He’s a lithe, light-fingered actor who casually steals scenes with impeccable comic timing and unexpectedly rubbery physicality. Tudyk has been good in a lot of bad stuff but he’s even better in good (if little-seen) comedies like Frank Oz’s original “Death at a Funeral” (in which he played a nervous potential son-in-law who accidentally takes a hallucinogen before a funeral) and “Tucker and Dale Versus Evil,” as a backwoods type mistaken for a serial killer. And let’s not forget Wash on “Firefly” – or Steve the Pirate in “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.” Arrrrh.
But Tudyk is on the phone to talk about playing Ben Chapman, the Philadelphia Phillies manager who becomes the face of racism in “42,” which topped the box-office charts last weekend. In the film about Jackie Robinson’s first year in the majors, Chapman shows up spitting one racial epithet after another from in front of the Phillies’ dugout at Ebbets Field, a monologue of bitter bigotry that left Tudyk feeling slightly hungover after each day of filming.
“It was like I got wasted at a bad party,” Tudyk says. “It would leave a stain on your mood, and put you into a bad mood into the next day.”
In fact, according to the film’s director Brian Helgeland, the hate-speech that Chapman spewed (and which got laughs from his players) was toned down for the film. But that didn’t make it any easier for Tudyk, who had to chant, “Hey, nigger, nigger, nigger,” at actor Chadwick Boseman, playing Jackie Robinson.
“It was hard to get past my own feelings,” Tudyk says. “I had to get past that actor feeling of being someone sensitive and liberal, who’s not used to fighting.”
To steel himself, he would go on the Internet, seeking out videos of streetfights: “But not those cage matches, where they both want to be there,” he notes. “The ones where someone is caught up in a fight he doesn’t want to be in, where he’s kind of saying, ‘Help me,’ and nobody does. I’d watch four or five of those and, when I stopped flinching and I had a knot in my stomach, I knew I was good to go. I had a good store of aggression and anger that I could take to work.”
Yet Tudyk’s job was not to be the most hateful person possible – but to be someone who would have fit right into polite society of the period: “Ben Chapman was like a lot of good ol’ boys I’ve met. He’s nice and funny – and then he tells a joke that’s extraordinarily racist and you think, ‘Oh no, I’ve got to go.’ I love the idea of him being somebody who could be likable. There were people who liked him.”
As he researched the role, Tudyk found that, in fact, Chapman’s entire career had been marked by a pugnacious (and racist) personality: “He would say, ‘Well, I’m an equal opportunity racist. I call Joe DiMaggio a wop and Hank Greenberg a kike. It’s all in good fun.’ He’d argue that, hey, this is a serious game and we’re playing for keeps so we’ll do what it takes to win. But at the same time, he’d say, hey, we’re just having some fun. There was a twisted logic there I could make sense of.”
Chapman’s own history was checkered as well: “He was one of the first players to get fined by his own team – like $100 or $200 when that sort of fine was not given – for starting a fight in the outfield over a Jewish slur he used on one of his own teammates. Apparently 200 people came on the field and started fighting. He actually got into an argument with an umpire one time, pulled the guy’s mask off and punched him in the face.”
With “42” in the theaters, Tudyk still has “Suburgatory,” the ABC sitcom which is just finishing its second season and is predicted to return for a third. He’s happy to have some downtime in a career that he never saw coming.
Growing up in a suburb of Dallas, Tudyk was active in speech – as opposed to drama – in high school “because I didn’t like the drama teacher. He was one of those guys who played a lot of mind games with his students. And besides, I was going to be in hotel management. I loved my job at Taco Bueno. I was taking classes in advance hotel management and thought I would work at a fancy hotel.”
But a teacher told him that he was too good not to try acting: “She convinced me I could become an actor and not be poor. She had this insane confidence.”
He went to a two-year college in Dallas, while finding acting gigs around town, before finally deciding that he needed actual training if he was going to act. He applied to the Juilliard School and was accepted: “Then I left before I graduated because I didn’t much care for it.”
Which was fine, because he was already working: He’d been cast to play a multiplicity of characters in Alan Zweibel’s “Bunny Bunny,” for which he won both the Theater World and Clarence Derwent awards.
While that play was being developed, he held one of his last non-acting jobs, working at Harry’s Burritos on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. There was a gorgeous soap opera actress who was a regular customer, who would come in with her handsome boyfriend and chat with Tudyk.
