We sat with the voice behind the character playing Riley's father, and spoke candidly with Kyle MacLachlan on being ‘Dad‘ in Disney•Pixar's latest animated film ‘Inside Out.'
For Kyle, being a dad in real life has shaped the way he takes on new roles, including the role as ‘Dad' in Inside Out where we watch him in the now infamous scene as Anger takes over and puts the foot down on Riley's behavior, a moment so perfect as it symbolizes many father/daughter relationships everywhere.
But Kyle is not a person who is let by the emotion anger. Born with a silly gene passed down to him from his grandmother, Kyle uses this emotion to build a strong relationship between him and his son.
And pizza, you though Disgust's ‘Is-That-Broccoli Pizza‘ was bad, Kyle MacLachlan once ate a homemade pizza made of mollusks and other sea creatures while at a Marine Biology Camp. Yuck! I'll take Disgust's broccoli pizza over that any day.
Find out how working on this film has changed the way Kyle sees his emotions, and his son's emotions, in our full Q&A below. And for even more behind the scenes interviews from the cast of ‘Inside Out', check out our interview with the five emotions; Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling, and our interview Director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera.
‘Inside Out' is rated PG and now playing in theatres everywhere!
Interview: Kyle MacLachlan on being ‘Dad' in Inside Out
Q: How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Kyle MacLachlan: They came to me through my commercial agent actually. It was Dahling, and they talked to her and she had this for me and I was like, that sounds very interesting and Pixar of course, I was so happy. I didn't really know what to expect or what they needed.
I had such a lovely first meeting with Pete Doctor, Jonas, and Ronnie DeCarmen, and they were grateful and I was grateful so it was a good mix.
Q: Did you have any specific challenges in the making of this film?
Kyle MacLachlan: It was all challenging just to capture the reality. To get where the voice would have enough going on in it, enough emotion, enough intensity that it would match the visual, the levels, and trying to get the levels just right.
As I said, I’m playing him in my head but I’m not seeing him to match my performance to him which you would do an ADR, so I would walk away a session and be like, I think that was OK. I hope it's OK. They'll tell me if it's not OK. I hope they don't fire me. It was one of those where there was a little bit of uncertainty each time.
Q: How long did it take to voice ‘Dad' from beginning to end?
Kyle MacLachlan: They were roughly two-hour sessions. I did I think five or six of those over the course of a year. It was fun because I would do my little thing and then it would go away and then three, four months, five months later, they'd come back and we would do another version, a slightly more refined version, and they would have more visual stuff to look at which was helpful. Then I could also tweak it a little bit. I was kind of expecting to go in and like have these pages and pages and pages of work and it wasn't really that demanding, it was really the specificity of it. We worked really hard on each little moment and each little piece of the sentence.
Q: As a Dad yourself, how much of the character is you, because this is a normal character departure from what you normally play?
Kyle MacLachlan: Pretty normal. It was fun to do this guy because being a Dad myself, I was able to bring a little bit of my relationship with my son in and, it was encouraged actually by Pete, Jonas, and Ronnie, they wanted my personality so I was happy to try different things. Some worked, most didn't, but it's always good to throw them out there as just ideas.
The process is strange because you're sitting with a microphone and you don't have anything visually to work off of. Pete would feed me all the information of what was happening in the scene, I would read it, and then I had to go into my head and play it out in my head as I was doing it. It was like I was shooting my own little movie as I was saying the words.
Walking into the room and sitting down on the edge of the bed and saying things got a little out of hand, you start asking questions like would I say that from the doorway or would I knock? So you begin to just put it together in your brain, let me try it this way and then let me try it starting it here. That was the process which I find fascinating.
Most people I think would be bored to tears but I love how to interpret those words in the most interesting way. That's the difference between doing it in front of the camera where you're actually just walking through it and you can feel it yourself, to just playing it out in your head as you go.
Q: You mentioned your son. How old is he?
Kyle MacLachlan: He'll be 7 in July?
Q: Has he seen the Movie yet?
