There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the new Netflix/DreamWorks/Cha Cha Cha Films original animated series Trollhunters, created by visionary director, producer, and writer Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Hobbit, et.al.). On Saturday, October 8, del Toro sat down with Geeks Of Doom at New York Comic-Con to tease the show alongside co-executive producers Rodrigo Blaas (WALL-E) and Marc Guggenheim (Arrow), as well as actors Kelsey Grammer (Frasier), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Charlie Saxton (Betas), and Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead). The protagonist, Jim Lake Jr., is voiced by the late Anton Yelchin, who was spoken of and honored during the roundtable discussion.
Geeks Of Doom’s own Sarah Pfeffer and Athena Costanza Torkel were both in the room for an exclusive look at Trollhunters, which is based on the book co-authored by del Toro. The show premiered after the interview in a special panel, and the cast enjoyed the episode side-by-side with fans for the first time.
Read what the cast and creators had to say, and check out exclusive photos from the interview here below.
Steven Yeun and Charlie Saxton
Q: What can you tell us about Trollhunters?
Saxton: It is Goonies meets Gremlins meets Monster Squad with trolls. So, basically, there’s this quiet town in California called Arcadia and all the sudden, trolls start popping up, and we’re not really sure where they’re coming from. But they need to be hunted and there’s only one man, one hero, who can hunt them all.
Q: How did they pitch it to you and why did you want to be involved?
Yeun: They said, “Do you want to work with Guillermo del Toro?” And I said, “YES.”
Saxton: They sent me the script that was literally all of my favorite movies and television shows combined and I said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m available now, forever.”
Yeun: The funniest thing that I heard was, they go, “Guillermo del Toro asked if you would be interested in coming and reading for it,” and I was like, “How does he know who I am?” And he goes, “He saw you in this episode of a pilot that didn’t do anything called Filthy Sexy Teen$. It was an offshoot of NTSF:SD:SUV, the Paul Scheer comedy that I did and they made this thing called Filthy Sexy Teen$ where I play – he’s the most popular kid in school and he’s gay and he’s Asian, but he’s not gay but he pretends he is because it keeps him popular but he actually is straight. So it was like this great conundrum, weird character and he saw that and was like, “I need to cast him in Trollhunters.” [laughs]
Q: Can you talk a little bit about who your characters are?
Saxton: I play Toby D., who is the best friend to Jim Lake Jr., the Trollhunter. Again, if I could compare him, he is the chunk from The Goonies, he is the Horace from Monster Squad, with a little bit of Sandy Lyle from Along Came Polly sprinkled in. He’s the guy that you want in your corner and he’s the guy that you want to have your back.
Yeun: I play a character named Steve, so I don’t know how to take it, but he’s the school bully. He’s like a six-foot-tall bully and I’ll be honest: when I walked in and he gave me the mock-up for the picture of what he was going to look like – tall, blonde hair, waspy-looking guy – I was like, “I’m totally gonna be fired.” Like, he just showed me this to say, “You’re fired.” But, it’s been cool, I get to play a bully that is a little bit of Jim’s rival and you’ll see how he continues to change.
Q: How is it with Guillermo directing you guys?
Saxton: It was pretty intimidating at first because I wasn’t sure what to expect. When you get that call that you’re working for Guillermo del Toro, a billion things run through your mind: This guy is going to be serious, this guy is going to be all business. It was the most fun, relaxed, laid back session or anything that I have ever done. He’s just all about being a team player and finding the funniest, most fun, and he’s such a collaborative worker too. Anything that fits and anything that’s good, he’s willing to do that.
Yeun: I also really like how he’s in the room with you, so it’s not like he’s just talking to you from behind the monitor or something. He’s there being like, “Ooh, let’s try this, let’s try that.” And also, working with Guillermo has been amazing and working with Rodrigo has been awesome. Rodrigo is kind of focusing the reins as Guillermo is kind of doing these big picture things.
Guillermo del Toro
Q: How did you choose your cast?
Del Toro: In the case of Ron, I only thought of Ron. I thought, “He is the guy.” I wrote the part for Kelsey. I originally conceived that character. If you see my notebooks, the first drawing of Blinky, it says, “Kelsey Grammer” because I’ve been a Frasier fan all my life. I think the rest of the cast was casting. We went for people that we heard 30, 40, 50 voices until we found someone that felt exactly like the character. It’s because the impulse behind Trollhunters was to create sort of an 80s feel-good, suburban, very crisp, very clean…scenes that have a family feeling.
Q: Did you ever consider recasting Anton Yelchin’s part for the longevity of the show after his passing?
Del Toro: I can tell you that in the moment that happened, I didn’t talk about it for a month. I could not. And I would not. So I just had a phone call and I said, “We’re keeping everything he did and we’re going to complete the new pieces.” Fortunately, we had most of them.
Q: There’s so much talk of diversity now, do you feel you have free reign to do that with voice acting?
Del Toro: Look, when I came into Hollywood in 1992, ’93, people were sending me scripts about Zorro, or toreadors or mariachis…I think that where you are from gives you roots, but it doesn’t give you anchors. You should be able to fly, you know? So, we just heard all these voices and said, “This one sounds the best.” I think that if you are for diversity, you don’t have to think about it. Your life just flows to that direction.
Q: Trollhunters seems like a family television show, and many people know you for your scary and creepy films. This one looks different. Can you talk about that?
