Actor and lawyer Keith Evell talks about his role in Clifford The Big Red Dog as well as Clifford’s impact on viewers.
When middle-schooler Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) meets a magical animal rescuer (John Cleese) who gifts her a little, red puppy, she never anticipated waking up to find a giant ten-foot hound in her small New York City apartment. While her single mom (Sienna Guillory) is away for business, Emily and her fun but impulsive uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall) set out on an adventure that will keep you on the edge-of-your-seat as our heroes take a bite out of the Big Apple. Based on the beloved Scholastic book character, Clifford will teach the world how to love big!
The Knockturnal: First off I just want to say congratulations on the film! This is super exciting, who is your character and what do you like or dislike about your character?
Keith Evell: I don’t dislike anything about him, I play a gentleman by the name of Mr. Jarvis and my wife Mrs. Jarvis -we go by Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis in the film that’s what everyone refers to us as, and we own a law firm in the neighborhood next to Emily Elizabeth and her mom. I’m actually a lawyer in real life and so is Bear who plays Mrs. Jarvis. We’re actors but we’re also real attorneys and this is the first time in my career that I’ve ever gotten to play an attorney so that’s been a blessing as well. We’ve been able to incorporate legal knowledge into the film including real statues and whatnot that weren’t necessarily there at the beginning that we put into the script. I try not to fall in love with the character that I’m playing because you have to be objective in the story and that’s all it’s about, but this guy, me, as Mr. Jarvis, I love my wife more than anything, I love my community, and I love the law and I’m really just a stand up type of guy.
The Knockturnal: Who is Clifford to you what does he represent?
Keith Evell: Everything and more importantly Emily Elizabeth does because we’re all about the community we’ve got to watch this little girl grow up into this amazing girl so she loves Clifford, so then I love Clifford, and my wife loves Clifford because he’s that community dog that everyone loves.
The Knockturnal: So many people, kids, and even adults gravitate towards Clifford. Why do you think that is? What does he remind people of?
Keith Evell: People love dogs, people are crazy about dogs and when you see a dog of this size there’s just more to love and just the spectacle of it is another thing that I love about the script. It’s so imaginative I think that’s why this book has been so successful throughout generations its because people love dogs and the idea of a dog that’s 10 feet tall is just more to love and he is just a lovely dog. He’s the best attributes of every dog in one plus the color.
The Knockturnal: You’re working with special effects so how is that? Is it more challenging?
Keith Evell: Absolutely. For me at least. I have to do a lot of homework prior to getting on set because I knew I’d have to imagine a dog that’s 10 feet tall and I don’t know if you’ve seen the representation of Clifford but you really just have to believe. That’s what we do we play pretend and we imagine a 10 foot red dog its been fun and really great!
The Knockturnal: Do you have a certain process to master your role with the special effects?
Keith Evell: Yeah its the way I do all the work. It’s very simplistic sounding, I just sit and I imagine the circumstances in my life and the more that I imagine them, the more real it becomes to me. I spend a lot of time just imagining and when I get there on the day I’m just playing pretend so it is no different from being a child in your backyard.
The Knockturnal: Who do you look up to as an actor?
Keith Evell: So many people Meryl Streep, I love Sir Anthony Hopkins, Denzel of course, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and some old school ones too and right now who I’m really loving is Cate Blanchett, Mark Tipperary, Shalande Woodly. She did this movie called The Drift that’s just fantastic.
The Knockturnal: Last question, without giving anything away what’s your favorite part of dialogue? Do you have a favorite part?
Keith Evell: I like everything that I say, all my stuff is with my wife and we have an amazing relationship, very loving relationship so probably just those moments with her and I think its gonna be a cool thing to see this lovely black couple together.