Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are back in Bill & Ted Face the Music as the San Dimas, California duo still trying to fulfill their destiny to save the universe with their music. It’s been nearly 20 years since we last saw these best friends, and now, they’re middle-aged dads living with their historical babe wives (Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays) and equally music-obsessed kids, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving). Bill and Ted still haven’t written the song that’s meant to ensure the survival of all mankind and the clock is ticking. Soon, the pair find themselves in a race against time and they must act fast to keep the world, their lives, and their families together.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Anthony Carrigan (who plays the time-traveling killer robot Dennis Caleb McCoy) talked about joining the legendary Bill & Ted movie franchise, his reaction to these characters when he first saw Excellent Adventure, keeping some mystery to his character until the film’s release, and finding the physicality and voice for this robot. He also talked about calibrating the humor of a role, what he knows about Season 3 of HBO’s Barry, and what playing NoHo Hank means to him.
ANTHONY CARRIGAN: I first saw the film over at my best friend’s house. We had a sleep over and saw it on VHS, so it was awhile ago. We went to the movie store and rented the movie, got bunch of snacks and I just loved it. Honestly, I can watch that movie, again and again and again, and always find something new from it. I could also relate to those guys because I consider myself to be somewhat of an airhead, but well-meaning. I certainly found myself in both Bill & Ted.
How old were you when you saw the film?
CARRIGAN: I think I was eight or nine.
What do you think is the key to the success of these films?
CARRIGAN: I don’t know. There’s just something really hopeful and inspiring about these characters and also just the whole world, between the whole journey of Bill & Ted and Rufus, to now having the brilliant William Sadler as Death, and then, to this chapter, which has all of these new, fun characters and the stakes are even higher. It’s just a fantastic world to be a part of. People enjoy it because ultimately what it’s about is learning about each other, listening and trying to be excellent to each other.
Was this something that you had to audition for and were you told much about the character, in the beginning?
CARRIGAN: Yeah, I auditioned for it. I wasn’t told a whole lot about this character. What was really cool about the process was that I got a lot of freedom to just create something. I got to talk a lot with Dean Parisot, the director, about how to bring this character to life and all of these ideas that I had about it, and they were so game. (Co-writers) Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson were just fantastic, in terms of getting a creative spirit going and finding a character that would lend itself to this really fun, amazing world.
It also seems like this is a character that was kept a secret. Did they tell you why that was? Was that something that was intentional?
CARRIGAN: I think they did intend to keep the lid on it and keep some mystery surrounding it, which is awesome. Nowadays, there’s so little surprise and it’s such a novelty when there is something surprising. I was quite honored by the fact that they wanted to keep this character a bit of a secret and I hope that when the secret is revealed that people get a kick out of it.
Did you know that he’d be getting his own emotional journey?
CARRIGAN: If anything, that’s the effect that Bill & Ted have on people. They’re such lovable characters and they really do win people over. It’s hard to stay mad at them. As an actor, it’s great when there are some parts that are fill-in-the-blank. Ed and Chris are great in that respect because they allow actors to really bring their own spin to it. That’s what gives the characters life and also provides a lot of nuance in the performances. It’s why you can go back and watch the movies, again and again. There are just all of these little details in it. That’s why I’m such a huge fan.
When you do something like this, do you get nervous? Does it feel daunting, or are you somebody who is more about the excitement of getting to jump in and dig into a character like this?
CARRIGAN: It’s pretty much all of those things. The order is usually nervous wreck, not knowing it’s all gonna work out and whether these choices are gonna work or whether people are just gonna look at you and say, “Why would you do that? Why would you say the line that way? You’re fired.” But then, once you get over that, especially when you’re in such a welcoming family that has been going for so long, and you’re a part of the story and the franchise, you’re safe to play around and take risks. So then, I transitioned from a nervous wreck who was freaking out that I was doing a scene with Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves to just having a good time and trying to bring this movie to life.
With this character, did you explore different physicality for playing a robot? Did you also explore ways that you wanted him to talk?
