His is a face you've seen, a voice you've heard.

There is little chance you haven't experienced Dameon Clarke's work, but depending on which work you know, the impact varies. From commercial voiceovers to making the rounds on the "CSI" and "NCIS" franchises, then there are some longer arcs; He was T-Bag's boss on "Prison Break," the FBI Assistant Directer on "Graceland" and Jack Bauer used his mercenary as a human shield.

And then you get to the big ones, the characters and performances that still trigger emotions: Playing rugaru Jack Montgomery in a "Supernatural" episode with both on- and off-screen importance, the tragically corrupted of Younger Toguro in "Yu Yu Hakusho," the arrogant of Cell in "Dragon Ball Z" and, of course, the bombastic smartass that is Handsome Jack.

Clarke will be a guest at Sci-Fi Valley Con June 9-11 at the Blair County Convention Center. The Swerve spoke with Clarke about some of his notable roles, approach to procedurals and his penchant for villainy.


The Swerve Magazine: What led you to audition for Handsome Jack?


Dameon Clarke: I was in the studio recording a
cartoon, and I met the Borderlands producers, the Gearbox guys. They asked me to do a couple of the characters in the game, and all of the sudden they said, “You know what, would you mind trying out for the lead villain in the game, Handsome Jack? It's been cast, but it's not working out, so we're going to have to recast.” I auditioned for it, and the rest is history.


SM: That character was so wild, and it seems like there would be some great opportunity to play with his lines. What were the recording sessions like?


DC: They were pretty crazy. When you do the voice, and then they draw the character around the voice, it leaves you a lot more freedom to improv and take liberties with timing. It was very freeing, very liberating, pretty fast and loose.


SM: Did it surprise you that the character caught on so much as to lead to sequels expanding his story?


DC: Yeah, I figured that character would be long gone by that point. (laughs) It was a really nice spot. I think we definitely stopped at just the right time, you know, leave people wanting more as opposed to the last guy to leave. I think “Pre-Sequel” was great, and “Tales from the Borderlands” was great, and now we're moving onto other projects and looking ahead.


SM: You have done quite a few voice over roles in addition to regular on-screen work. What do you enjoy about doing voice over work?


DC: It's just part of being a performer. The more things you can do, the better. It's like doing theater, or doing voice overs or doing live action; each of their own thing to offer. Obviously, voice overs are their own thing, whether or not you're doing a commercial for Ford, which may not be the most artistically-rewarding thing in the world, but it helps you sustain your life and your job, or doing a cartoon or a video game or doing anime, all of those parts of the voice over world are different, but they're all challenging. Doing radio spots are challenging belive it or not, so it gives you a lot more things to work at and get better at. It allows you to be more creative at the end of the day, really.


SM: I'd also like to talk a bit about a film you made a few years ago, “How to be a Serial Killer.” That was such a fun, original film. What was it like to not just star, but take on a role where the whole film revolves around you?


DC: When I first got the audition for it, I didn't really think I had
that much ahead of me. “Great, we'd like to work with you.” I was a bit freaked out. A lot of research went into it; I was often going up to Pismo Beach here in California, just studying serial killers on the beach. It was a lot of work, but it was really rewarding. It was the biggest thing I'd done up until that point. One of the most fun things I've ever done in my entire life.


SM: You have played quite a few villains over the years. Are these roles you like to pursue?


DC: I think you start doing things, and you become known for them, and that's a term called pigeon-holing. When Christian Bale did “American Psycho,” he apparently had nothing but psycho killer scripts coming across his desk, and he said, “No, I've already done that. I'll be moving onto other things, thank you very much.”

When you're dealing with TV and film on this level, and people start to see you do it, and if you're really good at it, and you're bringing things to the table no one else is as a villain, casting directors and producers say, “Well yeah, you're good at that, so come in and do another one.” You have to make that conscious effort to say, “You know what, no, I've done enough of that at this time, so I'm going to move on to other characters that I find equally as challenging that aren't in that vein.”


If you're good at something, people are going to want to hire you for that. I do like playing villains, so it's kind of a no-brainer, but I do have to be vigilant in the roles that I take, or else I'm just going to be that guy.


SM: Another role where you carried a lot of the narrative was when you played the rugaru in “Supernatural.” How was it filming that episode?


DC: I was a bit of a fan of the show, so it was a real treat to get to work on it. It wasn't daunting or anything. The character was challenging, but I had a lot of fun working on it. I grew up in Vancouver, which is where we filmed it, so the whole thing was just a really great experience.


I loved working with those two dudes, and it was also a chance to work with the director, Kim Manners. It was the last thing he ever ended up working on. It was a real honor to be able to work with him and be a part of his swan song episode. We all miss him a lot, so it was an honor to work with him.


It was an amazing experience. They had me on cables, shooting me up the sides of buildings. I don't think they used that shot because it didn't work out so great, but it awesome, and I loved working on it.


SM: Then on the flip side, you played the FBI director on “Graceland,” and you had an arc on “How to Get Away with Murder.”


DC: If I'm not killing someone, I'm trying to figure out who killed them.


SM: When you take on these one-off or recurring parts on established shows, what is it like coming into a cast for those parts?


DC: When you're doing procedurals, it's not that crazy. There is a certain way of working within that structure for sure. You get one; maybe two takes of something. You have to know that your character is there to drive either that scene or that act or that episode. It's almost pretty formula in that sense. It's not going to be the most artistic thing that you usually do; sometimes, but it's rare.


It does take a little while to get to that point where you're comfortable within that structure. Like you said, working with the cast, and knowing how you fit in, what your character is supposed to do, and how to conduct yourself. You'll get actors who will go onto procedurals, and they're like, “This is my big moment,” and it's not your big moment. You're there to set up the scene, or you're there to drive something specific. It's not about you or you shining or you stealing the scene because you can't really do that.


SM: As you said, you're just part of the machine in those parts, what are roles that were especially challenging or rewarding for you?


DC: “Serial Killer” for sure, “Supernatural” as well, They're really intense. There's a lot of work that went into that. A lot of rehearsals, a lot of research; I was watching old Lon Chaney werewolf movies. Live action wise, “24” was pretty challenging physically and mentally.


Dealing with voice, the bigger, more dramatic and convoluted, usually the more difficult it can be. Handsome Jack, as fun as it was, it was a lot of work.


SM: We are talking in advance of Sci-Fi Valley Con. What do you enjoy about doing conventions?


DC: It kind of reminds us that there are people out there who are getting something out of what we're doing, which is very rewarding. Sometimes you feel like you're just doing it for yourself. Of course, this is my job, and I'm going out there and making a living, but you don't have that direct contact with people.


Sometimes you get people who say you've changed their life. I've had people that told me—I mean this is dramatic as hell—that I've saved their life. This guy came up to me, “On this day, I was going to go out riding with some of my boys. I was 16 and part of a gang, and I thought, ' You know, fuck it, I'm going to sit back and watch Dragon Ball Z Cell Saga. Those guys ended up getting shot up in the car, and they're all dead now. That turned my life around, and I'm in school now.” I'm like, “Oh wow.”


Dramatic example obviously, but you have people like that who say you touched their lives in some way, and that just means a whole hell of a lot. It makes you feel like you're not just doing it for your own edification, and it reminds you that there are other people out there that appreciate what we do. It's not just about you; it's a bigger thing. And they're just a lot of fun; I love conventions.