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Alan Tudyk is ending 2016 with a bang.
The former Firefly star is no stranger to sci-fi or to voicing Disney characters, supplying his vocal talents to each Disney Animation Studios release since 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. Now, Tudyk is in the midst of two of the year’s biggest draws on the big screen, with Disney’s Moana — in which he voices the dim-witted, scene-stealing rooster Heihei — already a hit, and Star Wars stand-alone Rogue One — where he plays the imposing droid K-2SO — set to post massive numbers when it hits theaters Dec. 16.
The actor took time out from shooting his upcoming NBC comedy Powerless, set in the DC Universe and focusing on the lives of non-superpowered insurance agents, to drop hints on K-2SO’s possible Star Wars future and to throw a little shade at Jar Jar Binks.
You’re voicing the droid K-2SO in Star Wars: Rogue One. What was that like?
It’s motion capture. So, you will hear my voice, but I was there for the whole thing. It was a blast. It’s basically acting, but you’re wearing a silly costume and the actual costume comes later in post. But you’re working with the other actors, so the lines change and you’re affected by their performance. You’re part of making the role and making the movie there on set as opposed to animation, which is very different. There’s one animated character that’s a good example of Star Wars animation gone bad, which is Jar Jar Binks. He was 100 percent animated and it didn’t go well. It became cartoonish and I think a lot of that can be attributed to the way that it was done.
You’re playing these very advanced androids or alien creatures, but the audience still needs to connect to the character.
Luckily the history of droids in Star Wars movies is really rich in that they’re not just emotionless robots. They’re some of the favorite characters within the franchise, so right from the beginning there’s a lot of leeway. The whole world embraces them as fully formed personalities and characters. We almost don’t question that they have a soul.
There are so many iconic Star Wars droids. Was it a challenge to make K-2SO distinct?
No, it was written really distinctly. He’s very different from the others because he comes from the Empire. He’s a security droid, so he can be an intimidating force and can be enforcing. Some people call him an enforcer droid, which seems appropriate. And he’s a spy and a soldier. Playing a droid also gives you the possibility to pop up in other Star Wars films since they don’t age like the human characters.
Do you think we’ll see K-2SO in any other installments?
I’m doing my best. (Laughs) Sure, why not? All these worlds are intertwined. It’s exciting to me what they’re doing with these stand-alones. You can criss-cross those timelines at any point. They’re creating them. They’re giving these backstories to characters and filling in blank spots like ours.
You’ve done a lot of work with Disney Animation Studios over the last few years. What’s that relationship like?
I think they know, and I certainly know, that I wouldn’t say no. They’re like, ‘We’ve got an idea, let’s see if you’re into it.’ Whatever you want to do, guys. I’ve had so much fun with these movies.
In Moana, your character Heihei doesn’t speak. How do you make emotions with just bocks?
It’s like any kind of acting where you’re using those sounds instead of lines, where you wake up in a boat you thought you were just going to sleep in, look around, there’s no land in sight and you scream. Just whatever the circumstances. You’re being grabbed by the throat and being thrown around by coconut-things and you just vocalize that. It was really fun.
Heihei’s character was originally conceived as much more intelligent, almost judgmental, but ended up being much less intellectual, to put it nicely. Were you attached before Heihei’s personality change?
I came in when he went stupid. (Laughs) It’s funny, in Moana I’m also this old guy right at the beginning who wants to eat Heihei. Heihei came along later, I was just going to do a couple little roles. But they’re really nice in that they’ll say, “Moana‘s coming up, we’re looking for something. We’re figuring it out.”
Do you have any say into what kind of character you want to play or do they present you with something and you say, “I got it, I can be a chicken”?
Yeah, pretty much like that. It’s like, “Here it is. Give it your best shot.” There’s actually a pretty small family over there as far as animators and directors and story artists that you get to know them and see the same faces again and again. I love it.
Are we going to see any familiar DC villains or heroes pop up on Powerless?
Yeah. Who’s that one guy? Jack O’Lantern. There’s another one, Crimson Fox, and there’s a line, “Oh, Crimson Fox, she’s B-list at best.” When it is one of the lesser-known superheroes we don’t ignore it.
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