“I was so in love with her – but she’d bring in her boyfriend,” Tudyk recalls. “But the guy was so nice and tipped me so well that I couldn’t hate him. Six years later, I’m working on ‘Firefly’ with Nathan Fillion, who’s now one of my best friends, and we’re talking about our early days in New York. And we figured out that he had been that actress’ boyfriend and I had been waiting on him.”
Not only was the Chatswin father rejected by Carmen, of all people, on Suburgatory, he and his young son Opus have taken up shop in a luxurious hotel in an attempt to right the ship. Things get so bad that the town moms corner Noah’s buddy George for a faux intervention.
As Alan Tudyk tells it, Noah’s romantic downfall was a highlight to play. “To see him fall head over heels in love with someone, go for it and then get shot down was fun — to be a genuine loser,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He lost out, but not because he was a bad guy, he just lost.”
Tudyk talks to THR about Noah’s post-Carmen blues, the dangers of rebounding and what the rest of the season has in store.
The Hollywood Reporter: Noah has been lacking in the romance department as of late, especially last week when he unsuccessfully tried to woo Carmen.
Alan Tudyk: I loved it. There isn’t a lot of romance in his life. To see him fall head over heels in love with someone, go for it and then get shot down was fun — to be a genuine loser. He lost out, but not because he was a bad guy, he just lost. He tried his best and fell for the wrong woman. It was a little endearing.
THR: The costume Noah wore was pretty spectacular.
Tudyk: To dress like a hot sauce mascot is always good.
THR: Now he’s down and out.
Tudyk: Like any down-and-out single person, he moves into the most expensive hotel there is and is raising his son. He shares custody with his wife, while they’re figuring out the divorce, but he’s living in luxury — until he gets ejected. He’s rebounding all over the hotel and has to leave – because it’s causing problems. He ends up doing some couch surfing. George gives him some advice, too.
THR: Who does he try to pick up at the hotel that causes him to get kicked out?
Tudyk: All of the Carmen-like people. Anybody who looks like Carmen, anybody who resembles Carmen who’s in the service industry – and actively servicing him and his son. [He] mistakes [them] for someone he can love.
THR: How does he justify that?
Tudyk: He is confused. He’s been in a long relationship with a woman who is frigid, heartless and stern. That’s what he liked in Carmen; she was caring, nurturing, voluptuous and a woman. His wife had a weird almond-only diet. He’s leaning towards the nurturing woman figure. Any woman who has that nurturing, caring side – whether it be caring for him and giving him turn-down service, or caring for him and delivering his room service, or cleaning the room – he mistakes for love. He goes after a few different ladies.
THR: What was that experience like, sort of taking on a model role for the day in the “Decemberfold” episode?
Tudyk: It was great. The main thing I learned was playing someone who is being sexually exploited or physically exploited is a very similar thing. The line between playing it and being it is tough to figure out. They put me in a Speedo, like, “You’re going to wear this.” I tried on the Speedo, and they said “Yeah, that’s way too big.” Not in size – it fit me — it was just too much material. They started shrinking it down, cut an inch off the top, up in the crotch. I love any episode that has Jeremy [Sisto] and Chris [Parnell] and together. We’re competing in this [episode] to be the sexiest man in Chatswin. The December fold, the centerfold of the calendar. The photographer in town, Jarrison – an odd little man – is in charge of photographs. He’s the one saying, “Put your hands in his hair.” It’s freakish and very funny.
THR: Was seeing Chris Parnell in the Titanic pose one of those surreal moments?
Tudyk: That was awesome. His character [Fred] – whenever we’re in the steam room or the locker room, and we’re in towels or robes, or anything like that – just likes to be naked. “Is this a privates party?” [He] loves showing off. He feels very comfortable with his body, and actually, Chris feels very comfortable in the nude thong. It’s always hysterical whenever Fred Shay gets to be sexual.
THR: As we near the end of the season, where does Noah end up?
Tudyk: Noah’s main thing, throughout the season, has been figuring out his feelings for Carmen. From the very beginning, he was battling Dallas (Cheryl Hines) to get Carmen to be his nanny. She gets taken away from Noah. Noah is really immature and so, he plots revenge on Dr. Bob. He’s not done with Dr. Bob. He’s heartbroken. It stinks that Carmen has chosen Bob; it’s Bob’s fault. He did break his trust. He has to get back at Bob.
