This interview was originally posted on Criticize This!
Best known for his role as NBC page Kenneth on the TV series 30 Rock, goofy funnyman Jack McBrayer is perfectly cast as the voice of video game hero Fix-It Felix in Disney’s Oscar-nominated animated feature Wreck-It Ralph.
Criticize This! got to chat with McBrayer about the film, which is landing on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and digital download on March 5. Read our Q&A below.
Were you into video games when you were a kid?
I played, but I wasn’t great at them. We had an Atari 2600 and I played Pac-Man, Frogger, and Burger Time. Then we also got a chance to go to the arcade for our report card days. We would get three tokens for an A, or maybe two for a B. That was one of our biggest incentives for our education. That was the extent of it for me. I’m not really that familiar with current games where you’re driving over people.
Do you find you prepare differently for a voice role as opposed to a live action role?
Like anything else it starts with the script. For the voice stuff, it’s a piece of cake as you just read the script. For the live action stuff you have to be prepared in case your acting partner has a different interpretation of something. With both you have to know what the director is looking for.
You always seem to be playing the nice guy. Do you feel you need to live up to that image?
I’m a human being like anyone else and I get cranky and tired. But it’s just one of those things where you try to be really flexible, especially when there are a lot of really big personalities. With that being said, I’m always happy to do an R-rated comedy or a Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, or Adam McKay project. I do really love the fact that you can still find a real kindness in humour, but I’m also okay with laughing at how horrible stuff can be funny, too. Finding that balance and knowing when to say no to stuff is also important.
Do you feel the need to play a darker character?
A lot of people ask me that, and it’s not that I’m exactly opposed to it. I would certainly try to rise to the challenge, but I’m just worried I’m not going to be good at it. I like playing the good guy. I really do. You always hear people say they’d love to play a villain. That’s something that I’m just not that interested in. It would cause me anxiety and possibly give me an ulcer. I’m pretty happy just smiling real big and waving all the time.
Did you get to interact with the rest of the Wreck-It Ralph cast much?
For the most part it’s just me and a microphone. There was one session where I got to work with John [C. Reilly], and one where I got to work with Jane [Lynch]. Those were my favourites because my background is in improvisation, as is Jane’s, and John is just so talented. It was fun to just play, and it was also fun because me, John, and Jane were all in Talladega Nights way back in the day, and we’ve been friends from way back. It was fun to just goof off and try to match their energy, and to go off the script, because even if we got it the way the director wanted it the first time, they gave us a lot of free room to move around. A lot of that actually made it into the movie, so I was really excited about that.
You’ve done TV, film, and theatre. Do you have a preference over one or want to do more of one?
That’s a great question, because now that 30 Rock [has ended], I’ve just spent seven years on a TV show, and I loved it. I would be okay doing more TV and I would be okay doing more film, but I kind of have a little hankering to do a little bit of live theatre and performance. I was always doing plays since high school and I was in Second City, and that’s all live, immediate performance. There’s something about that where you get that response and that immediate gratification, and that hits my sweet spot.
Who inspires you?
It’s funny you ask because someone else asked that recently and the one I came up with was Don Knotts. He did so many fun things, and I don’t necessarily want to do a remake or a biopic of him, but I was inspired by him. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and Mr. Limpet. He got to do so many fun things, and he is a person who was, I don’t want to say stereotyped or typecast, but he was very good and consistent with his performances for decades. He was up there with the Andy Griffiths, and the Bob Newharts, and the Tim Conways, and the Bea Arthurs. They were great at what they did and they did it for a long time.
Would you be interested in doing a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph?
Yes! I would be very interested. I just hope it’s one where I don’t get killed off! But the thing that you don’t realize about a lot of actors is that sometimes they kind of sneer at the idea of doing a sequel, but guess what? We want to work. We’re always happy to say ‘yes’ to projects when it’s something that has the potential to be an incredibly fun project. When that’s the case it’s even better. But most of the time we’re just happy to work. When the perfect storm of great casting and great writing comes together and it looks fantastic, you realize you aren’t delusional and you aren’t fooling yourself. You realize that you are good at that.