Interviews - TV

Alan Tudyk – A Strong Funny Bone

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Q) What are some of the most recent projects that you are working on?

A) I recently starred on “Arrested Development” and I played a pastor named Veal. I’m the father of George Michael’s homely girlfriend. It’s a funny episode. Right before Christmas time, I finished a movie series that Dreamworks did for TNT called “Into The West” and Stephen Spielberg is the Executive Producer on it. It is sort of like a “Band of Brothers,” except it deals with America’s expansion West. I play a brother of Matthew Settle and Skeet Ulrich, which I look nothing like either of those men so it is good to be their brother. You have these two incredibly dark handsome brothers and then there’s me!

Q) Did you have to change your trademark red hair for your character in “Into The West?”

A) I was hoping they were going to let me stay red haired because my brother doesn’t have red hair and my parents don’t have red hair, but it is a gene within my family. I thought that I could just be the one red headed kid, but the director said no. It was odd because Stephen Spielberg cast it and the director came later. My first meeting with the director was on the set, which is not the norm, and the director saw me and he said, “No, no. We’re going to dye your hair brown.” When the director says so, you go with it and it works. Afterwards, my hair started changing these funky colors so I had to go to a fancy hair salon to get them to fix it. Now it’s back to red so it will be red for “Arrested Development.”

Q) Were you a fan of “Arrested Development” before appearing on it?

A) Most definitely! I was actually given the DVD of the first season for Christmas because they just make me laugh so hard! I don’t feel like there are enough one camera half-hour comedy shows. When you get into comedy half-hour, they tend to be multi-camera sitcom format, which is a popular format. There have been some shows like that, which have been great hits like “Seinfeld” and “Frasier” and all of these shows that are that format. It changes when you use one camera. They did a “Strangers With Candy” episode a long time ago and they always used one camera. I like the story telling of it better. “Malcolm in the Middle” is the same thing. Sitcoms are more staged in that way, sort of a short form comedy where as one-cameras tend to be a little bit more inventive. So, I’m really happy to be on it.

Q) How did you hear about your role on “Arrested Development” and what was your audition like?

A) I just got it. They just phoned me up and said, “You got it.” Because I liked the show so much, had let Fox casting know that I wanted to do an episode if anything came available. So, I just through my hat into the ring and they called and said come on. It was a pretty great way to work out. The audition was like, “Here’s the script, do you want to play it?” I didn’t even have to read it before I said yes. The humor just really appeals to me.

Q) You are going to be doing some voice work on the film Ice Age 2. Do you prefer working in front of the camera or behind it?

A) I did Ice Age and now this will be Ice Age 2. I think that is all the voice over work that I’ve done. It’s great; it’s a completely different process. You go in and record it, which takes about two hours. In Ice Age, I played three different roles. I just had to do some crazy voices. I think I auditioned for eight roles because they just kept handing me pictures of different animals in Ice Age. They were like, “What do you have for this one?” I’d do a voice and record that and they’d give me another picture and do it. In a week, they said we want you to play three of the roles and I worked for about two hours. A year later, you come back in and work for another two hours and your done. In Ice Age 2 I only do one voice, which will be less schizophrenic or multi-personality. When I came in after my audition, they said, “We want you to do this one, this one and this one.” I said, “You’re going to have to tell me what I did with those.” They played me back the first one and second one and I remembered their voices. For the third one, I said, “That’s not me.” They said for me to listen to it again and I still said it wasn’t me. I told them that I didn’t know that voice and it was the first time I had ever heard it. They were certain it was me and they had it down, as it was me. So, they played it again and then said, “Oh wait! I just heard me! Yeah, that is me.” I told them that I thought I could try and find it again. They had me do so many voices in a day; I was just pulling things out of my ears. That was one of the voices they used. In Ice Age 2 I only do one of the voices and it is going to be cool because it’s a little bit bigger. In Ice Age, each character only had two or three lines and this one has a little bit bigger of a character. I’m a bird named Gustav and my wife is going to be played by Bebe Neuworth, who I think is fantastic.

Q) In past roles, you’ve had to imitate numerous different accents for your characters. How have you been able to learn how to imitate accents and how have you honed your skills?

A) I went to Julliard in New York. I’ve always liked doing voices, I guess. When I hear a new accent, I tend to just start practicing it because it gets stuck in my head. Like a song that gets stuck in your head and you can’t get rid of it, that’s how some accents are. They interest me and I went to Julliard, which is a great acting school, but really at least 50% of training at Julliard is voice. You can’t be a stage actor, but they end up teaching you how to pull apart sounds and hear multiple variations of sounds in things that sound relatively similar. The first day of voice class, they say, “We’re going to learn these different things and you’re going to learn the difference between ‘Ah Ah,’ and ‘Ah.'” I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me because he just did the same sound three times in a row!” You learn their difference and I think pulling apart sounds in that way it taught me a way to hear sounds differently, which was a big help. For 28 Days, when I did the German accent someone came and helped me with that. They hired a dialect person to help me clean it up and in A Knights Tale it went the same way. I had an advantage with because there were very few Americans on it, there was the director and Shannyn Sossamon and everyone else was British (except for Heath who is Australian). The whole crew, lighting guys, grips and sound guys were British so I was surrounded by that and it was very helpful. It was longer for me to try to get rid of it when I got back. I don’t think I used the accent, but I still used the speech patterns when I came back. They go up on the ends of their sentences and those sorts of things.

