Brian O’Halloran Joins Cast of Clerks at Fan Expo, and He’s Definitely Supposed to Be Here Today (Interview)
This October will mark 28 years since Kevin Smith’s directorial debut Clerks hit theaters. In addition to Jay and Silent Bob, the world was introduced to Dante and Randal – the titular clerks – who returned for a sequel in 2006, and now a highly anticipated third film later this Fall.
To celebrate the release of Clerks III, the cast has been reunited for several events around the country – one of which is Fan Expo St. Louis this weekend (May 13-15).
Brian O’Halloran, who plays Dante, arrived in town just days after a 25th anniversary celebration of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, NJ – the comic book store owned by Smith.
“It was a blast, and non-stop for a while,” says O’Halloran. “God love them, especially on Saturday… It was raining and at some points, it was raining at a good clip. And fans still waited outside for their sessions to come into the store and meet us, and do the photos.”
After the meet and greets, Q&As took place with the cast, including Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson, and Trevor Fehrman in addition to Smith and O’Halloran.
“I’ve done a few of these kind of things with Kevin in the store over the years, but this was definitely the biggest celebration of the store,” he said.
This weekend the group of five with be at Fan Expo celebrating all things Clerks, in a rare opportunity to see them all in the same place (other than the big screen). O’Halloran says it’s been nice getting back together with his longtime friends on the road.
“Especially this year, with Jeff Anderson coming out to these Fan Expo shows with Trevor, and Jay and Kevin. It’s been fun being on the road with these guys doing these shows from city to city,” says O’Halloran. “The fans are obviously trying to get information about Clerks III that’s coming out in the fall. So I can’t wait for that to happen so that I can actually give them the answers they want to hear.”
It had been almost 15 years since they were all on-set together for Clerks II, but that film didn’t take place primarily at the Quick Stop – the location that they will be returning to for the new film.
“This time, the majority of the film is at the store – at that location inside, outside, on the roof… so it was really great being back there. And nothing really nothing has changed with the store itself. Just a few shelves to be moved here and there,” the actor said. “When fans go to visit the real Quick Stop in Leonardo, New Jersey, they are first taken aback at how small the place was and, ‘How could you actually shoot a film in such a small place?’ But secondly, that it hasn’t really changed. So when we went back to start filming there, the same family still owns it -The Topper family… So seeing them again, it was just really nice, you know, 15 years later. And this time really get into the store again. And having a significant amount of time with a full crew.”
Things were more complicated this time around due to COVID protocols, but thankfully things kept moving right along.
“Thankfully, nobody tested positive. It was really a smaller crew than you would normally have for the film in general. But also it was smaller in the sense that it made it feel more like the same kind of camp – because they didn’t want you mingling with people outside of filming,” says O’Halloran. “Being there was great. It’s really fun, especially when the locals knew that we were coming in to film, they got a real kick out of it. Seeing them waiting on the street corner outside, across the street from the store itself, just for us to say hello and stuff like that. It was really encouraging to see them every day.”
When asked if he gets noticed on a regular basis for having played this iconic role for all these years, he says it happens but not in an overwhelming way.
“You know, I’m very fortunate in the sense that people do – when they know, or kind of figure out who I am – they’ll come up to me. It doesn’t happen quite as often as what people think. It’s not like I live in New York City and I’m constantly doing things that people recognize what I’m doing… But for the times like this, obviously at a convention, it’s very nice to meet all these fans. Day to day life, it may happen once a week,” he says.
It also depends on whether or not Smith has a new project that reenergizes the fanbase.
“If Kevin has made another movie, and people start watching the previous movies, they will remember me from those. But I like it. It’s fun, and always nice to be remembered rather than being forgotten. It’s always good to know that people really still appreciate what you’ve done over the years.”
O’Halloran was an actor doing plays when he heard about the audition for Clerks, and almost didn’t make it due to an oversight.
“I’d been doing acting probably about three years when Kevin held auditions at the First Avenue Playhouse, which is still in operation on First Avenue in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. And I had done plays there, like Dracula and Charlotte’s Web, and The Dresser… The owner of the theater put out a call to all the actors that theater, and I was one of the people he had called. And this is a month prior to the auditions just saying, ‘Hey, next month these young guys are doing a movie in town and they’re looking to hold auditions. And you look to be in the age range of people they’re looking for,'” says O’Halloran.
