Like many a “Saturday Night Live” star before him, Kyle Mooney is making his way to the cinematic world.
The 32-year-old is the star and co-writer of the new dark comedy “Brigsby Bear,” about a baby who is kidnapped and raised by his abductors, who create an elaborate TV show just for him called “Brigsby Bear Adventures.”
amNewYork spoke with Mooney about the film.
What was the inspiration for the movie?
Well, in terms of the TV show within the movie, certainly Teddy Ruxpin. It was this show, [and] a couple shows on the Disney Channel I used to watch as a kid. One was “Welcome to Pooh Corner,” which was a live-action Winnie the Pooh show, and the show called “Dumbo’s Circus” that has that similar animatronic characters. But for the “Brigsby” world, we kind of threw every reference in there. Things we were into as kids. I mean like “Star Wars,” “He-Man,” “Rainbow Bright.” We were just kind of constantly watching YouTube videos or I would pull VHS cassettes from my house.
You’ve known director Dave McCary since childhood. What’s it like working with him?
Because we started making internet videos a decade ago, he just kind of knows what I’m capable of and there’s not really another person I trust more than him in terms of like kind of getting the best performance out of me.
What was your process for getting into the mindset of someone who had this traumatic upbringing?
I mean, well, because I co-wrote the movie, I had like a chance to develop the character before we started shooting. So, coming up with a story was just kind of general research about persons who have been in similar circumstances. But also, I pulled from my own life and persons we grew up with. I think we all, I’d like to think, to a degree deal with outsider-ness and even though James obviously has a very specific backstory – and like him going to his first high school party, it’s probably more alien than it would be to any of us. But at the same time, even for me, Kyle Mooney, going to a party can be awkward at times. I sometimes embellish characteristics from my own life and from persons I interact with, but yeah, I was fortunate in the sense that I spent the whole writing process trying to figure out who James was.
Thanks for giving Mark Hamill a role he could sink his teeth into. How was it working with him?
Rad. I mean, I feel similarly to you. I was so stoked just to be there as a fan and as an audience member to see him get to do something different than Luke Skywalker, though I love him as Luke Skywalker. ... He checks so many of the requirements we had in our head for this role — we wanted somebody who you wouldn’t necessarily immediately think of. Maybe somebody who like is off, seemingly off the grid in some way or another. But also to be somebody who could do voices. That’s why when he came into our mind and, oh, he’s made a living as a voiceover actor outside of “Star Wars.” So it was rad and the cool thing, too, is it adds this layer. The movie has to with nostalgia and who better than the kind of poster boy for fandom and nostalgia than Mark Hamill?
What is your nostalgia? Was there something you were particularly attracted to that you pick up all the ephemera from it?
I mean there’s so much – I’m like a full on nostalgic … I don’t like to use the terms like ’80s kid or ’90s, but I would fall under either of those categories, I think. I have a big VHS collection in my house. It’s all like mostly ’80s, ’90s and children’s shows. In my bedroom, there’s a big Alf poster and Mickey Mouse poster. I got a “Mac and Me” poster in my living room. I do like those similar to an R movie, what I refer to like critters, they’re like animatronic like an E.T. or Gremlins or something like that. But then I was into all those ‘80s cartoons: “Transformers,” “Popples,” “Rainbow Bright,” “Care Bears.” Then like “Ninja Turtle.” I mean there’s not like, I was just so obsessed, there was really nothing that I didn’t like almost. I was just, I guess, I don’t know if it was imaginative, but I just loved all of that fantastical stuff from that era.
Has there been any talk of “Brigsby” merchandise?
We designed an action figure that we brought down to [San Diego] Comic-Con that we’re going to do some sort of small run of. I really like it. But certainly, I mean, I’m down to merchandise and to sell out immediately. Everything from the movie I’d totally enjoy having in my house, so if people are into that as well, I’m up to do it.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Well, “Saturday Night Live” starts at the end of September. I’m doing a small indie acting thing and otherwise, it’s just kind of trying to figure out … you’re kind of in the thick of promoting this movie and, our first movie, and I don’t know it’s like the nervousness that goes with, “are people going to go see it?” And I think once we’ve gotten through that main hump of opening weekend and all of that, and after a little bit of a vacation, I can just start figuring out what the true next move is. I mean we definitely want to do this again. We definitely want to make movies. The experience was rad.