Capone talks all things Jessie with TOY STORY 3's and Chicago's own Joan Cusack!!!
Published at: June 22, 2010, 3:29 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I've been very fortunate over the years to meet many actors and directors who have been born or had their start or make their home in Chicago. There are a few key people that have escaped my grasp, but thankfully the great Joan Cusack is not longer one of those folks. The entire Cusack family (including Joan's brother John) are actually natives of Evanston, the town just north of the Chicago city limits, but who's counting?
Joan is a tremendous actress but she's probably best known for her comedic work, and her ability to find the humor in just about any situation is legendary. She's earned two Supporting Actress Oscar nominations over the years, for WORKING GIRL and IN & OUT; she and John have appeared in 10 films together; and Joan has also had memorable roles in such works as MARRIED TO THE MOB, MY BLUE HEAVEN, ARLINGTON ROAD, and THE SCHOOL OF ROCK. Her first (of several) jobs as a voice actor for animation was the coveted role of Jessie, the female counterpart to Woody in TOY STORY 2, a role that she reprises with great effectiveness in TOY STORY 3.
Our interview was a bit unusual, but we made the most out of it. Surrounding us were a couple hundred kids and their parents lined up to purchase and have signed a very limited edition Jessie doll (only 2,010 were manufactured) at the Disney Store on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Joan had done a couple of TV interviews and I was the last one before the flood gates opened to let the youngsters up to get Cusack's signature. It was actually kind of fun to see kids get so excited about a movie character, and Cusack was absolutely one of the single nicest people I've ever talked to. Even thought we only had about 10 minutes to chat, I think we covered a lot of ground. Please enjoy the wonderful Joan Cusack…
Capone: Hi, how are you?
Joan Cusack: Hey, how are you?
Capone: Nice to meet you.
JC: It’s nice to meet you, too!
Capone: Is standing okay or do want to sit?
JC: Standing is fine with me.
Capone: Great. Do remember what the Pixar people said to you when they first came to you with this character and said “We want you for this, because…” Did they ever explain exactly why they thought you were the right person for this role?
JC: I can’t remember and I just remember it being like really totally… It blew my doors off when I saw TOY STORY. I never had seen anything like it, ever. I just couldn’t believe it and I know that I had never done any kind of animation before, so the process of doing it was just totally new for me, and kind of cool, because I had never really done voice work and my sister sang, so I knew she had done a lot of that kind of stuff. It was just a neat kind of acting chop that was different than other stuff.
Capone: How active do you get when you are recording the voice? Do you move around a lot?
JC: You know what, I do. I can’t divorce them. It helps me to kind of go for it and you really… You have to be really animated to have emotion in your voice, as much emotion as it needs sometimes.
Capone: It’s a performance.
JC: It really is, yeah and there are subtle things that you pick up.
Capone: I should stop asking that question, but any time I talk to someone who is in an animated film, I always ask that question, and they all say,“Yeah, you have to," because no one is going to say ‘No, I just stood there like a lump and didn’t do anything.”
JC: [laughs] Right, right. I suppose if you were doing some kind of Zen performance, you could do it that way.
Capone: Exactly. What do you do to get in the Jessie's headspace? Do you have to do anything kind of special? What do you conjure?
JC: I used to think that I had to get a little southern, but they were like “No, we like that she has the Chicago accent,” which I always thought was kind of funny. But you know what, it’s such a good kind of role model in a way, because it’s not the princess and it’s not the “waiting for the guy” at all. She’s totally the next generation, but it’s still Americana. It’s still like “Yee Haa” cowgirl, “I can do anything” spirit and it’s just good to think that way. It’s great to feel you can do stuff. It’s good for me to remember.
Capone: So you don’t deliberately throw in any kind of twang in the voice?
JC: No. I mean sometimes there will be a little something in it, in the words or something, but no. No, they want the Chicago accent.
Capone: It's a great touch.
JC: Yeah, I know it’s funny.
Capone: You said that she’s not “waiting for the guy” and yet in the new film, there is something... I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but there is something going and it’s not the most obvious thing. Were you a little surprised at the direction that Jessie's love life takes?
JC: You know what? It’s sweet, because I think it’s Pearl Buck who said that “You can tell how civilized a society is by the way the men and women treat each other,” and it is a fundamental aspect of things. I think, for me who has sons that are 10 and 13, especially my 10 year old, he has friends that are girls and it’s great. They have so much fun together and it’s none of the baggage of self consciousness. It’s just this sort of magic of the differences together that really click, and I sort of feel like that’s in there with this one and it’s sort of fun.
Capone: Yeah and plus it’s all of that great Spanish music and dancing.
JC: Yes. Our neighbors, our Latin American neighbors, it’s so good. I love that.
Capone: Subtitles, come on. Forget about it.
JC: Yeah, it’s good. It’s good.
Capone: A lot has been made about the Pixar people, with this franchise, are trying to grow with the audience that was very young when it started and there are some pretty heavy moments in this movie. Some people have called it “dark,” but I don’t think that’s the right word. It’s getting closer to life. They are dealing with mortality and things like that.
Capone: Exactly. How does that feel to you?
JC: I think it’s a testament to them that they went there and they sad “What is the story of the toys?” The authentic story is “Well what happens when your owner grows up?” That’s a cycle-of-life thing and it’s cool that they went there and tackled it. I think it’s great.
Capone: Did you do anything different this time around? It’s been 13 years, so did you sort of change anything up or did you think about what Jessie’s changes might have been in that time, now that she is part of this new group of toys?
JC: You know they are such an amazing and creative group. They are not in LA, they are up in San Francisco and they have this amazing facility and they work really hard at every second on the screen of rendering these characters and rendering them in some modern computer way that it almost takes a while to catch up to what they are thinking. They will be like “Okay, this is what’s happening,” so I feel like I’m just doing a little ribbon on a cake at the end there and just want to hope you capture what they have been planning for so long.
Capone: You mentioned that your kids are now at an age where this is really the first new TOY STORY for them.
Capone: Have you been excited for them to see this one?
JC: I was excited to see it. We did a benefit for the Comer Cancer Center and my son, who was sitting next to me, was like “What’s going to happen now? What’s going to happen?” I was like “I don’t know! I’m not sure!” It’s cool. It’s just a cool experience.
Capone: It’s truly the best 3-D thing I have ever seen, too.
JC: Didn’t they do a nice job? You know, it’s subtle.
Capone: And I saw it in IMAX, and it looked great too.
JC: You don’t have a headache. It’s not like you are batting butterflies away. It’s just like a cool extra experience.
Capone: It was beautiful. Anyway, thank you so much. It was great to meet you.
JC: Thank you. It was nice to meet you, too!
Capone: Take care.
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