A/V Room









Madagascar - David Scwhimmer interview

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. You've worked on TV, you've done movies and you're currently appearing on the West End stage. How was providing the voice for an animated feature? Was it a different experience for you?
It wasn’t without it’s challenges, because none of us were in the same room at the same time. So instead of being able to respond off another actor you had to really use your imagination. Like you would as a kid, when you build a fort in the backyard or whatever.
So a lot of the work, for me at least, was trying to give the directors as much to choose from as possible. I would do the line 20 different ways, knowing that eventually they would cut it together depending on everyone else’s performance. But it was really freeing not having to worry about how you look.

Q. Having been part of such a successful series as Friends for so long, does it feel exciting being free to pursue more projects, such as the West End play, or this movie?
Well I guess so, though we had enough time off while we were doing the series to do films and plays, we’ve done a lot of plays over the last ten years. Mostly little theatres in Chicago with my company, or Los Angeles. But this is really an exciting time and the opportunity to do this movie was something I’d always wanted to do.
Jeffrey called and said ‘hey, what do you think about being a giraffe?’.

Q. And where did the idea come from to make him a hypochondriac giraffe?
I have no idea.
Katzenberg: We cast against type.
Schwimmer: It’s strange, because who I feel I am in real life is pretty much the opposite of this character, so it’s fun for me to be able to play into this idea of who Melman is.

Q. Do you have any phobias of your own, though?
I don’t have any phobias, but I have some fear of being way out in the ocean by myself, swimming. You go out there and think everything is great and then you see you’re pretty far out, and maybe it’s time to head back in. But that would be the only thing.
McGrath: And that’s the one thing that doesn’t bother Melman!

Q. Did you ever imagine yourself playing a giraffe as part of your career?
No I never thought of being a giraffe, although we did as actors – when we went to school and studied – have a whole semester of being animals.
My first animal that I chose was a penguin, because you had to go to the zoo and study an animal intensely for three weeks, and they made me laugh so I studied them.

Q. So did you audition to play a penguin?
I didn’t. I didn’t get the opportunity to audition for one of the penguins. I’m still secretly angry about that [laughs].

Q. Did you observe animals as part of your preparation? And if you could be reincarnated as an animal, what would it be?
I knew what giraffes were like, I’d seen a lot of them, I did a little bit more research on the web. But I didn’t make a special trip to the zoo to study them. I’d seen a lot.
And if I were to come back it might be interesting to be something that flies, because we don’t enjoy that experience. An eagle or a hawk.

Q. Are you enjoying your time in London, appearing in Some Girl(s) in the West End? And are you embracing the English lifestyle?
I’m having a blast. I went to a great pub, the pub life here is the way to go. I had a great time in a pub for seven hours one Sunday. Coldplay showed up, and bought a round for everyone. That was cool.

Q. Do you like to drink warm beer, in keeping with certain English traditions?
No. I like cold beer.

Q. When you saw the video of yourself doing the vocals, were you ever surprised to see how animated your vocal performances were?
I had the same reaction as Ben, I didn’t like to view it. When you’re holding your tongue as if you’ve got stuff in your mouth, because when you’re doing it you want to imagine that you have a certain safety.
It’s very vulnerable, because you go out and try all sorts of stuff knowing that what you’re doing is not going to be seen. And then to watch playback is almost like seeing yourself naked.

Q. Given the diversity of your roles, if you were forced to choose a medium to remain in, such as film, TV or theatre, which would it be?
If I could only perform in one thing it would probably be live theatre. But I feel really fortunate that I can do all of them.
I’ve done radio plays before, but to be able to do this is a different experience, just another opportunity to grow as an actor and try something I’ve never tried before. I hope that I’ll be able to continue doing all of those things.

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