The Cast and Crew of China, IL
If you watch China, IL on [adult swim], the brainchild of cartoonist Brad Neely, it's a pretty sure bet that you love it, because it's pretty much all or nothing when it comes to this series about the worst college in America, it's terrible professors and its sad, yet striving students. Suffice to say, it's the only animated series that features Greta Gerwig, Hulk Hogan and Chelsea Peretti. The show's second season debuted in September to rather consistently rising ratings, which made the New York ComicCon as good a time as ever for Neely, executive producer Daniel Weidenfeld and actress Brooke Hogan to sit down with DVDTalk's Francis RIzzo III to chat about getting longer, nepotism and lollipops.
Q: What brought about the change to a half-hour [from the first seasons' 15-minute episodes]?
Brooke Hogan: Ratings. (Laughs.) We're pretty awesome.
Daniel Weidenfeld: Well we started at four minutes [on superdeluxe], then it turned to an 11-minute show for the first season, and now in our second season, it's 22 minutes. I think next season it's full movies, right?
Brad Neely: I think so.
DW: Ten movies.
BN: We just had so many stories we wanted to tell, they didn't fit in the 11. 22 minutes is just a lot more fun for us.
DW: And [adult swim] started thinking a lot more about the half-hour space and they started getting earlier and earlier, and so they did that, and they felt we were a natural progression to 22 minutes since we were already cramming so much into the 11-minute episodes. We were telling three stories and all of our characters had something to do. There were about 200 characters already in the 11 minutes, so when we went to 22 we were able to give those people more voices. Brooke Hogan brings a lot of those voices to our show. So does her dad, who voices the dean. It was just natural. We had so much world to show we needed more time.
Q: Did you intend on having Brooke and her dad on the show as voices?
DW: That all just kind of came about. We had Hogan...Hulk...first season, and then ...
BH: It was all about the nepotism. That's what I'm famous for.
DW: No, really...Hulk was like "My daughter's great..." I can't do a good Hulk. Brad will do it.
BN: Too much pressure.
DW: "My daughter's a great voice actor...she does voices all over the house."
BH: "She does voices all over the house."
DW: He said it more eloquently than I did. "She does a lot of voices, I'll be honest, she's incredible." Alright, well, she's your daughter, we'll bring her in.
BN: She did a voice in season one and it was so good, we went "Holy shit." She was like "Do you want this or this?" She had the dials that a good voice actor has, so we were able to put that to use.
DW: Now she has like eight characters this season, over the course of the series, and no one can tell that it's her doing a different one every time. People are surprised by the range. We're lucky.
BH: This is why I like working with them. They make me feel good about myself.
Q: What's it like doing a project with your dad?
BH: It was a little bit weird when we had to do episode four...
DW: Five...oh yeah, four.
BH: Yeah, I know my s**t. OK? But anyways, I was visiting my dad in Tampa and they actually needed voices from the both of us. So my dad has this studio and he's like let's just go over there, you can knock your stuff out and I'll do mine and we'll go together. A little father-daughter experience.
And, it was at the point where I had to say the word P-*-*-*-Y over and over...
BN: Over and over and over again.
BH: ...in front of my father. It was fun.
DW: We're in L.A., listening to this over the phone, while they're just one-upping each other, making each other laugh. It was the most... Hulk is incredible, the most dynamic he's been, trying to make his daughter laugh.
BH: I was egging him on, and he was a little bit shocked at how foul my mouth could be, because we ad-libbed a lot of stuff too.
Q: Is there anything [adult swim] says to you, OK, no you can't go over this line?
BN: Oh yeah, every episode! Yeah, but that's a fun challenge. To get a note about blood or sex or the doo-doo or the vomit...
DW: We had to cut smoking out of the show completely...
DW: We had one character who was smoking in every scene he was in, this guy...
BN: Jack Falgot.
DW: We had to give him lollipops.