Yesterday, you heard from Jack McBrayer in our continuing coverage on the movie Wreck-it Ralph. Well today we have a geekdom favorite, Alan Tudyk! This actor has been in almost every serious geek franchise there is: Transformers, Alphas, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and V. Just check his IMDb profile for the rest, it won’t all fit in here…
I happen to have been lucky enough to catch up with Tudyk to discuss his stellar portrayal of the evil King Candy in Disney’s Wreck-it Ralph on Blu-ray Combo pack which became available earlier this month.
Below you will find about 9 minutes of conversation that we had where we discuss acting, working with other actors such as John C. Reilly, and the mind of King Candy.
Alan Tudyk may not be a household name but his face and voice are likely quite recognizable to moviegoers and TV viewers over the past decade or so thanks to roles on Firefly, V, CSI, and Young Justice, and in DodgeBall, A Knight’s Tale, Serenity, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, 3:10 to Yuma, and Wreck-It Ralph. He currently stars in the ABC comedy Suburgatory and will be seen later this screen in the major motion picture 42.
Al Norton: What’s the longest you go without someone coming up and talking to you about Firefly?
Alan Tudyk: If I’m in public it will be every day. If I am about and about doing things as opposed to staying at home or working – and all the people I see at those places already talked to me about it and asked all their questions a long time ago – it’s every day. People love that show and our fans really seem to want to share that, to shout it out when they see us. It’s not a subtle feeling (laughing).
Al Norton: Did you have any idea before, or even during the filming, how loyal and rabid the fanbase would be?
Alan Tudyk: No idea. Our first photo shoot, before the show was even on the air, we were all together at some Frank Lloyd Wright house that gets photographed a lot. We were inside doing photos for several hours and there were five fans at the gate of the house waiting for any of us to come out and sign things for them. I remember seeing them and saying, “who are those people? Why are there teenage girls out there?” and Nathan (Fillion) said, “those are fans, they’re here because of Joss (Whedon).” We went over and signed all their stuff and it was the first I saw of anything like that, although I still didn’t really get it.
It was just recently, the last couple of years, where I’ve started to here Firefly talked about on other shows – they made a reference to it on Community, they did a reference to it on Castle but that’s because Nathan is always going, “hey, why don’t we make another reference to it?” – and for some reason seeing it in other shows referenced as a show that gives people geek cred really made an impression on me. It’s a certain type of person who knows Firefly and it’s a good thing when they do, it’s a good thing to know.
Al Norton: Are you up for any sort of new Firefly-related project were it to come down the line?
Alan Tudyk: Oh sure. There are certain restrictions on my character since he doesn’t breathe anymore (laughing) but of course. I’ve said before I think there will be something down the line, especially the way the media is going, with a lot of new and different homes for a lot of different voices. Netflix is pretty cool; I just did a couple of episodes of the new season of Arrested Development, which was on at the same time as us. There’s ways to do it.
I don’t know about my character but as long as you have Nathan Fillion, it could be five years from now or ten years from now and you’ve got an older Malcolm Reynolds living on some moon somewhere and someone knocks on the door and says, “we need you, it’s time to get the band back together”…There’s so many different versions of that story and that universe is so well defined…
Al Norton: Wash could be the Obi Wan Kenobi talking in the circle above Mal’s head.
Alan Tudyk: At the 10 year anniversary at Comic-Con Joss said flashbacks would be the world I could inhabit. Unlike Nathan who in 10 years will be older but look exactly the same, I don’t know how I’m supposed to start rewinding (laughing). I’m sure he’ll find a way.
Al Norton: How much fun is it to play the heightened reality that is life in Chatswin (the town where Suburgatory is set)?
Alan Tudyk: It’s a lot fun but that line of exaggerated reality is a tricky one to stay balanced on. Emily (X, the show’s creator) writing allows for moments of humanity as well as really crazy moments that are not real at all. Your character has to be able to stretch in a lot of different directions. It’s a blast and I am having so much fun with it.
The storyline of me confessing my love for Carmen is such incredible zaniness, with everything with Dallas and Dalia, and the back and forth between who gets the nanny, and then the T-ball game that followed.
Al Norton: Has it been hard to keep a straight face in some of the scenes with Cheryl Hines as your two characters have had this war?
Alan Tudyk: Yes, there’s a lot of moments where you’re laughing. I know Cheryl was having trouble looking at me with my blonde wig on or where I was at the hairdresser with all the foil in my hair. She had eight pairs of sunglasses on her head as way to hide her roots, which I thought was brilliant. She looked wonderfully ridiculous (laughing).
