What do a dryly witty, reprogrammed Imperial droid, "Moana's" oddball chicken Hei-Hei, the weaselly Duke of Wesselton, and, now, a clueless Wayne family scion have in common? They all either look, sound, or move a lot like Alan Tudyk.
The past year marked a significant career high for the actor, who's best known for his roles in fare ranging from "Firefly" and "Dollhouse" to "Suburgatory" and "Trumbo," with voice roles in several Walt Disney Animation Studios films to boot. In particular, Tudyk's voice and motion-capture acting in "Rogue One" led the sardonic K-2SO to become one of the biggest breakout characters in the new generation of "Star Wars" stars, and now he's entering the DC Universe, sitcom style, with his turn as the not-as-smart-as-he-thinks tech millionaire Van Wayne on NBC's "Powerless."
Tudyk joined Moviefone for a look at his recent phenomenal run, including the perks of being a Disney voice and his notion to put K-2SO back on the big screen.
Moviefone: Here you've steadily built a career as an actor, you're working all the time, and then all of a sudden you have a year like the last year that you've had. Tell me a little bit about what it's been like to have this very special moment in your career, walking into "Powerless" along with all the great things that have just happened.
Alan Tudyk: It's great, now that we've started 2017, that a lot of things -- "Star Wars" came out, and I finished "Con Man," and it is now about to be all fully released and the season will be out. Obviously, "Moana" is out -- I can focus solely on "Powerless."
It was all very thrilling and dizzying, and now it's great to be here just focusing on "Powerless." I don't know that, I guess, because it was so busy and so many things were happening at once, I really understood what was involved -- I also got married, so that was a fun thing to put in the middle of it all. It was actually the best thing last year.
Yeah, you're right. It was a very full year. And now, I can't wait for people to see "Powerless." I love that it's part of the sci-fi world, and sort of in keeping with so many things that I've done now. It's nice to have some continuity.
The genre field has been good to you, and you have been good to it. So tell me what was creatively exciting about being able to probe for the comedy in the world of superheroes with "Powerless" -- and especially playing a character that we've learned is related to Bruce Wayne himself.
I think it's a blast! DC tends to be a little bit more serious, I think, than Marvel, absolutely. To be able to do a comedy and have the supers from that world as objects of humor is very exciting to me. When there's anything that's really serious, it's fun to turn it on its head and poke fun, and compare it to a regular world. The stakes are really high when you have such a fantastic world happening alongside office work. That's exciting to me, and it's been really fun to play.
Who is this guy, Van Wayne, to you? How are you perceiving him as you get to know him a little better?
He's a broken character. He's a broken man. He's a product of being spoiled and growing up with the promise of being a Wayne and that everything's going to be handed to him, and he doesn't really have everything handed to him that he wants. He has a lot, but he doesn't appreciate it.
He's not, definitely, the most clever person in the office, but he thinks he is, and those are really fun characters to play. He has girlfriends, he's his own worst enemy, he's a child. He's a baby-man. He's a baby-man with parents that are cold, and that's what broke him.
You know how devoted the fans of genre entertainment are, more than anybody else out there. What are you excited about them coming to this show and getting to see what you guys are doing there? You know that you've got fans that follow you from project to project and are always interested in what you're doing.
I hope that they do follow, and come and check it out, and laugh. That's what I hope people do, is laugh. While this is on on my mind, I saw the director of a movie I did called "Tucker & Dale [vs. Evil]" today, which was a genre movie. It was a horror movie, but it was a horror comedy. People who are fans of horror movies watched it, but it's a comedy. It not only caught the horror audience, it went outside of that just to people who like comedy. So I guess the answer is, I hope that sci-fi fans come in and find it funny and that it grows from there, because it isn't just meant for sci-fi fans.
But also, sci-fi fans love comedy in their superhero world. Joss Whedon does that really well. "Firefly" that I did in 2003, and whenever I have seen those episodes again, I'm always taken aback by how funny they are. I think that the writers have done a great job, and I've been having a lot of fun, so I hope that's what people take away from it, that it's funny, and it's just as much fun to watch, it sounds so trite, but it's true: it's just as much fun to watch as it is to make.
I got to sing a song last week. I've sung two songs, a blues song on a guitar that I can barely play. I had a harmonica. They give you a lot of freedom to play. It's what you want as an actor.
It really does sound like an actor's holiday, in that they're throwing you the opportunity to do all kinds of stuff to get a laugh. I'm sure you've got to keep it within the confines of who this guy is, too.
Oh yeah, absolutely. Luckily, the character is a classic comedic character, that he's someone who's full of himself, who's not very bright, who will get himself into trouble. So the things he does that are extreme or really fun come from that. So his character drives that.
