Interview: Jack McBrayer Gets Animated In ‘Wreck-It Ralph’

Jack McBrayer is probably known best as page Kenneth Parcell from NBC’s “30 Rock”; but this November, he may trump that with his turn as video game hero Fix-It Felix in Disney Animation’s “Wreck-It Ralph.” In advance of the movie’s release, we chatted with McBrayer over the phone about improvisation while animated, tropical vacations, and the end of “30 Rock”:

MTV Geek: How’d you end up on this project?

Jack McBrayer: They came up with the script, and when they wanted to do a table read they reached out to me. When you get that phone call, you say yes! This was a couple of years go… Once I read the script, and got to visit the Disney campus at Pixar, it was pretty inspiring. Then what you read what Fix-It Felix is all about – this good guy who dreams of doing a good job, I thought, “Oh I can do this! This is me!”

Geek: You’re the first member of the cast I’ve talked to, so I’m curious how you recorded this one – did you get to be in the booth together at all?

McBrayer: The table read we were all together, but for the most part it was just me and a microphone. Of course the Director and writers were there too… I got to do one session with Jane Lynch, which was very valuable. One session with John C. Reilly, and I got to tell you Alex, it makes a difference for me. It’s very fun. You’re reacting to what they’re giving you. It’s just a little more give and take.

Geek: You have a pretty extensive improv background… Is that something you can play with at all in animation, or is it strict because they’re working on so many aspects of the film by the time you get in the studio?

McBrayer: It’s a mix of both, actually. Early on in the process, we’re laying down our voices. We could do pretty much anything we wanted, so there’s quite a bit of freedom for improvisation. As the movie gets more put together though, you’re more confined to what’s been established. But also, the scripts were so solid in the first place… If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I more than happy to say the words on the page.

That said, with me and John C. Reilly, and me and Jane Lynch, I was thrilled to be able to go off on tangents with them. The hard part for that was just not laughing!

Geek: A lot of time it seems like you’re the goofy guy who’s brought in for a scene or two, but this seems like a part that maybe lets you stretch a little bit as an actor, as it has some heart to it… Is that true?

McBrayer: I’d love to say it was a huge stretch, but for the most part I’m a people pleaser! Just someone who’s happy to do their job, eager to please… During the course of the movie, all of the characters have some transformations, and overcome their obstacles. Most of my stuff takes place with John, and then some of it with Jane Lynch… I didn’t really get to play too much with Sarah Silverman in the final version of the movie.

Every scene, and every new version of scene brought some new challenges, and it was always just fun to go in and see what the Director wanted you to do with each recording.

Geek: I know they built a few Fix It Felix Jr. arcade cabinets… Have you gotten to play that yet?

McBrayer: Just very briefly! They have one in the lobby of the hotel where we’re doing all this press stuff. It looks fantastic! It’s very surreal, going, oh my gosh, I’m part of a video game! But also, I tried playing it… I’m terrible at this stuff. I just need things to be perfect, and of course I’m going to lose.

Geek: Did you play video games as a kid? Or now?

McBrayer: I did as a kid, but the old school video games. I had the Atari 2600, so I played Pac-Man, Frogger, Pitfall, and Burger Time. But I’m not even that familiar with the video games that are first person, shooting zombies and soldiers. That might be a little too realistic for my tastes.

Geek: Sounds like you’re perfect for Fix It Felix then!

McBrayer: That’s right! Keep it simple!

Geek: I hate to ask this question everybody is probably asking, but if you could jump into a video game, which one would you jump into?

McBrayer: If there’s a video game where you can sit by the swimming pool all day long, then sign me up. There’s got to be one of those, where you can get in a car, beat up a drug dealer… What are they called?

Geek: Grand Theft Auto?

McBrayer: Right! But make it nice. Let me drive to a swimming pool, read a book, have a margarita.

Geek: Grand Theft Suntan?

McBrayer: Or Grand Vacation!

Geek: Getting back to the movie, can you talk a bit about the visual style?

McBrayer: It was fantastic! It’s looks amazing. It’s kind of humbling, because you realize even though we’re the voices of these characters, and we’re the ones doing all the interviews… We play such a small part of what this movie looks like, and what it’s all about. All these animators, and all these editors, and all these people whose specialty is roadways… These people did some heavy lifting, and it looks incredible, you’ll be very impressed.

Geek: Before I let you go, with the final season of 30 Rock in the offing, are we going to see a fitting end for Kenneth Parcell?

McBrayer: Well I hope so, good lord, but between you and me I have no idea what’s going on with Kenneth. I mean, is he even a person?

Geek: So how would you want him to go out?

McBrayer: I’d love to have him reassigned to NBC Honolulu or something, but I think I’m just dwelling on my obsession with sunshine, and tropical places. It’s bittersweet, we’re ending one of the best gigs I’ve ever had. I’m going to go crawling back to Disney for more work!

“Wreck-It Ralph” hits theaters November 2nd from Walt Disney Pictures!