Al Norton: My favorite part of that episode, and I’m curious if it was scripted or now, was when Noah checks his hair in the ambulance window as it drives the kid with the broken leg to the hospital.
Alan Tudyk: That was just something I did on the day. It was fun. Thank you for noticing that. They really allow us to have fun on the set, whether it’s something like checking your hair like that or coming up with a new line or two…There’s an episode coming up that involves a mariachi band where they let me choreograph some jokes with them.
Al Norton: You mention a mariachi band; there’ s been a lot of music on the show, so do you think at some point you could do a full on musical episode?
Alan Tudyk: Wouldn’t that be great? That would be very Wheedon of us! You’re going to see me sing with the mariachi band and I need to work on my voice. The Fathers of Mass Destruction is going to be back next season if we get picked up for a third season. We had so much fun with that that we’d have to do it again. Jeremy Sisto is a great singer and can really play the guitar like crazy. I learned to play the bass guitar for that and Chris Parnall learned to play the drums for that episode. Obviously Ana Gasteyer can SING.
Al Norton: I was really surprised by that.
Alan Tudyk: She’s so good, so good. Barracuda is not an easy song to sing and she rocked it out.
Al Norton: How have you not done an episode of Castle?
Alan Tudyk: I know. I wanted to this season. There was one that Jonathan Frakes directed, where they go to the Comic-Con and they offered me a part but the timing just didn’t work with Suburgatory. I don’t think Castle is going anywhere so we’ve got time. The stipulation with me is that I want a character who is going to play with Nathan more one-on-one, like when Adam Baldwin guested.
Al Norton: Is 42 the first time you’ve played a real person?
Alan Tudyk: Hmm, I guess so.
Al Norton: What sort of research did you do?
Alan Tudyk: Wait, I played Stephen Douglas in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (laughing). It wasn’t a real version of him, though, so this really is the first time. Are you familiar with Ben Chapman at all?
Al Norton: Yes, very good baseball player and baseball mind but, like a lot of people of that era, a vicious closed minded bigot.
Alan Tudyk: Right, all that hate overshadowed his abilities as a player. I did some research. I was doing it Wreck-It Ralph at the time and Jim Reardon, who was one of the story editors, is a huge baseball buff and helped me with so many books. He did more work than I could have ever done.
The things that helped the most were interviews that Ben Chapman did. There is a lot of stuff out there about his antics and schnanegins when he was on the Yankees that is very hard to believe. He was an anti-Semite…he was an equal opportunity bigot…There were reports that he would Nazi salute Jewish fans, right after World War II. I can’t even imagine…So insane. He was just not liked; he got in a fight with another outfielder who was Jewish out on the field that ended up turning in to a 200 person brawl. When he managed in the minors before he became a player-manager for the Phillies he punched an umpire in the face because he didn’t like his call; he lifted the mask off his face and punched him in the face! He was nuts.
When he did play Jackie Robinson, when the Phillies went up to Brooklyn for a three game series, he would come out of the dugout and say every racial slur that he could to try to upset Jackie and get him off his game. He was unapologetic and that kind of became his legacy.
Al Norton: Is it odd to think, “ok, I’m getting up and going to work today to go spew out a bunch of hateful words”?
Alan Tudyk: It wasn’t easy. It honestly put me in a terrible mood.
Al Norton: I wouldn’t think so. They yell cut and then you go have lunch with everyone after being so awful.
Alan Tudyk: Chadwick Boseman, who plays Jackie Robinson, when I first met him he said, “Hi, I’m Chadwick, and I’m not going to talk to you.” After we did our scenes he said, “I’m sorry; I know how hard what you’re doing is and I didn’t mean to be rude.” We didn’t really go out to dinner until after it was over.
There were all these extras who were African-American and I gave this little speech before hand. “Hey everybody sitting in this section, I’m going to be saying a lot of stuff that is going to be very offensive and I want to apologize ahead of time.” After a couple of days of that straight in the hot sun I was in the worst mood. My parents were visiting the set at that point – and how great is that timing? Hey Mom and Dad, look at what I’m doing with my life! – and we went to dinner one night and I took one bite of my dinner and took one bite and sent it back and then told them I wanted the check. I had to stop myself and realize I was just in a bad mood because I had spent a lot of time being an angry, angry person.
Chadwick is so good, by the way; he does an incredible job. I’m an actor who likes watching other actors and I was blown away by him. He’s an actor who’s going to be around for a while. All of his previous TV and movie work added together doesn’ equal the screen time he gets in 42 and he is just great. The movie is set solely on his shoulders and he delivers in a big way.
