Jeremiah McDonald Q&A: Viral video star on interviewing his future self

Before Thursday, if you mentioned a guy interviewing himself from the past, people would have thought you were either nuts or a huge sci-fi fan. Possibly both. Now they might just think you’re Jeremiah McDonald, star of the viral (five million views and counting!) video that showcases taped bits of twelve-year-old McDonald posing questions to his future self, and current McDonald answering them. The whole thing is a bit of trip. EW got on the phone with McDonald yesterday to ask him about the idea, the instant reaction, and Doctor Who approval.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the backstory to how this came together?
Jeremiah McDonald:
Well, I’ve been sitting on it for a long time. When I was a kid, I was just playing. I don’t know how far in advance I was thinking, and of course, I didn’t think anyone would see it anyway. It was purely for my own enjoyment. I think maybe by the time I was 20 years old, I said, ‘This is something really cool.’ Even then, I didn’t know how I was going to use it because, certainly, there was no YouTube at the time. When YouTube started, I knew that this would be something that was perfect for that. I did an early version. I consider YouTube as a playground, it’s a place to experiment. So I did do an early version of the same video, and I learned some things from that first attempt. When people would watch it, they’d say, ‘Oh, who’s that kid playing you?’ I would say, ‘Well, that’s me.’ They’d be confused. Looking at the video on its own merits, it just wasn’t that good.

EW: What did you do differently the second time?
JM: Even though it’s a surreal concept, that you pop in a VHS and you’re having a conversation with the image, but I had to create a context that made sense. In the old version, my 12-year-old self just pops up on my laptop and we’re talking, and we don’t know why. Yes, I had to create a narrative. Okay, 20 years ago I did this. And then one day, I was digging through the VHSs, I pop it in, I’ve got to pour myself a glass of whiskey, because that’s the only way I can cope with this thing, because I’m older and rundown and life has been kicking me.

EW: Give me the reaction–did you expect all of this to be happening?
JM:
No, I mean, I’ve had one or two videos that went a little viral, but usually it happened at a manageable pace, where the views slowly go up. Suddenly, friends of mine are saying, I just got this video from a friend of mine that just sent it to me, not knowing that I knew you. Usually it happens slower. In this instant I put up the video, I went to my day job, and then eight hours later, it’s just everywhere. I’m getting contacted by all these news organizations and I didn’t know it could happen that quickly.

EW: Have you been able to put your finger on why this so struck a chord?
JM: I’d like to think they’re responding to it as a story. Which is why, when people question whether or not the kid is actually me, it is. But I don’t think it should matter, because I think a lot of people enjoy it whether it’s real or not. And I think, I think, I don’t know–I don’t follow enough viral videos—people are connecting to this story. That’s rare with videos that go viral. That’s why I was surprised by it.

EW: It’s funny, when I’m watching it, your 12-year-old self was so smart about how he put it together.
JM: It’s three minutes worth of footage. Not all of it is me addressing my future self. About half of it is me addressing my current self. It actually begins with me having a dialogue, which I immediately shot at the time. I don’t know where that tape is because it’s VHS. I’ll tape one version on one VHS and another on another VHS. I don’t know where that other VHS is. I would have had more to play with, if I still had that. But luckily, I had this one. In that first version, I only used the stuff of myself addressing my future self. I had a lot to draw from. I just went over it all, saying there’s a good little tape here. I just found those moments throughout. “Are all your questions about pets?” And I just hesitated and said, ‘Yes.’ I don’t even know what I’m responding to in that clip, but it was just perfect for that moment.

EW: Have you been contacted by anyone specific in response to this video?
JM: … Maybe two nights ago, I was sleeping, trying to sleep, and then my phone lights up with a Twitter notification, and it’s someone telling me that Steven Moffat had just Tweeted it, the executive producer and head writer of Doctor Who. Steven Moffat not only Tweeted me saying how much he loved it, but he directly reached out and thanked me for the reference. He said it warmed his heart.

Watch the video that’s got everyone talking below:

(Reporting by Tanner Stransky)

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