CARRIGAN: I’m a very physical actor and I like to use all sorts of fun, imaginative things to build a character. Part of that was the limitation of being a robot and not just being robotic. What makes someone more human is that you don’t try to be what you are, you try to not be that. If it’s a character like NoHo Hank, who inherently has to do bad things, he tries to play against it and bring a positive energy. So with this role, he’s a robot, but he’s trying to be more human and act more human. That’s what was really fun about it, just in terms of physicality, voice and the overall journey.
What was it like to see yourself in the full get-up?
CARRIGAN: Kind of difficult because I was wearing contact lenses, but that was during the shooting process. Having watched the film, I think it was so cool to see the suit that was created. I’m in awe of how cool it looks. I am pretty unrecognizable in it, but I love that. I think it’s so cool to disappear behind, 40 pounds of foam and latex.
How is it to work for The Great Leader when it’s the fabulous Holland Taylor?
CARRIGAN: Oh, it’s the best! If Holland Taylor tells you to do something, you do it and you do it with a smile. If Holland Taylor is telling you to do it, it’s as simple as that, really. It was such a joy to be able to work with her and develop a rapport and just have fun. She’s such a wonderful presence and I had a blast.
This seems like it must have been the most fun cast to work with, the most fun set, and a really joyous experience.
CARRIGAN: For sure. The discomfort of the suit and the heat in New Orleans and the amount of time that you’re in that make-up, it pales in comparison to the experience of being a part of this franchise. I consider myself very lucky and very grateful to just be a part of it. I hope people get a kick out of it. I really do.
As a performer, how do you calibrate when to play for a laugh and when to play something serious, especially with a character like NoHo Hank, who’s so often both of those things?
CARRIGAN: It’s a very fine line. If you try to play for a laugh, you end up falling on your face. I learned that very early on in my career. You have to take things seriously and it can be a detriment to a moment when you’re trying to make something funny. It’s always a really difficult thing when someone comes over to you and says, “That thing that you just did was so funny. Can you do that again and be just be as funny?” Then, you’re in your head and you’re trying to be funny, and it doesn’t work. So then, you’ve gotta do the opposite and you actually just have to be very, very, very serious about it. That’s usually where the comedy comes from.
You’ve been so fantastic on Barry. How are you feeling about Season 3? What has Bill Hader shared with you about the upcoming season? Do you have a sense of what will happen for your character?
CARRIGAN: I tend to like to be surprised by these things. I’m just very curious as to where the writers and the creators are going to take it, in this next season, because they don’t shy away from really drastic moves. I’m super curious about it, but at the same time, I just trust the writers and Bill Hader and Alec Berg to create something very dynamic. We’re in a really crazy time right now. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that they’re able to really give it the attention that it needs. Hopefully, once we are able to go back to work and do so safely, we’ll all be ready to go, just fully charged up.
I spoke to Stephen Root recently and he told me that you guys might film the next two seasons back to back, just to get them done. Is that something that you could see happening? Is that something you’ve heard about, at all?
CARRIGAN: I’ve heard things, here and there, but you don’t really know what’s gonna happen until it’s happening. I take all rumors with a grain of salt. Just speaking now from a place of wandering around my house, I would be grateful to work for five years straight with no break right now. I’m really craving putting my brain and my heart to work.
What has playing that character meant to you? What have you enjoyed about playing NoHo Hank?
CARRIGAN: It’s really fun. I can still be surprised by what he’ll do, if that makes sense. I’m not always in control of what’s happening. A lot of the time, I just put on the costume, hit the button, and just go. One of the most fun aspects of that process, for me, is just to not know what’s gonna transpire, whether it’s a character’s line or we’re gonna completely change a scene up, depending on the mood. That’s one of the most fun and exhilarating parts of being on Barry and I think that’s why it has got so much life to it. They really do invite that kind of energy in
If NoHo Hank had a time machine like Bill & Ted do, where and when would he go?
CARRIGAN: I think he would probably go to Hollywood in the 1980s and try to be an action star. I’m convinced of it. I think that he would try his best to be a part of those iconic macho men movies, and try his best to do an American accent.
Now, that needs to be a dream sequence on Barry.
CARRIGAN: I’ll do an entire episode that’s a dream sequence .Let’s put it out there and see if it happens.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is in select theaters and available on-demand.
Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV, and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.