Moral Orel to Big Hero 6: Scott Adsit Interview

This week Disney takes full advantage of their fresh Marvel ownership by releasing their first superhero animated feature based on a Marvel property. It’s an obscure one, Big Hero 6, an anime influenced superhero team tale centered on the relationship between a boy and his big, bubbly robot. The voice of that robot is Scott Adsit, who lends his patent soothing tones to the cuddly medical robot turned armored crimefighter Baymax. Adsit’s name might not inspire brand name recognition, but his face is instantly recognizable to anyone with a taste for cult comedy. The Second City trained improviser was a regular on 30 Rock, a cast member of the legendary Mr. Show, one of the twisted minds behind the brilliantly blasphemous Morel Oral (as writer, director, and voice actor), as well as a regular comic character actor in countless TV shows and movies. He’s even technically already a part of the Marvel Universe, thanks to his old buddy Brian Posehn who named and visualized Agent Scott Adsit after him for the brilliant Deadpool run that’s still in circulation. With Big Hero 6 about to debut in cinemas, CGM got a chance to chat with Adsit about his two major roles in the Marvel Universe as well as Moral Orel, working on Curb Your Enthusiasm, the demon he played for Tenacious D, and few other aspects of his long storied career. Do read on, won’t you?

 

Comics Gaming Magazine: Were you aware of the Big Hero 6 series at all before getting involved with this project?

Scott Adsit: No. Some of the characters in it sure, but I never read the comic. Apparently, not enough people had. So Marvel said, “Do whatever you want” to Disney.

CGM: Were you worried at all about the fact that playing a robot limits the amount of emotion you can use as a performer?

SA: Well, I didn’t want to let anyone down for sure. I liked the challenge because I knew he had to elicit emotion without showing it. So that was the challenge and it was fun to play with.

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CGM: Given your improv background through Second City, were you allowed to bring that to the character?

SA: A little bit, yeah. At least once in every session I would ask to try something and go off on a different direction or a different rhythm or even add different lines entirely. Disney was very collaborative that way. They are very happy to let ideas flow within that environment. That’s what the whole animation department is like. They’re like an artist colony helping each other towards a common goal. No one steps on toes because everyone wants you to step on their toes.

CGM: Did any of your lines make it into the movie?

SA: Oh yeah. There’s a part where Baymax loses power and a lot of that is me. There were a lot of things that we tried that I think got animated and then were cut that just didn’t fit in with timing or something like that. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else. Oh, the fist bump. It was their idea to do a fist bump, but the noise came from me. Trial and error, that sort of thing.

CGM: Since this is a technically a Marvel movie, did anyone know that you’re already part of the Marvel Universe thanks to Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan’s Deadpool?

SA: [Laughs]No one said anything to me. I told them that I’m in Deadpool, but some of them didn’t know who Deadpool is. No one ever brought it up again. I guess they didn’t connect to it.

CGM: Did Brian even tell you when he did that since you two have worked together a few times?

SA: Gerry Duggan called actually. He said, “Would you mind signing some release forms?” [Laughs] I said, “What for?” It was very strange, but obviously I was flattered.

CGM: Have you ever reached out to anyone behind the Agents Of SHIELD TV series to let you know that you’re technically already a part of their organization?

SA: I’m going to play it cool. I’m waiting for them to come to me. I don’t want to seem too desperate and I don’t want to rule myself out from playing Reed Richards one day.

CGM: Nice, a canny career move.

SA: Thank you.

CGM: I was excited to chat with you today because I love Moral Orel—

SA: Oh wow, thanks.

CGM: Yeah, I guess I just always wondered how you got away with that?

SA: [Laughs]

CGM: Particularly the third season when things got so dark, I couldn’t believe that the show made it to the air. Was there a big battle?

SA: Well, we only kind of got away with it. There was no battle with the audience because no one ever wrote in. They were watching, but there were no complaints. The third season had evolved into a heavy drama. The only joke in the third season was that these were puppets feeling these emotions. The guy in charge loved Morel Oral and he appreciated the direction we took it. But when we turned in the first couple of scripts for the third season, they were so depressing. They were about depression, self-loathing, mutilation, rape, and suicide… you know, all the big comedy subjects. There was not a joke to be found, at least in reading it. So he got the first two scripts and said, “I’m going to cut your order from 20 episodes down to 13 and you’re cancelled once those are done.” (Laughs) Dino Stamatopoulos told me that the executive said, “Give me some piss. Give me some sperm. Anything!” We had kind of evolved the series beyond that. So we went on and made our episodes.  They were kind enough to at least let us make what we wanted to make. They respect artists a lot at Adult Swim. Then when we turned those first two episodes in that caused all the problems, he watched them and said, “Well, this is the best thing that we’ve ever had on the network. But you’re still cancelled.” He felt that though. He said, “I really was wrong and I appreciate what you’re doing. But you’re cancelled.”

