Harry Connick Jr. Talks DOLPHIN TALE 2, How His Character’s Story Parallels His Real Life, Balancing His Projects, and Bringing Music into the Film

     September 11, 2014

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Harry Connick Jr. returns for the family friendly fish aquatic mammal sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, which tells the continuing story of the fine folks of the Clearwater Marine Hospital and their world-famous patients.  While on the film’s set at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which inspires the movie hospital, our select group of journalists got a chance to interview Connick Jr. between scenes.  He talked about returning for the sequel, interacting with his human and animal co-stars alike, balancing all the projects on his schedule, and bringing music into the film.

Writer-director Charles Martin Smith’s Dolphin Tale 2 opens Friday, September 12th, and also stars Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Austin Highsmith, Austin Stowell, and the dolphins Winter and Hope.  Hit the jump for the full interview, and click here for more from the film.

dolphin-tale-2-morgan-freeman-harry-connick-jr-cozi-zuehlsdorffQuestion: What are you shooting today?

Harry Connick Jr.: We are shooting a scene when Morgan’s character, Dr. McCarthy, invents a new tail for Winter, and it’s a big deal because if it doesn’t work then we’re in trouble. It’s fun because it’s the first time that all of us have been together on set with Ashley [Judd] and the kids and me and Morgan [Freeman], so it’s really fun. And Kris [Kristofferson] is here too, so all of us.

Is there a new side to the character you’re getting to explore this time around?

Connick Jr.: It’s interesting because it almost parallels what’s happening in my real life, when your kids kind of grow and they start to … you start to realize that they’re not as dependent on you as they were for all the right reasons. They start to really come up with their own life philosophies and thoughts. Watching Cozi [Zuehlsdorff], who in real life is doing that too, they start to grow up and they start to think of things that maybe surprise you. It’s kind of a distancing that I have with her, and it’s hard as a parent to initially see that. Then it becomes exciting, but the initial phases of that, I think, my character is going through that right now, when he realizes that she’s really growing up.

As a dad, do you bring in any specific fatherhood traits to the role?

Connick Jr.: Not really. I think I sort of subconsciously bring things from home, because my relationship with Cozi in real life is very similar to my relationship with my kids. We talk a lot, she’s really, really smart, she’s one of the smartest people that I know, and I like to think of my girls as being really smart, too.  So it feels very comfortable for me to be around her, and I’m sure that that’s because of the relationship I have with my girls.

Any love or romance now in this movie? Kissing?

Connick Jr.: I mean, Ashley Judd! At this point, I would be happy to kiss Kris. [laughs] I’m like, c’mon man, I’ve got Ashley Judd standing right in front of me, give me a kissing scene with her! [laughs]

No kissing?

Connick Jr.: No kissing!

How has it been working with David Yates? Have you taken any of his personality traits to play him?

Connick Jr.: I don’t know if my character is entirely based on him. I think David is a brilliant, brilliant mind, and my guy is a little bit more academic, maybe a little bit more socially awkward. David is the antithesis of being socially awkward; he’s great with people and he’s such an ideas guy. The fact that I run the aquarium, and he does in real life, is probably the only similarity that I share with him in my character. The rest of the time, I’m more of a doctor and a guy who’s really concerned with that world. So I don’t think my character has a lot of those traits. I think if he did, they wouldn’t be in some of the predicaments they’re in, because David really knows how to run this place. I don’t know how good I am at it. I think it, out of all the things that I do, that’s probably my least favorite thing to do.

dolphin-tale-image-ashley-judd-harry-connick-jrHow are you balancing everything you have going on right now?

Connick Jr.: Well, my manager and I have been together since I was a kid, and she’s really great at sort of carving things out for me. I don’t even know how she worked Dolphin Tale out with American Idol, but I finish one, I go out there, I come back, so it all works out really well. Nothing really overlaps too badly.

No airport rushing?

Connick Jr.: I guess the most unusual circumstance was when I had bronchitis and I had to cancel my show here, and then we rescheduled it. That was the first time I’ve actually shot during the day on a film and done a show at night; that was kinda cool just because they’re so completely different. For most of the day, we were standing out in the Gulf off of Fort De Soto, and then doing a show at night. It’s just a cool mental shift. It was fun.

Does one side inform the other?

Connick Jr.: No. Completely different. [laughs] Those are completely different skill sets, I think. Especially that day because I had no dialogue, there was just a bunch of stuff they were going to CGI in later. You’d like to be able to pull from one, but that’s as different as it gets.

How are you getting along with Jennifer Lopez and the other judges?