Q) Is the film Serenity a continuation from the show “Firefly” or is it completely different?

A) It is a continuation. I think Joss Whedon says it begins three months after the last episode that was shot. It is just a little time after the end of the series, it picks up.

Q) Please tell us about your character from “Firefly” and the premise of it for those who aren’t acquainted with it. 

A) My character is Hoban Washburne and goes by “Wash.” I fly the “Serenity,” which is a “Firefly” class spaceship, which is why the show was called “Firefly” and now the movie is calledSerenity. We are sort of pirates, in a way, but we steal from the rich and give to ourselves. We are sort of anti-government, called The Alliance, which is the big government that wants to regulate everything we do. We don’t much care for them and stay as far away from them as much as possible. We do run into them from time to time because they are hard to get away from. I fly the spaceship. I’m married to the first-mate named Zoe, who is played by Gina Torres. Unlike some shows, movies or stories where the woman stays at home and the man wants to go fight, it was reversed. She was the warrior and she’d always be the one to go out and fight and do the dangerous stuff and I’d stay at home. They go out and do all this shoot-em up stuff and they’d call, “Wash, we need you to get us out of here!” I’d fly in and go, “God, honey, I’m so glad you made it!” He’s sort of the househusband on the show and in the movie. My character is a little lighter hearted. It is sort of a rough world that we live in and people have to kill a lot and there are lots of shootouts. I tend to be the voice of, “Can we do this plan that doesn’t involve killing,” and “Can we please not kill anybody.” He is definitely sort of a more sensitive crewmember on the shop.

Q) How is it like working with Joss Whedon and the rest of the cast again onSerenity after having worked alongside them before the cancellation of “Firefly?”

A) That was a gift, because it is like a breakup when your show is cancelled. It is really hard when someone sort of says, “No, we don’t want you anymore,” and you are like, “Well, that stinks because I really loved you!” I really loved doing this and we all said our goodbyes, but you know the neat thing was that we didn’t scatter (as a group, shooting, we really bonded and got along well) after it was all over. We all still hung out with each other a lot. Seeing each other again was just us putting on our characters again. They tore down the old spaceship; they had built the whole spaceship (which is unlike some TV shows that do space shows where there is one set as the bridge, on another stage there is another part of the ship and it is sort of all scattered around). With “Firefly” they had built the ship front to back. If they wanted to film someone with a handheld camera from the front of the ship to the back of the ship, they could. You got a sense of the space we lived in and they tore our spaceship down and that sucked. It was rebuilt and they built it better, too. It was really neat and they put hydraulics on it this time around, where when something was going wrong with the ship (when we were doing the TV show) we all kind of had to pretend to shake and stumble like they had to do on “Star Trek,” but maybe a little bit better. They’d shake the camera and we would kind of shake and it would do the effect, but on Serenity they actually had the thing shake. It would start shaking and crap would fall on you, even stuff that they didn’t expect to fall on you would fall near you. No one was ever injured, of course. It was great; it was really a treat. It is hard to describe. It was amazing.

Q) What was your most memorable moment from filming Serenity?

A) It was really busy when we were filming that. I can’t really say. I do have a very memorable moment! They will give away something in the movie that can’t be given away. There is something that was a very special scene…that will be shown in September! In theaters across the nation! There’s a scene, once it comes out, it may be obvious which really great special thing happened.

Q) Why did you decide to throw a “We don’t work for Fox anymore” themed party after the end of “Firefly?”

A) That kind of goes back to the breakup scenario. There are so many feelings after a break up, some of them are rational and some aren’t. It was tough working for a network that didn’t like us. We shot a two-hour pilot that explains the world of the series and Fox nixed it and said that they would show it, but later and we’ll start with the second episode. It really got us off to a tough start. People weren’t able to follow it, then we got pre-empted for baseball and then they just took us off the air for a couple of weeks. They just kept taking us off so there was no chance for us to build an audience beyond the core fans that had found us and the sci-fi community really embraced the show. It seemed like we were, at times, working really hard and that Fox seemed to be working against us. I am sure that wasn’t the case, but from where we were sitting it felt like that. When we did get cancelled, I threw the party (which I think it was called “Fox Sucks” actually). That was the party and it was also great because it was a chance for all of us to have one last hoorah!  I had no idea that two hundred people could go through the house I live in!

Q) You played “Steve the Pirate” in the movie Dodgeball. Did you think the sport would become such a phenomenon after appearing in the movie?