Del Toro: I think Hellboy 1 and Hellboy 2 are perfect family movies. I think they’re fun, light. This series is produced with the same spirit that I produced The Book of Life, for example. I’ve now been producing on DreamWorks for six years. My filmography now includes Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda, you know? Being the father of two kids and being a lifelong, not only fan, but practitioner of animation, I started on animation. My first film was animation – my first Super 8. I started a school of animation in my hometown when I was a teenager, so the thing is about your life creatively, if you’re creative, you know this: people only think of you about what you’ve done. And you reveal new layers every time. Like when I did Pacific Rim, I was quenching a thirst of 40-odd years as a Kaiju Mecha fan, but nobody knew. When I did Crimson Peak, nobody knew I was a 15-year-old gothic girl. All that exists in me; I don’t belong like a brand. I’m an acquired taste…And I’m going to go in every direction but always from the gut.
Q: Can you talk about Guillermo’s direction on this project?
Perlman: Guillermo was very, very hands-on on this project meaning that he had a really specific idea of who this character was, his gravity, his command and what that would sound like and look like. He directed me hard to get this character. With Guillermo and I, there’s always an exchange. Sometimes it’s more vivid than others because sometimes, one doesn’t need the direction. But with this character, he had a really, really specific idea because he was creating a world that doesn’t exist, so I was needing to fit into it and he brought me in.
Q: Can you tell us about your character, Bular?
Perlman: I’m a troll, I’m a warrior, I’m royalty. I’m part of a dying civilization and I’m not happy about that. I’m fighting for our very existence. So, I’m an angry troll who’s rather large and who has a skillset that’s rather formidable as a warrior – and an attitude. Especially now that I have to go up against this 16 year-old kid/human. I’m like, “Get outta here, kid, you’re bothering me.” And he keeps coming back and it gets stupid.
Q: Are you excited to do a show that has a younger target audience?
Perlman: When I started having kids, I became obsessed with doing as many things that could get me street cred in the carpool lane at school. That’s kind of never let me. I feel like if I can get to kids, then I’m really kind of doing “the Lord’s work,” you know? Not that I reject more adult stuff, but whenever I have an opportunity to like, play in that world where the audience is vast, it’s delightful. Even though my kids are grown and I can’t get much street cred in the carpool lane, sometimes, I’ll just drive through the carpool lane with no kids in the car just to say, “Hey, I used to be Hellboy!” See what happens.
Q: You seem to attract roles in a lot of classics. Do you seek those out or does it just happen naturally?
Perlman: Well, I don’t think I’ve been in a lot of classics. But I’ve been very, very lucky. You get to be my age and you start thinking about legacy stuff and it’s really cool to be in something even close to getting classic classification, because it’s so rare. I mean, we try and we try and we try, but the amount of times you actually get into that zone where we’re resonating over a broad swath of humanity is really, really rare. That’s a dream for an artist is to align yourself in a situation where when it’s finished, people go, “That was good.” It’s not a given, it’s not part of the deal; it’s just something we all strive for.
Q: Mr. del Toro said you were the only one he wanted for your character. Can you tell us about Blinky?
Grammer: I’ve been told this and I’m extremely flattered by that. He’s a troll; that’s the biggest thing. He has six eyes; that’s part of it. He has several arms as well. But, his role is to be the teacher and to sort of preserve the good in the conflict between good and evil. And he’s there to teach this young man who’s been given this huge obligation to save both worlds: human and troll. So, it’s a big job and of course, he’s dealing with a child basically so he has to guide him along both gently and forcefully sometimes. He’s a really interesting guy to play. He’s a lot of fun. He’s very, very dramatic; very big. It’s a bit Ian McKellan-ish or Captain Picard.
Q: Are there notes of Frasier in there as well?
Grammer: Well, I don’t think so, but it is interesting that Guillermo just told me today that he gets home and he still watches Frasier sometimes when he’s done with his work. So, that’s really fun. It was a great show and I’m extremely proud of it. But, in this case, my vocal timbre is deeper and a little bit more declamatory, because he’s trying to teach this kid. There’s a wonderful episode where they actually had my character become a human being, which was really great.
Q: He’s a troll, but he seems educated. How do you balance that?
Grammer: He’s a Renaissance troll! It’s interesting. He is the keeper of the knowledge of this world. He does it with great passion. But, his edge is emphatic. He knows the importance of what he’s trying to do and so he has gravitas and occasionally, there’s a humorous moment, but it’s mostly because he’s trying to help this kid understand the world that has been thrust upon him.
Q: What was your experience like working with Guillermo del Toro?
Grammer: He defers a lot to what I think. But I work a lot with Rodrigo as well. He sits with me in the studio and says, you know, “Can you do”¦? Can you do”¦?” And I say, “Yeah, I can try that.” It’s a real sort of discovery process when it happens, which is really fun.
Rodrigo Blaas and Marc Guggenheim
Q: Can you tell us about some of the casting and characters?
Blaas: Jim is played by Anton Yelchin. That is someone that very early on, we always thought about him and he was the real soul of the project. So, talking about how we can celebrate him with the show because he did really amazing work with us.
Guggenheim: Before this project, I would have never thought it was possible to not like Steve Yeun. Who doesn’t like Steve Yeun? But, he manages to be such a jerk [as school bully, Steve]. There’s also several pieces of voice casting that we can’t talk about because it’s not until the second half of the series essentially.
Blaas: We can talk about Claire – Lexi Madrano. Lexi is [in] a Latino family…we always talked with Guillermo about how we can bring that into the realm. We played a lot with all these ideas and she does a fantastic job with Claire, too.
Q: This is a completely new world. What can we expect for the setting?
Guggenheim: Really, the envelope has been pushed in terms of the visuals for this project in such a wonderful way.
Blaas: This is also a Guillermo del Toro project, so we’re going to a troll world that is really luscious and really rich in texture…thinking about the mythology of the trolls and where they came from, he makes you go and research and look into the literature and lore. We kind of found a lot of little nuggets and bring something that you’ve never seen.
[Images by Sarah Pfeffer for Geeks of Doom]
The 26-episode first season of Trollhunters will be available on Netflix December 23, 2016.
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