Thomas Hobson stars as James “Doc” McCune in the period horror film Ghosts of the Ozarks. And thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas was able to tap into his real emotions to really understand Doc.
Synopsis: In post-Civil War Arkansas, a young doctor is mysteriously summoned to a remote town in the Ozarks only to discover that the utopian paradise is filled with secrets and surrounded by a menacing, supernatural presence.
Ghosts of the Ozarks stars Thomas Hobson, Phil Morris, Tara Perry, Tim Blake Nelson, Angela Bettis, and David Arquette.
Check out my interview with Thomas!
What attracted you to Ghosts of the Ozarks?
Thomas Hobson: There were so many things that attracted me to Ghosts of the Ozarks. I think in terms of being an actor, I had just never seen a character like Doc before and definitely no one ever offered me a character like Doc to me before. I had to be actively involved in this world. And I remember at one point saying, like, ‘you know, listen, I know how the business works, and maybe it won’t be me,’ but then I was like, ‘I don’t want it to be anybody else. So, it’s kind of got to work out.’ The arc of him as a character is just so compelling to me. We filmed this movie at the top of the pandemic and like most people, I was kind of in a very fragile place mentally, just trying to navigate this strange new world and there was, you know, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Black Lives Matter and all of these different things going on. And it just seemed like within James, I could process some of the things that I was feeling, as Thomas, in 2020. That was really what drew me to him. How do you play a person who’s that broken when you meet him and has to kind of climb out of that? Because I’d like to know because I need to do it in my real life right now.
How did you prepare to play him?
Thomas Hobson: I didn’t do anything special in terms of preparation. Honestly, I showed up to set and I basically said to Tara (Perry), Jordan (Wayne Long) and Matt (Glass) that, ‘I’ve been working on this character for a while with you guys. I think I know who he is. Let me tell you what the last couple of months have been like for me: We’re in a pandemic and all of my ducks went away because the industry shut down and I have a mortgage and I didn’t quite know what the next move was. And I went to my parents house and just hid there for three months and I really just left their house to film this movie and I’m terrified to be out in the world because I’m a bit of a hypochondriac and scared of this virus, but I couldn’t turn down this movie. And I realized that those thoughts I was having, that uncertainty about my place and what I’m supposed to be doing, that is what Doc is feeling and I would like to just start there.’ And they were like,’ yeah his confidence is gone.’ This man is in such a low valley in his life, that he’s leaving the North, where he’s always been free, to come to a small town in Arkansas, where he only recently would have been free. It’s not the same thing, but the motivations behind it were very similar. And once I connected with those things, I was like, ‘Okay, great. I know exactly how to become him because I feel I feel very similar to him in real life.
Where was this filmed?
Thomas Hobson: We filmed in Trumann, Arkansas. I think it’s about an hour and some change from Memphis. We stayed in Jonesboro, Arkansas, just up the road. So yeah, I flew out and got tested and then entered into the bubble. And then for a month and a half, my entire world was my castmates and the crew members. We had our own floor of the hotel and not even the hotel staff could get onto the hotel floor. I opted to stay with Tara and her family because they live in Jonesboro, and so I could just have some family near me while I was filming this. So yeah, it was kind of a weird, like film bootcamp in a pandemic, you know? We didn’t venture out into the world because the world was scary and we had to finish the movie and we wanted everybody to be healthy and safe.
What do you hope people take away from watching this movie?
Thomas Hobson: What I hope people take away, at least from James, is that sometimes life hands you lemons, you try to make lemonade out of those lemons and it’s not right. But sometimes, I think, we get so excited about just the idea of not being in the darkness, that we hold on to things that we shouldn’t. And for me, James is really an example of how when you’re turning your life around, the road isn’t always smooth, and you have to keep knowing what’s right. Because sometimes what feels good is not what’s right. And I think that’s really the space James finds himself in, especially as the movie goes on and he starts to realize maybe this utopia is not what he thinks it is. Do I buy into it just so that I can hold on to the good feeling or do I do what’s right? Which may mean undoing the mystery and mystique of the town. I think that’s really the lesson for me. I’m not willing to be happy at the expense of others. I want everybody to be happy and I want to make sure that any opportunity that comes my way, that it causes no harm to me or to others.
Do you have any good memories from filming?
Thomas Hobson: Oh, there’s so many. I mean, we just made such a great community for ourselves. It’s amazing, let me tell you. There were like two or three times during that month and a half where I was like, ‘I need to go to Target.’ And they were like, ‘well, we could send someone,’ and I was like, ‘Oh no, just please, can someone take me? I’ll put on two masks.’ I just wanted to go to Target and buy my own toiletries and some snacks to keep in my room and you start to really realize how such a mundane thing becomes so special. There was one Saturday, after a particularly grueling week, where we all gathered around the pool because it was outdoors and we could social distance with each other, and I was like, ‘these are my people. We’re making the movie together in a pandemic, we will have stories and memories that no one else will have of what it took to make the beautiful thing that we’re making.’ I will remember forever the first time Jordan walked me through the set of the town that they had built from scratch, you know, all of those really wonderful, wonderful things. And I’ll tell you, I’m friends with pretty much everyone who worked on the movie. We are such good buddies. From the hair and makeup team to the costume department, the sound guys, I just talked to one of the sound guys, we were DMing back and forth today on social media. We had a great little family.
Is there anything you would like to add about Ghosts of the Ozarks?
Thomas Hobson: Thank you for watching it. I hope you really really enjoy it. A lot of love went into it, which is weird to say about a genre horror film, but it’s true. There’s a lot of love that went into it. And I’m just really beyond excited for people to get to see it. It feels like, you know, when you’re taking your baby out to meet your family for the first time, like, please be gentle and kind because there was a lot of love that went into this.