This Friday, Disney•Pixar’s latest animated adventure, Inside Out, hits the big screen, just in time for Father’s Day on Sunday! Whether you are a dad or just happen to know one, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll recognize a lot of truth in Kyle MacLachlan’s performance as Mr. Anderson, the father of Riley Anderson, who serves as both the film’s leading character and setting. The film, directed by Academy Award winner Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up) and Pixar story artist Ronaldo Del Carmen (Ratatouille, Brave), takes place inside the mind of eleven-year-old Riley and is driven by the allegorical representations of Riley’s emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black) and Fear (Bill Hader). All five emotions tend to work together well, but after a family move disrupts Riley’s entire life, Joy and Sadness wind up getting lost inside her subconscious, leaving Disgust, Anger and Fear to run things as best they can.
MacLachlan is no stranger to fatherhood. In real life, he’s got a six-year-old son and, over the last year, has memorably recurred on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as Calvin Zabo, a Marvel Cinematic Universe reinvention of the comics’ Mister Hyde who, through the course of season two, proved himself incredibly dedicated to his daughter, Chloe Bennet’s Skye. In the below interview with ComingSoon.net, MacLachlan compares the two and you may be surprised to learn how much emotional overlap they offer.
Of course, MacLachlan is arguably best known for his iconic role as FBI Agent Dale Cooper on David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” and, with the details now all worked out, a revival series should begin production this fall! Although plans for the show are shrouded in mystery, MacLachlan is as excited as the die hard fans, calling Cooper, “one of the great characters.”
CS: How did Inside Out come your way?
Kyle MacLachlan: It was fairly straightforward, I guess. A call came in and it said they were interested in me for the dad in the latest Pixar. I was thrilled, because I’m a huge fan of Pixar. I’ve never done an animated film before.
CS: You voiced Superman in the “Justice League: The New Frontier” DVD feature, though!
MacLachlan: Yeah, I did do that. That was a little different. We were kind of to-picture a little bit. It was also a superhero. There wasn’t much reality, let’s say. It was Superman talking in Superman speak and trying to make that work. I didn’t have quite the same relationship to that character as I did with my character in “Inside Out.” This was sort of the first character in voice work that required a full range of emotions.
CS: Do you work out a full history for the dad that goes beyond the script?
MacLachlan: Most of it is there. A lot of that happens during the process. It’s a couple hour process where I’m working with Pete [Docter] and Jonas [Rivera] is there. Ronnie Del Carmen was there in the beginning. Pete is pretty specific about what he wants and what he’s looking for. That’s aided by some visual help, either a photo or a drawing or maybe some rudimentary characters going through space. For the dinner scene, there were sketches and things, moving from Point A to Point B. They were, I guess, telling me the story as we were going through the scene, so I had that context. Those were also my questions, too. Where are we at this point? What do you need here? Then there were also a few of my own ideas, which they were very receptive to, too.
CS: We’ve seen you on “Agents of SHIELD” lately playing a very, very different kind of loving father. What is the difference between embracing bigger than life comic book version of that versus a fairly true-to-life American father?
MacLachlan: They both start with trying to find the truth. The truth, in this case, is all about the family. So that’s where it starts. With something like “SHIELD,” his inner life is in such turmoil. You don’t find that out until down the road a ways. It’s about finding a reality within these big, operatic moments. “Inside Out” is much more intimate. It’s you and the microphone in these kind of small moments. You’re trying to run up to those moments with as much inner life as possible.
CS: Is it a challenge at all to make the father character both realistic and also broad enough to be recognized emotionally by mass audiences?
MacLachlan: Yes! I think that’s shown really beautifully at the dinner table scene where you kind of go into the dad’s head. He’s had a hard day working and he’s kind of vegging out at the dinner table, running a hockey game in his head. He’s jolted out of that by the mother, who I think is much more connected emotionally to Riley in that moment. You see that dynamic, which I think we can all relate to completely. It’s just done so beautifully and that’s such a hard thing, to capture those common moments that speak to people in the audience, particularly adults. It’s like any Pixar movie. There’s a lot of knock-down all-out crazy stuff for kids and there’s lots of thoughtful things for the adults.
CS: Do you at all try to imagine the emotions inside the character guiding you?
MacLachlan: I haven’t, but that’s really great idea. I do think that we all have a dominant character of those five. I think mine happens to be joy, which sort of transforms into silliness. It’s the guiding voice that sort of makes me run. But it’s interesting to look at my boy, who is going to be turning seven in July, and see who is sort of running the show at any given time. Whether anger sort of steps in for a moment or disgust takes over. Or just sheer joy, which is the most fun to watch. I think the great thing about this movie, though, is that you leave the theater and you’re living your life a little bit differently. I found myself moving back and forth between the now and when I was little and then my son. It’s like this little triangle of what it was like growing up when I was little with my parents and what they must have been experiencing towards me and then me as a father towards my son and what that dynamic is.
CS: Did you get a chance to work directly with Diane Lane at all?
MacLachlan: I did at first! The first day that I came, Diane and I were both there for the first time. It was a couple sequences in the early life of Riley and we were kind of working off each other. That was so much fun. I’ve known Diane for years and years and years. Since the early ’80s. We occasionally see each other. Then I watched the finished film in New York and Diane was there with some friends and her daughter, who has grown up. It’s hard to believe. It was just lovely to see her and work with her. She’s terrific.
CS: What’s a dream project for you at this point in your career?
MacLachlan: I’m going to embark soon on that! That’s “Twin Peaks,” which is pretty exciting. We’re meant to start sometime this fall and going back to visit Dale Cooper again is very exciting. He’s one of the great characters.
CS: Are there other characters that you miss or would like to return to?
MacLachlan: You know, it’s funny. I finished my stint on “Agents of SHIELD,” but that’s a character I’ll miss. I enjoyed playing Cal very much. I found that, as I progressed through the filming, he got richer and deeper. On television, they parse out the information slowly. As I learned more and more about the character, it got more and more exciting.
CS: It was kind of beautiful to discover that he wasn’t really a bad guy.
MacLachlan: Yeah, all the things he did came out of influences of other things we didn’t know about. You saw the tip of the iceberg, but you didn’t understand everything about him. That was interesting to me. There’s another character that I may or may not get back to, on “The Good Wife,” Josh Perotti. He’s a lot of fun. Just because he’s slightly crazy and does unexpected things.
CS: Is that something that you look for? There seems to be an element of it in a lot of the characters you play.
MacLachlan: I think it’s something that, if you can access that or if they allow you to access those things — the unexpected and the whimsical — it’s closer to real life because it keeps things interesting. It’s interpreted in a slightly unexpected way, I guess. Which, of course, is one of the hallmarks of Cooper. That was the most exciting part of him. It was just, “Whoa! I did not expect that to happen!” So any character that has that as their structure is interesting to me.
CS: How far off is “Twin Peaks”?
MacLachlan: You know, I don’t know. I know they’re talking about starting sometime this fall and that’s as much as I know as far as what, when where and how. We’ll see!
(Photo Credit: FayesVision / WENN.com)