One of the most memorable scenes in Seth MacFarlane’s talking teddy bear movie, Ted (out June 27), involves an out-of-control house party, an irate neighbor, and — surprisingly enough — a lot of wacky hijinks with Flash Gordon star Sam Jones. The actor has made some 45 films, but that Queen-soundtracked 1980 cult sci-fi flick didn’t exactly catapult him to superstardom, and his extended Ted cameo got us wondering what he’s been up to.
Quite a bit, it turns out. Jones is now mostly retired from acting, and these days the former Marine earns a living working in the personal security business, guarding high-level execs and other VIPs as they travel in high-risk areas. He works for a prominent security company that he’d prefer not to name, as well as running his own San Diego-based security business. “It’s primarily work in Mexico protecting dignitaries and executives from bad people wanting to do bad things to them,” he says. “And I love it. I absolutely love it.” Below, Jones fills us in on his weird career transformation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you move away from acting?
SAM JONES: You reach a point in your career when the weeks turn into a month or more of the phone not ringing. My wife said, ‘Honey, get your a– outside and don’t come back until you have a job. [Laughs] I thought about what could I do. What I did was, one day I called a [major security] company that was known for hiring good professionals, elite guys. I said, “What do I need to do to come on board?” They said, “Look, it’s going to take you a while to do it.” They sent me to specialized training, and I excelled in that, and next thing you know I was sent to Los Angeles, protecting a billionaire. From there I was sent to [New Orleans in the wake of] Katrina to protect executives who decided to remain. I just excelled there. Hopefully this doesn’t come across as arrogant, but I know myself — we know our skill sets and our core competencies. If I was to go out and try to record an album right now, I’d be out of my mind. That’s not something I’m good at. But I know what I can do and I do it with a spirit of excellence. And running security operations in high-risk environments and making movies, I’m very good at. Anything else, I might have some issues, you know? [Laughs] It really is a high. Being in the movies and playing a couple of superheroes and characters where other people had to depend on me…this is the real deal. I feel I belong in the movie business and I belong in the security business. It’s a natural for me.
You live in the San Diego area but work primarily in Mexico. How does that work?
It’s Monday through Friday, unless there’s a film I’m doing [security for] or something. I wake up at 3:30 in the morning. That will give you an idea. There are times when we travel to other cities when I could be there for a couple of days, but there’s nothing like going home every day.
What’s it like doing security work in Mexico right now? It seems a little scary at the moment.
It can be for somebody who’s not paying attention, who’s not using common sense. It could be very scary. It’s all perception. Don’t present yourself as a soft target. When we’re in these environments where it’s the real deal, we are traveling hard. We’re in armored vehicles. They look like normal sedans or SUVs, but they are armored. And we’re traveling hard and we’re traveling fast. With that said, most of the time we’re traveling low profile. We’re not putting up red flags. There are times when we have some dignitaries when we have to travel in a huge motorcade with weapons out the windows and stuff like that. But usually we stay under the radar. In other words, we don’t give the bad guys any opportunity. They’re watching us. We’re not stupid. They’re assessing, saying, “Well let me see, if I decide to hit this motorcade or this convoy, what are my percentages of success?” When they look at us and they know our training, they can only come up with one conclusion: it’s going to be a 20 to 30 to 40 percent chance, if that. So they’re not going to mess with us. And that’s not a macho statement. It’s just in the training. It’s just how we present ourselves.
What’s the scariest situation you’ve been in?
We’re trained in being proactive, so if we’re driving in a motorcade and the lead vehicle is looking up ahead and he or she sees something that they do not like, we’re not going to continue forward. We’re going to make a left turn, a U-turn, a right turn. Numerous times — many, many times — we see something ahead we don’t like and we just avoid.
What might you see that would make you turn around?
Okay, we’re at a major intersection in Tijuana and you look around at your situational awareness and you see the taco stand, everybody is doing their behavior that they’re supposed to be doing. You’ve got a couple next to you in a car who are kissing, a couple on your left who are arguing, you have people crossing the street, normal behavior. Why is there a pickup truck parked with two people in it and they’re not talking, their heads are not moving, and why are there a couple of SUVs across the street not moving? Well, I don’t know. But I’m not going to continue. I’m going to turn around. In other words, bad guys are usually bad actors. Seriously. They don’t know how to commit to the character that they’re doing.
Have you actually encountered violent situations?
I can’t get into anything specific, but there are certain things that have happened, and we have had success every time.
Can you describe the situation without names or places?
I mean, I really can’t. Any incidents that have ever happened or been attempted, we’ve always had success.
Have clients ever recognized you from your acting?
They figure out after a while, but I separate the security industry from the film industry. When they find out that I was Flash Gordon and in the film business for years, that’s okay once I’ve already proven myself as a security professional. But when I start a project and people say, “Wait a minute, time out: you’re saying that we have a former superhero and/or actor in the movie business who’s protecting the lives of my family and me? Something’s wrong here.” [Laughs] I had a big, big successful executive at a major [movie] studio. I had been protecting him for about a year. Then he put it together. He said, “Oh my God, I know exactly who you are. I trust you with my life! Thank God I knew you as a security professional before I found out you were Flash Gordon.”
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