You can tell the seasons are changing in Hollywood. After several weeks of horror films and animated fare based on Halloween themes, the big budget family features begin hitting the multiplexes this weekend beginning with Disney Animation's Wreck-It-Ralph. The film features an all-star cast that should bring out a wide variety of fans, including John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman along with Emmy winners Jane Lynch of "Glee" and Jack McBrayer of "30 Rock" and was favorably reviewed by our own Brad Brevet.
I had a chance to sit down with both McBrayer and director Rich Moore ("Simpsons", "Futurama") to discuss the film and Moore told me his team targeted all four leads almost from day one. "Sarah, John, Jack and Jane -- all four of them were up on our board. When [screenwriter] Phil [Johnston] and I would ask, What type is this character? Who could play this?" he said. "And we had a board when we were developing these things. We'd put up these pictures of people. And I was just talking to Amy, who is Sarah Silverman's manager. She goes, 'I remember the first time I came to hear the pitch. And it's weird. You had these pictures up of who you wanted and it was Sarah, and Jack and John and Jane and you got all of them.' I had faith in these people that would be able to give me what it was I was looking for."
He ended by saying, "I believe the old axiom that good directing is good casting." I agree and one of the highlights, for me, was McBrayer as the film's lovable handyman with the magic hammer. Then again I've been a fan since the first season of "30 Rock". Call me biased, but he's great and I was excited to sit down and talk with him last week about his role as Fix-It Felix, Jr., how he feels about the end of his critically acclaimed show and what it was like growing up in Conyers, Georgia.
I hope you enjoy...
What drew you to this project?
Jack McBrayer (JM): When producers and writers were looking to do a table read, they were getting together a roster of people to voice it. When they approached me, I saw the script and also when you get that phone call you say, "Yes," no matter what the script is.
Once I saw the script and I saw what Felix was all about -- someone who's eager to please, someone who's good at their job -- I thought, "Oh, yeah. I can do this." On top of that. It is a Disney movie. It is a Disney movie. We all grew up with Disney, and I never in a million years thought I'd be participating in something like this. It is kind of surreal and it is an honor, you know.
Do you still feel you always have to say yes?
JM: Yeah. The life of an actor is never one to get comfortable. Yes, I've been lucky, especially with "30 Rock", seven years, but I just want to keep working. I think any actor just wants to keep working and for me I want to work on projects that are with fun people. So once I saw Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, John C. Reilly, I was like, of course I will be part of this. Also, I had worked with John and Jane on Talladega Nights years before. So on this project it came down to hanging out and goofing around with friends.
Did you interact with them at all when you were recording?
JM: Most of it was me and a microphone, but there were a couple sessions, one where it was me and Jane, and one where it was me and John. Between me and you, those were the fun ones. Because you're acting off what they give you and I think it elevated my performance. Also, it is just fun.
You and Jane have similar career paths. You were around for years doing small parts and then suddenly became very well known.
JM: True. Coincidentally, Jane's background is improvisation, Second City in Chicago, same as me so it was funny that I had just met her on Talladega Nights and on top of that, between all the talented people involved. They're all nice. When you have nice people who have sick talent that makes all the difference.
Are you going to miss "30 Rock" when it ends this year?
JM: I am. You know, because we still have to do the work to make the season. But it is going to be tough. Tough. It has been the best gig I've had and that job is the reason I have opportunities like Wreck-It-Ralph. Thank god the talent that was on that show, I know the bar has been set pretty high. But then a opportunity like this comes along and I had such a good time. I hope people enjoy watching it, too.
You've been doing a lot of voice over work recently. Is that something you want to continue?
JM: For me, this was very unexpected. Going from Chicago to New York to Los Angeles where people have their own voice, a lot of people would say, "You've got to lose the accent." I would try but to limited success, so to me it was a drawback and now I'm getting work because of the way I sound. I'm okay with that. That being said, I do love the interaction of live action so if I could do a mix of acting and voice over that would be pretty choice.
Where are you from originally?
JM: From Georgia. I was born in Macon, and then when I was 15 we moved to a little suburb of Atlanta called Conyers. Do you know Conyers?
I know Conyers well.
Well, I used to go through all the time on the way to Athens. Plus the Fannings are from there, along with a few other people.
JM: Oh, yeah. Well I moved from there before any scandals broke out.
JM: Well, this isn't really Disney appropriate but there was a documentary called The Lost Children of Rockdale County. It seems Conyers had the highest percentage of teenage syphilis in the country. But like I said, that's not really Disney appropriate so I'll just let you research that yourself. But we've had a lot of great people come from there. Holly Hunter, the Fannings, Clint Mathis, the soccer player went to high school with me. Small town, but.
Back to Wreck-It Ralph, a question not involving syphilis. And isn't it great not to be involved in a film featuring syphilis?
JM: Yes, it is.
Have you ever thought about playing the villain for a change. Perhaps play Ralph instead of Felix in this film?
JM: I gotta say, I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses and well, Fix-It Felix, I'm not too far from that kid. But then again. With 30 Rock ending maybe I will want to challenge myself. Look at Bryan Cranston. We knew him for years as Malcolm's Dada and now here is is, cooking meth each week on Breaking Bad. So you never know. I might be the best serial killer we've ever seen. Theoretically.