It’s not really a secret that people love getting nostalgic these days, with brands bringing back discontinued items from beyond the grave, and shows getting rebooted left and right. So when actor Mark Hamill casually mentioned in a 2019 interview that he was fired from Jack in the Box, it only made sense for the restaurant to want to hire him back after nearly 50 years, right?
Hamill is starring in a series of commercials for the fast-food icon, which is bringing back a series of older menu items from when Hamill first worked in the kitchen — before he was fired after less than a month. Fans can be transported back in time with the french toast sticks and crispy chicken strips. Because bringing things back from way back when is so in right now!
Uproxx spoke to Mark Hamill about why exactly he got fired, and why he decided to go back all these years later.
So how did this collaboration come about?
I was on Late Late Show and Bradley Whitford was on with me, and he said to me on camera, during the show, “Do you know that I was your waiter at a restaurant in New York?”And I said, “No, I hope I treated you well.” He said, “Not only were you so nice, you tipped like a banshee.” That was his quote. And I said, “Well, look, everybody has to start somewhere, and I really understand how important tips are to the people that are waiting on you.” Since we were on Television City, it just occurred to me. I hadn’t planned to tell the story. I said, “As a matter of fact, I used to work at Jack in the Box right across the street.” And then, (James) Cordon said, “Well, were you good? Were you good at your job?” And I said, “I tried, but unfortunately I didn’t last very long.” I worked in the back doing shakes, doing the grill…But, as an aspiring actor, I wanted to work the window. I wanted to work the drive-thru. To me, that was the pinnacle of the Jack in the Box experience.
The face-to-face drive-in experience.
Right. So, I finally got the chance, I think maybe the guy who normally did it called in sick, whatever it was, he gave me the chance and I didn’t even last the whole day. Because it seemed to me, they didn’t have the Jack character as we know him now in the suit with the clown head, they just had the speaker with the big clown head and the speaker was coming from his mouth. So, it never occurred to me to do anything other than speak in a clown voice.
I thought, nobody wants to hear [monotone] “Welcome to Jack in the Box, may I take your order?” No, no. They want to hear, [loud, clown voice] “Welcome to Jack in the Box!” So, I thought it would be a good idea to do that. My boss didn’t think it was such a good idea. I think he thought it was irritating and he told me to stop, it wasn’t a big deal, but after work, he said, “You know, Mark, if you can’t take this job seriously, maybe this isn’t the right place for you,” and I knew he was right. So, he’s told me to go home and never come back.
How old were you?
18. The thing is, even if he hadn’t fired me, within a couple of weeks, I got cast in a play and I had to go from classes to rehearsals and I wouldn’t have been able to do the job anyway. So, I only worked there for… I don’t know, three, four weeks, a month tops.
So what made you want to go back to Jack?
It was only the circumstances with Bradley saying that he’d been my waiter and me mentioning I’d worked across the street. I did a fast-forward a couple of years later, the Jack in the Box people call me and say, “Do you want to make a commercial out of that?” I was dumbstruck. It made me laugh so hard because it’s inherently goofy, it’s very silly, but it also happens to be true. So, I said, “Oh, I’ve got to do this.” I’m not just doing this commercial. I lived this commercial.
Did anyone in the drive-thru recognize you?
It was hard for me to know whether they were actors or real people. But, it was fun, because obviously, when you drive through, you don’t expect to see me working the drive-thru window. They were all like, a lot of them were like, “You know who you really look like?” That kind of thing. But, it was fun. The whole point of the campaign is to be lighthearted and silly, and even a little goofy and that’s mission accomplished. I had so much fun doing them. I hope that they’re half as much fun to watch.
I got to interact with Jack. He’s this iconic character and again, it’s so ludicrous because from the neck down, he looks like a wall street stock broker. From the head up, he’s got this big round head, and I was fascinated with the insides of the head itself, the actor who plays him. Over my career, I’ve met a lot of iconic characters, so it was great to add another one to the list.
Speaking of characters, you are a huge fan of the show Ghosts…
Oh, my gosh. I love that cast. They’re so diverse. Every one of them is perfect, the ensemble. It’s smart and silly and goofy and stupid. My problem is when I see a show, I’m always nervous that it’s not going to last. I said, “Everything I like gets canceled…” And it takes me a long time to get over stuff. I’m still mad they canceled Square Pegs. I did it with What We Do in the Shadows, and then I did it with Ghosts. I thought I should talk about how much I love it and maybe it’ll help, and more of my followers will watch it. So, I’m delighted they got a second season.
That’s really nice of you to promote smaller shows to your large following.
Oh yeah, Ghosts was a no-brainer. I just thought I loved it from the very first episode, and I wound up following all the cast members and I just sent them all messages because everyone is so good. I’m just in love with that cast.
Finally, what is your default Jack In The Box order when you go?
Listen, I always love the onion rings and I couldn’t understand why all the other restaurants didn’t have them. But, I did love those. And of course, the shakes! My problem is I like it too much, and my wife is always saying, “You can’t go there. You went last week!”