The animated series TRON: Uprising, premiering 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 a press day for the show, actor Lance Henriksen – who voices General Tesler, the eccentric power hungry dictator that is Clu’s main henchman, tasked with bringing order to Argon City and taking down The Renegade, aka Beck – talked about what he likes best about this animated series, what he enjoys about bringing such a villain to life, whether he likes playing the hero or the villain more, the voice-over work he does in video games, and whether there could ever be a Millennium movie. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: What do you like about this animated series?
LANCE HENRIKSEN: What I like the most about it is that I’m computer illiterate, but I get it. Charles Bean is a brilliant director. I come in with an idea and try to do it, but I fall on my face. And then, he says, “Wait a minute, there was a little moment in there. Let’s try that moment and expand in that direction.” Because I’ve done a lot of theater, I know what power is and how megalomaniacs are, since I’ve certainly played some. That opened it up and expanded it. When you get into TRON, you have a very fundamental story. I’m not saying it’s Red Riding Hood, but it’s as fundamental. It’s power, it’s rebellion, and metaphorically it’s like what people are doing in America right now, with getting mad at the government and the bankers.
I find that Tesler is so frustrated and twisted about the power that he wants and what he’s willing to do to get it. It’s very much like a megalomaniac politician. So, the details of the world started resonating. I don’t change any narrative. That’s written in stone. They’ve got the formula. But, in order to personalize it, I just have to give it the energy it needs. Clu is really Tesler’s enemy, but it’s the unspoken enemy. Tesler would never relay that to Paige because that would be his undoing. He’d get deres-ed, like anybody else. There are also very strong women in this. Usually the male control and domination that tends to be in our genes gets around a powerful woman who has the ability to make choices different from guys, it throws you off and you get frustrated. I’ve done a lot of video games and stuff, and I’m getting better and better at it. I don’t have a prejudice about it being a different medium.
What’s it like to bring a character to life by yourself, in the recording booth?
HENRIKSEN: Nobody does this alone. Charles Bean made the experience for me. I was very happy to keep coming back to do more. There’s a pathetic nature to Tesler, too. He can’t do everything. He would love to be a real good fighter, but he’s only got a couple of tricks and, once you get on to them, they’re not as successful.
Is Tesler just a pure villain, or is there a level of heart?
HENRIKSEN: Not a drop. Not even for himself. That’s what makes him a tragic figure. There’s something weird about Tesler. If the series goes on, I will have no input. There’s not a word they want to hear from me. There’s nothing more terrifying than an actor who comes with an idea. It’s fine when it’s intimate and you’re in the booth, working the narrative. But, I love doing it. My daughter says that Tesler has got the best wardrobe because he has a cape. That makes him capable.
What are you working on now, video game wise?
HENRIKSEN: I’ve been working on Mass Effect lately. They redid the end because a lot of people were upset that it ended so abruptly. I’ve already been in the booth, so they could work their way out of that. I did a big monologue about something.
Is there any chance of their ever being a Millennium movie?
HENRIKSEN: There’s a big push on it, right now. They’ve written a book with interviews from everybody that was on the show, including [Frank] Spotnitz and me. That show was awhile ago. Ever since 9/11, the world has changed so radically that, if Millennium was made today with those characters, it would be a far more interesting show than the limited palate they had with serial killers. I love the idea of a non-judgmental character like Frank Black. He wanted to know why and how all these things happened, but he knew that judging someone for what they’d done was just going to get in the way of finding out things. Imagine that kind of morality and focus, like a master chess player, able to draw in details like beads on a string. It would be much more interesting now than it was then. I loved doing that show. The most important relationship in the show, for me, was between Frank and his daughter, and that actress is getting married now. I think it’s going to happen. I really do. I believe that. I would do it. There’s no reason not to.
What would you want to see happen?
HENRIKSEN: I want to keep moving the pressure in on Frank Black, in regard to a terrorist plot that keeps building and building and building. You’ll be gasping for air, wondering what the hell is going to happen to this guy. I’m looking forward to it. It’s crazy, if they don’t give it a shot. It doesn’t have to be a $30 million movie. There’s a lot of fans out there, in 65 countries, just pounding on the door. I can’t go to any country without them wanting to know when the movie is going to be made. It doesn’t matter where I am.
Which do you find more fun to play, the hero or the villain?
HENRIKSEN: It depends on the material and the narrative, and what they’ve done and what they’re after. I just read a script that I’m probably going to do in England, called The Fifth Girl. It’s incredibly complex. Sometimes they hire me because they think everybody is going to believe that I’m the bad guy in the story, but it ends up that I’m the good guy and you just didn’t get it. They did that on purpose in Jennifer 8. Or, I am the bad guy. It really depends on the script. The Fifth Girl is a knock-out because it doesn’t use any of those cheap shots. It’s more of a psychological drama, so it allows you to go over the terrain of the movie, never knowing until the very end, how it all adds up. It’s really good.
I really like playing good guys, of course. Although, people make mistakes in their lives, and you could say that the mistakes make us who we are, by how we respond to them. I just don’t want to play boring good guys, but I don’t have that problem, anyway. I’m not Tom Cruise. I don’t have to look that good. I’m always going to have a problem because I’m thought of as someone edgy, but I’m not. I’m a cupcake.
TRON: Uprising will air on Thursdays on Disney XD, starting on June 7th.