Pixar’s latest animated feature Inside Out gives a unique and wholly original glimpse into Headquarters, the control center inside 11-year-old Riley’s (Kaitlyn Dias) mind, where five Emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) – are hard at work. When Riley’s family relocates to a scary new city, the Emotions who thought they were there to help guide her through the difficult transition quickly find themselves venturing through unfamiliar places in Riley’s mind, while the lighthearted optimist Joy just wants to make sure Riley can be happy again.
While at Disney Studios for a press day for the film, actor Kyle MacLachlan (who provides the voice of Riley’s father) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how proud and honored he is to be a part of Inside Out, how closely the film stuck to what he was originally pitched, his thoughts about his characters bushy mustache, and that Joy and Silliness would be the emotions to win out in his own mind. He also talked about how much fun he’s had being a part of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for ABC and that the door is still left open for a possible return, as well as how exciting and unexpected it is to return to the role of Agent Cooper for the revival of Twin Peaks on Showtime, that he expects to start shooting the new episodes in the fall, and how marvelous the tiny glimpse he’s been given is.
Collider: Pixar makes great films, but Inside Out really tops them all. It’s such a special movie.
KYLE MacLACHLAN: It’s pretty incredible, I agree. I’m just really proud of the movie and very honored to be asked to be in it. It was an unexpected pleasure and joy.
It’s really such an original story.
MacLACHLAN: Yeah, it is, and it was described to me as that. When they were talking about where they were going to go on this journey and what their ideas were, it sounded just spectacular to me. I was glad to be the dad, wear a mustache, have a little girl who’s 11, and have a wife who’s Diane Lane. That wasn’t so bad, either.
Because animated movies go through such an evolution, did you know this would be the final outcome?
MacLACHLAN: From what they described to me, yeah, it was pretty clear. They had thought it through. I think they basically make the movie with drawings and they chart the whole movie, before they come back and put voices in it and do that work. I think they knew where they were headed with it. And as they described it to me, Pete [Docter] kept talking about them leaving headquarters, going to long-term memory, going through that journey, these islands that exist, and Bing Bong. I was like, “How have you been able to imagine these worlds and have them relate so perfectly to what is really happening in our minds?” I think it’s spectacular.
Were there any major plot shifts in the family dynamic?
MacLACHLAN: No, it was pretty much there. Pete [Docter] and Jonas [Rivera] and Ronnie [Del Carmen] wanted my personality to come through, which I was happy to do. Most of what was happening was that they would describe it to me, and then I would make my movie in my head and interpret that. As we would go through the scenes, I knew what was happening, but I had to visualize myself moving through that world as Kyle, as opposed to the character, and what I would do, how I would say it, and how I’d approach it. Having a boy who’s going to be seven in July, it was incredibly helpful, being a dad already. I was like, “Okay, I know how to slip into that mode,” particularly with the dinner scene. I’ve totally been there. That was a pretty universal approach, I think. It was pretty great. And the little touch of the mom’s inner emotions all having the glasses, and all of the dad’s having mustaches was a nice way to distinguish between the two.
How did you feel about the mustache?
MacLACHLAN: I was surprised. They send you a binder with some drawings of the character that you’ll be playing, and I was like, “Okay. I don’t have a mustache, but that’s all right.” You’re think it’s going to look like you, but then you realize, in some of the animation or the movement, you can see a little bit of yourself there. They video you, each time you do your voice-over, so they’re watching the physicality, as well, and are incorporating that a little bit, as they refine the drawings.
Is it fun to voice a human animated character, or do you wish you could have voiced something totally wild and crazy?
MacLACHLAN: It would have been fun to be a crazy thing. I did that on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He was more animated, as a dad. But, I have such a respect for the five [actors voicing the emotions], and their comic abilities and the way they use their voices. It’s fantastic. Bill Hader is one of my favorites, so I just got a big kick out of what he did with Fear and the little sounds that he made. They were spot-on. All of them were spot-on, I thought.
Did this ever make you wonder what the control room in your own head might look like?
MacLACHLAN: Yeah, definitely. I definitely thought about it. I think there would be Joy with Silliness as a subletter underneath. That’s pretty much running the show for me. That one is still dominant, I’m afraid, in my case. Sadness hasn’t really encroached in yet, so I’m okay.
