It is hard to believe that Director Henry Selick has not released a stop-motion animated film in 13 years. His films, like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, are such classics. And we know his newest one, Wendell & Wild, will be too.
Wendell & Wild is a story about two scheming demons, Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele), who strike a deal with Kat (Lyric Ross), a punk rock-loving teen, so they can leave the Underworld and live out their dreams in the Land of the Living.
Fangirlish got the chance to sit down with Ross, which was pretty exciting for me. Being a big fan of This Is Us, it was a bit of a bucket list interview, speaking to someone who had been involved in such an iconic show. Ross is such an insightful young lady, and it was interesting to hear about her experience working on Wendell & Wild.
When asked what drew her to the project, Ross told us, “Actually, I remember doing a self-tape out in Chicago. Once I had moved out to LA, that’s when I got a call saying that Henry Selick wanted us to meet, because he really wanted me to be a part of this film. We got together, and he laid out everything about this movie so beautifully and thoroughly. Just the different lessons and theories, and all of the references.”
She continued, saying “It was so creative and so wonderfully done, just as the blueprint. After that, just hearing about the little subtle lessons and the ones that were obviously put out there, I had to say yes. This was without the — I don’t think I saw the character development yet as far as the ending. The story itself, I thought it was great.”
Ross mentioning the character development of Kat led us to our next question, which was whether or not she collaborated with Selick on what Kat would look like as well as her personality type. “I didn’t have any say in what the character was going to look like. I do know that during the process of this film, of the making of this film, I put in my own ideas, just throwing them out there to see if they would stick or anything. Sometimes they would, sometimes they wouldn’t. Same with Henry, but Henry was so open to my ideas and my thoughts.”
Ross added to this when she said, “Sometimes, my little personality would come out here and there. I’m sure many actors, that happens with a lot of us. With me being as nervous as I was, I got to a level of comfort where I was like, ‘I don’t think Kat would do something like this. Can we try a little more of this?’ Just certain things like that. Henry, he was very open to that. He was very patient. It worked out really well.”
Wendell & Wild is Ross’s first time doing an animation film. So, we wanted to know what her experience was like and what she learned from it.
“What did I learn from it? I just got to exercise putting all of your emotion and feeling into a ball and using that for your voice. That was definitely hard to do, especially in the beginning, because I…you’re coming from doing live action after live action, and it sticks to you, just using your body and your eyes just to show feeling, not as much as your voice. Now, in this sense when your voice is really all that you can use or all that will be pulling through in this film, it was definitely something that I had to work out from a different toolbox.”
We understand what Ross was saying because most people would probably assume that voice acting is so much easier. After all, you’re not being seen on camera. That’s clearly not true. There is difficulty in conveying emotion with only your voice because it still has to match what the character is doing — whether they are animated or not.
While we know there is a challenge in the voice work, we also wanted to know if there were other challenges Ross faced as well.
“Just opening up. [chuckles] I think that’s challenging, for me at least, in pretty much every project that I do. Because in every project, I open up a little bit more. Every audition, I open up a little bit more. That’s just a difficult thing for me in almost anything that I learned from every situation. I think that Henry helped me with that too, just to open up my voice especially. Because, at that point when we first started, I didn’t really know my voice. I didn’t understand what I could do with it. That was a part of the exercising, just exploring and discovering the ability that my voice alone holds.”
Wendell & Wild is a fun film, but it’s also sad because it deals with grief and facing your demons as Kat tries to overcome the loss of her parents. We asked Ross why she felt that a film like this would resonate with people.
“Because I know there’s a certain period in time in our lives where we have to face certain things, whether it’s in our past or it’s happening in our present. Certain things that haunt us from whatever has happened or is happening. It’s very easy to just let those things take over and to just live life with those personal demons. It’s taking that step to actually fight against them, that’s the most difficult part. Once we push through that, then we live such a free, wonderful life. We have no idea what’s on the other side.”
As Ross said, we agree there is a certain period in our lives where we have to face certain things in our past that haunt us. That led us to our final question. In Wendell & Wild, Kat literally has to embrace her demons. We asked Ross why she feels it’s important to do this.
“I do think that things that, like I was saying before, guilt, fear, they can definitely bondage you. If you let it do that for so long, that bondage, those locks, that box, it gets smaller and smaller, and it can suffocate you to a point. Once you start fighting back, once you break those shackles that you have let tighten for years and years, or it can be months, however long, it’s important to fight back. It’s important to have that freedom because it really could be your mind. You’re letting that happen to you.”
Ross ended by saying, “It’s so much power that we hold that if we look at the positive, if we just use our voice and say, ‘You’re not going to do this to me anymore. This isn’t going to happen,’ then it can easily go away. We don’t know how easy it can be if we just use the power and ability that we hold. We are so powerful as human beings —we were created that way. I do think it’s an important lesson to just get up, push through and fight. Because it’s worth it in the end. That is what we deserve.”
We could not agree more with everything Ross said. And we think that Wendell & Wild delivers a positive message that will help a lot of people.