Jean Claude Van Damme Is Completely Insane According to Director Peter Atencio

Jean-Claude Van Damme thought his Prime Video series was an elaborate intervention.

Jean-Claude Van Damme is an interesting guy. The '90s action star did not carry his string of hits forward until retirement, like Bruce Willis, or embarrass himself with a string of duds and reality shows like Stephen Seagal. Instead, once his star started to fade, Van Damme kept a fairly low profile for years before embracing his pop culture identity and "rebranding" with JCVD, a 2008 meta-action-dramedy that starred Van Damme as a fictionalized version of himself who is drawn into a world of crime and intrigue as his professional life falls apart. The ability to laugh at himself endeared him to fans, and in recent years, he has alternated between fairly mainstream appearances in franchises like The Expendables and Kung Fu Panda, and more avant-garde stuff like Jean-Claude Van Johnson.

In the latter, Van Damme plays a man with a double life: Jean-Claude Van Damme is a fictionalized version of the actor's real-world identity, while "Johnson" -- just Johnson -- is an identity he assumes to do black ops-style contract work. Speaking to in support of The Afterparty's second season on Apple TV+, Jean-Claude Van Johnson director Peter Atencio said that Van Damme was just as crazy -- and just as nice -- as fans might hope.

"Oh my Gosh, yeah. He's a character," Atencio told's Chris Killian. "He's just kind of everything you would want him to be. He really is that strange and that amazing, and he's in  just incredible shape but also he's just out there. There was one day in particular I'll never forget. Doing that show for him, it was such a surreal experience because Dave was taking things from his real life and his real past and mixing it with this narrative. It was like half wish fulfillment, half brutal self-reflection. One day he came up to me on set, and he was dead serious, and he just grabbed me by the shoulders and was like, 'Peter, be honest with me, there is no show. This is an intervention, yes?' And I was like, 'I hate to break it to you, Jean-Claude, but there is definitely a show that we're making. This is not just a therapy session for you.' But he had emotional breakthroughs on that show. It was a wild experience but he was a lot of fun to work with."

"He's totally worth meeting," Atencio added. "He is completely insane, and weird, but also he's the real deal. He lives a life, he gets in his Bentley convertible with like three dogs in the back and goes to Gold's Gym every say and works out. He's super committed, and everywhere you go with him, people come up to him and they're like, 'You're my hero. You're the reason I did this,' or 'You changed my life.' And he's incredibly gracious. Nobody loves their fans more than him. He's really a sweet person. I think for somebody to have all that adoration and still make it through and still be a genuinely decent person, that's pretty admirable."

You can see the first season of Jean-Claude Van Johnson on Prime Video now. The Afterparty is airing its second season on Apple TV+.