INTERVIEW: Alan Tudyk

Published in The Music (QLD) and on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2014

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VOICE OF REASON

A self-proclaimed “weirdo” who creates trouble for animators of multi-million dollar Disney films, US actor Alan Tudyk’s taken to subtly ripping on a “jaded” and “litigious” crowd as of late. Daniel Cribb investigates.

A visit to Australia for Supanova may have fans of cult hero/voice actor master/all-round nice guy Alan Tudyk in a flurry, but it’s actually his second trip down under this year. At the begging of 2014, he ventured to Victoria to film 2015’s Oddball, alongside a wealth of Aussie talent, including Shane Jacobson (Kenny). He’s usually embroiled in projects of a somewhat complex nature or storyline, but the concept of Oddball is simple and what attracted him to the project. “It’s about a dog and some penguins,” an affable Tudyk laughs. “It’s light and fun, and it was really just a good time. It isn’t some drama where we’re in pain or struggling or fighting off some alien invasion or anything too overbearing. “

Stepping away from his home and spending a prolonged period of time in Australia gave him an interesting perspective on the US. “Australia reminds me of America, but [Australians] are not quite as jaded, and not as litigious. There’s a little bit more personal responsibility down there, which allows for more fun. I could give you an example – it seems weird,” he chuckles again.

“I went white water rafting up in Cairns, and our guide was talking about this plant, and if you touch it, the spines of the plant will embed in your skin, and then forever when you touch it – almost like a fibreglass splinter – it hurts and is like one of the worst pains…we pulled the boat over and went on a little hike and he went, ‘Ah, over here, here’s that plant I was telling you about’, and I was like, ‘That’s the plant? That’s the thing that makes you kill yourself if you touch it too much?!’, and he’s like, ‘Yeah’. And I was like, ‘Why don’t you cut it down?!’, and he was like, ‘Well, are you going to touch it?’, ‘No!’. And he goes, ‘Well, there’s no reason to cut it down, c’mon’.

“In America, not only would we cut it down, ‘You know what, let’s put a plexiglass thing over it. You know what, let’s just cut it down. Nobody gets out of the boat. Why are we even in a boat? Nobody get on the river’. Everything would be removed like, ‘This is all just a little too dangerous; I see lawsuits everywhere, let’s just stop, stop, stop, stop, stop’. I like that about Australia; there’s a little bit more adventure in daily life, even with all the snakes and spiders and things.”

It’s the difference in cultures that Adult Swim parody news show Newsreaders feeds from, and season two – which is currently rolling out – sees Tudyk take the lead as news anchor Reagan Biscayne. “It’s a good place for comedy because,” he pauses to prep his deep news anchor voice, “newscasters are typically very serious people and they’re an authority figure, and if an authority figure comes on and says, ‘Tonight, we discuss how my gerbil was able to fly for a very short period of time, and then he experienced rapid weight lose’. It’s ridiculous, and it’s funny.

“I feel like we’re losing – at least here – that authority news figure. Our news anchors want to be your friend; they’re funny and they tweet and giggle. There isn’t that kind of serious news so much anymore, and the lines are blurred. It’s all kind of entertainment…I think the people who really need the news are the ones that are missing out.”

As evident with a series of different roles in multiple genres, Tudyk makes whatever he’s working on his own. He made a name for himself with Joss Whedon’s (Buffy, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) cult hit Firefly and its accompanying film, Serenity, which wrapped up in 2005, but was quick to break free from being type-cast to work across numerous genres. On top of frequently voicing games such as Halo, he’s also a regular on blockbuster animated films like Frozen, Ice Age and new kids hit Big Hero 6.

“I’ve always played with my voice; doing different voices growing up, mimicking people who I thought had funny voices…just to be able to match a voice to a drawing, that’s a lot of fun, and in the world of animation, you can do anything. You’re in your head; you’re not seeing animation in front of you.

“A good example would be in Frozen, they told me, ‘Oh, and you’ve got these big guards with you’. I was like, ‘What?! I have two guys with me at all times?’, and they were like, ‘Yeah, they’re these big guys and they never say a word’. And so from then on out, I always brought them into the story.

“And also, any noises you make – ‘eewweeeww’ – they’ll animate something happening to the character that would validate him making that noise and that is a really fun collaboration to do. You just made a noise because you’re a weirdo like me, and then you’ll see they took it and made something. That’s a lot of fun.”

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