The animated series TRON: Uprising, debuting with a special preview on the Disney Channel on May 18th before premiering on its regular night on Disney XD on June 7th, takes place after the 1982 feature film and before the events in TRON: Legacy. Produced in CG animation with a 2D aesthetic, the series follows the heroic journey of a new character named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood), a young program who becomes the unlikely leader of a revolution inside the computer world of The Grid. You can watch the first episode here.
At the press day for this highly anticipated new show, actor Elijah Wood talked about how excited he was to be a part of this show, what he thinks of his animated self, how much fun he has doing voice-over work, determining the voice for the character, and what Charlie Bean was like, as a director. He also talked about the strange fan encounters he’s had, his experience at Comic-Con, collecting action figures, what he looks for in a role these days, what attracted him to Grand Piano, returning to New Zealand for The Hobbit, and what fans can expect from Season 2 of his FX comedy series, Wilfred. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
ELIJAH WOOD: He’s pretty awesome! It’s cool. It’s fun to play something so heroic.
Were you a fan of the TRON universe, prior to doing this?
WOOD: I was, and super-excited at the notion of them making a show that actually fit between the two film, in terms of the mythology. They had done so much work, in expanding the mythology with Legacy, and a lot of the same writers were involved with continuing the story, or fitting new story into the context of those two films, with this. It was really exciting that there was actually some kind of a connection to what has been done so far with the Tron universe, since the first film. When I saw the initial designs and some of the test animation, I was so blown away that it had such a cinematic quality to it. It really didn’t look like any animated series I had seen before. They brought the world to life, in a really beautiful way, and were willing to tell stories that you’re not used to seeing on television. In some ways, some of the animation looks like something you’d see in the context of a film, and that was really exciting, as well. They really pushed the technology, in terms of being able to come up with something of this quality, in a short amount of time, in episodic television. It was super-cool!
You played The Video Game Kid in Back to the Future 2, and now you are in a video game with TRON: Uprising. Do you enjoy doing voice-over work?
WOOD: It’s fun! Over the last number of years, I’m no stranger to voice work in animation, so I’m used to it. But, getting a chance to work within the context of a universe I was already familiar with was really fun. It just gave the whole experience a more special quality, I think. And the character happens to be extremely physical, so there’s a lot of me standing in front of a microphone, punching and kicking the air, and making myself sound like I’m in all sorts of intense physical scenarios, which is pretty hilarious. I’m sure there’s some footage of me, standing there looking like an idiot.
WOOD: He’s got an intense voice. It’s awesome! It wasn’t intimidating. It was really exciting. It was a treat to work with him and meet him, and it elevates our show to have him take part and carry on his character. It’s super-awesome! It just authenticates what we’re trying to do, I think. It’s rad! But, to be honest, we haven’t recorded a lot in groups with this, which is a super-common thing in animation. You don’t often get a chance to record with the other actors who are playing the characters, mainly due to the fact that you don’t have to, the actors’ schedules are all over the place, and it’s difficult to get everyone in the same room. So, I’ve done a lot of the recording of this on my own, but I have gotten a chance to work with Bruce, which was a real treat. I’ve worked with Emmanuelle [Chriqui] and Mandy Moore, as well. That was lovely. It’s always nice when you get a chance to actually work with the other actor. It just brings the scene to life, in a way that’s not as easy to replicate on your own.
How was it to play the relationship between Beck and Paige?
WOOD: I think Paige is my favorite character, in the piece. I think she represents the most amount of duality, amongst all the characters. She’s ultimately on the wrong side of the tracks, but there’s something within her that feels like it could go either way. The relationship between Beck and Paige has some energy bubbling under the surface, between them, and that’s always really exciting and fun to play with. That was always great. That relationship carries on. You’ll see it develop, over time. It’s really cool.
WOOD: Well, The Lord of the Rings certainly dominates, in regards to fan encounters. Now, I’m getting a lot of people talking about Wilfred, which has been really interesting ‘cause that’s really found a new audience and people are really into that. It ranges, the types of people that I meet who are really into it, which is amazing. It seems to appeal to a relatively wide range of people.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?
WOOD: I don’t know. I’ve had people fly to certain places that I happen to be and profess their love for me, in a pretty intense way.
Have you had any marriage proposals?
WOOD: Serious ones? No. I’ve interacted with fans a lot ‘cause I go to Comic-Con a lot. It just so happens that, the last couple of years, there’s been something to promote at Comic-Con that fits that audience, so I’ve been there a fair amount. But, it’s also a world that I’m familiar with. I’m a nerd as well, and a fan.
WOOD: See, I can’t do that. That’s the thing I can’t do, which is a bummer. It’s weird, in my daily life, I can go anywhere without a problem. But, that’s such a concentrated amalgam of those folks, that it’s difficult. We’re part of that, too. It’s not a me versus them. But, it’s really hard ‘cause I want to. I’ve been there so many times, and I did walk the floor the first time I went. We were there to promote Rings before it came out, and I did walk the floor and it was radical. I checked out all the toy booths. It was awesome, meeting artists. But, after the first movie came out, it was pretty apparent that I couldn’t do that again. And I’ve thought about getting a costume or a mask and walking around that way, but it’s a little difficult. A bunch of people do that. I think Simon Pegg does that. I’ve definitely thought about doing that. But, I walk around San Diego. The beautiful thing about San Diego is that the Convention Center is right next to the town, and I love how the nerds just take over. It’s not even San Diego anymore. The city is fucked and is totally taken over by all these people. It’s great! Everybody is in costume. There are fucking zombies walking down the street. It’s the greatest thing, ever! And I walk amongst that, freely. But, the concentrated environment, not so much.
