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Interview: Thomas Jane on 'Vice' and disliking technology

The actor talks about how his film speaks to how modern life forces us to both isolate ourselves from each other and create fake online selves.

Thomas Jane is known for playing studs, from the lead badass in “Deep Blue Sea” to the vigilante hero of “The Punisher” to the well-endowed lead of Showtime’s “Hung.” But he’s also a sci-fi guy. He’s been reading science-fiction since he was a kid, and even had a run of futuristic comics, “Bad Planet,” in 2005. He has “The Expanse,” a forthcoming SyFy show about cruising the galaxy, from “Children of Men” writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. But first there’s “Vice,” a “Westworld”-esque portrait of a future in which a resort allows patrons to indulge in any sin they like with androids — much to the dismay of a cop played by Jane.

“Vice” sends up what people get out of violent video games and takes it to the next level.

What it’s a reflection of — even more than violent video games — is of the distance you can place between yourself and other people through technology. Online you can take an assumed identity. You can be another person. And a lot of the time that person is not very nice. Your empathy level for other people can be drastically reduced, because they’re not really human beings; they’re just little 1s and 0s that are coming up on your screen. Kids are killing themselves over being bullied online. There’s a big rift between what it’s like to behave like a human being when the interface is electronic, which creates this barrier between you and the rest of the world. If you have a little bit of crazy in you, chances are you’re going to let that crazy out when no one’s looking, when you think nobody knows you are. You can do whatever the hell you want. This makes that into a wonderful analogy, by making technology into actual androids. It comments very succinctly on the modern world.

Do you have much experience with people online commenting on your work?

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I learned very early on not to look for any of that stuff. I ignore it all. I have never Googled myself. I highly recommend that strategy for anybody, whether you’re in a high profile entertainment world or not. It’s like if you could be invisible and walk into a room and hear what people are saying about you. You might be disappointed if they’re not saying anything at all. [Chuckles]

Some famous people do Google themselves, and even react to commenters.

It’s a very ego-driven business. Part of the problem is the world we live in. We’re isolated by electronics. And then our egos need to be stroked; we have this desire for fulfillment and recognition. That can create an imbalance. People may try to create equilibrium by seeking validation through Twitter, through Instagram and Facebook and all that crap. Everybody posts an idealized version of who they are. Then you’re depressed, you’re on medication, then the pharmaceutical companies are very happy. There’s a big machine that’s designed to keep you off-kilter. It doesn’t appear to be slowing down. There’s not a trend that’ moving away from all this garbage. Then the poor studios, they’ll make anything. They don’t give a f—. If people buy it they’ll make it. So don’t blame the studios for making these bulls— $150 million movies. It’s not their fault. It’s our fault because we keep f—ing going to this s—.

You have a young daughter. What is your way of handling how she deals with technology?

Every generation gets their own challenges. Technology is such that something comes along that becomes the method for a new generation’s way of sharing and expressing themselves. In the ’50s it was television, and there were all kinds of committees and parental meetings about how television was going to destroy the mind of the youth. They may have been right. As a parent, I feel I’m a guide. I’m not God. I’m not the law. I feel like you’ve got to let these kids find their own way through the maze of the modern world. It’s their maze. I already went through my maze when I was a kid.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
 
 
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