There is nothing more thrilling than getting the opportunity to interview a feature film star who can effortlessly tackle a comedic role and then dive right into drama without missing a beat. Jim Carrey is, by far, one of the most versatile and talented actors of our time… and now he has another incredible credit to add to his already impressive resume: children’s book author.
Carrey is the author of How Roland Rolls, a beautifully illustrated story about a wave named Roland who contemplates his own mortality. What might seem a heavy topic for kids, Carrey has found a way to make the concept understandable and comforting for kids and adults.
What’s even more exciting about the book is that Carey’s daughter Jane, a musician, singer and songwriter, collaborated with her dad, writing several songs for the How Roland Rolls ebook, which will be released this November.
We got the chance to speak with Carrey while he was on the set of the upcoming Dumb and Dumber To and he was as funny, friendly and inspiring as ever.
You’ve accomplished so much in your career and now you have a new first —children’s book author. How long has this been a dream of yours and what was the inspiration behind How Roland Rolls?
I’ve always loved relating to kids. I have one of those personalities that kids gravitate towards. I always think of myself as a man-child to a certain extent. This story came to me because I had a lot of these heavy thoughts when I was a kid. I had a lot of fears about mortality and where people were going because my mom was sick. I never really got those questions answered but I was always asking the questions. When I was growing up, there were two things going on when I was a kid. I wanted to make my mom feel better because she wasn’t feeling well a lot of the time. And my father was very funny and very childlike and really a wonderful man and I remember that moment where I looked up at him in the living room when he held court. And he was one of the funniest guys on the earth. Everyone would walk out of my house saying “Oh that Percy. He’s insane. He’s just wonderful”, and then I took over and we were like a tag team.
I was two people: I was entertaining people in the living room and trying to find out the meaning of life in my bedroom. And kids don’t get credit for having those thoughts —and they do. They really do wonder about creation, and so it was my way of relating to them on that level. And also, it’s not just for kids. I have certain beliefs about what we are, that there’s a larger self. That makes you feel a lot more secure than being a tiny individual fighting the universe.
With this book, you are collaborating with your daughter. When did you sense with Jane that she was incredibly talented, too?
Jane is very subtle. She is at the very end of the spectrum from me style-wise but she’s very much like me in many, many ways. As far as her style goes, I used to drive around in the car with her and I’d play this game where I’d try to come up with the harmonies for songs and I’d sing out loud and I was pretty out there and she would sing very, very quietly in the passenger seat and you could hardly hear her. And then one day I just realized, I heard her a little bit and I went, “Wow.” She was still a little kid and this was a very well formed kind of musical lick she was doing and I was going “Wow, she has actual moves, she’s an actual singer.” When she was in her early teens, she started writing these songs and they were so deep and so lyrically interesting and the finesse in her work and her songwriting, her melody writing is incredible. She’s an amazing talent and it makes me so proud because these things keep coming up from generation to generation.
How has art impacted your life these last few years?
My father’s talent is the thing I was infused with out of the gate and served the first 45 years of my life and then, suddenly, about six years ago, the art side of my talent took over and I became a painter and a sculptor. At some point, when I was in my art studio in New York and I was making a 12-foot painting, I was covered head to toe in paint and I was doing a movie at the same time. I was hardly sleeping because I was so driven to paint and create and I was covered in paint and somewhere in the middle of it I realized “Oh, my gosh. My mother is having her time with me now. It’s her turn.” So I got the best of both worlds, absolutely.
Right out of the starting gate, How Roland Rolls won the Gillett Burgess Award for excellence in children’s books. Tell us how you felt about that.
It’s such an honor. It’s been one of the great thrills of my life, this whole experience really. The greatest part about it is knowing that people are going to sit down at the end of the day with their kids to read a story is just a thrill beyond what I can tell you. And the kids will love the character and look at the ocean next time and go “There’s Roland.”
I had Jenny’s (McCarthy) little boy Evan, who I raised for five years as my own boy, and he read the story and he’s 11-years-old. And then a couple days later Jenny called me and said “Oh my gosh. The book has made such an impact with Evan.” And I asked why, and she said it was time for him to go to bed and he didn’t get something that he wanted and he was crying and he said, “Mom, you made Roland come out of my eyes.” So the idea that the next time after a kid reads about Roland, they might think of tears differently. It’s just unbelievable to me.
You are the master of expressions. How did you share your expressions with illustrator Rob Nason?
Well, we were on Skype a lot. I did the initial drawings and then every couple of days we’d get on Skype and I’d say, “He needs to have more expression and more joy.” It’s a thing I call “Boing.” People get confused when I say “boing.” Boing can be the Holy Spirit. Boing is the force. It’s enthusiasm. It’s that energy that makes you bigger than life and a geyser of joy. The only way to explain it to him was to show him the expression myself. It all comes from a feeling. Rob’s paintings are amazing. His images are cinematic. They are incredible and they are way beyond what I expected. I’m so proud of it. Now that the book has come out, all the kids are putting their funny faces up on the website and not only the kids, but the adults, too. That’s the fun part, too.
What did your grandson think of the book?
He loved it so much. I watched him have the moment that I had with my dad. When I was in the studio with Jane recording the songs. She was holding him on her lap and I was being Roland and I was singing the songs, which will all be on the ebook in November, and I saw him on her lap looking at me with the funniest look on his face like “Oh my gosh. Grandpa is crazy.” But I felt that moment. And sure enough a week and a half later, he heard “Keep on Rollin’” once and Jane suddenly heard him singing upstairs and he had his plastic guitar and he sang the whole song. We got it on videotape. He knew the whole song. And he had been bitten. It was wonderful.
What’s it like to be back filming the sequel to Dumb & Dumber?
We are having such a blast. It’s like a glove. It’s fantastic. It’s really fun to put the character on again. There’s no sense or meaning to it – it’s just love. It’s just fantastic. The Farrelly brothers are just the sweetest people ever. They are just very special guys and the combination is phenomenal. I’ve had such a great time. As soon as we sat down together and started writing again, it was just like after a day, we thought, “Oh man, we should just be doing it the whole time.”
What advice can you give to parents who want to help a talented child realize his or her dreams?
I guess you have to sit back and see what their passion is. That’s more important than anything. My father lost his job. He was an accountant. He was the comptroller of a company for a long time and he lost his job when he was 51 and never quite got back on track. But he was a sax clarinet player and he was a funny guy and he was a musician and singer. But that showed me that you can fail at anything. So you might as well go after what you love.
And all the education in the world is great. But you go to colleges a lot of time and the people who are the B students and C students are going to have brilliant businesses. And the A students are going to be working for them. Because they’re the ones who dream and they’re the ones who are thinking outside the box and it’s so funny how it works out that way. So obviously you want them to get the best education they can. But I went to the 9th grade and my dream was more important than the education. I educated myself along the way obviously. You can get a hell of an education through books and Apple documentaries. But you have to believe in your dream, you have to believe in your talents and find ways to make those serve people. That’s the key. Encouragement without guilt. The guilt is a destroyer. You don’t want to transfer your fears onto your kids. That’s what I would say most of all. “My gosh, you have an amazing talent. We love seeing you express yourself.” But be careful about saying, “If you don’t do this you’re not going to make it,” because then it becomes a pressure and it’s not love, it’s fear.
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