Every hero needs a villain, and every villain needs a ruthless lackey looking out only for himself. Enter Pavel, one of the programs in TRON: Uprising, and the right-hand-man to the series’ heavy, General Tesler (Lance Henriksen). Giving voice to Pavel is a Paul Reubens, star of stage and screen, the sometimes Pee Wee Herman, and—maybe you didn’t know this—voice actor extraordinaire with credits across in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Tom Goes to the Mayor. With TRON: Uprising making its debut this week, we spoke to Reubens about the sneaky Pavel, as well as his own TRON fandom.
Paul Reubens: Well, I got a call about it, as opposed to an audition—sometimes you have to audition for these things. I was a fan of the first TRON movie, I own some of the TRON merchandise from the 80’s and a combination of that and getting to be a villain was kind of a no-brainer.
Geek: Was there a particular hook to Pavel that attracted you to the role? Something about him that drew you in, or was it more about having a great excuse to be in the TRON universe?
Reubens: I think it was just being in that universe including being a bad guy instead of a good guy. It’s a lot of fun—those roles are usually more fun.
Geek: As a fan of TRON, how do you feel about Uprising in terms of how it extends or expands the fiction of the first movie?
Reubens: It’s incredible, that was part of the attraction to it: there’s this group of people that are not only willing to but champing at the bit to go further into the TRON universe. They were so excited about it that it was very infectious. Visually, it’s so stunning, it’s incredible.
Geek: How do you think it was able to stay true to the original? How do you think it was able to stand on its own legs?
Reubens: Boy, that is such a complex, lengthy answer. Have you seen the pilot?
Geek: Yeah, I did.
Reubens: And doesn’t it seem like a balance of what you just said? It seems new and yet it’s definitely rooted in both the [sequel] and the original. It’s just one of those things you look at and go “oh, it makes sense!” It makes complete sense to me and when I see it, I see it as a tip of the hat to the original TRON and I think they have been very, very careful to blend it all.
Geek: What were some of your first thoughts when you saw some of the new designs for the Grid or perhaps even your own character?
Reubens: You know, every time I looked at it I just thought that it was right. That’s always a great feeling to have as opposed to looking at something and going “Ugh, this needs tweaking or this needs work or back to the drawing board.” Everything that I’ve seen has just seemed like the right elements in the way that it’s been done. I don’t know exactly how they managed to pull that off, but it seems uncanny in a way.
Geek: What were you able to draw from that for your performance? I mean, looking at the worlds of the two TRON films and Uprising, there’s something that’s—”cold” isn’t the right word for it, but there’s a kind of sterility that seems to inform a lot of the performances.
Reubens: That’s interesting. I don’t think I viewed it that way. I mean, I don’t think that I saw it like that, but I certainly think that that’s true. I feel like in maybe an unconscious way it did inform what I’m doing because my character is very cold and sterile and evil.
Geek: When reading the script, what was your impression of the Grid, and the programs that live their lives there?
Reubens: I think that what’s interesting about it is the same thing we were just talking about with what informed my performance—I was reading it through the eyes of somebody who’s very frustrated about the way that they fit into that world. So for me, I was reading it almost as if I were Pavel.
Geek: So what would he want then, to make the world one that he might be able to fit into better?
Reubens: Yeah, I don’t think Pavel is going to make anything “better.” Pavel would like complete chaos because that would be a good scenario for him to potentially usurp somebody else’s power or come in from some backdoor and take over. He’s a frustrated villain, which is kind of the scariest villain in a way, because he wants more power, he wants more responsibility and he thinks he can do better than all the people he’s working for.
Geek: He feels like a natural sort of third element in the TRON universe where on the one hand you have Clu trying to infect the Grid with his ideas and make them think the way he does, and you have Beck and Tron attempting to inspire with the ideas of freedom, but Pavel just wants to break things. I mean, it doesn’t feel like he necessarily wants anything when contrasted with those other characters, does it?
Reubens: I think he would like his boss’ job, I think he wouldn’t mind controlling the army. I think there’s a lot of things he would aspire to. But I think he keeps his cards very close to his vest. I don’t see why you would know any of that, but I also have the advantage that I’ve voiced several episodes and I know a lot of what’s coming.
Geek: You’ve got another chaotic character that you’re voicing who’s coming to TV soon: The Riddler in the Robot Chicken DC Comics Special. Could you talk a little about that role and getting to play a stop-motion version of such an iconic character?
Reubens: I was really excited. I’m really a fan of the show, I love stop-motion. Seth Green is not only a fan, but we met on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the first movie. And he was actually cut out of it so I don’t think he’s actually in the film at all, but I had a whole scene with him, I worked all night with him—he was a kid, then. And I always liked him and I started to watch the show, so when he called me to be on a special episode—the thing with this is when you get these calls, it’s all elements of things that you love it’s great. I mean, what a great problem to have, every time the phone rings it’s a better offer some other more interesting, great thing.
I have so many amazing things about to happen that I wish I could tell you about but you’re going to be seeing me in a bunch of new platforms very soon. I’m very excited, I have a lot of irons in the fire and this is just one of them.
TRON: Uprising’s premiere episode, “Beck’s Beginning,” premieres Friday, May 18 (9:30– 10:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel with an encore on Monday, May 21(7:00 p.m. ET/PT) on Disney XD.
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