Kyle MacLachlan: No, he's seen a few of the trailers, like the dinner scene. He loved the dinner scene. He says, ‘The foot is down,' he loves that part. So he's seen a couple of moments. I'll take him to see it at some point this summer.
Q: Do you feel like you can see their emotions in your head? Do you see this differently now?
Kyle MacLachlan: I totally see it in him. He's coming up on 7 so he's still trying to figure out how they all work together. Joy is the dominant one for him as well, but he can bring in some disgust with attitude, which I'm sure he's picked up at school. Some of the others as well.
He definitely has this silly gene from me, and that comes from my grandmother, but you begin to see and recognize not only in him but in other people as well. Like ohhhhhh.
I was doing an interview earlier where the writer said ‘Why don't you take your hand off the Anger button.' to his son, and I was like OK, maybe this will enter our consciousness in a whole different way.
Q: What emotions would control you?
Kyle MacLachlan: Wino would be one. [Laughs] He controls me after 6. I don't know if Pete Doctor and Jonas and those guys thought of that one, and it maybe not appropriate for Riley. Coffee would be another one. They're pretty much the same. Don't you think?
I was thinking to myself what emotion sort of rides gain on me as the dominant button, and still Joy I think for me. I would put underneath that silliness just because that's kind of my nature. The rest of them would be secondary. I'm pretty silly still.
Q: Can you compare voice acting and standard acting? Can you relax in voice acting?
Kyle MacLachlan: Going to work as an actor they tell you what time, they pick you up sometimes. They feed you. They tell what to wear. They tell you what to say. They tell you where to stand. They tell you when to stop. They tell you when to go. They tell you where to sit and you're waiting. They tell you where to eat lunch. So it's pretty nice not to have to do a whole lot.
Voice acting is nice because there's not a camera that you have to be aware of necessarily. Although they did film all of the stuff I was doing just to capture the physical gestures and mannerisms to incorporate in the role, in the drawings.
It's different but as challenging, because as I said earlier you run the scene in your head. I don't see all of the stuff, it's sort of described; he's at the door, he's at the bed. But when does he get there? And how does that work? And when in this line does he reach out and touch her hair? Would you pat her hand? All that is running in my head as I'm doing it, trying to recreate it, and you get exhausted doing that actually.
Q: Were there any quirks of your that they filmed that you recognize on screen?
Kyle MacLachlan: There's a couple of facial gestures that I see that I'm like ‘Oh God, that resembles me,' but only for a split second do they get me.
When they gave me the folder and said here is the character, I looked at him and I was like ‘He's got a mustache, and he needs a shave.' I was like OK, that's me. I had to get myself into that space. The same thing with Diane Lane. You look at Diane Lane, and she's gorgeous and the Mom was, you know, mom. Then you hear Diane's voice coming out of her mouth and, whoa, that's different.
Some of the monkey stuff that we did they were filming right as I was doing it, and that made it in as well. I felt like they relied on my contribution, and needed it actually and were grateful for it, which always makes you feel good.
Q: What do you think the audience of Dads will take away from this?
Kyle MacLachlan: He is a soft-spoken kind of dad, a gentle dad, and I think really attempting to connect with her, to understand her, what is going on in her brain. Which of course Pete spoke about that, that the inspiration was his daughter and trying to understand where this vivacious outgoing joyful little Creature went when she turned 11. I think just giving your kids a little bit of space to figure it out would be good.
In doing the scenes with her, I attempted to connect with her, ‘Do you want to talk about it?' and you realize with kids, a lot of it is about timing. If you come to them and you're prepared to have a nice conversation and they're not ready, you have to wait until they're ready. You have to engage them when they're ready. That could be at the most inopportune times, during the 4th quarter in a great football game, but you just have to walk away from the football game and engage them, because that's when they're ready.
Q: One of the favorite parts of the trailer throws me back to being a teenager where her mom is trying to signal the dad. Was it a throwback moment for you too, when you see something like that?
