A Chat with Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”)

Although Jon Heder has rarely been without work since making his cinematic breakthrough in 2004, it would be fair to say that, no matter how many films or television appearances he may have made, people’s first thought when they see him remains “Napoleon Dynamite.” And, really, why wouldn’t it be? Even Heder himself admits that the distance between himself and Mr. Dynamite isn’t exactly the longest trek in the world. Still, if you thought he’d be hesitant to reprise his role for Fox’s upcoming series based on the the character and his adventures, you would be wrong. Heder doesn’t consider Napoleon to be an albatross around his neck. To the contrary, in fact, he’s loving every minute of his prime-time experience, which begins this Sunday evening with two episodes: one at 7:30 PM, one at 8:30 PM.

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Bullz-Eye: So this is a pretty sweet gig you’ve got here.

Jon Heder: Uh…doing all these interviews? [Laughs.]

BE: Well, not necessarily that. I really meant you’ve got a gig where you don’t even necessarily have to wear pants.

JH: Oh, right! Which is appropriate, since Napoleon hardly ever wears pants on the show, either. [Laughs.] But, no, you’re right: this is a sweet gig. And I’m hoping that it continues and finds success. That’d be awesome.

BE: Well, I watched the first two episodes, and they were fun.

JH: I mean, it could possibly be the best job ever, because I love the work, I love the material, it’s, not, like, “Oh, all right.” I love “Napoleon.” And you’re going in, you’re recording, it’s easy scheduling…it could be the best job ever.

BE: Obviously you know the character pretty well. How much in terms of voice acting did you learn from doing films like “Surf’s Up” and “Monster House”?

JH: I’ve learned a lot, but…I don’t know if they necessarily prepped me for this, because…I was trying to create new, different voices and things for “Surf’s Up” and “Monster House.” This was a character I already knew and I knew what I was doing. I suppose doing all of those days of ADR on those films helped.

BE: Was it any trouble to find the Napoleon voice again?

JH: It took maybe five seconds. [Laughs.] It wasn’t too bad. I mean, at first, I definitely felt like one of the many college students who’ve done impersonations that I’ve seen on YouTube or whatever. Or just heard. Like, “Eat your freaking tots!” And as soon as I said it, it was, like, “Oh, uh…” And then I went, “No, no, no, I can own this. I mean, this is me! I am him!” [Laughs.] So it wasn’t too bad.

BE: How many horrible impressions of Napoleon have you heard over the years?

JH: Well, I was telling my wife the other day, “Is this horrible to say?” And it must be because it’s me, because it’s my voice, but…they’re all horrible. [Laughs.] I mean, it’s funny, but if you’re talking in terms of how good they are, none of them come close. And I would know, because it’s me! [Laughs.] But if I tried to take a more objective point of view, then, yes, I’ve probably heard a lot of good ones, too.

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The video portion of “A Chat with Diedrich Bader and Parvesh Cheena”

Remember last week when I posted my chat with Diedrich Bader and Parv Cheena of “Outsourced”, and how I was bummed when I thought I was going to be getting a video clip of their side of the conversation but didn’t? Well, the clip finally arrived. Enjoy!


  

A Chat with Diedrich Bader and Parvesh Cheena (“Outsourced”)

The publicity train for “Outsourced” keeps rolling on, and I have no problem catching it whenever I have the option to do so. Even though I’d already talked to Diedrich Bader and Parvesh Cheena during the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour, I hadn’t talked to them together, so when NBC offered them up as part of the satellite tour for the show, I said, “Sign me up.” Now, granted, I thought I was going to be getting a video clip of their side of the conversation, and I didn’t, which is kind of a bummer, but the guys’ ability to ad-lib and bounce off each other is in great evidence here, so I’m still glad I took the time to chat with them again.

Diedrich Bader and Parvesh Cheena: Hi, Will!

Bullz-Eye: Hey, guys , how’s it going?

DB: (Suspiciously) Say, didn’t I just talk to you the other night?

PC: (Laughs) Good to talk to you again!

BE: Well, you guys are making your 10:30 PM debut with an episode filled with Bollywood dance numbers, singing, guitar playing…the perfect opening salvo for the new timeslot.

DB: Absolutely. We’re entering with a bang. And a sitar.

PC: And a tabla, too!

BE: So, now, was this huge episode by design, or was it already in the works before you got word of the move?

PC: Well, I had a little bit of creative input, and it was very nice, because I said, “Anisha can kind of sing, and her character’s so quiet, anyway, so we might as well give her a little bit of something to do.” But primarily it was more for me to showcase my t-shirt making ability for my fans. The Guptees. Our album will be dropping later this spring, by the way. It’s called Hey, Hey, We’re the Guptees.