How do you find the voice recording process?
MacLACHLAN: I like it. I still feel like it’s a little bit of a shot in the dark. You really rely on the director and the producer to tell you when they need it to be more or less, or richer. It’s definitely a dance that you do, with the director and the producer. But Pete and Jonas and Ronnie were very specific, insightful, helpful, encouraging and grateful. It was nice that they’re actually happy that you’re there. They have the vision. I am there to support that and hopefully make that better, or the best that I can.
How much fun has it been to play such wildly different and diverse characters, especially recently?
MacLACHLAN: It’s fantastic. I have no complaints. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey, especially with this last little segment. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a lot of fun, unexpectedly so. I had no idea what to expect, going in. I just didn’t know. I think they also look to the actor to personify the person. It’s one of the things that I learned in television, and one of the beauties of television, is that, if you have a strong writing staff, they rely on you just as much as you rely on them. They look to me or the other actors to help inspire them to take the character in interesting directions. I felt that very strongly with Cal. I would do something and invest in whatever the scenes were, and they’d go, “Oh, wow, look what we can do.” And then, that would compel them to write further and deeper, which I think they did. They enriched that relationship, and that character became much more complex. They may have always wanted that. I don’t know. But, it became more complex than what I was expecting it to be.
Do you feel like you’ve finished your journey on that show, or have they talked to you about possibilities for the future?
MacLACHLAN: They’ve left it open. We haven’t really spoken about it, so I don’t know what to expect. I think they left the door ajar for him. He’s still around. He’s in a happier place now, but who’s to say if that’s going to remain that way. I don’t know. It would be fun. I would enjoy it.
You’ve been in this business for a long time, you work in film and TV, in comedy and drama, and you play good guys and bad guys. What is it that you look for in projects, and do you just feel really lucky that your roles have been so varied?
MacLACHLAN: I’m really lucky that it’s been so varied. There were no plans, as such. So many things come into play, when there’s an opportunity. Obviously, it’s the material and the people involved, it’s my own state of being, at that particular time, what else is available or not, and whether it works with my family. It’s not just me. I have other considerations. There are still some things that come along where I’m like, “Nah, I don’t feel it.” It really comes down to that. It’s really a feeling, or whether I feel like I can bring something to it, or if I don’t want to go into that world.
At any point, along the way, could you have imagined that you would ever revisit Twin Peaks?
MacLACHLAN: No. I love the character, and I always thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to get back into Cooper’s shoes again?” But, I always felt like that lives in its own place. That it’s come around again is really exciting and unexpected.
Twin Peaks was and will always be my favorite show, but it was also the first “event television” experience that I remember, with all of my friends calling me when each episode would end, so that we could talk about what it might all mean.
MacLACHLAN: It was one of the first TV shows that did that. It played with so many things that were unusual, down to just the rhythm of the scenes in the show, and the look and the music and the dialogue. It had a very simple, strong premise with, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” That was the logline, and from there, it just spun off into such eccentric places, but was so interesting. It was one of the first shows like that, that really made people uncomfortable, which is good.
Do you know when you’ll start shooting the new episodes?
MacLACHLAN: I’ve just heard this fall. Probably September or October, or something like that, but I don’t have a specific date yet. Hopefully, we’ll know something soon.
Have they let you read any of it yet?
MacLACHLAN: It’s all still under lock and key.
So, you’re as anxious as everybody else?
MacLACHLAN: Yeah, I am. I wish I had information. I don’t have any information. I’ve read a little bit, and it is marvelous. There’s nothing I can really say or talk about, but I’m excited.
Do you feel like, from what you know of it, that people could tune in without having seen it before, or would you advise lots of binge-watching between now and then?
MacLACHLAN: Binge-watching is always a good thing. One of the fun things about it is that, people who didn’t know Twin Peaks or haven’t seen it, I think it will compel them to go back and watch the original episodes, and that will hopefully excite people about what’s to come. Particularly with the first seven episodes, it’s just really striking how unusual and different it was, for the time, and I think it still holds up.
Inside Out is now in theaters.