WOOD: They haven’t made one yet, I don’t think. I hope they will. I most certainly have every action figure of myself. When I was young, I collected Star Wars toys and Batman action figures. As I became a teenager, I collected all the MacFarlane movie monster toys. I loved all that stuff, so it’s a dream come true. I remember the first time I had an action figure of myself. That’s a pretty huge head fuck for a 20-year-old. I had grown up with all of that. I have an action figure from Sin City. I’ve been very lucky to have a couple, much less one.
What is Charlie Bean like to work with, as a director?
WOOD: Charlie is awesome! I love Charlie. He’s incredibly enthusiastic. He’s really driving this ship, and trying to do something that hasn’t really been done, in this space before. He’s creating an animated program for all ages, but that is a little bit more cinematic than what we’re used to and a little bit darker than we’re used to in this space, and really pushing that forward. That’s wonderful. I’ve always shared that same vision with him. We have a lot of fun. Because we’ve been working on this for about two years, or a year and a half of primary work, my experiences on it are so disparate. I work on other things, and then I do three days of seeing the team and being in this universe, and then I’m out, and then I’m back in. It’s been a funny relationship, but it’s always a joy to work with Charlie.
What was your reaction when you finally got to see what this would look like?
WOOD: It’s awesome! It’s even better than what I had anticipated it being, from seeing the early animation tests and designs. Seeing it play out with the finalized animation and some of the slo-mo sequences, it’s so beautiful. A lot of it is computer animation, but all the characters look like two-dimensional cell animation. I love the mix of the two. It’s really a unique look. I also love how angular the characters are. There’s just something really special about the way it’s all been designed. The music is awesome. It definitely takes its cues from what Daft Punk did in Legacy, and I love that. It’s really exciting! I’m excited for people to see it, and I’m excited to see more of it. I’ve seen such little pieces, here and there, so I’m looking forward to sitting down and watching all of them.
WOOD: It was determined right away that it would be my own voice. But, when the character is Tron, or The Renegade, we do change his voice a little bit. Digitally, they mess with his voice, and I also give it a gravity that Beck doesn’t have, in his normal Beck mode. The character is split between the two, in a way. Some of those more Tron/Renegade moments definitely have a depth and a gravity to them, and that’s fun. It’s fun to play around with all of that.
What do you look for, when you’re looking at roles, these days?
WOOD: I don’t know that I’m ever looking for anything, in particular. I’m always intrigued by new challenges and things that I’ve never done before and new experiences. It sounds so simple, but the primary interest is just something that’s good and instills within me some kind of gut feeling that feels like something that I’m passionate and excited about, and there can be multiple variables that can instill that. It can be simply a filmmaker, it can just be a character, it can just be the script, or a combination of all those things. But, I’m always just looking to do things that I’ve never done before, primarily.
You’re getting ready to do Grand Piano next, right?
WOOD: Yes. I’m very excited! I’ve known the director, Eugenio Mira, for a couple of years, just from attending Fantastic Fest in Austin, which is a genre film festival. He and Nacho Vigalondo are the Spanish contingent that are out there, every year. They’re the best! So, I’ve known him socially now for a number of years. When I got the script for that, I was really excited about the prospect of getting a chance to work with him. It’s a very Hitchcockian, beautiful piece, and an exciting piece. I’m psyched about it!
WOOD: It’s such an incredible treat. It’s not often that you have such an intense formative life experience, and then, ten year later, get to revisit that. It was really amazing, going back to New Zealand. So many of the crew, who had worked on Rings, are working on The Hobbit. A number of the same actors are working on it. We shot a little bit in Hobbiton, and I realized that I had turned 19 in Hobbiton. I was there 11 years ago. That’s bonkers! And it hasn’t changed. It was really amazing! It was a remarkable experience, and a great family reunion. It felt like stepping back into time. It was a gift. It was awesome!
The Season 1 finale of Wilfred had some pretty big shocks and twists. What can you say about where things are going in Season 2?
WOOD: We left it real open, didn’t we? Well, I suppose it’s no surprise that Wilfred certainly exists. There’s a lot of things that will be answered, or certainly addressed, within the season premiere. There’s some growth this season, for Ryan. I think we’ll see Ryan interacting with people more. A lot of last season, he spent in the basement getting stoned and having these experiences, but not really anything that was solid or foundational. He will make some strides for that, this season, which is interesting and presents other problems for him, as well. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s such a joy to work on that show. The team is amazing. Jason [Gann] is hilarious. It’s great! People have a lot of enthusiasm for what we’re doing and seem to really get into some of the questions that we create, which is really wonderful. In one respect, the show is a comedy, and it’s sometimes quite broad. It’s about a guy who’s friends with a man in a dog suit, but underneath all of that, there are all these layers, and people seem to really be responding to all those layers and the multi-faceted aspect of the show. That’s something that we’re really excited about, and is our favorite elements of what we’re doing. It’s cool that people don’t know what to expect.
Tron: Uprising will air on Thursday nights on Disney XD, starting on June 7th.