DB: By the way, none of this is true. He just made up all of that.

PC: No, no, no.

DB: Uh, yeah. (Laughs) We were going to do a big musical episode, and we kind of wanted to start off the new timeslot with a splash, and…you’ll see what a deep bench we have, talent-wise, because Anisha can really sing, and Parv…does what he does.

PC: He’s just a little sore because I did not use any of his original choreography.

DB: (Growling) Yeah.

PC: I decided to go with Fred Tallaksen, who is a big choreographer here in LA. He choreographed two of Madonna’s tours.

DB: (Sarcastically) Oooooooh, Madonna! Who’s Madonna?

PC: (Dismissively) All right, Diedrich, sorry she’s not Lady Gaga…

BE: So there are worse places to be than following “30 Rock.” Are you guys pleased to be part of NBC’s great 3-hour comedy experiment?

PC: Yeah, it’s going to be awesome: comedy night done right all night.

DB: (In awe) That’s so good!

PC: Thank you. I came up with that, too, so it’s nice to know that I’m gaining a little bit more traction in marketing and branding.

DB: Oh, yeah, he’s very good at that. He’s like Madonna.

PC: Lady Gaga, I thought, was your favorite. You can’t have both.

DB: No, that’s true. But they’re basically the same person.

PC: No, Diedrich. No, they are not.

BE: Diedrich, your fellow cast members seem to have been mildly surprised to discover what a consummate professional you are. Have you always taken your comedy seriously?

DB: No. I don’t take it seriously at all, and I think that’s very helpful. I don’t learn my lines or know any of the cast members’ names. Or anyone, really. I just come in and I do what I do, which is offend everyone as much as I possibly can. And then I leave after I’ve slapped most of the cast.

PC: He’s called me many different names.

DB: Who are you, anyway?

PC: On set, he’s called me Parvaish, Gupta, Bara, Rajel, and a bunch of others.

DB: And sometimes I just say, “Hey, you, get me a cup of coffee.”

PC: And I do.

DB: Yeah. He does.

PC: Because I was taught to respect my elders.

DB: (Bursts out laughing)

BE: Parvesh, Rizwan Manji said that you once took a video of the inside of his nose. Do you have directorial aspirations or just an odd nasal fetish?

PC: No, actually, I do have… (Takes a deep breath) Being a director is one aspect that I’m very good at. I do also do, like, the crevices of the human body. In between the toes is going to be my next visual. For all of those who like feet, I’ll be video-taping Rebecca (Hazlewood’s) and Anisha (Nagarajan’s) toes. So that is a definite niche market.

DB: Oh, yeah. ‘Cause it’s Anisha.

PC: (Bursts out laughing) It’s the niche of Anisha!

BE: Speaking of Anisha, she’s of the belief that Gupta has been slapped by just about every character on the show. What do you think it is about him that brings out physical violence in others?

PC: You know, I like to think of it as a mirror that’s held up to everybody. Gupta really just wants you to be the best, and sometimes people aren’t ready for it.

DB: This is something that the writers took from real life. We like to beat up Parv as much as we possibly can. I was just chasing him around a little earlier, before the interview started. I didn’t catch him, so I’m hoping that when we cut I can catch him and just slap him around. It’s kind of a thing: the writers pay attention to our real lives. That’s what’s exciting about the show.

PC: Apparently, it’s something like, “If you catch him, you get to slap him around a couple of times.”

DB: That’s right. It’s kind of a game. Now, the crew’s taken it on, because, you know, we love our crew, so they’ve started to beat up Parv, too.

PC: But it’s also helping me, because I was 225 pounds before.

DB: He’s lost a lot of weight. A whole other Parv, basically.

PC: It’s true. I’m down to 210. So something’s working.

DB: It’s really exciting. For all of us. Although he is faster now. But, you know, we’ve all lost weight. We’re all coming down together.

PC: I’d like to think that the fat has converted to muscle. It’s all right here in my thighs.

DB: Right. (A beat) You can think that.

BE: Lastly, what can we expect from the rest of the season? Or at least for the next couple of episodes, anyway?

PC: Oh, you have a big episode.

DB: I have a big episode coming up where Charlie finds out that Tanya and Todd are dating, and it breaks his heart. And he kills somebody.

PC: So I’d like to start saying my goodbyes to everyone. It’s been really fun being on national television.

DB: Oh, way to let it out of the bag. I guess you’ve got the scoop, Will: we kill Gupta.

PC: Yes, but since this is India, I am reincarnated the next episode. And, you know, we don’t lose a beat.

DB: He’s like a phoenix. He rises from the ashes again and again and again.

PC: Yes. (A beat) Actually, I like to think of myself as a cat.

DB: Of course you do.

  

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