By Scott Neumyer
Twelve-year-old Tucker Albrizzi might be best known for his work on Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie” and Nickelodeon’s “Big Time Rush”but the hilarious redhead hit the big screen this Fall playing the role of the lovable, optimist (and arguably the most fun character in the film) Neil in Sam Fell and Chris Butler’s “ParaNorman”. If you’ve seen the film, you know that Neil is much more than just comic relief – he’s also the one person in the film that is endlessly cheerful, upbeat, and not afraid to always be himself. In a film where the characters must learn that being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Neil is the absolute epitome of that very sentiment.
With “ParaNorman” now on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy, MTV Geek chatted with the young actor to discuss Neil’s optimism, voice acting, and overcoming bullying.
MTV Geek: Neil is probably my favorite character in the whole film. He’s always so positive and happy in the face of all this darkness that’s going on. What was it like being the one happy, cheerful, positive character surrounded by all these negative characters for most of the movie?
Tucker Albrizzi: I thought it was really fun to always be the positive one because I really like comedy and comedy’s not too hard to be that upbeat, kind of crazy kid – you know, kind of goofy – and I always love to play that type of character.
photo credit: Vincent Sandoval
Geek: Were there any other animated movies or characters that you used as inspiration for what you did with Neil?
TA: I wouldn’t say that there was any inspiration. I just kind of took it straight from myself because I can be kind of goofy and weird, so I just based it off of myself and how I would be if I were in Neil’s shoes.
Geek: You did a really good job of making Neil funny. Do you prefer to do more of the comedy stuff or do you think you’ll move into more serious work later on in your career?
TA: Right now, at the moment, I prefer to do comedy, but I think later in my career that I should go out and develop into other things, be it drama or writing or producing so I can branch out.
Geek: Is that something you’d really like to do, writing and producing?
TA: Yeah, I think it would be really fun to write and produce. It would just be great to make all the stuff that you see on the sets happen.
Geek: What was your favorite thing about doing “ParaNorman”?
TA: Probably being Neil because he’s one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever done as an actor. One of the cool things about him is that he kind of looks like me and LAIKA made that character before they even heard or saw me, so that was really cool.
Geek: Did you get to work along with Kodi and the rest of the cast or was it mostly alone time in the studio?
TA: It was more alone time. There was one scene where it was me and Kodi in the backyard playing with my dog. That was the only one where they had me work with some of the other cast. Usually they would just have me working with one of their readers there. So that was the only time that I got to work with Kodi. He’s a great kid, though, and he was really fun to work with. We definitely became friendly from that time we did get to work together.
Geek: You’ve done voice acting as well as live acting on shows like “Good Luck Charlie” and “Big Time Rush”. Which form of acting do you prefer?
TA: I would have to say that I like voice over better and that’s because I can go there in my pajamas and not worry about what I have to look like while I’m doing my acting. (Laughs) So that’s fun. I just have a preference of voice acting over live acting. I don’t really know why.
Geek: Do you find that one is harder or more work for you?
TA: I would say that they’re about even for me. I think live acting might be a bit harder just because you have to worry about facial expressions and things like that. Some of that comes naturally to me, but sometimes you have to do some awkward stuff. With voice over, you can just close your eyes and let go, which is really fun to do.
Geek: “ParaNorman” is really like a horror movie for kids that’s scary but not too scary. Were you a fan of horror movies before doing the film?
TA: No, I was not. I never really liked horror movies. I could see how “ParaNorman” is a little scary for kids, though.
Geek: Do you feel like working on the film has opened you up a little bit to them?
TA: Oh, yeah. I actually watched “The Walking Dead” recently so, yeah, it definitely has.
Geek: The movie also has this really great message about bullying and how it’s okay to be different. Were you ever bullied in school or anywhere else growing up?
TA: Yes, sometimes I was made fun of in school because of my red hair, but I never let it get me down. I just know that that’s me and whatever they try to do can’t change me and I am who I am.
Geek: Sounds like there’s a lot of Neil in you.
TA: Yeah, I’m definitely the Neil.
Geek: Do you feel like having that experience of being bullied helped you prepare for the part?
TA: It really does because you can connect to the character more. It gives you something to go off of. Since I was bullied in school, I could relate to Neil and just really use that.
Geek: Had you seen “Coraline” before you did “ParaNorman”?
TA: Yes, I did see “Coraline”. I really do like it. Before “ParaNorman” came along, my one friend was horrified of “Coraline”. Like, even if you mentioned the movie’s title, she would just scream. (Laughs) You know how the mother had the buttons on her eyes? Yeah, so one day my friend and I taped buttons on our eyes and surprised her at school. She just screamed and ran out of the classroom. (Laughs)
Geek: (Laughs) Was she terrified when she heard you were working with the people who made “Coraline”?
TA: Yeah, I made it a point to go tell her that.
Geek: How was it working with Chris Butler and Sam Fell?
TA: They were really easy to work with and they were really nice. They’re definitely one of my favorite people that I’ve worked with so far.
Geek: You were also in “Spooky Buddies” and “Treasure Buddies”. Did being around all those dogs in the movies turn you into more of a cat person or do you have dogs yourself?
TA: Yes, I have three dogs. I’ve never really been a cat person at all. I’ve always liked dogs.
Geek: You got to do voice acting in one film and live acting in the other film. How did you enjoy working on those films?
TA: It was really fun to work on those movies because, first off, I love dogs and I got to be around dogs all the time for them. It was really fun. Everyone was so great on the set and it was just a whole load of fun.
Geek: I hear that you’re a big “Doctor Who” fan. Who’s your favorite Doctor?
TA: I would have to say Matt Smith. I’m mostly into the newer ones. I’ve watched David Tennant and some of the other ones, but I like Matt Smith because he’s very humorous. I do enjoy the other ones, but he’s definitely my favorite.
Geek: Would you jump at the chance to be on the show, at some point, if they asked you?
TA: Absolutely, yes. I love “Doctor Who”. [Writer’s Note to the Producers of Doctor Who: Give this kid a guest spot, will ya? Thanks!]
Geek: What is it about the series that you love so much?
TA: I’m a Sci-Fi fan and I like comedy too, so the show is a great mix of them both. You get humor and you get awesome stuff like all the different planets and the different people that you meet with different dialects.
Geek: What else do you have coming up that fans can look forward to?
TA: I’ve been doing episodes of “Good Luck Charlie” and “Big Time Rush” and they both start their new seasons in January, so I’m excited about that.
Geek: Have you heard anything about a possible sequel to “ParaNorman”?
TA: I have not heard about that, but that really opens up my mind and it sounds really good to me now. I think that would be really cool.
ParaNorman is available now on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy.
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