It’s a good time to be Scott Adsit, the actor who provides the voice of the robot Baymax in the hit Disney animated film “Big Hero 6,” which topped the box office in its first weekend of release.
Adsit, best known for playing Pete Hornberger in the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” is a lifelong fan of Disney animation and still can’t believe he got the part.
“It still doesn’t seem real,” he says. “I still say to my girlfriend, ‘I’m Baymax, so far.’ I’m waiting for the ax to fall.”
amNewYork spoke with Adsit about the film.
Had you heard of ‘Big Hero 6’ before taking on this film?
No, it was a comic I had never read. I don’t remember actually ever seeing it. ? It’s a pretty obscure comic, with no disrespect to the creators.
What drew you to the role?
Well, the Disney name, certainly [laughs]. What drew me to it, like I was going to refuse it. I was invited to audition. They had seen me on stage in L.A. doing something one night and invited me to come audition. That was all I wanted. I felt like I had gotten something exciting, just to be allowed to come into the Walt Disney Animation Studios and wander the halls and look at the artwork and see stuff that no one’s supposed to see for another two years was like a dream come true. Then I got to go into the booth and audition and it was unlike any audition I ever had. It was very relaxed and collaborative and it lasted an hour or something. We just worked on the character together. That was exciting, and that was enough for me. I could have gone home and been very happy that I had that experience. That would have been enough for me. Then I got the call that I got the part. … So far, it’s too good to be true, but it seems to be true.
How did you build the voice of Baymax?
We all agreed that Baymax should never tip the idea that he’s anything but a robot. And so I approached it like an automated phone system, when you call and they tell you the wait is 5 minutes, but the 5 minutes is a little separated from the rest of the sentence because it’s kind of a fill in the blank. They access the 5 minutes from another part of the program. That’s where I started and so you’ll hear Baymax say, ‘You have a contusion on your ? arm,’ and it sounds a little separate, like he had to access the word arm. And that was the basis, and the subtleties came in as we went.
Did your improv skills come into play here?
It did a bit. Baymax, unlike a lot of the other characters, has a limited scope as far as what he can say because he’s been programed and there’s only so many things that Tadashi, the creator, thought to put in there. And all of them sort of relate to user-friendly medical care. Eventually, he does have the capability to learn though, so he might pick up new terminology here and there, and new applications for new ideas. And so, in the booth, they would let me play within those parameters. I think the other cast members were doing a lot of improv — I’m sure they were, because they’re all very gifted. My improv was more medical.
Were you a big Disney animation fan?
Well, yeah. I, as every did, grew up on Disney. I think ‘Pinocchio’ was my first movie, in a re-release year. And that, of course, was fascinating and scary and wonderful. And I stuck with all of it, ‘The Rescuers,’ ‘The Black Cauldron,’ ‘The Sword in the Stone,’ even less touted ones — I just ate them up and would sit and draw them at home and try to do the voices. And then, I think, in the ’80s, I was becoming a young man and it kind of fell away until ‘The Little Mermaid,’ and then I just was ravenous for all of it. That new era that started with ‘The Little Mermaid,’ I haven’t missed one movie, I’ve seen everything at least three times.
Is there a lot of pressure knowing that young fans are watching you now?
I just hope I don’t screw it up. I hope they connect to it the way I did when I was a kid. I have run into a few kids after some events where we show clips. I’ve had kids come up to me with their parents and the kids are shy. The parents tell them, ‘This is the guy who does the voice of Baymax.’ And they know it’s not Baymax, but they still are shy and they know there’s an element of Baymax right in front of them and there’s a shy exuberance that I can’t explain and a very simple connection. There was a little girl, the first girl I met after the Comic Con screening, maybe 3 years old, and she said simply, ‘I like Baymax because he helps people.’ She said it with such earnestness and such truth that it really touched my heart. It was lovely and that was a great experience for me.
Is this your first action figure?
It is, hopefully the first of many. But my girlfriend says that Baymax does look just like me. She thought maybe they based it on me. He’s a lovely looking thing, but I don’t think he looks like me. But yeah, I went and bought all the action figures. I know that they might be giving me stuff, but I ran out and bought it because I love action figures already and now they talk with my voice.
Is that disturbing?
No. I’m sure it’s disturbing for people around me on the subway who hear me talking to someone who’s talking back to me in my voice all day.
Are we going to see a sequel?
I’ve not been told anything, but having seen it, I want to see more and I certainly want to be a part of that. I think they plan these things with the hope of franchising it and making it into something bigger, but it’s a mystery to me. They’ve told me nothing.