Don’t miss Suburgatory, Wednesdays at 9:30 pm on ABC, and don’t miss 42, opening in theaters nationwide on April 12th
The great thing is about Tudyk’s latest project, the blockbuster animated hit “Wreck-It Ralph” is he gets to be both with the pivotal role of King Candy — the ruler of the Sugar Rush video game who has a serious hidden agenda.
“I’ve always liked roles that have a dark turn in them, and King Candy’s is the darkest,” Tudyk told me, laughing, in a recent interview.
New on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D (Walt Disney Home Entertainment), “Wreck-It Ralph” is about Ralph (John C. Reilly), a lonesome, 8-bit retro video game character who is sick of being the bad guy. Day after day, Ralph wrecks the Niceland high-rise apartment complex so all-around good guy Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) can put it back together and become the hero.
Leaving behind his home (sadly, a pile of bricks) to travel across other generations of video games in the hopes of becoming a hero himself, Ralph is suddenly catapulted into the candy-coated cart-racing game Sugar Rush, where he meets the tiny but feisty Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a misfit in the game’s world because she’s a glitch.
Unfortunately, Ralph’s first true friendship may be a short one, since he inadvertently unleashed a deadly enemy on his quest to become a hero. With the help of Vanellope, Felix and an action hero game soldier, Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), Ralph goes on a quest to stop the enemy before it destroys everything.
For Tudyk — who’s done multiple voice roles, including three “Ice Age” films, as well as such television series as “Young Justice,” “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” — approaching an animated film isn’t so much about concentrating on the sort of take he’ll give the voice, but the written word it’s based upon.
“You approach each project pretty much the same way — you just start with the script. I had this great class in school that taught about how to approach a script,” Tudyk recalled. “It’s amazing how what I learned in that one semester class is what I still use. It all starts with your script and your source material. You need to keep reading it. Something will pop out at a certain point. Questions start to come up in your head and you start to see it clearer and clearer with each read-through.”
For “Wreck-It Ralph,” Tudyk said brilliance popped out of script in several places.
“I love ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ for its story-telling,” Tudyk said. “It was so effective, the way everybody’s performances rolled out. It just worked for me — I even cried a couple of times.”
The road to final version of “Wreck-It Ralph” was an interesting one for Tudyk, who first participated in a table read of the script a couple years back with Silverman, McBrayer and Lynch (Reilly wasn’t involved in the project yet). He said as the story was being developed, the role of King Candy kept getting bigger and bigger.
“As the character kept coming out of me, they were witnessing the birth of a funny, evil guy, and the filmmakers kept pushing the evil and his silliness,” Tudyk said. “By the end, it was a bigger thing than I ever could have imagined.”
Another thing that happened on the project that was unexpected was that Tudyk got to record dialogue with Reilly. It’s a rarity that two performers are actually in the same recording studio at the same time on animated films, but this time the coupling of the Ralph and King Candy characters made a huge difference.
“Those turned out to be my favorite scenes. It was invaluable to have that. You can’t anticipate what you’re going to get from another actor, and you realize you end up doing that when there isn’t someone there to record with you,” Tudyk said. “You just sort of generalize who that other character is, but when you’re with someone else, you just have so much more to react off of and it elevates your performance — especially when that person is John C. Reilly. I liked him going into the project, and I’m even a bigger fan now because he was such a professional.”
Tudyk said above all, he admired Reilly’s dedication to the project. Tudyk recalled that the acclaimed actor wasn’t there to wreck things, he was there to help build “Ralph” into the best film it could be.
“He wasn’t just coming in and reading the dialogue — he had been working on the script and had really great ideas,” Tudyk said. “When the script was off a bit from what the character had been doing prior to that — if he slipped a little bit, John would point it out and say, ‘Is this in keeping with what we’ve been doing?’ If the answer was ‘no,’ what we came up with at the moment was so much richer and so much better.”
Tudyk said Reilly’s contributions were so valuable, in fact, that he was recognized in the credits for more than his voice acting.
“He got some sort of additional story credit,” Tudyk said. “I’m sure getting that credit does not come easy and it has to be deserved — and from my sessions with John, it was.”
Look for Tudyk (“Firefly,” “Serenity,” “Suburgatory” and the under-appreciated horror comedy “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil”) to next star as controversial player-turned-manager Ben Chapman in the upcoming Jackie Robinson baseball biopic “42.”
