Inside Out marked the return of Pixar this summer and is one of the highest grossing animation films of this year. Not only has been a huge hit at the box office, it was also a critical smash and is being tipped to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar at the beginning of next year.
Inside Out has just been released on DVD and Blu-Ray and we caught up with actress Phyllis Smith to chat about the film, her role as Sadness, and working on a voice role for the very first time.
- Inside Out is about to be released on DVD & Blu-Ray here in the UK, so can you tell me a bit about the film for anyone who may not have seen it yet?
It is a story of an eleven year old girl and we are the five emotions that are running around in her head. It is a unique tale. Not only is Riley one of the mains characters of this story, but it takes place in her head and so it is also a study of her.
Amy Poehler is Joy, Bill Hader is Fear, Mindy Kaling is Disgust, Lewis Black is Anger, and I play Sadness. We take you on a journey with this little girl, who has just moved with her parents from Minneapolis to San Francisco, and the hardships that she goes through while adjusting to her new life.
- You voice the emotion of Sadness, so what was it about this character and the script that was the major draw for you?
Any time that Pixar would want me to do something I would absolutely say yes. There wasn't a big decision about the role being good; you know that any time that you are involved in a Pixar project you are in good hands and it is bound to be pretty successful.
For me, there was no hesitation whatsoever. I was actually lying on my sofa when I got this call on my cell phone and I was like 'who is this?' It was the casting director for Pixar saying that they would like to consider me for a role. They ended up flying me from St Louis, Missouri to Emeryville in California and I was able to meet everyone and they presented the role. I remember feeling very overwhelmed as there was a lot of information and a wonderful story. I was very happy to say yes, absolutely.
- This was the first time that you have done voice work, so how have you found the whole experience?
I loved doing it and I hope that this is not my last. I was very nervous about it because, as you say, it was my first but I remember walking in the room and immediately Jonas Rivera - the executive director - Pete Docter and all of the guys made me feel so welcome. I started work in the third year of production on Inside Out.
It usually takes five years to do a Pixar film and they bring the actors in around the third year. They were so welcoming and make you feel so at home. At that time, I guess I should have been reading for Fear because I was pretty terrified (laughs). They made me feel right at home and everything just fell into place.
- I was reading that your first recording session was with Amy Poehler how important was it to have somebody else to feed off, instead of just being in the booth by yourself?
That was very nice because it gave me... at one point, we recorded together and then, because of scheduling, Amy had to do some solo work. I was able to sit back, watch, learn, observe, and notice how she would do the same line four or five different ways. It really did give me the chance to learn from a pro (laughs). I was very grateful for that. When I got up there, I had a little more knowledge than I had previously.
Also, because Amy and I worked so much together and a lot of our scenes were pretty emotional, it was nice to have someone to work across from; we could see each other's faces. Where we worked in Disney, it is a fairly large room and at one end is the director, the writer, and sometimes the co-producer and you didn't feel that isolated.
- The movie sees Pete Docter back in the director's chair - he has already brought us movies such as Up and Monsters Inc. - how did you find working with the filmmaker? And how collaborative a director is he?
He is great. It is nice when you work with someone who knows what they want and knows how to gleam that from you. He gives you the freedom to try things a number of different ways and yet he is very gentle in giving you a scenario that will help you deliver what he wants. He is able to give very descriptive direction, which helps you to pull it together. He is wonderful.
He originated this story and he knew every moment of it and to have someone who knows their work so much and want they want, make it a hundred time easier. One of the hardest things to do is work with a director or a writer that's not quite sure what they want because they will take you in one direction, then another, they are still fumbling around, but they don't want input they want to do it themselves (laughs). It is really hard to work with someone like that. Pete Docter made it easy breezy. He was great.
- Of course, when you are recording you have don't really know what the final film is going to look like. What was your reaction when you sat down and watching Inside Out for the first time?
It was amazing. There was so much to take in during that first viewing (laughs). I have seen the film about four times now and each time I see it I do see something different. I can remember going 'that's what he meant' (laughs).
That is one of the good things with Pixar, you know that you are in such great hands and the editors really know what they are doing and they can make you look great (laughs).
- The movie has been a critical and commercial smash and I think it's the favourite to scoop the Best Animated Feature Oscar next year. You must be thrilled with the way the film and the character of Sadness has been received?
Absolutely. It has been such a wonderful experience. Maybe in five years' time I will pinch myself and realise what a wonderful project I have been involved in. My hindsight is great (laughs). It has just been a real pleasure to work, not only with my fellow actors, but everybody at Pixar as it is a wonderful company.
- Finally, what's next for you as 2015 is drawing to a close and we head into 2016?
What's next for me? I did a TV pilot in New York and I will see how that goes. Then I have a Netflix drama series that is looming at the moment and I am currently in negotiations for that.
Inside Out is out now on DVD & Blu-Ray.
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