Kyle MacLachlan: That moment is so perfect in so many ways because it's recognizable for everybody. It's universal whether it happens to be the dad or the mom, but it's funny that it's the dad. But on a deeper level you realize he has probably had a crazy busy day where his brain is totally fried and he just wants to come home and sit down and sort of not think for a little bit, and he chooses the wrong time to go into his fog.
It's challenging especially when you have little ones. You really need to be present with them. I try to be present with my son as much as possible without being intrusive, and asking all sorts of questions. You kind of want to draw them out, but you have to be up for wherever that little brain decides to go and whatever they seen in class. Often times it'll be bedtime, and I'll be sitting down and we'll be reading a book, tucking him in, and he's getting all his animals around him, and he'll just pop out with something.
I may be tired and ready to go to bed but OK, hold on a second. You want them to be OK. You want them to feel A) that they can talk to you about stuff, and B) that if they have any kind of weird stuff that they're holding onto that you can make it a little bit better and it's going to be OK. That comes at any given moment in time, so just being present I think is the one thing that the dad in that particular moment wasn't.
Q: Has being a Dad shaped the way you take on new roles?
Kyle MacLachlan: Definitely I think. It's added another dimension of consideration. How is this gonna affect my family both in my being around or not being around, and also is it something that I'm comfortable putting out there? Do I want to carry whatever remnants of that work environment back home with me?
I'm not one of those people who clings to stuff, that needs to be engaged in the part 24/7. That said, certain scenes require that when you get to work that everything else kind of disappears and you really stay in that focus for the run of that scene. Then when the scene is over, you can drop it. I like to just drop it all away, just let it go.
God forbid they say, ‘OK we got to go back and shoot something,' then it's like, it's already been shed by me. I'm thinking particularly of the scene where I meet Chloe for the first time or Daisy for the first time, and that was a very tough scene and a very long day. Those required me to be really in it and I can't really pop out to have conversations and stuff. But those aren't that frequent. It was just a couple during the filming where I had to be like that.
All those things I'm definitely aware of now, primarily being away from him which was a consideration with “Shield”. Fortunately, they were very accommodating and I was only gone for 2, maybe 3 days maximum on that apart from 2 times. We worked a schedule out in such a way it was fine. I just don't like to be away. He's probably fine. I'm not. He'd say, ‘Oh Dad, I didn't even know you were gone.' I just hate being away from him.
and for a couple of fun questions during the interview…
Q: What’s the strangest thing you had on Pizza?
Kyle MacLachlan: Well 2 point answer. I like the Canadian bacon pineapple topping, but the more interesting answer is when I was in a Marine Biology Camp, either eighth grade maybe ninth grade, 14 or 15 yeas old, we had to make our own dinner based on the ingredients we found in water. So whatever we found in tide pools or in the water, whatever we could catch, we had to make our dinner.
We made pizza with a variety of different mollusks and things on top of pizza. There were some really chewy things that I didn’t really know what they were, but we stuck it on a pizza. We made it on a dough with tomato and then this stuff on top. It was challenging, That was one of the weirdest things that I've ate.
Q: You need a babysitter for your almost 7-year-old son. If you have to choose from the five emotions, which one would you want them to have?
Kyle MacLachlan: Which Babysitter? Well the protective dad would say fear because that would keep him from doing anything, but then he wouldn't experience everything that I would want him to experience. I think Joy. I think kids are pretty resilient, and if they got into trouble they'd figure a way out.
I love watching him come to me with an idea like ‘Dad, can you just hold this?' and he's got something in his hand. There's some fantastical idea that in his brain, it makes complete sense, this sequence of things. And I'm like, ‘Well if you do that, you're gonna end up falling in the toilet, you understand that?' And he'll say, ‘No, No, No, No,' because he sees it a completely different way and that is the fun of having a little kid. To listen to their logic because it's so completely not logical. I love that.
‘Inside Out’ is rated PG and now playing in theaters everywhere!
About Inside Out
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), and Joy (Amy Poehler).
The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
Portions of the material and expenses for this event have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.