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CGM: Did you ever do that Moral Orel special that you were talking about a few years ago?

SA: We did. It was a prequel called Beforel Orel. It just played one night.

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CGM: Is that it for the show or do you think you’ll go back to it one day?

SA: I think so. There was some talk of doing interstitials. We also talked about doing an Oral and Reverend Putty series with just the two of them. But Dino’s busy off doing other things and so am I. So we just haven’t put the effort in to make that happen yet.

CGM: Do you and Dino still write together at all?

SA: Not in a while. He’s working on a show with Triumph [The Insult Comic Dog] and Jack McBrayer right now. He’s also busy producing at his company and they’re doing a big movie.

CGM: Oh right, the Charlie Kaufman movie.

SA: Have you seen any of it?

CGM: No, all I know is that the two of them made it together and that’s enough for me.

SA: [Laughs] It really is. You really don’t need to know anything else. When you see it, you’re going to be blown away.

CGM: Why didn’t you do any more directing after Moral Orel?

SA: I did one episode of Frankenhole, but that was tough. We were in different cities at that point because I was working on 30 Rock. So I had to direct by proxy, I actually acted out the entire thing on video for the animators. But it wasn’t ergonomically sound. I’d love to do more. I like directing. I just haven’t had the time. Luckily, I’ve been working.

CGM: How was working with Ed Asner on Curb Your Enthusiasm?

 SA: [Laughs] Intimidating! He’s a very powerful presence and a very confident actor. He’s also one of my heroes because he was one of the first names on The Second City cast list. He’s one of the greats. I found out that he’s a really great improviser on that show. His character was really angry with me in the first scene that we did together. It was the first scene in the show’s history that Larry wasn’t in. He was very nice and gentle and sweet, but then we started the scene and he was on me like a laser. I just forgot that he was acting and that threw me off. So we had to go again because I was just so put in my place from his anger that my character fell apart and I just wanted to please him. You know, “What do you want?! Anything you need.” (Laughs) We finally got it after a while, but man that was an intense experience. He’s a very generous actor though.

CGM” Do you ever have people yell, “Casual Friday” at you in the street?

SA: [Laughs] Yeah, I do sometimes.

CGM: I’m curious just because everyone whose worked with him seems to have one, do you have any good Bill Murray stories from the set of St. Vincent?

SA: Not really. We didn’t have any scenes together and I didn’t get in his face. We hung out a little bit on the set and I asked him some questions about Second City. I wouldn’t attach any stories to that aside from the stories that he told. But, I will say that watching him in an ensemble where he is the crown jewel in the room, he is very generous and playful. He’d talk to every extra. He’s clearly the smartest guy in the room and ten steps ahead of everybody at all times. But he trusts you to keep up. So, you take that invitation. That goes for everyone from Naomi Watts to an extra to a gaffer. He’s a really exemplary man.

CGM: Probably because it was the first time I ever encountered you, I always picture that old Tenacious D episode where you play the neighbor and the demon in my mind whenever I see you.

SA: [Laughs] Ok…

CGM: So, I was wondering how you found that experience since you really haven’t played many characters involving make up and prosthetics.

SA: Oh yeah, I’ve haven’t done enough of that. It was great. The woman who did my make up was really into it. She did that amazing make up on my face and then the costume people made those satyr legs. But the thing that I always loved was that each one of my nails is a cloven hoof. That’s a detail I always loved because you can’t even really see it in the episode. That was pretty much just for the two of us.

CGM: How did you feel about Dave Grohl taking over your role later?

SA: I was pissed, but I will always defer to the better demon.

CGM: How was being a part of that Mr. Show world?

SA: It was great. I got in through Bob Odenkirk and Dino who I knew from Chicago. That’s when I met David Cross. It was a little intimidating because everyone involved in the show was so smart and confident. But you know, they were comedians. So probably not. I was not in the writing group. I was just an actor. So I never felt like I was one of the boys as much as an honored guest. I got in too late for that. It was pretty much just the last half of the last season. I felt like I was part of the cast, just not part of the core.

 

Also read our review of Big Hero 6.