While in L.A. for the McFarland USA event, we were able to cover the in-home release of Big Hero 6. Part of that was interviewing people from the movie like Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams, Behind the scenes of Big Hero 6 Bonus Content with “FEAST” Director Patrick Osborne, and Ryan Potter (Hiro) and Daniel Henney (Tadashi). Another amazing actor that we got to interview was Scott Adsit [30 Rock] who does the voice of Baymax. He was funny and great, it was a awesome interview!
Q : What it a challenge for you to bring the character Baymax to life?
Scott Adsit : Yeah. I think the audience does a lot of the work for Baymax, because he does skirt along in a kind of impartiality emotionally, but I get to lean on either side of him just a little bit. To invite the emotions to flood in from the audience. It was a bit of a challenge not to go too far off that line, but still communicate something emotionally. We decided pretty early on that he does not have that kind of emotional life. It is all programming but in spite of that decision on our part, the emotion, his emotional life does kind of creep in here and there.
Q : How did you find Baymax’s voice?
I didn’t know if it would be like a robotic voice and they brought me in for the audition and the script was the first indication that it wouldn’t be a typical robotic voice. Then when I saw the picture, because they already had the character design, I just saw soft, huggable, so I found a very benign bedside manner voice. I mixed that with the state of the art of robotic interaction vocally, which is pretty much an automated phone system. So he will talk with the flow, but then there are elements within a sentence that are variables. And so they’ll sound a little separate from the rest of it.
Q : How did your character evolve throughout the film?
SA : We found the voice pretty early on in the audition. The big change was somewhere in the middle of the process, they decided to give him another, facet, which is when he loses power and becomes, for lack of a better word, drunk. [LAUGHING.] And so I came in and they introduced this concept to me, and they’d scripted a bit of it. And so my first question was ‘okay, so how do I take that voice and make it drunk?’ because it [the voice] is such a straight line. And I said so do you want it to sound like a robot who’s drunk? And they said no, just be drunk. [LAUGHING.] So, then they put a process, a little filter on that Baymax has and that was it. I just played over the top drunk and when you’re looking at the character and when they got the filter and then I guess your mind processes oh, that’s how a robot gets drunk. But no, it’s just how I pretend to be.
An interesting thing about the processing filter on Baymax, I was told this after the fact, John Lassiter, who is the man in charge of the studio, wanted there to be a processing on my voice, but he also wanted it to be my voice to come through. And so they would bring him examples of a filter that they wanted to use in the sound department, and he would say no, dial it back a bit, dial it back a little bit. And they kept dialing it back, dialing it back, until eventually, it was just my voice [LAUGHING], no filter. They said there’s nothing on this now. But John liked what I was doing naturally.
What they ended up doing was a combination. They have all that filter on me at the beginning when you meet Baymax, and then during the course of the film, they dial it back, dial it back, dial it back, so that by the end, and I don’t know if you’ve all seen the movie, but in the last scene in the void there is no filter on my voice. It’s just me. And so he kind of finds his humanity with a subtle kind of a subtextual thing that subliminal, that you guys may not notice. I didn’t.
Q : Did you find yourself going home and staying in character?
SA : Yes. [LAUGHING.] Yeah, which is not bad. I was just talking to Daniel [Tenny] before I came in here and he has such an altruistic character in Tadashi. We were saying wouldn’t it be great to be egoless and helpful your whole life and every day but we can’t do it. [LAUGHING.] But yeah, I would go home and I would catch myself talking with the voice, which is not much different from my voice, but I know when I got it on. I would have to catch myself saying don’t start talking like him all the time because then that would really annoy people, especially casting directors. [LAUGHING.]
Q : Can we get a little bit of the voice?
SA : Alright. It’s funny too because I meet kids who are fascinated by the character and I’m always afraid that they will be disappointed that Baymax is just this kind of dangly, bald, bearded [LAUGHING], adult and so I’m always ready for them to go ‘oh’. [LAUGHING.] But they understand the concept, and I start talking to them and their eyes go wide and they get real excited and they totally accept it, so it’s the best job in the world. Let me see what can I say?
[IN BAYMAX VOICE], hello, I am Baymax, your personal health care companion. [LAUGHING.]
[NORMAL VOICE] I’ve been leaving messages for the kids of my friends saying, [IN BAYMAX VOICE] thank you for visiting Hero and me in San Fransokyo. We hooe to come visit you in Schenectady soon. But we have to stay here and I must protect my friends from danger. Currently, I am saving Fred from jalapeno and peanut butter pizza. [LAUGHING] [NORMAL VOICE] And they, they liked that. And I love doing it.
Q : Do you use a lot of improv?
SA : It’s a very collaborative process with these guys, and I’m very appreciative of that ’cause I come from an acting background of improv and there’s a good bit of my creations in there. Most of it is that great script. But in like the drunk scenes, I should say low battery scenes [LAUGHING], I got to play and they had a structure of what needed to happen in the scene and they just let me say whatever I wanted. And like the fist bump noise is mine and on set, a lot of things would be changed along the way because it just didn’t sound right in my ear, which I thought that’s amazing that they would, that here’s this company that’s so huge and so powerful, and doesn’t need my little input, but they listened and they incorporated it. So, yeah, best job in the world.
Q : Since the movie came out, how many fist bumps have you been forced to do?
SA : I’m never forced to do it and it happens a few times a week but not everyone knows it’s me, either.
Q : Has being the silent hero changed you any?
I see the value in just entertaining without needing to feed my own ego. There’s a certain satisfaction in being a stage actor where you get an immediate response and you can walk off and say, ah, that was great. And people think I’m great. That’s part of the reward of that.
With this, it is bigger than me, and I know I’m a small part of what makes Baymax – Baymax and so lovable because Baymax is this diamond with every facet being a different person. I’m just lucky enough to be kind of the face of the character, but when we talk about Baymax, it’s not me. It’s everyone who worked on it, who decided how he walks and how he blinks, all of that.
Q : Did it take a lot of takes to get the perfect emotional response so the audience could feel it?
SA : I got emotional in the room and then by that time I connected to Ryan’s [Potter] character, to Hero, and I had a great deal of investment in him and the fact that we were separating and that he was so upset. I had to get through it and we had to do it twice, because the scene changed over the course of the few months. I had to stop and say, I’m sorry, ’cause I was tearing up and it’s not so much about Baymax. For me as an actor, it’s more about Ryan and Hero’s experience going on so it was very emotional. And the bad thing was I wasn’t allowed, because actually it’s like you get to an emotional place, you want to share it, but I keep it reigned in.
Q : Talk about working with Ryan.
SA : We met at the first screening. Yeah, about 2 hours after they complete the final thing they did for the film, we had a party, a cocktail party at Disney and dinner and [John] Lasseter hosted us and some department heads and the cast. And there were about 30 of us watching the whole film for the first time anywhere and it was like a reunion of people who had never met. It was great. [LAUGHING.] So we’re a family before we even, having met.
Scott is so funny and I really loved listening to him talk about the film and his experience. We also got to ask Baymax a couple of questions – this is so funny! Watch this video:
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Big Hero 6 came out on Blu-Ray and DVD on February 24. If you don’t have it yet, order your copy of Big Hero 6 (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD) through Amazon. Your kids will watch it over and over and over (or wait, is that just mine? lol)
This was an all expense paid trip provided by Disney. All opinions expressed are my own.