Though he’ll likely always be remembered for his role as Michael Scott on the hit TV show The Office, Steve Carell his making his mark on the film world and is doing so in an effective manner. After starring in the surprise-hit animated flick Despicable Me back in 2010, the actor is back to reprise his role as Gru in the sequel, aptly titled Despicable Me 2.
Last week, Carell was in Los Angeles doing press for the film and we were lucky enough to attend a roundtable interview with him. Among other things, he discussed what it was like coming back to play the character, how he came up with the voice for Gru, the music of the film, and much more.
Check it out below.
Steve, you have a teenage daughter…
Steve Carell: She’s twelve.
That’s getting there.
Steve Carell: Don’t push it. (laughs) You’re rushing it.
Are you experiencing similar things that Gru is experiencing with his daughter? How’d it make you feel doing that part?
Steve Carell: We’re not quite there and I hope I’m not the same sort of dad. I hope I don’t act that way with a freeze-ray gun. It’s tricky, because I don’t want to be that overprotective dad, but at the same time, I do want to protect them. I understand what the character in the movie is going through, because you don’t want to see your kids get hurt. That’s the main thing. You know they’re going to have their hearts broken at some point. You can’t ultimately protect them from having that happen. I’m just enjoying their childhood as long as I can, because I know there’s going to be another period of time that’s going to be very different and difficult growth period for everybody, my wife and I as well.
How do you like returning to the character and what do you think of the evolution of the character?
Steve Carell: I love it. I think the movie itself is an evolution. I think it’s an extension of the first movie, which I thought was smart. The characters changed and grew, no pun intended, but at the same time, the sense of the movie feels familiar. The tone of it is the same as the first one, but the family is different. That dynamic is different.
He’s no longer officially a villain. Not to put too fine a point on it or overanalyze the movie, but there are certain things that struck me about the movie. One, that Gru is searching for what he is going to do. He thinks he’s going to start a jam and jelly business, but that doesn’t seem to be working out. He can’t go back to being a villain, but ultimately needs something that will fulfill him, which I think is a very relatable thing for parents. When you do have kids, I found that it becomes all about the kids and it’s very easy to lose your sense of self within that. You do have to keep your career and that side of it intact, because ultimately I think that makes you a better parent.
I think the movie is very timely with Father’s Day and was wondering was there any message in regards to single dads or the aspects of adoption?
Steve Carell: I think it celebrates family more than anything. I think it celebrates a sense of love and commitment to one another, but I don’t think it has any sort of political stands on anything. I think at its heart that it’s a very sweet, kind movie with these sort of dark trappings. That’s one of the things that attracted me to the first one. It’s a movie that doesn’t condescend to children. It plays to the top of their intelligence. I know, when I was a child, I wanted to be challenged. I wanted things that might be a little bit scary. “Edgy” might be too strong a word. I wanted things to challenge me, even as a kid. That’s one of the things that attracted me about it. I think underlying all of that is just a real sense of family and warmth. The first one just made me feel good when I saw it. That’s why I wanted to do this one, too. I think it does the same thing and it’s funny.
In The Way, Way Back, you play a decidedly more dysfunctional parental figure. As an actor, which is more fun to play? Which can you learn more from it?
Steve Carell: They’re so different. Keep in mind that I show up and I provide a voice. So much of this character is the animation, really most of it. They’re geniuses at it. You see the final product and you want to claim credit for all of it. I only have to do with but a small percentage of what goes into the movie. It’s just fun. There’s an enormous freedom to fail and you can do anything. The voice is really simple and easy. I keep saying that with the accent, I really set the bar low for myself, because it’s not really an accent. There’s no doing it wrong, because it’s a conglomeration of every European country in the world plus a little Latin America and some French. It’s really all over the map.
I made it very, very simple for myself in that way and very easy. It’s just fun. It’s just light. I don’t know if there are necessarily lessons to be learned within it, but I think there’s a sense of goodness, and I don’t want to overstate it, but the movie is just very kind. It’s very simple in a way and it has a good heart. It’s so much fun to do a kind of villainous, but comedic character within that. In The Way, Way Back, the guy is kind of a jerk. He’s somebody, in my opinion, who might have had a trying childhood. I liken him to a coach. I had a lot of coaches that were very hard on the kids in the name of building character. But It could have the opposite effect on kids. Both are identifiable for different reasons and I think for different results.
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