Although he hated Birdman, one movie Howard loved was last year's 'Whiplash'. He was so blown away by J.K. Simmons that in his mind, J.K. Simmons has already won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this year.
J.K. stopped by the studio this morning and sat down with Howard to tell him how he he got to this incredible career height.
The slow climb of J.K. Simmons:
Like many actors, J. K. got his start in the Theatre. He moved to New York and lived like many a starving actor, broke and in shitty apartments.
At one particular financial low-point, J.K. spent his last $6 on a slice of pizza and beer. He was 'whining' to his friend, fellow actor Gregg Edelman, about his life and situation. The next morning, he went to check his answering machine and Gregg had left $40 tucked under his phone. There's someone else for J.K. to thank during his Oscar acceptance speech (along with his wife and, of course, Howard).
But J.K.'s early career wasn't all bleak. He started getting some Broadway shows and he met his wife in the early nineties were both in Peter Pan.
Still, J.K. started losing his mind doing plays and musicals eight times per week, so he was looking for the chance to do a movie or a TV show - he found a TV show, and that show was the ground-breaking prison drama Oz.
Thankfully, J.K. got to really work out his art onstage, so when he hit the screen (and most people first saw him), he was a great actor.
He played the terrifying leader of the Aryan Nation prison gang and was so convincing in the role that some people thought he was a neo-Nazi in real life. He was afraid of being type cast as an insane bigot, so there was some reluctance to take the part.
But he blew everyone away. He even did nude scenes (like almost ever cast member of Oz). During season one, as he watched himself naked in the hole, he realized he had to lose some weight in order to convincingly portray the Aryan leader of the prison. So, he got himself into shape and stayed that way.
Once in a while, a certain type of guy would approach J.K. on the street and say something like 'Right on man! I dig what you're saying! WHITE POWER!'
J.K. continued to work steadily after Oz – doing voice work as the yellow M&M, playing J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider Man franchise – but when he got the script for Whiplash, he knew it would be an amazing movie and real high point for him, artistically.
They shot the movie quickly and J.K. is really proud of it. It's the only thing he's done that he can still watch from beginning to end.
So check out Whiplash and root for J.K. to win best supporting actor. The man deserves it.