Big Hero 6: The Series, based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios feature and airing on the Disney Channel, continues the adventures of 14-year-old tech genius Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) and his friendship with his personal healthcare companion and cutting edge robot Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit). Along with Wasabi (voiced by Khary Payton), Honey Lemon (voiced by Genesis Rodriguez), Go Go (voiced by Jamie Chung) and Fred (voiced by Brooks Wheelan), this superhero team of six fight to protect their city from an array of villains while also trying to manage day-to-day life in San Fransokyo.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Brooks Wheelan talked about taking over the role of Fred (who was voiced by T.J. Miller in the movie), making the character his own, getting to explore more sides of the character in the TV series, how he most identifies with Fred, having a lot of fun with the whole process, why this is a series that everyone (even people who haven’t seen the movie) can enjoy, and how they have a bunch of different fun and funny villains.
Collider: I am very happy to be talking to you about Big Hero 6: The Series because that means we’re getting to see more of these characters.
BROOKS WHEELAN: I’m excited! I liked the movie and I remember just being like, “I hope they make another one.” Now, I get to be a part of it and it’s awesome.
How did you come to be voicing Fred, for the TV series?
WHEELAN: I don’t know. I just like came in and read for it. T.J. Miller is super busy, so he couldn’t do it. I’m also a scratchy-voiced stand-up comedian, so I guess I sounded similar enough. I just went in and read for it, and it worked out great.
Since you weren’t involved with the film, did you go back and watch the film to take anything from his work, or did you want to approach it fresh?
WHEELAN: I did not want to try to do a T.J. impression, at all. I just wanted to make it my own and not try to be somebody that I’m not. He’s so good at it that I just wanted to be as good as I could, being me. I just went in and read it how I would read for any character. I wasn’t trying to be T.J., at all.
When you saw the movie, what was it that made an impression on you? Were there certain aspects of the story or the character dynamics that were most resonated with you?
WHEELAN: It was the most sincere, sweet movie. There’s a ton of heart in it that I was not expecting, at all. I watched it with the nephews of my girlfriend, at the time, and I was like, “This is amazing!” Then, I researched it and found out all about the history of it. I watched it with a bunch of 2 to 4 year olds, and I liked it, as much as they did.
Were you nervous, at all, about taking over the character of Fred, having not voiced him before, or was that a challenge that you were game for?
WHEELAN: Of course, I’m nervous to take over, but I think Fred comes into his own, in the series. There’s a lot more going on for Fred, in the series, because they explore every character and what their own dynamic is. That nervousness went away pretty quickly and I was like, “I just need to buckle down.” Fred, Go Go, Wasabi and Honey Lemon are a big part of the series. They all go off on their own and you see their world. It’s a lot different than the movie, which is Hiro and Baymax centric. It’s so cool to learn about everybody’s background and where they live and their lives. That’s the coolest part about this being a series.
How do you most identify with Fred, as a character?
WHEELAN: I’m a genuinely excited person, and I think Fred is very excited, all the time. I think that I identify with being over-enthusiastic about stuff, to where other people are like, “Hey, man, relax!” I get told to relax a lot, and so does Fred.
What are the biggest challenges of doing this kind of voice work, on an ongoing basis?
WHEELAN: I would say none. This is my favorite job that I’ve ever had. Bob [Schooley] and Mark [McCorkle], and the whole team who write the series, have done an awesome job with the script, and then they encourage you to go off script and they collaborate with you. They’re like, “Let’s try it this way.” It’s really only fun. I did not change my voice, at all. Fred sings a lot, and I’m really bad at singing. I wanted to sincerely try my hardest to sing because that’s funnier than singing badly on purpose, so if you hear Fred singing, that’s as good as I can do, and it’s really bad.
For folks who haven’t seen the feature film, is this TV series something that anybody can tune into?
WHEELAN: Yes! What I really like about like this series, and really all of the superhero movies that I tend to like, is that they’re set in the real world. There are no aliens. These guys created their own superpowers. They’re regular people that just use their brain. You connect with it because these are just regular people. It’s not a fictitious world. This is happening within San Fransokyo, but it’s just a bunch of really smart college kids with a young genius at the helm. I think it’s relatable because it happens in the real world. That’s what I like about movies like Batman Begins. You can see how these people got their superpowers because they created them.