Hypable has spoken to actor Alan Tudyk both about his upcoming Suburgatory storylines and about his thoughts on a Firefly revival, and now we bring you the final part of the interview. Here, Tudyk previews his role in the upcoming movie 42, which premieres April 12.
42 tells the incredible story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman), who became the first black Major League Baseball player in the United States when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
In the movie, Alan Tudyk plays Phillies manager Ben Chapman – Robinson’s greatest adversary off the field, who actively tries to undermine Robinson’s position and spreads very vocal racial slurs about the player.
Naturally, any actor might find such a role hard to take on, but writer and director Brian Helgeland believed that Tudyk was the man for the job. Tudyk, on his part, has nothing but praise for the director.
“I was really excited to work with Brian Helgeland again after working on The Knight’s Tale together,” he says, “and the script was just so brilliantly written.”
It was Helgeland who approached Tudyk about playing Ben Chapman because of the complexity of the character. While Ben Chapman was, in Tudyk’s words, “not a very nice guy, basically the face of the worst racism at the time,” he was also someone who a lot of people really liked. “So Brian had said that he wanted me to play it, because he didn’t want somebody who just comes on and plays a villain,” Tudyk explains.
Helgeland’s vision for the movie included a Ben Chapman who wasn’t just an average bad guy. “He wanted someone to do Ben who could show that he wasn’t just straight-up evil. That he was a ‘good ol’ boy’ who just had this very narrow view of race,” Tudyk says. “Ben was a product of where he grew up – and that’s how I played him. He’s not out there just being a meanie, he’s out there having a good time, he’s having fun.”
In terms of preparing for the role, it helped that Chapman had been so vocal about Robinson to the press, because that meant that Tudyk could go back and read all of his worst statements verbatim. “He had some really twisted logic,” Tudyk explains. “He’d say, well, Jackie wants to be treated like everybody else. This is how I treat everybody else. So I’m showing him respect, why don’t you show him the same respect I am?”
While Tudyk was happy to take on this role, he did have a few reservations going in. “I was a little worried,” he confesses. “People identify actors with their characters, and up until this point it’s been really good for me. I’ve played a lot of really funny, silly characters… so people will be like, ‘oh, I really like that pirate who plays dodgeball, there he is right there!’ It’s a good thing.” Now, there is perhaps a slight worry that people will identify him as, “‘that racist guy who got fired from baseball after being such an ass.’”
At the same time, “the things he’s saying aren’t being said just to make the audience feel a certain way. It’s actually what was being said, and this guy was actually the manager of a major-league team standing out in front of everybody, saying these things.”
Tudyk also confesses that shooting some of the more explicit scenes took a toll on him. “There were some scenes, the scenes where I was just really race-bating Jackie, those scenes were very hard,” he says. “And they put me in a really bad mood. And then I went home, I realised that I was in this terrible mood, basically taking my work home with me.”
Despite having to get into the mindset of this character however, “being a part of this movie is just really fantastic,” Tudyk says. “There’s some laughs in it, too, and some really great performances. Certainly, there’s Harrison Ford like you’ve never seen him before.”
Harrison Ford underwent quite a transformation to play Robinson’s coach Branch Rickey, and even Tudyk admits that, “there are moments within it where you’re like, ‘oh right, this is Harrison Ford!’ He doesn’t look like him, and he’s got this deep voice as the cigar-chomping Branch Rickey – who was also this great, colourful character at the time.”
The actor recently had a chance to watch the movie, and is very proud of how it turned out. He was especially impressed with Chadwick Boseman, a relative newcomer to the industry. In his own words, “he knocks it… well, he knocks it out of the park. There you go. Oh boy, that just happened. ‘It’s a home run performance,’ I can see the quotes now!” (But don’t feel too bad, Alan – we can think of much worse puns right off the bat.)
Ultimately, Tudyk says, this movie tells a story which should have been told a long time ago. “It was an important time in baseball, in the United States,” he says. “All the characters who were around at that time, the baseball hall of famers who were just getting their start at that time, they were on that team.”
And more than anything else, “it shows how amazing Jackie Robinson was. That’s gonna come across: what an amazing – not just baseball player – but civil rights leader and human being he was.”
42 hits theaters on April 12. It also stars Christopher Meloni, Lucas Black, and Nicole Beharie.
