Thomas Middleditch, Sean Giambrone and Justin Roiland talk about playing an alien family in the animated series hitting Disney+
You might have heard about Star, the new mature-content tier of the Disney+ streaming service that launched earlier this week and adds all the stuff that didn’t seem to fit on a family entertainment product: your Predators, your Die Hards, your Zardozes.
But it’s also a place where Disney can put the television programming produced for its U.S. service Hulu, which doesn’t always have a Canadian partner for shows that premiere there. One of those shows is Solar Opposites, which we’ve been wanting to see since it debuted on Hulu last May.
Created by Rick And Morty’s Justin Roiland and Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Mike McMahan, Solar Opposites is a sci-fi sitcom about a family of aliens living in a small American town and causing mayhem with their extraterrestrial ways.
Roiland voices their ostensible leader, the scientist Korvo; Thomas Middleditch, late of Silicon Valley, is his more emotional partner Terry, and Sean Giambrone and Mary Mack play their young charges, Yumyulack and Jesse. And Disney set up a Canadian junket day with Roiland, Middleditch and Giambrone to celebrate the show’s arrival on Star.
For Giambrone, a veteran of animated series like Clarence, Big Hero 6 and Jurassic Park: Camp Cretaceous as well as a regular on the live-action sitcom The Goldbergs, his process was mostly about “trying to figure out how sassy Yumyulack is, because there’s kind of, like, some snark to him. And by episode two, I got to record with Mary Mack as Jesse, and then figuring out that relationship really helped.”
Pretty much everyone praises Mack, who is indeed a delight as the enthusiastic, well-meaning Jesse – a sunny contrast to Giambrone’s selfish, sociopathic Yumyulack. Getting the actors together for a recording session or two helped cement their chemistry and figure out the show’s rhythms. (Like most animated series, Solar Opposites records the cast separately, with the actors effectively performing in isolation even before the pandemic.)
“The Roiland brand is very dense,” says Middleditch. “Things have a quick pace with all the jokes. So that was a good effort to make sure we were coming in with the right energy. But yeah, it’s weird how it all ends up working together, considering how isolated you are during your performances. It just goes to show that the people running it have a master plan.”
And that master plan is a lot of bickering. The Roiland brand Middleditch mentions frequently involves a heady sci-fi concept – cloning, time travel, the feudal society that rises up among the shrunken humans Yumyulack and Jesse keep in a wall-sized terrarium in their bedroom – interrupted by frantic, stammering arguments that inevitably devolve into personal attacks.
It works for Rick And Morty, and it works on Solar Opposites, giving the genre goofiness an idiosyncratic texture that feels downright human. And it’s all done in the edit.
“We’ve always recorded everybody separately, with the exception of me doing [both] Rick and Morty on Rick And Morty,” Roiland says. “I’ll sometimes riff the characters back and forth and run a scene and I’ll sort of go off script and see how that feels. And sometimes we’ll use it, sometimes we don’t. You know, it’s always kind of whatever the best thing is for the episode.”
And remember how I said everyone brought up Mack?
“Mary Mack is like, just… I mean, she’s incredible,” Roiland says. “She’s such a find for Jesse, you know what I mean? She’s so good. She’s so fucking sweet and funny and interesting. She’s a great actress, she’s just perfect for that character.”
And the thing is, he’s right. You’ll see.
New episodes of Solar Opposites arrive Fridays on the Star tier of Disney+. Watch the whole interview with Roiland, Middleditch and Giambrone on NOW’s YouTube channel, or streaming directly below:
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