BN: We changed cigarettes to lollipops. So look for that.
Q: Is having more time in the show liberating as voice actors?
BN: Like we have more time? It's actually true. We don't have to rush so much. You can have a little bit more time to deliver a joke, let it all breathe, there's this elbow room like we say. So whenever anyone comes in with ad-lib takes on the line on the page, and they're a little longer, but obviously funnier, we can use those.
DW; And there are certain characters where it's like we'll have something on the page to give a sense of who this person only through dialogue. Brooke will come in and we'll test six or seven different types of voices, and we'll land on like a midwestern accent where, oh my God, all of these lines take on a completely new meaning as we're doing them, because now she's created a different sense of this character. We didn't know what she looked like, but once she did that, we knew everything about her.
BH: It's also that they gave me a chance at doing not just one voice. They were like, alright, you're Hulk Hogan's daughter...do this one Indian voice and then leave. They actually had the time to sit down and mull over some different ideas. I actually pulled out voices I didn't even know I could do, because they were like we're looking for this, can you do that? [puts on voice] An old lady? Yeah sure. [normal voice] You know? The characters came out of the time for them to mull it over.
Q: Did your voice training help?
BH: You know, vocal training does really help. You have to have these...there's nasally, all the different vowels, the nasal sounds and the airy sounds, the high pitch and the low.
DW: The thing that needs to be said though is, Brooke's funny. That's the big thing. Anyone can do a lot of voices, but a lot people don't know how to read the words on the page and make them actually hit. And whenever there's a character, she knows where the jokes are always. She'll create new jokes within the lines...that's the most important part of any actor too, that you can have diversity, but if you're not funny, you're not funny.
BH: It comes from life experiences. When you get into doing different voices...different accents of people from different places...me as Brooke Hogan can cross the line as being racist, but it's really just what I've experienced. When you go into a nail shop, the majority of the people working there are Vietnamese, and they just happen to hit you more and yell at you and tell you you have ugly toes. So I'm just going to take that and use it.
BN: We haven't talked about this much, but [Brooke has] the most unique perspective from growing up. Your dad is Hulk Hogan. He came to our office and he was the Pied Piper. Every single person. Your life is very different from every other person's life and that adds to your own unique point of view. You're willing to say crazy s**t.
BH: I went into a nail shop one time...and said "Just a pedicure please." She said [puts on accent] "OK, honey...you have baby?" I'm like, "No, I don't have any kids." She says [puts on accent] "Oh, you have big legs." Just because I have big legs means I beared children. [puts on accent] "You have ugly toenails." I'm like, I thought they were cute, but apparently they're not. It's funny, but then in the act I make it better.
Q: There are two other changes this season, with Griffith Kimmins and Hannibal Burress. Can you talk a bit about them?
DW: Well Griff came in...we had Mike Mayfield, amazing guy who's now doing a different show for [adult swim]. So Griff, who was our animation director last season, he's been working on the show forever though...a tireless, incredible animator and director. He gets the show, understands how to make it as efficient as possible, we couldn't make the show this good without him. As unhappy as we were to lose Mike, we're the luckiest people on the world to have Griff.
Then with Hannibal, I worked with him on The Eric Andre Show, and I've worked with different comedians for a long time, so fortunately I have the ability to call upon my friends and say "Hey do you want to take part in this show?" And the show...people respond to it. Hannibal...Brad and I went to see him perform randomly one night with Brad's wife Laurie, and Brad, who is not impressed by a lot of comedy...he's a hard guy to impress....after he was like "Ho-ly s**t, this guy is for real." Then I showed Hannibal the show and he was like "Oh my God, I want to do this so bad." Now that we're at 22 minutes, we're able to add a lot more characters, with Hannibal being one of them. We have a lot more students now, Chelsea Peretti plays a lot more characters, we got Ryan Flynn, he's amazing...Jeffrey Tambor still on the show, Greta Gerwig of course.
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