‘Big Hero 6’ Interview: Ryan Potter and Daniel Henney Talk Voiceovers, Improv & More
Thursday, March 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm
The Academy Award-winning film Big Hero 6 is out now on Digital HD, as well as Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. The film was a box office smash, albeit not nearly as successful as Frozen, but still enough of a success to earn itself Golden Globes, Annie Awards, and most recently, an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
We were recently invited to the press day for the Big Hero 6 home entertainment release, and got a chance to interview Ryan Potter (voice of Hiro Hamada) and Daniel Henney (voice of Tadashi Hamada). In our interview, we talked about the long hours in the recording booth, improv, talking to fans of the film, the merchandise, and more. Hit the jump to read the full interview.
Geeks Of Doom: So what was the recording process like?
Daniel Henney: He [Ryan Potter] was in it a lot more than me obviously, because he is in almost every scene. That’s a work load. I think I went in for a total of eight to ten sessions, and I was in for an hour or two each time, which is much more than I was originally scheduled to be in for. So it was a pleasant surprise, but a lot of fun, and an experience I was happy to have that’s for sure.
Ryan Potter: Yeah, I was recording for over the course of a year, a little bit more than a year, and I went in 20 plus times, maybe around 30, but yeah I went in for six hour sessions.
Daniel Henney: Six hour sessions?
Ryan Potter: Yeah.
Daniel Henney: Could you even speak the next day?
Ryan Potter: No. But that’s why I would go in the next month. And every other week. But yeah, it’s interesting because I absolutely love voiceover, but it is a different type of tired at the end of the day. You kind of exhaust all the ideas you have in your head, so you go home and you’re like “I don’t have a single thought, and the next day you start all over again.
Daniel Henney: It just stimulates different parts of your brain.
Ryan Potter: Yeah, other than live-action, where you’re bouncing stuff off of each other, your working with each other, you’re in the room by yourself, and you literally dump everything in your head, and by the end of it, your just so exhausted.
Daniel Henney: It’s like when you take a long, long road trip in a car. You’ve been sitting literally for eight hours, so why would the first thing you would want to do is sit back down? It’s true, because your mentally exhausted, and focusing that long leads to the physical stage. It’s really intense.
Ryan Potter: But it’s so much fun. I didn’t go home one day where being tired overruled the fun that I had.
Daniel Henney: I wish I could keep it in a bottle. I feel the experience is already slipping from me. I’m thinking back to those days, I mean the memory is there, but it’s distant now, and I really had so much fun doing it.
Geeks Of Doom: So does that mean you are looking for more voiceover work?
Daniel Henney: Absolutely, I am, and because of this movie, a lot more came my way. But I did TV two or three days ago, and it’s different. I think Big Hero 6 is something super special, and there will never be anything like that for me, unless there is a sequel, Tadashi some how widdles his way in.
Ryan Potter: He’ll speak from the urn.
Geeks Of Doom: Oh my gosh haha.
Daniel Henney: I assumed he was in a coffin because I said “widdle.” My bad.
Geeks Of Doom: So after a long day of recording, did they give you any opportunity to do any improv?
Ryan Potter: They gave us complete freedom after they got what they wanted. Obviously T.J. [Miller] and Damon [Wayans Jr.] brought in their own jokes.
Daniel Henney: I did a lot of stuff. The first session was a big one because it was an idea searching session for Tadashi, and then I think they start to bring him down to a smaller picture. So I remember going in and having all kinds of catchphrases for him, like I had this one thing where he would get an idea and he go “Lightblub,” and then [co-director] Chris [Williams], was like “Dude, we’re going to do that. We’re going to put a little light bulb over Tadashi’s head. And every time he gets an idea he’ll go ‘lightblub.’ So I’m like “okay maybe we’ll keep that,” so it was a bunch of that kind of stuff.
Geeks Of Doom: What was the collaborative process like, did you at any point suggest any ideas to the directors Don Hall and Chris Williams?
Daniel Henney: I just kept saying, “What if he lives?” “What if he makes it?”
Ryan Potter: There were just some stuff I threw around, but they did such a good job with the film, I’m like: “yeah forget my suggestion.” But it really was the riffing and improve that we were able to do, from there, especially T.J., the joke about the wearing it front to back and then inside out front to back.
Daniel Henney: It’s so funny when you see that translated in Korean, the subtitles, it’s literally word for word in Korean. The Korean audience, they get it, but they laugh later.
Ryan Potter: The whole after the credit scene was not planned. There was actually a surprise for the cast and crew. They wanted to this Fred and Stan Lee bit at the wrap party and surprise everybody.
Geeks Of Doom: So were you like your characters in terms of being into science?
Ryan Potter: Um no, I’m much more of an art guy. But science and art can – they marry together really nicely, that’s what Baymax is. He is a bunch of technology that exists brought together, and the way he looks is art. Someone created this character from their mind, and I’ve always been a hands on creative person. I’ll literally have trouble sleeping if I know I didn’t get enough drawn, or built, or photograph that day, I have to empty these things that literally are bouncing in my head. So I am an enthusiast of where science can marry with art.
Daniel Henney: I always excelled in art class, I was much better at that. My dad was pretty big into science. He was big into aeronautics, which is a science in of itself, so he got me into that when I was young. But it wasn’t something I really perused. It’s fun and I am interested in it, watching these great characters navigate their way through the world, but I respect it a great deal, but I was more like Ryan too, a creator, I painted a lot, I drew a lot, I wrote poetry, stuff like that.
