Big Hero 6 actor, Scott Adsit, on becoming Baymax
The former 30 Rock comedian had to reign in his emotions to play the inflatable bot in the new Disney feature
As the voice of Baymax in Disney's Big Hero 6, Scott Adsit found he had to strike a "delicate balance" between robotic and human.
The giant inflatable bot, created by the older brother of 14-year-old Hiro, is designed to take care of people. When a devastating event befalls the fictional city of San Fransokyo, Hiro and Baymax are catapulted into the middle of the danger.
Adsit says he had to rein in his emotions to play Baymax, a machine without human feelings.
'Just enough' emotion
"I love playing emotion, and this was all about showing just enough that you as an audience can project emotion onto him, and suggest some kind of emotional life where there is no evidence of it," he said during a recent interview. "I really enjoy being very physical, so this was about kind of tying myself down."
From 30 Rock to San Fransokyo
Adsit, 48, is best known to fans of NBC's 30 Rock as Pete Hornberger, the perpetually miserable producer of fictional show TGS. The actor and improv comedian said he jumped at the chance to audition for Big Hero 6.
"Disney is the pinnacle of animation and quality. So being part of that was a thrill. I was happy just to do the audition, to be at the animation studio and see inside the chocolate factory," he said.
From Walt Disney Animation Studios, the team behind Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, the film opening Friday is inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name. Director Don Hall visited researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and discovered they were researching soft robotics, including a vinyl arm that was inflatable. That arm became the inspiration for Baymax, an inflatable robot who exists to offer compassion and care.
Ryan Potter, a 19-year-old martial artist and actor who starred in Nickelodeon's Supah Ninjas, performs the voice of Hiro, who discovers Baymax while grieving the death of a family member.
But Adsit voiced all of his scenes with directors Hall and Chris Williams, not with Potter. While at first he worried that would be a problem, he found the arrangement surprisingly helpful.
"Both directors are great guys, but they're not Ryan Potter. So I had to imagine someone I had never met at that point. The result was that I could just imagine the character of Hiro as a person rather than an actor that I'm trying to support," he said.
Working the mic
Adsit is a member of Second City Mainstage in Chicago and performs regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City. As an actor known for his physical comedy, he said he found it "fun" to explore the character of Baymax using only his voice.
"It's a delicate balance between robotic and human. And if you lean one way too far then the character breaks. I liked walking that tightrope," he said.
Asit said he hopes audiences connect with Baymax because "he's an authority figure who is a complete innocent."
"He knows exactly what you need to fix yourself physically. He doesn't always understand what is required emotionally. And he kind of learns," he said.
Since 30 Rock drew to a close last year, Adsit has been a regular on Adult Swim's The Heart, She Holler and appeared with Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy in the recent film St. Vincent.
- VIDEO | St. Vincent: FILM REVIEW
"I miss the people [of 30 Rock] of course. And people I knew back at Second City. I was in Chicago working there for a long time, and that's where I met a lot of them. So they're like brothers and sisters. Then there was this family that grew around that show as well," he said.
"So I do occasionally see them because you have to work with some of them, both cast and crew, so we keep up. But I do miss having an excuse for all of us to be in the same room."
After playing Hornberger for seven years, he's trying to pick roles that reveal a new side of himself as an actor, he added.
"I feel like I've done Pete Hornberger and that is a painting I have signed and I don't need to play that character anymore," he said. "So I'll get offers for panicky, pathetic guys and while it's a great compliment to get them, I feel like I don't need to play that again."
With files from CBC News
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.
Become a CBC Account Holder
Join the conversation Create account
Already have an account?