A) Absolutely not! I can’t believe these guys play! They’re really good because I went and saw of them. It’s amazing how good they are. It’s a difficult sport, surprisingly. It’s a lot of sprinting, jumping and throwing. I didn’t expect it to have that effect. I think it’s so great that the popularity of the movie is fantastic. I had just finished I, Robot, this hundred million dollar sci-fi movie and had spent months on it. It was so technical with the role I was playing because of the CGI and all of that and it was just this momentous thing that Fox was shooting. Then, I got this audition for Dodgeball while I was shooting it in LA, got it and I was kind of thinking as Dodgeball as this comedy that is going to be such a great thing to shoot because I, Robot had been so demanding it would be fun to do this simple comedy. After a couple days of shooting, I thought that this was going to be bigger than I, Robot. All the people that they cast were so good and I watched dailies and thought, “This is really looking good. This thing might actually out perform I, Robot.” It did; not if you look at end numbers (like how much it made), but if you look at the cost to how much it made, Dodgeball was the much bigger hit.

Q) Why did you decide to get into acting?

A) I don’t know. It was kind of something I always did. I wasn’t into sports and I kind of kept getting into trouble in school for cracking up and cracking jokes in class. Some very kind teacher pointed me into the direction of the theater department and said, “Here, burn that energy there.” I never stopped. I didn’t expect to do it as a living. I thought it would be neat, but I didn’t want to become an actor when I was young because they don’t make any money. It is sort of understood that if you are going to become an actor, you’re going to be poor and I wanted to have a family and children. I didn’t think it was going to be possible, but then I had a teacher that sat me down and said, “No, you should because you only have one life. Why don’t you live it like you want to?” I sure do thank her, Charlotte English, because then I changed my mind and went to school for theater. Not that I wasn’t poor for a very long time or that I might not be poor again some day. Now, it’s a really great job to be able to do. To use your imagination and pretend for a living, I think that is a great gift to be able to do that for a living.

Q) What has been your favorite project to work on?

A) Most recently, I would have said (until this past year) 28 Days because I just really enjoyed working with Betty Thomas and Sandra Bullock and that whole cast. It was another cast where everyone just really got along. Betty Thomas is very much into improvisation and allowing you to say things that you want to say. Even things that don’t exist in the script, they always did monologues in the movie. We all got to do “why we were in rehab” monologues and she just let us improv that and then she put it in the movie! You can improv a lot in the movie, but what ends up in the movie is another thing. Betty had a vision what the improv was for and I really liked that. This year I starred in an independent called RX, which was directed by a guy named Ariel Vromen. This was the first gay character I’ve done since 28 Days, but he was a very different kind of guy. He was a Mexican drug dealer and was written for a Mexican, but I’m not Mexican. So, basically, he wrote it for a Hispanic actor and couldn’t find him. He couldn’t find anybody that he liked. Somehow, my manager convinced him to see him for the role. He said at my audition, “I’m not sure. He does not look right for this role.” He saw me, we had some coffee together and talked about it. I read it for him and he gave me a hug and I had the role! It was so much fun because he is a very dangerous guy. He’s funny in the movie. He’s sort of the comic relief to a point until he loses his temper. He’s a dangerous, disgusting man and it was so much fun playing sort of a dangerous guy. After 28 Days, I got every gay script sent to me and they all tended to be the light hearted gay guy who cracks wise and I wasn’t interested in doing that again. This guy, he’s not light hearted at all and he’s done a lot of drugs. When you cross him he gets violent. It’s an independent and I hope it does find an audience or a distributor of some kind. It was with Colin Hanks and Eric Balfour. It’s a neat little drug deal gone bad movie.

Q) You’ve worked with such screen legends as Vince Vaughn, Heath Ledger, Sandra Bullock, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Stiller, etc. Who would you most like to work with in the future?

A) I think if I could work with anyone it would be Gene Wilder. He just doesn’t work much anymore. He definitely doesn’t do comedies anymore, but he’s one of my heroes. Also, Alan Arkin, I’d love to work with him. There are so many actors that I haven’t gotten a chance to work with. I’d like to work with Paul Giamatti and Sam Rockwell, more around my age, those types of actors. I’d love to work with many people. I’ve been fortunate that these people, like Will Smith and Sandra Bullock and Anthony Hopkins and all of these big star people, (I even did a little thing with Robin Williams) that they’ve been great people. It was a great time. You hear all of these horror stories of people meeting their idols and they turn out to be these self-involved ego maniac people and that has not been the case. I’m willing and I’d love to work with so many people. If I had to put one at the top of the list it would be Gene Wilder and to get him to do comedy again because I thought he is just the great. Boy, Young Frankenstein, forget about it. He was amazing.

Q) What do you do in your spare time?

A) I hang out with friends. Unfortunately, I play Xbox, Halo 2 live online. I just got the live thing where you can go online and play video games with people all across the country. This is the most addictive thing in the world. I love it! That wastes a lot of my time and I just got into some salsa dancing. I think that’s great. I never thought I’d get into it; someone invited me and had a blast. We’re going to start doing that with a group of people. I have just been hanging out with friends mainly. Sort of hiking around LA, playing video games and salsa dancing, the main three things that most people do.

Q) Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans and supporters?

A) Thank you! If everybody just appreciates what I’ve done, that’s just fantastic. I feel very lucky to get a chance to do it. It’s definitely what I love. If people like that and consider themselves a fan of mine, that’s very generous. I’ll hopefully keep doing it so they’ll be something to support.  

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