape of Water. With more than 150 acting credits in his nearly 40 year career, he’s certainly in an elite group of actors.
Still, he can visit the local Starbucks and very few will ever recognize him. Jones’ secret to anonymity? He is best known for portraying non-human creatures that require heavy make-up and complex prosthetics, combined with some pretty amazing visual effects. He’s so good at his craft, that Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro considers him the go-to actor for creature roles in his projects.
And with the impressive resume’ that Jones has, he’s also proud to say that Kings Island is the place where it all started.
Jones was a mime performer during Kings Island’s 1982 season after graduating from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
“Whether you like what I've done in my career or not, you can either thank or blame Kings Island,” Jones joked in a recent interview for the Kings Island Blog. “I choose to thank them!”
He continued, “As a young recent college graduate, that summer season at Kings Island was such a gift to someone like me,” Jones reminisced. “An Indiana boy, who had a passion for entertaining, found his first gig right there in the heart of the Midwest, performing and getting paid for it, keeping the dream alive that he could one day make a full-time career out of show business.”
As a mime, Jones performed six days a week at the park, six times per day. He walked around International Street and the Royal Fountain performing 20 minutes each walk. Knowing that guests were likely concerned about their personal space while at the park, he developed a distinct style that veered away from traditional mime street performances.
“I would gather interest in crowd interaction by creating a scene for them to stop and watch. The easiest way was to stop in a high traffic area and freeze like a mannequin. I already looked like a street performer with my white mime face painted on and my very ‘mimey’ looking costume, so freezing still like a statue got people's interest to stop and see what I'd do,” he said.
When enough people had gathered, Jones would come alive as a robot, one limb at a time. Once he was moving, the laughter and photos started happening and they were warmed up for closer interactions.
“I would then wiggle out of the robotic state, become human, and get some applause,” he recalled. “Then I was able to do things mimes do, like pick invisible flowers to give a lady or build an invisible box around someone until I found a door or window to climb into the box with them.”
Jones’ performances that season were memorable. When visiting the park in 1982 as a child, I remember three things about that visit. First, I almost rode the park’s original suspended coaster, The Bat. (It went down for maintenance before my dad and I could ride it). Second, I ate at the Oktoberfest Bier Garten where I remember seeing the soon-to-be opened Viking Fury as it was being built. And finally, while we were waiting for a show to start in the International Showplace, a mime (Jones) appeared from behind a fence and caught the attention of the audience. His hands appeared on either side of his head, fingers moving like they were legs of an insect. The wiggling fingers appeared to move his smiling face from left to right, the entire length of the fence, delighting everyone in the audience.
But Jones’ favorite performance was always the final one of each day. He would take a detour over to the Saltwater Circus show (1972 – 1994), which featured ‘aquabatic’ dolphins Skipper and Dolly. Before the show began, he entertained the waiting crowd from the stage platform the dolphin trainers used. Being at the water’s edge, he would mime a fishing routine.
“With an invisible fishing rod, I went through the entire process of hooking bait, casting outward, waiting, waiting, waiting... then YANK as if I hooked a big one!”
The battle comedically ensued only for Jones to finally reel in a shoe that he acted like he’d lost. He put the shoe back on and skipped off the stage.
On his final day of that 1982 season, the fishing routine ended a little differently. “I did a little naughty and let the yanking battle finally win... and I went head first into the pool! Sopping wet, make-up running, and the crowd howling, I finally got to, sort of, swim with the dolphins.”
And while that send-off was an incredible finale to his time at Kings Island, it was just the beginning of a career acting in some of the most interesting and challenging roles Hollywood has had to offer. Today you can see Jones play Lt. Saru on the CBS ALL ACCESS streaming tv series, Star Trek: Discovery.
Jones is not the only Film and TV star who has worked at Kings Island. Other celebrities who have spent time working at the amusement park include Woody Harrelson (Cheers, Star Wars), Vicki Lewis (News Radio, How I Met Your Mother), Gigi Rice (Harry and the Hendersons, The John Laroquette Show), Lisa Akey (Diagnosis Murder, Frasier) and Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket, Roots). And we can’t forget to mention that rising pop star Michael Williams was discovered in 2020’s Season 18 of NBC’s The Voice. So, the next time you’re watching one of the live shows at Kings Island, keep in mind that you might just be watching a rising Hollywood star.
Do you remember the mimes that performed in the park during the 1980s? Share your memories in the comments below!
PHOTO CREDIT: Doug Jones as Lt. Saru on CBS’s “Star Trek: Discovery” | CBS
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