Geeks Of Doom: Now that the film is already out there and about to be released on Blu-ray, does any one recognize you by your voice when you’re in public?
Ryan Potter: I really only get recognized in Korea Town, Little Tokyo, Sawtelle, the Asian communities recognizes me, but I feel like with Daniel, he already stands out because he is the tallest Asian in the room. Then they’re like “isn’t that the guy?”
Daniel Henney: Just me and Yao Ming, brother. 5’5″, we’ve made it.
Ryan Potter: But like family and friends, their kids, they let them know I am the voice, and they freak out. Then they go “do the voice, do the voice,” and it’s really awesome, but it’s nice being the voice of it instead of the face of it because I can very much still do the things I still love to do, and not have conversations with random people.
Daniel Henney: Yeah, I haven’t had many experiences with the voice, Tadashi is in the film for maybe like 20 minutes, he is a memorable character but he isn’t the kind of character where people go “do the catchphrase.” I don’t know what it would be.
Ryan Potter: “Unbelievable.”
Daniel Henney: I don’t know, I sold a truck of mine, and the dealer was in Texas, and the guy goes “Hey man, can you do me a favor, my boys are huge fans of the Big Hero movie you did, can you please send me a poster. Could you write on it ‘Look for new angles?’ Love Tadashi.” So I send my truck from LA on a trailer, and I put a Big Hero 6 poster in the back seat that said ” Look for new angles, Love Tadashi.” And he sent me a picture of his kids excited about the poster.
Geeks Of Doom: Since Big Hero 6 is a loose adaptation of the comic of the same name, what sort of source material did you use as research?
Ryan Potter: I watched the teaser of the trolley car going through San Fransokyo about a billion times. I read the comic books, and skimmed through them, and once I got the role I bought them all, and I really did read them all. But other than that, there really wasn’t any source material. They told us that it wasn’t going to be like the comic books. The source material that was available was read it and have a loose interpretation of it. So really there wasn’t any source material, we got to go in and create this whole new world.
Daniel Henney: Yeah it’s one of those things where a lot is done in a room with the directors and producers. A lot is done through discussion. Getting the creative juices flowing on that day. It’s an organic experience, in the moment.
Geeks Of Doom: So then what is that like for you to know that Tadashi was revamped to be a brother instead of a father, do those kinds of changes have an impact on how you approach the character?
Daniel Henney: It can be a double edge sword depending on how you take it. If you have a good team like we did, it is a blessing, it is exciting, cause you know you are in good hands. Whereas on the flip side you are not in good hands then it can be quite scary, you know. You can’t always depend on the actors to take you in the direction, we have to know the tone, the line of the story, and the narrative. So working with Don [Hall] and Chris [Williams] was so incredible.
Geeks Of Doom: So what’s it like to see all these posters and merchandise of your characters…well maybe not so much Tadashi.
Ryan Potter: No, there is a Tadashi figure.
Daniel Henney: There’s one.
Ryan Potter: I was so lazy. I was on it like the Pop Funko, I bought all of those. I bought a good amount of the action figures. But the vinylmations are the things I wish I really got. That would have been cool to do a Tadashi version of that.
Daniel Henney: Yeah, they only made one action figure, but I have many of them. My mom will go crazy, in a good way. So during Christmas, she still thinks I’m 15, and she’s like “I decorated the tree,” and it was a whole Big Hero 6 themed Christmas tree. She wrapped the tree with a ribbon that had Big Hero 6 characters printed on it. She bought four collections of the characters and made them into ornaments, and hung us on the tree. Baymax was on the top of a tree with a fan blowing so he was spinning in circles.
Geeks Of Doom: So how would you sell Big Hero 6 to anyone who hasn’t seen it?
Daniel Henney: Just straight up U.S. Dollars.
Ryan Potter: Or Euros, haha. I mean it is such a smart movie, and when people try to sell films they say “You’ve never seen anything like this before,” and for most of the time, you’ve really have. It’s the same story, same characters, maybe slightly different setting; this really is a completely different story. I think the film it could kind of relate to is the Guardians of the Galaxy in a sense that it’s a hodgepodge hero team. But Guardians of the Galaxy they have powers, they have guns; us we just use our intellect. Other than that, there are so many differences, so really our film is original, it stands out, it really is like nothing you have seen before.
Daniel Henney: Yeah, this is the one to get out and watch. It’s going to help your kids, they’re going to learn something. You can rest assure that taking your kids to this movie will help them in some way, inspire them to do something, which can’t be said for a lot of movies including animation. I know from experience parents taking their kids to see this movie, and they are like “I want to build a Baymax,” that’s pretty cool, your starting a little fire there, and that’s great. We need more of that.
Ryan Potter: Actually if I can add another thing too, it’s very refreshing to see and hear an unconventional cast.
Daniel Henney: In many ways. In our ethnicities, but also vocally. We’re not trained voice actors. I think Scott [Adsit] has done a lot of voice work, and obviously Alan [Tudyk], but for the most part we are normal actors, there is something about that really shows in the film. There is a warm connection with the team, the six, and Tadashi as well. They feel very normal, and that’s important.
Be sure to check out our recent interview with Big Hero 6 directors Don Hall and Chris Williams.