It was Ed Wynn for the win this Saturday at the Annies. As Suburgatory star Alan Tudyk — who used Wynn’s comic persona as the inspiration for his vocal performance as King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph — wound up beating out Adam Sandler and Jude Law for this year’s Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production award.
Mind you, what makes Tudyk’s King Candy win all the sweeter is that he wasn’t actually Walt Disney Animation Studio’s first choice to voice this character.
“There was another actor that they had originally wanted for King Candy. But due to scheduling conflicts, he couldn’t make it to the first reading of this script back in April of 2010,” Alan recalled during a recent phone interview. “That’s when my agent Britney began insisting that I be allowed to fill in for this guy, saying ‘Wait ’til you hear what Alan can do with this part.’”
And Tudyk’s agent aggressively going to bat for him must have worked.Next thing you know, he found himself on a flight to San Francisco with Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch, where they then got a tour of the Pixar Animation Studios campus.
“I’m a big ol’ nerd when it comes to animation. So getting the chance to go behind-the-scenes at Pixar, touring the offices there as well as getting to see scenes from Toy Story 3 months before that movie was released to theaters, that was honestly more exciting for me than getting to take part in the initial reading of the Wreck-It Ralph script,” Tudyk said.
But clearly the Disney and Pixar executives who sat in on this April 2010 reading were impressed with Alan’s take on King Candy. Tudyk remembers John Lasseter coming up to him once this Wreck-It Ralph reading was completed and giving him a big hug. And sometime after that, Alan was working with director Rich Moore, recording dialogue for (SPOILERS AHEAD) the comic villain of this Walt Disney Animation Studios production.
“Now, you have to understand that Wreck-It Ralph had been in production for quite a while before Rich and his story team then decided to merge the King Candy / Turbo storylines and then turn those two characters into a single villain,” Tudyk explained. “Up until then, King Candy was just this uptight monarch who wanted everything to be just so in the Sugar Rush game.”
Now Alan has played bad guys before (for example, the evil Alpha on Fox’s Dollhouse). But even though he already recorded all of King Candy’s dialogue, Tudyk was still surprised by how mean Moore and the Wreck-It Ralph production team wound up making this character in the finished version of this movie.
“When I finally got to see the completed film, and here’s King Candy ramming Vanellope’s car off the road and then attacking her with a cane, I have to admit that I was kind of surprised,” Alan stated. “I mean, I knew that he was supposed to be a bad guy. But I didn’t know that he was going to wind up being that scary.”
To be honest, Tudyk kind of misses the earlier version of King Candy. Back when this character really did harken back to Ed Wynn and his Perfect Fool persona.
“There was this joke in an early version of the Wreck-It Ralph script where — right after Ralph comes in and disrupts Vanellope’s initial attempt to enter the Sugar Rush race. King Candy turned to all of the spectators in the stands, who now are rioting because they think the race isn’t going to happen. And the King cries out ‘Stop! There’ll be no race riots here!’ ” Alan laughed.
That was a joke that both Rich and I loved, something for the adults in the audience that would hopefully sail over the heads of the kids. But in the end, we wound up cutting that gag because we didn’t want to distract people from what was going on in Wreck-It Ralph’s story at that point in the story.
Speaking of villains and race, Tudyk will be adding to his rogues gallery in April when he plays Ben Chapman in 42, the upcoming Warner Bros. release which will detail how baseball legend Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier back in 1947. When I asked why he’d ever considered playing such a notorious racist as Chapman (who — as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies — became infamous for the way that he’d bait Robinson from the Phillies dugout), Alan had a very simple answer.
“Brian Helgeland — the writer and director of 42 — helped me break into movies when he hired me to appear in A Knight’s Tale back in 2000. So I kind of owe him,” Tudyk explained.
More to the point, Brian didn’t want Ben to be seen in 42 as just this one dimensional villain. He asked me to play this part because he thought that I could maybe capture Chapman’s duality. Show people how Ben could be seen as this good ol’ boy by members of the press back then but still be this awful racist.
It was the challenge of playing someone as complex as Ben Chapman that ultimately convinced Alan to sign on to appear in 42. But to be honest, Tudyk found voicing King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph pretty challenging as well.
“I’ve done voicework for animated features before. You can hear me voicing minor characters in three of the four Ice Age movies. But King Candy is the first character that I’ve had in an animated feature which has some real meat on his bones,” Alan enthused. “I’d love to get the chance to voice this character again.”
Which may be fairly difficult. Given that (SPOILERS AHEAD) the Cybug version of King Candy meets a pretty grisly fate as he flies into the light at the end of Wreck-It Ralph.