Connick Jr.:  Oh man, they are everything you hope they would be. It’s really a fun job. It’s probably the most fun you can have working in this business for me, because it’s everything I like to do. I like making movies, but some days you show up and, like the other day, there was nothing to do but pretend you’re releasing a dolphin. You’re required to do things that are sometimes not exactly what you signed up for, which is fun and interesting, but it’s different. But American Idol is … I’m listening to singers all day. The only thing I don’t get to do is perform, but I get to be around two really, really creative people. I mean, Keith Urban is a very talented guy, and Jennifer is an incredibly bright mega-power in this business. The three of us, I think, bring three different perspectives to it. So to answer your question, we’ll finish shooting, and then everybody has lunch and we all just sit down and talk like we’re talking now.

Did you get to bring any of your music into this movie? I know in the first one you had a little bit of a scene with the saxophone.

Connick Jr.: I play a little saxophone in this one, too. So that’s fun. There’s a line that Nathan [Gamble] says to me, we shot it the other night when Winter’s in the pool and I was playing the saxophone, and he goes, “Winter really liked your saxophone playing,” and I said, “Well that proves she’s not a music critic,” and we just wrote that in as a nice little thing. I was just talking to one of the trainers here and she just said to me today, “I had no idea that you played music,” [laughs] and it’s just funny that as new people are coming up and learning, they may not have … she had no idea I played or sang. She thought of me as … I don’t even think she’s seen me outside of Dolphin Tale. [laughs] So I was like, “Yeah, I play a little bit.” [laughs]

What was it like coming back for the second round of Dolphin Tale?

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Connick Jr.: It was like a dream come true really. This is about as laid back a set as you can have. The location, the people. Charlie’s such a great director, I mean, he’s just a mellow guy. This whole environment, being around these animals is very peaceful, being around the people who work here is informative and humbling, so it’s really great. It’s a different story, but the context is exactly the same. It’s a blessing because you don’t get movies like … I mean, look at more wardrobe and what I get to wear [laughs]. It’s as easy as it gets.

Is there anything you learned from making the first film, either from production or watching the film itself, that you deliberately wanted to do differently on this one?

Connick Jr.: Not really, I think I saw it once at the premiere and that was enough. I don’t like to watch myself too much in films. Not really. I have this weird anti-method way of doing things. This guy is not like me at all, but there are pieces of me in there. And just like I’ve lived three years since I did the first one, my character has too. So I treated it with a clean slate and just respond to things in real time on camera as much as I can. Sometimes you can’t do that, obviously when you’re shooting out of sequence and you have to repeat scenes. There’s a technique to it. But just as a general philosophy, I didn’t really base anything on the first one.

What’s it been like working with Winter again? Is your relationship still there from the first film?

Connick Jr.: That’s an incredible animal. I really think, I don’t know if anybody else told you this, she seems to understand when Charlie says, “Cut.” She’ll make that little clicking sound. They’re brilliant. She seems to be able to respond to things like a three or four year old on a human level, but from the way they communicate to each other, they must be way beyond what we’re able to comprehend, just with echolocation and being able to see inside of each other, I don’t think we have any understanding of that. But we kind of meet on one level; I think our worlds overlap a little, and that’s pretty amazing. She’s an incredible animal.

dolphin-tale-2-posterHave you been in contact with Nathan and Cozi over the years since the last film?

Connick Jr.: Oh yeah.

How are they changing?

Connick Jr.: Well physically they’re changing, they’re just getting bigger. And I do keep in contact with them, I really like these kids, I love em. I mean they’re great, great kids. They’re very, very special. Both of em are really unique kids. They’re growing up, their conversations change. I talk to Cozi a lot about music and art and philosophy. She is really extraordinarily bright, and she’s as talented a musician and a singer as she is an actress, so we talk about music and art a lot. And Nathan, we just tell each other dirty jokes all day. [laughs] Not too dirty.

Speaking of kids in general, how do you feel about the way this movie has affected children around the world with its message?

Connick Jr.: I think this film has got a great message and the second one is equally as powerful. I hear it a lot from little kids. A big classroom of kids came to my show and they loved that movie. I’m not really thinking about the impact this is going to have, I’m just trying to do my job, and then a year or two later people say, “Oh, I really loved it,” or little kids, like we were saying, they don’t know me. Somebody wrote that he was playing my CD and his daughter, who was like six or seven, said, “That’s the guy from Dolphin Tale.” So that’s nice to be able to see people discover you from different ways and it’s a great film and I think this one’s going to be better in a lot of ways.

 Harry Connick Jr. Dolphin Tale 2 Interview

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