CS Interview: Maya Rudolph Talks Voicing Matilda in The Angry Birds Movie
The film version of the mobile video game Angry Birds will hit theaters this Friday. In it, we’ll get to see exactly what makes these birds so angry at some crazy green pigs. So angry that they fling themselves to almost certain death to give them black eyes and crash their buildings. The film stars the voice talents of Jason Sudeikis as Red, a bird who’s been teased his whole life. He’s having some anger issues and after a particularly ugly incident, is sent to anger management along with Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad). Running that anger management class is a super-peppy chicken named Matilda, voiced by Maya Rudolph. We caught up with Rudolph at the Angry Birds press day in Maui, Hawaii where she told us about her character, doing animated films and very mellow chickens.
ComingSoon.net: We were talking about how heavy the wedding dress was when I met you on the set of Bridesmaids. This must have been so much easier. Pajamas?
Maya Rudolph: Yeah, you could wear a space suit and be comfortable.
CS: Oh, please tell me you wore a space suit!
Maya Rudolph: I’m sure I wore a jumpsuit one of the days. Jumpsuits kind of count. I always say sweatpants, even though I don’t actually own sweatpants. Comfort. Comfort is key and a genius way to work. Because for me as a lady and as a mother, as someone who’s had children, your body completely changes shape. I get tired of putting on all the layers of things.
Maya Rudolph: Yeah, Spanx. And painting your face. And it’s just like, you go to work and you do it and you’re done.
CS: And you’re a bird…
Maya Rudolph: And you get to be whatever you want to be. It’s a total natural extension of comedy, because that’s naturally already where I was. But you can just go further. It’s really nice.
CS: I was just speaking to your co-star Josh Gad about this. Here, you’re alone in a booth as compared to something like SNL where you have the whole cast to bounce things off of. Do you prefer one over the other?
Maya Rudloph: It took a while to get used to voiceover for that very reason. For animation. But then you get the hang of it. And you’re not technically alone. You’re usually with the director and they are so clear about where this is going in and what the next line is and what the other actors did. It’s kind of like Mad Libs a little. Like you’re filling in blanks, almost. But it really is amazing when you see it all come together because it really works. It’s strange at first. I just feel like recording, if we were all in the same room—I think “Bob’s Burgers” might be the only animated show where people are in the same room—I feel like people would just be stepping all over each other. I get it, but you look at these posters and you’re like, “I worked with people like Kate McKinnon and Keegan-Michael Key, but oh, no, I didn’t!
CS: Have you seen the film yet?
Maya Rudolph: No, I’ve seen my scenes. But I haven’t seen the whole thing
CS: I ask because Josh said he didn’t even get the whole script. He only got his scenes. I hear that a lot with movies where actors say they have no idea what the entire story is.
Maya Rudolph: Yeah, I have a lot of faith in the movie because, when I was brought on, I was told this was the cast. Oh, then it’s going to be great and it’s going to be super-funny. You don’t hire these people to be in a WWII epic.
CS: It’s a great group! I’m curious about whether or not you based this character on anybody.
Maya Rudolph: No one in particular, but I do feel like I—there was a character I did on SNL called Leilani Burke who was a pet psychic who was kind of based on the voice of an old manager I had. Really it was more like just an amalgam of Janice from The Muppets who is a super burnout, and she’s [Matilda] way more Type A, so kind of finding a way to make those two meet in the middle.
CS: Yeah, she seems all calm and then she’s got some…
Maya Rudolph: Oh yeah, she’s got some bubbling rage. For sure.
CS: Those anger management scenes; how much of that was improv?
Maya Rudolph: Here and there, I would try it. It takes a while, but once you get to know the voice, then you can go back and really find little isms for your character. So that scene, that introduction in particular was where I finally figured out the voice.
CS: At what point in the process were you brought on? I was speaking to one of the producers this morning and she said she’d been working on the film for over three years.
Maya Rudolph: I was brought on last year? I really don’t remember. It really takes a long time. The only time I ever really noticed the change of year and the passing of time was when I did Shreck. I was pregnant when I first came in. When I came back in to do more stuff, my voice wasn’t as low. So that’s when I noticed it. That was early on when I started doing animation. Once you record one time and then you come back in, you really start to see it take shape. It’s exciting. You get to see yourself move and interact with the other characters. It takes a long time!
CS: You’re voice went down when you were pregnant? I’ve heard about this.
Maya Rudolph: Yeah, I guess it’s because someone is laying on or around your diaphragm. Or just all the fluid. But I think Jason had been recording by the time I came in so he was well-established, which I think is so important. You have to know who Red is. But then they told me Danny McBride is Bomb and Josh Gad is Chuck, and Bill [Hader] is the pig. [laughs] Yeah, I get it. You don’t have to tell me what that is. I’m ready. I know what that is.
CS: Did you see your character before you started?
Maya Rudolph: No, not until I went into the room to record. They gave me a presentation about Matilda. I loved her eyelashes. Also, she’s got a very ladylike quality to her. What makes me laugh is that she’s a chicken and she has these ample bosoms. She’s got chicken breasts! It’s adorable.
CS: Do you want to continue doing voice work?
Maya Rudolph: Oh yeah, absolutely. You know, I liken it to music. I feel like they’re very similar. I just feel like, since music’s always been a part of my life, it was in my house and in my family growing up, that it’s just so natural. I really gravitate towards things where I can use my voice. I really feel comfortable doing it. And, listen, the more I work and the more kids I have, I’m like, let me wear those sweatpants! Also, the reward is that you’re kids are psyched! They’re like, “Mommy, that sounds like you!” And that’s really so cool!
CS: Are you excited to show them this?
Maya Rudolph: Yeah! They’re already so excited!
CS: Did you guys play Angry Birds?
Maya Rudolph: Yeah, we did! My oldest daughter Pearl is the one that got into it the most. The others were too little when it first came out. But yeah, I got into it too much! I had to back up! We had the Rio one, the Star Wars one, you name it!
Angry Birds hits theaters on May 20, 2016.