What’s particularly tough about this animated character’s demise is — just like what happened with Tudyk’s Firefly character (i.e. Wash was killed off in “Serenity,” the big screen version of this sci-fi television series) — that then mean Alan can’t return to voice / play this same character in any follow-up films. Which has to have been tough over the past week when Joss Whedon first talked about how he was toying with producing a “Serenity” sequel after he finished working on Marvel’s The Avengers 2 and then Rich Moore talked about he, John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman are itching to get started on Wreck-It Ralph 2.
“Yeah, it sucks to be the one who can’t come back for the sequel,” Tudyk mused. “But getting nominated for an Annie — to get that sort of recognition from your peers — that does take away some of the sting.”
We have spoken to actor Alan Tudyk about a number of his projects, one of which was Suburgatory, where he currently resides in the alternate, orange-tinted form of Noah Werner.
When asked what we can expect from Noah this year, Tudyk drops a bit of a bombshell on us: “I’m gonna leave my wife,” he reveals. “Let me tease that. I’m gonna go leave my wife.”
Wow! We might have seen it coming, considering that Noah and Jill (Gillian Vigman) don’t have the healthiest of relationships, but they did just have a baby, so this is sure to shake things up in the ‘burbs.
Tudyk also reveals that his upcoming arc will be very much about Carmen (Bunnie Rivera), whom he’s still upset about having been taken away from him. He and Dallas (Cheryl Hines) will be having some head-to-heads about the nanny, and we’re betting their altercations are going to be hilarious.
“In the last episode it’s mentioned that I’ve stolen her dog walker Ashanti, even though I don’t have a dog,” Tudyk recalls. “I’ve hired her dog walker away from her, and I’m continuing to do that. I’m hiring everybody. And then she takes my mattress flipper away… so it’s become this rich person feud, I guess.”
This will all come to a head on the t-ball field, when in an upcoming episode Noah and Dallas will be coaching rival little-league teams. But ultimately, “it’s all about Carmen for me,” he says. “Noah has to come to terms with what that’s really about for him, with Carmen. And it’s something deeper. I am linked to Carmen – I want Carmen back, and it’s very well may end my marriage. ‘Cause I want Carmen.”
And something that might help Noah bring Carmen back into his life? A mariachi band, of course. Because why not, right? “That is coming up later on in the season,” Tudyk teases. This was an experience he particularly enjoyed filming, too. “If you don’t have that on your list in life, you just don’t know what you’re missing,” he says, laughing. “You need to get a good mariachi band around you, you can’t anticipate how wonderful that feels! You really can’t. It’s like your own Mexican soundtrack, it’s fantastic. I mean I always have my own Mexican soundtrack going in my head, but to actually have other people able to hear it at the same time? Pretty incredible.”
Tudyk also talks about the band that Noah formed with George (Jeremy Sisto) and Fred (Chris Parnell) in the episode “Chinese Chicken.” He was very excited about this storyline, as he explains, because it gave him an excuse to learn how to play bass guitar. “When your characters are rocking, you actually have to rock to get them to do that,” he says.
And hopefully this won’t be the last time we’ll see (and hear) the Fathers of Mass Destruction (and/or Mein Fatherband). “I heard the writers were breaking a story that might involve them,” Tudyk says. “We haven’t done it yet, but it would be closer to the end of the season. I definitely want to put on a scarf wrapped around my head and then be shirtless with a leather vest again. I’m always looking for that excuse…in life, at work, not at work, whenever.”
Finally, Tudyk talks about the future of the show, as the idea of college is introduced for Tessa. “With Tessa getting older and with college coming up, my college-aged daughter is gonna come back into the picture as someone who can help Tessa out,” he reveals, though, “I don’t know how college is gonna work… that presumably would be outside of Chapswin, unless she goes to a community college? But she’s pretty smart, so I don’t think that makes a lot of sense.”
What he does know is that the writers have a plan. “When you’re signing a seven-year contract, you to have a plan going in,” he says. “But… maybe I should ask somebody? So far I’ve been going, ‘don’t ask! If you close your eyes no one can see you.’”
He does share the hope for Suburgatory to go on for a while. “Especially in these last few episodes, I’ve been having a really good time [on set],” he says. Now, “Noah has this very clearly defined storyline going on, getting Carmen back,” and “we’ve been doing things that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I have a lot of things I’ve been wanting to do for a while, so we can just keep going! Just checking those off.”