Back in July we got a sneak peak at Netflix’s newest animated show “Bojack Horseman.” It’s the story of a washed-up sitcom star, played by Will Arnett, trying to get his train wreck of a life back on track. Also, he’s a humanoid horse. The show has an all-star cast that includes Arnett, Aaron Paul, Allison Brie, Amy Sedaris and the hilarious Paul F. Tompkins. Tompkins plays Bojack’s perpetually sunny canine pal, Mr. Peanutbutter, another former star, but with a rosier outlook on life. We had a chance to chat with Paul about the show, his character and what it’s like to work on a crazy high concept show for no-holds-barred Netflix.
“Bojack Horseman” is a pretty zany concept. What originally attracted you to this project?
Paul F. Tompkins I was offered the part and it seemed like a fun idea. I was told who was involved and it seemed like a really unique idea. I didn’t realize until later how crazy it was going to get, but the craziness really impressed me.
Is there any part of your character, Mr. Peanutbutter, that’s inspired by you?
I wish! I wish I had the joie de vivre and positivity of Mr. Peanutbutter. Everything is great to him and that’s not the way that I live my life. He’s actually a very aspirational character to me.
You’ve worked in just about every medium — are there any special challenges to doing this kind of voice work?
The biggest challenge is mixing up the line reads. In live action you can only do so many different takes, but voiceover is just you and the microphone. You have to mix it up a lot. Producers want a lot of choices to play with. You rarely record with fellow cast members so they want choices to match up against what everyone else has recorded. You have to start a line one way and then finish it differently. Start off happy and then dip down into confused or sad. A line can be eight words and you’ll record it twenty different ways.
We know from the trailer that your character pairs up with Allison Brie’s character Diane. As I recall, Allison was a guest when you hosted “Speakeasy” over at MadeMan.com and you two had great chemistry. Did you draw on that in your scenes together?
We don’t get to record together very much, but we did get to read together at the table reads and it was fun to act opposite her in person. Some great stuff came out of that certainly, but when recording we recorded mostly alone. Any opportunity to work with Allison is a delight though, she’s great.
This is your first Netflix original. Has the experience been different than doing a regular network show, and how?
They’re very hands off. They let the creators do what they want and they trust them. They have a very low-key presence at table reads. They’re excited in a way that the networks can’t really be. [Networks] need to temper the excitement in case it doesn’t succeed. They don’t want to be the one who was a cheerleader for something that failed. [Netflix] does what they want and they have very mysterious criteria that I think boils down to “We think people will like this and we believe in it.”
When we talk about Netflix, it always comes back to binge watching. Is this the kind of show we binge watch or should we spread it out?
I think that given that they’re half-hour episodes it’s very easy to binge watch. Netflix makes shows, and this is a big difference between Netflix and networks — they keep in mind that you can watch it whenever you want. You are rewarded if you binge by the way the story advances. The story is complex and you can watch it unfold very quickly and richly if you want to. There are a lot of straight-up dramatic events and it goes to some very human places.
What should we expect from “Bojack Horseman”?
Its unlike any animated program that I’ve ever done. I’ve done my fair share of animated work and this is really different and its not something that I’ve seen before. At the table reads, the story would go to some very unexpected and human places. For a show about talking animals it’s absolutely original. Clichéd as it sounds, expect the unexpected. This isn’t a raunchy Adult Swim show. It’s not a show for grown-ups; it’s a show for adults.
You can catch “Bojack Horseman” on Netflix starting tonight, August 22nd, and be sure to check out the trailer above!