And he was working at another theater at the time, so it was out of mind.
“The month had gone by, and Sunday I forgot that to go to that night. So the next Monday morning, I got a phone call at home from Joe Bagnole, the gentleman who was the owner at the time, and who still is, who said, ‘Hey, I thought you were going to come down for the auditions.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God, was that last night?’ He goes, ‘Yeah.'”
Luckily, there was another audition the following day.
“So I put together a monologue, and a headshot and resume, and went down there that night. I auditioned thinking I was auditioning as an extra, and he liked what I did and had me call back. And I met him at I believe it was the Leonardo Recreational Center. And I auditioned one-on-one opposite Kevin right there doing the independent contractor scene – the Star Wars Death Star conversation. He asked me if I enjoyed what I read, and he liked what I did. I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he offered me the role.”
Most of the cast and crew had day jobs at the time – including Smith, who worked at the actual Quick Stop during the day where they filmed. So shoots took place overnight. It was on their next film, Mallrats, where filming took a noticable change.
“That was the big leap from two different worlds,” he said. “Here it was where we filmed with one camera in black and white, 16 millimeter in the middle of the night during time in between our real jobs. While this was, ‘We’re flying you out to Minnesota, Universal Studios… With a budget, multiple cameras, and you know, we took over a brand new mall – the Eden Prairie Mall in Minnetonka, Minnesota.”
During the shoot, they turned some storefronts into fake stores, and others were used for dressing rooms, cameras, hair and make-up departments. O’Halloran worked for 11 days on the film as Gill Hicks – a relative of Dante’s. It was an experience he’ll never forget.
“I remember just being next to Kevin, or Dave Klein, or even Scott Mosier, and saying like, ‘Can you believe, here it was just a year and a half or two years ago, inside the tiny Quick Stop, and now we’ve taken over an entire mall?’ And working with people like Shannen Doherty and Ben Affleck at the time… getting to work with these people was really, really great. And those are those are memories I truly cherish.”
The actor would go on to play several characters related to Dante over the years in Smith’s films, which he said wasn’t originally planned but he would gladly be a part of what is now referred to as the “View Askewniverse.”
“I was more than happy to go along with that running kind of theme or joke, if you want to say,” he says. “That’s why back in 2019, when we did Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, I had asked him, ‘Do you mind if we put in a couple of different ones in this?’ And he went along with that as well.”
As for whether or not we get a Mallrats II – an idea Smith has floated around for years – it all depends on the success of Clerks III.
“He discussed that this past weekend at the 25th Anniversary Bash, where Universal is still in play of making it,” said O’Halloran. “And if they want to go the route of episodic for TV, we can go that route as well. But they’re all hedging to see what happens with Clerks III… We’d love to see people go to theaters, bring people – I joke, be altruistic and gift people movie tickets and take them along with you, or find some people out on the street and bring them out there and just say, come and see this movie! Because the box office will still dictate where we go from here. Does it then greenlight projects like Mallrats II? Or perhaps even a revival of the cartoon series, which we would love to do again.”
Guests at conventions like Fan Expo have asked him to sign all sorts of stuff, from old VHS and Laserdiscs to toys and custom Funko Pops.
“A lot of people have been making custom Funko pops, because Funko doesn’t have a Dante and Randal pop as of yet. People have been getting anxious and making their own… So I’ve had those come in and for me to sign, and people make their own artwork of the characters and I’ll sign those,” he says.
O’Halloran released a new project during lockdown that he is excited for people to see, with a couple more in the pipeline.
“There was a film called, Right Before Your Eyes, about a guy struggling with alcoholism and his good friend trying to help him through that. That came out like two years ago and really went well, especially with the recovery community. So I’m proud of that one,” he says. “I have two other projects that I’m in talks with right now. Hopefully we can start shooting by the end of this year, or beginning of next. Once I have the confirmation of that, I’ll let people know. If people want to find out what I’m up to, they can always find me on Twitter and Instagram @BrianCOHalloran – or on Facebook.”
Meet Brian O’Halloran and the cast of Clerks at Fan Expo St. Louis, May 13-15. For tickets and more information, visit fanexpohq.com.