Big Hero 6: Baymax Returns (which premiered on Disney XD last night) marks the launch of Big Hero 6: The Series, which officially debuts in 2018, and picks up with 14-year-old tech genius Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) as a new student at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, determined to rebuild his personal health companion Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit). But like with any teenager, Hiro’s overconfidence and penchant for taking shortcuts leads him and the newly minted Big Hero 6 team – Wasabi (voiced by Khary Payton), Honey Lemon (voiced by Genesis Rodriguez), GoGo (voiced by Jamie Chung) and Fred (voiced by Brooks Wheelan) – into trouble.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Ryan Potter talked about how long they’ve been working on the Big Hero 6 TV series, why voicing Hiro comes as second nature for him, what it means to him to get to bring a character like Hiro to life, the evolving dynamic between Hiro and Baymax, and whether he’d like his own Baymax. He also talked about signing on to play Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy, for the Titans TV series that’s set to premiere next year on DC’s new streaming service, and his hope that he’ll get to do some of his own stunts.
Collider: When did you first learn that you’d get to be reprising the role of Hiro for a Big Hero 6 TV series?
RYAN POTTER: It was awhile ago, actually. We’ve been working on Season 1 and Season 2 for close to two and a half years now. About six months after the film came out, we started working on the series. It wasn’t too long after, but fans waited awhile to hear. We’d started working on Season 1, but we didn’t announce that we’d be doing a series until eight months into that process. I think that’s the timeline.
Did the fact that you didn’t have to wait too long to voice Hiro again help with keeping the character fresh for you?
POTTER: No, I think Hiro is such a part of me that it’s almost second nature to bring the character out. I also have such a great resource with the film. I can go back and watch it, at any time, and listen to myself. I can also give the directors from the film a call, at any point, and be like, “I’m having some trouble here,” but I’ve never had to do that. I think the film is a good enough resource.
Hiro is such a cool character and a great role model. What does it mean to you to get to bring a character like Hiro to life?
POTTER: I think it’s every kid’s dream come true to be able to see a character like themselves in a Disney film and feel included, in that sense. Growing up, for me, the Disney films that I could relate to were Mulan and Treasure Planet. Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot. So, the kid inside me is freaking out about [this character], and the fact that I get to voice him is absolutely mind-blowing.
Have you always had that appreciation, or has that appreciation grown, as you’ve gotten older and understood the significance of that?
POTTER: At first, it started off as this fun project and a surreal experience. Now, it’s not only a fun project and it’s visually stunning, but with what Disney and the directors came up with, we were able to knock down some racial barriers, as well, and set a new precedent in the animation world. This project was so inclusive, in so many ways, and because of its color blind nature, we were able to build a fan base wider than just one demographic. That’s what I love about this project so much.
Why do you think this is the perfect story to be told over a longer period of time on TV?
POTTER: When you look at the cast, they look like people you know, in real life. They look like people that are your neighbors, your friends and your family. Everybody just is who they are. They don’t have to play into stereotypes, of any sort. When people watch this, 50 or 100 years from now, people will be like, “Oh, that’s what society looked like,” without the flying robots. People of all different races, heights and genders hang out, and that’s what major metropolitan cities look like. You’ll see insane amounts of diversity, and everybody can sit together and laugh. That’s what I love about Big Hero 6.
Big Hero 6: Baymax Returns is all about Hiro getting Baymax back in working order. What can you say about the evolution of the relationship between Hiro and Baymax, in the series, as well as Hiro’s relationship with the other superheroes?
POTTER: Baymax and Hiro went through multiple relationships. At first, Hiro was babying Baymax. Then, they became friends. And then, they became almost brothers. Then, Baymax was the one who was teaching Hiro lessons, so he almost becomes a father figure, in a way. The writing was just so genius, to begin with, with the relationship between Hiro and Baymax. That evolution, throughout the film, is one that anybody can relate to because, at different points in the film, they have a different set of guidelines for their relationship. And there will always be a little bit of that disconnect [with the team]. That’s where the humor comes from. Even though Baymax has good intentions, there are certain cues that he misses. That being said, there are things that he’ll point out to the rest of the team, that we sometimes overlook, but he’s programmed to be so compassionate that he’s not allowed to walk away from helping somebody or from standing up for somebody. Baymax Returns is a great intro back into the world, but in the series, you’re going to get so much more of each of the characters’ stories and their own personal arcs. All of the characters are going to be flushed out, so much more. These stories that are being written and these arcs that are being created are going to make these characters feel so much more real, and Baymax is gonna have a huge role in that?
You’ve signed on to play Beast Boy in the live-action Titans TV series.
How exciting is it to be playing a superhero for real now?
POTTER: It’s a trip. There’s not a lot that I can say, but what I can say is that it was vital to Geoff Johns, in the process of casting this characters, that the character be Asian American and mixed race, of some sort. He understands the importance of having media that represents everybody, so that when kids are growing up, they have the opportunity to see faces like themselves on television, in the roles of superheroes and in characters that have good morals and can teach a good lesson. Growing up, for me, there weren’t a lot of faces that I could identify with on television. There were a few Asian American faces and there were Caucasian American faces, but I didn’t look like either one of them because technically I’m a combination of the two. It feels awesome to be able to bring to life a beloved character, but also to attach a new face to him. It’s funny, a lot of people have been drawing similarities between me and Garfield Logan, but his ethnicity has never really been established. Ultimately, I think the direction that Geoff is trying to take with Titans is awesome. The fact that we haven’t had an Asian American superhero before just blows my mind. Not to take any thunder away from Katana in Suicide Squad, but technically, she is a villain who, for ulterior motives, is being the hero.