happytime murders

You mentioned that Edwards has a sugar addiction. What else can you tell us about her? Is she raunchy, a real hard ass?

She was a really good cop. It was her life. I think it was, instead of a relationship, instead of a family, it was the job and she loved it. And it’s what she kind of geared her whole life for, but she just kind of can’t keep it together. So, she’s still a good cop, she’s doing a good job, but she’s barely keeping it together. She goes on binges. There’s cranky moments. She doesn’t suffer rookies very well, and pretty hard on a couple people. But they are being dumb. She’s hard boiled for sure. I think she’s been on the job long enough and she’s had a couple of really bad things happen, and you add a really bad sugar and maple syrup — sorry, Canada — addiction. You have this character who is in constant inner turmoil, and yet she still does care about her job and people being murdered, but she’s failing the victims, she failing herself, then you have someone, Phil, who really — they know each other really well, so they poke and butt in, and it’s constantly a barrage of conflict, which I think is always the best humor. If it’s too easy, it’s not going to be that funny. This is not too easy, for sure.

Did you do any preparation with the puppets?

With me? With the puppets, you mean? Oh, I did nothing with the puppets. I would be like, I don’t know. I can do sock puppets. My kids like sock puppets. I prepared just like everything else I do. I just really work on my character, and when I meet the other actor, you hope that it all kind of clicks and you’re in the same world and it really did. Phil and I really have the same kind of — we really see things similarly. And he’s such a great guy that, if he feels like something’s off, he knows that character so well that, we always say, my god, if you want to say something else, who cares? What anybody wrote, you are Phil. You have to say what feels right. But I did prepare. I didn’t just show up. [laughs] I’ll talk to Ben about that. Puppet-wise? No. There’s Brian Henson here. You just walk away and let it go. Great.

Did you come in and do a chemistry read with him before the first set up?

I did come in and meet him and I was like, weirdly… I was so nervous. He was on his stand. It was, like, Phil, and I was like, is this going to be weird? I don’t know how this is going to work. And then I met Bill who just immediately put him on and he was only talking to me as Phil. Then I kept trying to look at Bill, and Bill kept putting Phil in the front of his face. And the next thing I know, I was having a full conversation with Phil. I was like, I think this is going to go great! I felt like, within 20 seconds, I went from having this super, “I don’t know how to do this — am I really supposed to talk to the puppet or do I crane around and try to talk to Bill?” Then it just weirdly went away and then I was having a real conversation with a felt puppet.

happytime murders

I go back and forth about the social aspect. Obviously we’re living in morally ambiguous times. And if you get a straight out movie about it, people might be turned off. Is there something in the way children’s television has a unique approach of tapping into something like this? Like Disney or Pixar movies — another avenue…

There’s definitely nothing child-like about it. That’s the one thing we really worked at. There’s no aspect of, is this a kid’s movie? This is not like a raunchy kid’s movie. It’s not. It’s really just a straight up gritty comedy that happens to have puppets. And I only say it like that because somehow, at least in what we’ve seen and what we’re working on everyday, it really does make it what I dreamed that it would be, in that it’s just a good, gritty crime movie that happens to be really funny. And there’s this side note that there’s puppets in it. But…

But the puppets are less integrated into society…

They’re certainly second class citizens. I think that’s the comment. I think when you can show kind of the worst of us in a way that’s palatable for people, maybe they don’t know they’re being shown — everybody doesn’t like to have the mirror held up to them. So if you can show it and hold up the mirror in a way that’s still entertaining, I think it works kind of on a subconscious level. I always think that’s a good way to do it. If you can make your point to make them laugh, I think sometimes people can take it a little better. We can all use a mirror shoved up in our face. We don’t really love it, but we could all use it.

Were there puppet mishaps? What do puppet bloopers look like?

They’re pretty great. They’re pretty great if they get tongue-tied because they stay in character. It’s going to be the best blooper reel ever, because the puppeteers don’t present themselves like, oh, I messed up. It’s like, oh my god, I don’t know my line! They totally say that. They’ll look at camera, or when somebody comes in to measure, they’ll hold it. The puppet is always active. And we did a bunch of stuff for Kevin Clash, who is also — it’s kind of crazy because he’s here. He does a bunch of puppets. He oversees everything. For heaven’s sake, you have the guy who created Elmo, and now we have him saying terrible things. We’ve destroyed that for people. But it’s really funny how they always stay in it. So you have this great footage of the puppets doing bloopers. But they never come out of it. It’s pretty interesting.

Can you talk about working with Brian. I think he’s still a little bit in the shadow of his father, who was amazing, but he’s a genius.

Yeah, I mean, his body of work — somebody who just comes for a couple of hours and watches it, people who are very familiar with sets, sees how different this is, how technically adept Brian is, and what he’s doing is not what anyone else can do. There is no way to do this without Brian Henson. It’s really crazy, but he’s grown up with it. It’s in his DNA. There are things where I’m like, that looked fine. That looked amazing, what they just did. And he’s like, the gate was off. He’ll just see something in it and know that later won’t look [right]. He’ll come in and change something on the puppet and then we’ll do another take and I’ll be like, oh god, it’s better! It’s better! It’s so frustrating because you don’t see it. You don’t have the eye, but he’s seeing it in real time. And they’ve all worked together. They’re so close and it’s all such a nice big family, that it feels like, that’s what you want. They’re not like, oh, the Hensons are monsters! [laughs] They’re all friends and they’ve worked together for so long that they’re such a nice second hand to all of them that they all come in and help. Puppeteers are just, they’re very collaborative. They’re all there to help and nothing is out of the realm of — if somebody needs help, they just kind of all pitch in and do it.

With Brian Henson directing and telling you where to stand and what to say, do you ever feel like you’re becoming a puppet?

[laughs] I’ve been a puppet for years! I have two kids. I haven’t made my own decisions in a long time. Also, Brian’s in it. He plays a crab.

We saw that.

Did you see that? He’s in a garbage can, directing. I just kept taking pictures of him. He’s literally sitting in a garbage can, with a crab, but he’s also like, can you move the camera over. I was like, [in a singsong voice] you’re directing in a garbage can, which was kind of great.

They showed how you kicked it, too.

Oh yeah? So that was pretty fun. I’ve never been directed by someone in a garbage can. That’s a real feather in my cap.

Does he direct humans differently than puppets?

No, I don’t — no. I would say no. I don’t know that he — because he still addresses the puppet as the character. But then he also — there’s two sides, where he’ll speak to the character of the puppet, but then there’s so much technical stuff with the puppeteers, that that’s kind of like — that takes a lot more time. It’s so incredibly technical that they work through all of those beats first, so it’s puppeteers, but once they’ve got it, he really concentrates on the character and what they’re doing. It’s a pretty cool process to watch.

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