Three Great Things: Joe Lo Truglio

The actor-comedian turned writer-director, whose debut feature Outpost is out now, extols the virtues of horror movies, hiking and naps.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the release in theaters and on demand of Joe Lo Truglio’s horror-thriller, Outpost, starring Beth Dover, Dylan Baker, Eto Essandoh and Dallas Roberts, the comedian and actor turned writer-director shared some of the things he’s most passionate about. — N.D.

Horror Movies
I feel like I should start with horror movies and the feeling when you see a horror movie – or a moment in a horror movie – that affects you and stays with you for a long time. Horror movies are great because, like roller coasters (which I also love), you can sometimes feel like you’re out of control, but you know you’re not. You can feel like you’re facing death, but you know you’re not.

One of my favorite horror movies is The Brood by David Cronenberg. For those not familiar with the movie, it’s about these little rage creatures, and one of the reasons I love it is the first visual of them. There’s a scene where one grabs the staircase with its bloody hands, and that image and that face stayed with me throughout my childhood and would appear in dreams. I would imagine them when I was in my daily life and think, What if it just peeked around that grocery aisle? I know that doesn’t sound great, but what it was doing was opening up my imagination. It was just a wonderful opportunity to say, “Wow, this is otherworldly, and yet I’m OK.”

I remember when Jaws came out, I wanted to see it, but of course I couldn’t because I was only five. When my parents went to see it, they left me with a babysitter. I said, “Can I come with you? I really want to go see this movie!” I’ll never forget my mother’s response. She said, “No, Joseph. It’s a movie about something that eats people.” She didn’t even say “shark.” That idea really shook me and was, of course, very scary, but it also began my quest to look at things that scare me, and how I could get that out on paper, or on film.

Horror movies were very therapeutic in helping me cope with some of the challenges of life. My new movie, Outpost, covers a lot of those issues, especially PTSD and mental health. If you’re overwhelmed with an emotional or psychological problem, it can damage not only you, but also others around you, if you don’t seek help. Watching horror movies has also always been a way of reminding me I could look at the ugly parts of humanity, and of myself, and try to figure out what exactly was pushing my buttons.

Horror was my first passion, long before comedy, so it makes perfect sense that my first movie is a horror movie.

I love the outdoors, and specifically hiking up mountains and on trails I don’t know. Again, I’m touching on the unfamiliar and the fearsome, but I also find such a sense of peace and clarity in nature. When you’re on a trail that turns into something you’re not expecting, it’s a thrilling feeling.

A couple of buddies of mine and I recently went up Mount Baldy here in California. We didn’t plan on going to the summit, we were just going to climb a little bit. But then we thought, “Why don’t we go a little bit farther?” I wasn’t thinking about the steep gradient or the fact that I was only wearing shorts, so it was a really foolish move. But we did it, and one of my friends luckily had plenty of water, and what was so great about that moment was finally getting up there and being able to reflect on my achievement and the physical demands I overcame.

I need to be in the outdoors in order to write and feel like my authentic self again. All the stories I’ve written have their roots in nature; I broke Outpost out in Joshua Tree. When I’m in nature and working on story ideas, I’ll start with a very loose premise. There’s no plot, there’s no story. For example, the next script I’m working on is based on the question, what if an exterminator found something in the cellar that he couldn’t identify? So I’ll start with a nugget like that and then start imagining a scene or a sequence that stems from the environments I’m in, wondering, What would be the scariest thing that could happen right now? If I’m walking on a trail and see a bug that looks weird, it could begin there. And then I might think, what if I turned the corner and there was a rock full of those bugs? I didn’t know it before, but they can fly! When I go hiking with friends, I’ll also bounce ideas or dialogue off them to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Naps are so great. In years past, I would often burn the candle at both ends, as I’m restless; I always have been, since I was a kid. But now I’m learning the deep pleasure of closing my eyes anywhere I am and trying to drift off. I am like a cat, so I’m able to do that pretty well. I can sleep on a plane. I can doze off in a chair, sitting up. But the thing I’ve found is it’s crucial for me to have above-the-blanket naps and never slide in under the blanket. Otherwise I’m going to sleep for too long and too deeply and I’m going to mess up my whole circadian rhythm. I can maybe have a throw blanket over my lower legs, but nothing more. A couple of times, I went overboard and lay down around 2 p.m. and woke up at 7:30 p.m., and my whole day was thrown into chaos.

Now, I almost always nap for 20 minutes. I’m just used to it. It’s weird, but I don’t set any timer. I go just deep enough into sleep and then I’ll come out and not be startled when I wake. I just open my eyes and I’m back. When I was working as an actor, I would nap between setups, which usually gives you about 20 minutes. So that’s definitely part of it. I’ll also usually use my lunch break to nap in my trailer.

Although I love coffee, I try to regulate how much caffeine I drink, so naps are the perfect way to rejuvenate myself. They’re nature’s cup of coffee!

Featured image, showing Joe Lo Truglio with cinematographer Frank Barrera on the set of Outpost, courtesy Joe Lo Truglio.

Joe Lo Truglio’s debut feature as writer-director, the horror-thriller Outpost, is out now in theaters and on demand. He is best know for playing Detective Charles Boyle on the Golden Globe Award-winning comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Deputy Rizzo on Reno 911. Joe is an actor, producer and writer with a string of standout roles in such comedies as Superbad, Pineapple Express, Role Models, I Love You Man and Wanderlust. He’s also appeared in hits Wreck-It Ralph and Pitch Perfect, as well as cult classics like Wet Hot American Summer and The Station Agent. He’s had voiced roles in Bob’s Burgers, American Dad and Robot Chicken, and guest-starred on television mainstays How I Met Your Mother and Community. Joe also continues his enthusiastic participation in Comedy Bang! Bang! on IFC and Drunk History on Comedy Central. Joe is a founding member of iconic sketch comedy troupe The State. He is married to actress Beth Dover, and resides in Los Angeles, California.