Tell me what it was like for you to be the comedic voice of "Rogue One" -- an otherwise very serious-minded movie -- with as deadpan a touch as possible, and create this really distinctive character.
K-2SO! It was great. We had so much fun. I don't know -- I didn't really think of him as being this -- I don't know why -- droid in the long line of droids. It's about within this serious movie being the comic breath that you can take inside of all of the high-paced drama.
It was a blast. I would go on set and have fun. Some characters just have a lot of room to play around, and you kind of don't know which ones those are going to be. K-2 was one of those, and they let me really play around with him. I'd do the lines as written, and then I would do some of my own. "I want to say a thing here, in addition to what's written," and they were game for all of it.
It was great, and I'm so happy they used it, because it all just came out of the fun I was talking about. It was a blast, working with Diego [Luna] and Felicity [Jones] -- I mainly worked with the two of them most of the time. We were standing in the rain in London most of the time, so it kind of became that I was the smart-ass anyway on set. Although Diego's a pretty good smart-ass.
When you saw the reaction to that character -- people didn't know what to expect and they immediately fell in love with K-2 -- what was that like for you to see how instantly he's been embraced, and he's now going to be an iconic part of the "Star Wars" lore?
I'm really happy people like him. I didn't think about doing a droid in the "Star Wars" universe, like how important it is -- at least to how important the other droids are to me, that I didn't think of myself being one of them until, I guess, I saw it in some people's reaction.
I don't know -- it's humbling. It's hard to get your head around still. I haven't been able to go to a Con yet. I can't wait to go to another Con. Yeah, because I feel like that's the sounding board I need to meet fans, to meet them.
Do you hope that you can return to that character -- or a variation on that character, in some way, given that he's a droid? We presumably could see him again in the past, or another version of him in the future?
I would jump at the chance. He seems very dead, but if somebody wants to revise him in some way, I wouldn't disagree, I wouldn't ignore it. Again, I would have a blast.
I have my own take on it. I have a way to do it: It's doing a prequel where we follow Cassian and K-2 before they join up on this mission to get the plans of the Death Star. So you kind of see the two of them being spies. I think that would be fun. Would just get a different mission, and it'd be like "Mission: Impossible," I don't know -- maybe not that.
I would buy a ticket to that. I would also buy a ticket to a K-2 and BB-8 road movie.
[Laughs] I'm there! Let's do it! That's great.
Tell me what it's been like to have this great ongoing relationship with Disney on the animation side, and to be given the kind of creative opportunities as a voice artist that they've given you over the last several years.
It's ridiculous! It's another thing that I can't make sense of. I'm so happy. I'm so happy they've embraced me. It all started after "Wreck-It Ralph," which was one of my favorite roles I've ever had a chance to play. Then right into "Frozen," and then they decided to keep it going.
I realized I was a bit spoiled when there's this great dinner that happens when a movie is about to come out and all of the voice actors go to Disney, and John Lasseter and everyone who worked on the movie that were the heads and the directors, and the animators, and the writers, and all of that, get together and watch the movie. It's usually about 20 people, you watch the movie at Disney in the animation building before it comes out, then you go upstairs and there's this amazing catered meal, and they present you with a drawing -- a pencil sketch of your character done by the artist who drew your character -- and it's amazing.
I think it was for "Zootopia," I was like, "These things are always fun." It was always like, "What are we going to have? What did we have last time? What was the dessert? I remember the fish was underdone." It's this magical gift of a night. It's a beautiful, rare occurrence in most actors' experience. And my wife and I were like,"Oh, right, the fish wasn't good. Are you going to order the steak this time?" I've become spoiled, and they've given me the opportunity.
Tell me a little bit about, in the midst of all this, having your own project in "Con Man," trying to keep that on an even keel as you're doing all these other great things.
Oh, my God, man! Yeah. There's a lot of hats! I'm wearing a lot of hats on that one. It truly, with all these other things, it is the thing that takes up most of my focus because of that.
But it's amazing when you push the boundaries of yourself, any artist I'm sure, but I'm an actor primarily, and I am writing on "Con Man," and directing, also wearing a producer hat, you change, like as an actor, I've changed now. I see projects differently. So even though it's work, and it is a tricky thing to balance and to juggle with the rest, it fuels the other projects in a way that I couldn't have anticipated before doing it.
And having something at the end of it all where you can point to it and say, "We made that" -- it takes a lot of work to make a thing, and to have it to share is a really extraordinary feeling, that I always hoped to make something, and I'm really proud of it.
"Powerless" airs Thursdays on NBC.