Interview with John Waters

When it came to finding a big name to play the Groom Reaper on the Court TV series ‘Til Death Do Us Part, it’s easy to imagine the cable channel’s execs deciding that if they couldn’t get John Waters, then maybe they didn’t have a show. ‘Til Death, you see, is a show about married people who kill each other — with stories pulled from real-life cases. Who else but Waters could make the morbid scenario seem like a party?

"It’s a good question," Waters said over tea in his suite at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. "Who else could they get? I don’t know. I’m starting to take it personally because I was recently cast as the undertaker on My Name Is Earl, too. Am I looking like Lon Chaney? I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t get Botox or a face-lift." Yes, it is a good thing, because this show sounds like fun. What exactly do you do as the Groom Reaper?
John Waters: Every week, the show opens with a wedding or reception, and the Groom Reaper is there. He’s a time traveler who knows they’re going to murder each other, and I confide in the audience my feelings about it.

AE: And what are your feelings?
JW: I’m basically a snob. I look down on people that are getting married. I know gay people want to get married. Why? The whole wedding experience is such a terrible, corny, hetero tradition. First of all, they all have hangovers at the wedding because they got drunk at the rehearsal dinner. The parents don’t get along. They’re mad because all the girls had to spend money on a dress they would never wear again. The boys went out and got blown by hookers the night before, and the girls went to the male strip clubs and vomited.

So they get married, and the dresses are hideous. And you can’t have fun with your friends in front of your parents. And there’s liquor involved, so you’re dead drunk when you leave. So the wedding night, you’re going to have a tough time performance-wise. You’re puking, and you can’t get it up. Then you have to go to some foreign country where you can be robbed. The whole thing is a very, very terrible situation.

AE: Do you feature any gay weddings on the show?
JW: Not yet. If it was a gay wedding, it would have to take place in Massachusetts as it’s the only legal place. Plus, we don’t do famous couples, and the first gay couple — where one spouse kills the other — will be famous, so we have to wait till the eighth or ninth one when people don’t care anymore.

AE: That’s when we’ll know we’ve arrived. Are you a fan of true crime in general? Did you follow the O.J. trial religiously?
JW: I watched, but I wasn’t obsessed. The Johnny Walker Lynd trial was more for me.

AE: What trial would you have liked to have been a juror on?
JW: I’d never want to be a juror. I’m too much of a wimp. I can’t be responsible for somebody being thrown in jail. I’m not saying people shouldn’t go to jail, but I can’t be the one to send them there. I’ll pay taxes, but I can’t do that job. I don’t think I’d be fair to have on a jury. You’d see 11 angry men … and me.

AE: Do you have much say in the writing of the show or do you just show up and say your lines?
JW: I show up, basically. If I have problems with a line, I think I could discuss it with them, but I like the lines. A lot of people have said, "Did you write that?" which I think is a compliment because it means the lines sound like something I would say. I show up, get in the outfit, and wait in a trailer all day. I have new respect for actors that have to do that. But I had fun.

AE: Star Jones is back on Court TV.
JW: We haven’t met.

AE: Maybe you can hang out at the Christmas party or the company picnic.
JW: Maybe. Nancy Grace is the one I’m afraid of. We won’t agree. I believe in rehabilitation of criminals, and she doesn’t a lot. Does she think anyone should get out? If you get a parking ticket, you should get the death penalty? I always joke that Court TV has Star Jones, Nancy Grace and me — that should be enough to scare any criminal straight.

AE: I went to Provincetown for the first time this year. I got out of the taxi on the first day and almost walked right into you on your bike. So I just want to apologize for that.
JW: At Provincetown, you see everyone in one minute. I love it there. I’m going back this summer. I’ve written half my movies there. It’s a great place to write. And there are a few murders there, a few.

AE: If people they watch this show, will they want to kill their spouse just to get on it?
JW: No, because they all get caught on our show. But you get 15 to life, which isn’t so bad. Fifteen years for killing your wife. That’s almost worth it … if you had to pay alimony for the rest of your life. It depends, really.

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