Originally posted on www.tvdads.com
- reposted on Mission Hill Online
TV Dads - Wallace Langham
My Slacker Brother's Keeper
By Jim O'Kane
Hollywood is, in many ways, the quiet eye in the swirling
entertainment hurricane of Los Angeles. Although most of the world thinks of
Hollywood as the capital of motion picture and television production, it's
really the outlying suburbs of Santa Monica, Glendale, Burbank and Culver City
where the grunt-work of making movie magic happens.
It's a hurry-up-and-wait state of existence, too. Programs are okayed, a
pilot is rushed out, focus groups tear it apart, and a new series gets revamped.
The folks who have to do this on a daily basis can find themselves out of a job,
or working overtime to get the show to the tube on time. So, scheduling events
can be a difficult task.
These were the conditions that brought about my interview with Wallace
Langham, the voice of Single Dad/Brother Andy French of The WB's animated series
Mission Hill. For the past weeks, I'd been working with Keith, the show's
publicist, on getting a quick one-on-one with Mr. Langham. It seemed like a good
chance of getting this together as I left for L.A., but I still had no firm date
or location for the meeting.
When I touched base with Keith, I had just checked into a motel in Hollywood
- a place that seemed to be centered between all the interviews I had arranged
before I got to L.A. Keith was working on a few other interviews for me, and
wasn't sure about getting Wallace in for a face-to-face chat. We talked a while
and then he said he'd check with Wallace about a good time.
The phone rang - it was Keith.
"Wallace is kinda busy - could he do a phone interview with you?"
I thought a moment: (a) I could say no and lose the interview or (b) give
into less-than-clear audio on a phone recorder. I chose (b).
"Um, okay," I said, "when would he want to do this?"
"Now," said Keith.
I was thinking "Thursday" would have been a good answer, but
"Now" was almost as panic-inducing as a flat-out "No." I
didn't have a phone pickup, I didn't have my questions in front of me, I didn't
have the page layout figured out without pictures...
I begged. "Could he call in 15 minutes? I have to set up the audio."
Ha. I had to figure out if I could jam the mike into the receiver and talk into
the bottom part of the phone and still be understood. Oh, and read my notes and
make sure the minidisc recorder was working. So nine hundred seconds would be
plenty of time. [ring irony bell here]
Keith says sure, fine, fifteen minutes.
Maniac Mode: I'm plugging things in and stretching phone lines around the
teeny motel room. Someone in the room below me starts up what sounds like a
chipper/shredder filled with railroad ties. I've got a stack of mismatched faxes
about every show except Mr. Langham's, and I notice the phone is ringing.
That was no fifteen minutes, was it?
The Interview Begins
- Wallace, can you hear me okay? --
W - Yeah, I can hear you fine.
J - Well, I'm just going to--
W - I just have to let you know I haven't - I'm just in a bit of a time
J - Okay, I'm sorry - I'm just - just a couple of quick questions then.
Um, most of the questions are about, well actually they're all about your new
show, but let me get to it real quick then. Um, have you done any voices for TV
W - Sure I've done some -- guest spots for shows on Disney.
J - But this is your first actual series - series cartoon one?
W - Yeah, yeah I did a character on "Pepper Anne" and then, um,
gosh I think something for uh, the "Buzz Lightyear" series.
J - Okay -
W - Yeah, this is my first series, though.
J - Okay, now in acting in a cartoon versus working like in your work in Larry
Sanders and things like that -
W - Right -
J - Is it more difficult? Is it easier? I mean, what -
W - It's a little bit more difficult for me because uh, Andy French is a
pretty straightforward character, but still has to have, uh, the cartoon element
of - of - of - what's the word? - of heightening the performance - so that it
comes through in a bigger-than-life kind of way.
J - Right you're still emoting, but you've got that paint going on.
All during this part of the interview, I've got the papers flying up in the
air and I'm trying to read the notes I've scribbled on photocopies of press
releases. Suddenly, I find my page with most of my Langham notes in some kind of
The Interview Continues
J - When you're doing this, I'm assuming you're doing this as an ensemble.
W - Yeah.
J - I mean you're interacting with the other cast - you're not isolated?
W - Yeah, it's sorta like a semi-circle of microphones set up and uh, it's
like an old radio show.
J - Right. And do you do it pretty much like a table read or are you
"shooting out-of-sequence?" How does that -
W - Well we do -- we do a table read on Monday and then we do/shoot/record
the thing on the following Wednesday. And we - oh, when we actually record? No,
it's taken out of sequence.
J - Oh, so you can add in effects and things like that
W - Yeah.
J - Some of the concerns - I know some actors have a concern about being
"lost in the part" - meaning you're lost as a cartoon character and
people don't recognize you. Is it - -
W - (laughs)No, I think it's only when you're doing a hit television
J - Yeah, I mean you get to be in a hit show, and then you don't have to
worry, I mean you can go out in public without having to be spotted instantly.
W - Right.
J - Your character: do you feel your character is a Single Dad? I mean,
would you call him - he is the older brother -
W - Right.
J - -the actions he has to take in the show - do you feel he is a
Single Dad in the show?
W - Well, he's put in that position by his parents. But he's probably the
worst single dad that there probably could be, for any kid!
J - Oh, allright -
W - It seems like Kevin [the younger brother] has more of the responsibility
of being the Single Dad to Andy.
J - Would you class him as a worse dad than say, um, Jonny Quest's dad,
who used to take him to places and get him involved in places where he could get
killed and -
W - Yeah, I think we all wanted to have that kind of dad. If I had
Andy as a dad, I think - I think it would sorta like be the movie Mask,
having Cher as your mom.
J - Okay, I -
W - You know?
J - Yeah, it's -
W - Having to clean up the vomit and put away and clean out the ashtrays.
J - Um, now, the way - in the universe of prime-time cartoons, would you
say this is about as cynical as something like Dr. Katz or something or
is it -
W - Ahh -
J - Where would you - usually people are trying to relate - I mean it's a
new show -
W - Yeah, that's why -
J - I mean, where would you put this?
W - Yeah, I don't know if you could do that for this show. I think it is - uh
- as smart as The Simpsons, or Dr. Katz, and so with that comes -
sure, a flavor of cynicism, but it's not a cynical show.
J - Right. Do you have any input into how your character develops? I mean
when you're talking with - I guess the writers are Josh and Bill -
W - Yeah.
J - Do you get some feedback with that and say, "I don't think you
should say it like this? Or -
W - Um, I really don't find the need to do that. I mean, yeah, there are some
characters where I - I will disagree creatively with - with the writers but - I
have no need to do that on this one. It's so well-written and so well
thought-out and the sensibilities are already kinda built in so - - I'm very
happy with what I see.
J - And you see a long future? I mean, it looks like something that, when
you're in it, you can feel when something 'has legs?' I guess -
W - Yeah - yeah, I think this is a very solid show.
J - Great. Do you know why [the title] was changed from The Downtowners
to Mission Hill?
W - Yeah, apparently there's a show on MTV called MTV Downtown that I
think is an animated show.
J - Oh, okay. There's a confusion there.
W - Yeah.
And that was pretty much it. I thanked Wallace for the interview and told him
it would be up on the site later in the week. He cut a site ID for me - click here
for a listen.
Sounds like a promising show. After talking with the producers (see the Bill
Oakley / Josh Weinstein interview), I'm pretty sure it'll be a success. Of
course, I thought The Critic was a show that would last, too. I guess
we'll all find out soon enough.
Copyright (c) 2001 Jim O'Kane www.tvdads.com