Alan Tudyk previews the latest Suburgatory, reflects on Wreck-It Ralph
MSN had a chance to chat with the former ‘Steve The Pirate’ about his experience on the set of Wreck-It Ralph, playing a racist in 42 and to get a preview of this week’s episode of Suburgatory.
Bob D'Amico, ABC
When he’s not busy picking up Annie [animation] Awards for his work as the villainous King Candy in the Oscar Nominated Wreck-It Ralph Alan Tudyk can be seen every Wednesday night as Noah on ABC’s hit show Suburgatory and in theatres this April as the heinous Ben Chapman in the Jackie Robinson biopic 42. MSN had a chance to chat with the former ‘Steve The Pirate’ about his experience on the set of Wreck-It Ralph, playing a racist in 42 and to get a preview of this week’s episode of Suburgatory.
Suburgatory is full of improv actors from all over, Saturday Night Live and Mad TV alumni, even your TV wife, Gillian Vigman, is a Mad TV alumnus.
Yeah she’s improv. She’s hysterical. She’s got some stuff coming up… [SPOILER ALERT] I’m going to leave her. Our marriage hits the rocks again. It hit it last season, but now it’s going to end, because I fall in love with my nanny… or not even my nanny. Dallas Royce (Cheryl Hines) takes her back, Carmen. Going through all of that, her character is in it a lot more. I was a little worried that when I left her, I was like, “Oh no. Her character’s going to go away.” But actually it’s become bigger.
What kind of hilarity ensues in this week’s episode ‘T-Ball & Sympathy’?
It’s a big episode for me, and a fun one. It’s sort mentioned here and there this season, that I’m stealing Dallas’ staff. She took Carmen from me, so I’ve stolen her dog walker even though I don’t have a dog. I’m just taking her staff because I’m acting out. Our feud comes to head in this episode. We compete against one another with little league T-ball teams. It gets out of control. We use the children as our pawns. I have a bleach blonde blowout. I stole her hairdresser. Every time she wanted to go to the hairdresser, I would go to the hairdresser and take up his whole day, so my hair gets too bleached, because I keep going again, and again, and again. It’s pretty ridiculous and fun.
Did you take anything away from 42 to bring to that episode?
[Laughs.] I‘m the coach of the T-ball team and the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies so it wasn’t too far, except I wasn’t quite as racist, a historically racist character as I was in 42. Ben Chapman, he was the manager/player of the Philadelphia Phillies. He would fill in if they needed something. He was a pitcher at one time. He was a good ball player back in his day. He played with [Joe] DiMaggio and Babe Ruth. He was on the Yankees, but he had a temper, and was a racist. They traded him whenever his batting average went down. They got rid of him because he was such a handful. His main legacy that he left was when Jackie Robinson and the Phillies played a series in Brooklyn that he would step out of the dugout and yell every racial slur at him to try and fluster him. He would get his pitchers to throw at his head. He said all of this stuff with reporters right there and they would write it down. He went to Brooklyn to do it. It wasn’t like he was in his own backyard. Walter Winchell, the reporter, had a campaign to get rid of him, and out of baseball. He ended up having to take a picture with him. There’s a picture of the two of them together to show that he’s ok with him. He wouldn’t shake his hand. He wouldn’t touch his skin, so they’re just holding a bat. It’s an interesting picture. We kind of go through that little section in the movie.
Ben must have been interesting and uncomfortable for you to play.
Oh wildly uncomfortable! Man, it was a couple of days of just standing out in the hot sun. I guess we were in Atlanta or Tennessee yelling the worst racial slurs. When I first read the script I was like, “Let me go re-watch Mississippi Burning and see if they even go this far.” That’s just what he was about. Just one after another, after another… I’m sitting in a stadium where there’s a bunch of African Americans. I made an announcement before we started, [saying] “I’m going to say a lot of things that are very offensive. I apologize beforehand. This is historic in nature. It’s going to be offensive.” It shocked people. There were also people coming up to me going, “You know what you should say… here’s my favourite racial slur.” It wasn’t too foreign for some. [Brian Helgeland, the writer/director] wanted me to add [those] things to my lines, add slurs that Chadwick [Boseman, who plays Jackie Robinson] knows aren’t in the script to feel his reactions.
On a bit of a lighter note, Wreck-It Ralph seems to be the odds on favourite for an Oscar win this weekend. What was that experience like?
That was so much fun. Wreck-It Ralph is one of my favourite movies that I’ve ever been in as an overall piece of entertainment. I’ve always liked Pixar and Disney, but I’m just so impressed the way… it was a two-year process from the original script to the end. They don’t miss a beat. Right at the end when they lift up Ralph, everything’s good and they’re going to throw him off the building, you’re like, “Ah, this is great.” He says, “My favourite part is when they lift me up and I get to see her and the other…” Every moment, they really get you! It’s just so well done. It’s just a really well-crafted movie.
Where did King Candy’s voice come from?
The foundation is based on the voice of Ed Wynn, he’s actually from Philadelphia. He was that Vaudeville character, and he did voices for Disney. I got the job from a reading. The first time that they read it for the Pixar honchos. Whoever was supposed to read my role couldn’t do it. He fell out just a few days before. My agent convinced them to give me a shot. He called me and said, “I think you should do this thing. Can you do an Ed Wynn voice? Can you do something like that?” I was like, “I don’t know who that is, but I’ll work on it.” I went up there and did the read-through with John Lasseter and everyone at Pixar. It was a really great audience to have, and it went well. We built on that. As the role evolved, he became more evil. He had more of backstory. The role got bigger and more complex. The final thing that they added, right at the end where he gets so dark. I saw early parts of the animation where I was beating her with a car antenna, I was like, “Jesus Christ! That’s something pimps do. They beat people with car antennas. This is not what you’d expect to see in a Disney movie.” So Ed Wynn was always there, but there was also Ruth Gordon. Just sort of the delivery she had. Jerry Lewis has some moments. Also, when I was in my twenties, and going to school in New York, I just fell in love with Vaudeville. I would go to the Museum of Radio & Television, and watch old shows, because YouTube wasn’t around yet. I would watch The Show of Shows and Jack Benny, and all of those old guys. Young Dick Van Dyke as a dancer. It was so cool. I drew from all that, that was still kicking around in my brain.
Jack McBrayer told us on the MSN Exclusives series, that you were actually able to perform the voice work with other actors which is quite rare.
The only person I read with was John C. Reilly. It was invaluable. I learned a lot. I’m a fan of his to begin with, but the way he approached the role was like an actor approaching a role for any film. He would say, “My character wants this in the last scene. Then when we come here, I’m sort of losing steam. What if that want continues all the way through? Move this piece over here.” He was staying true to the character and not just catering to each scene, and doing the voice for each scene. That could be trap that I could fall into. You got a funny voice, I can find a lot of funny things to do. The real skill is to maintain a character that may have a funny voice, and does funny things, but is true his arc in the script. Working with him was amazing. There was a scene where I have to tell Ralph, “Listen, you’re helping her and you shouldn’t. She’s a glitch and she’s going to get hurt. I’m trying to help her.” It’s a touching scene between the two of them. I’m lying actually, but that scene we worked on, and we worked on. I really liked how it all came out.
Wreck-It Ralph is currently available as a digital download and will be out on DVD/Blu-Ray March 5. 42 hits theatres on April 12 and Suburgatory can be seen Wednesday nights at 9:30 p.m. on ABC and Citytv.