Six-foot tall actor Kevin Michael Richardson never thought he would play a dwarf. But that's exactly the role he has in the new Disney XD series "The 7D."
The New York native — who has played monsters, police officers, dogs and even DC Comics villain Darkseid — gives a booming voice to the dwarf known as Happy in this contemporary look at the seven dwarfs.
"It is a lot of fun to be Happy," Richardson says. "This character is happy all the time. That's one of his best character traits. The sky could be falling, and he would still be happy."
Along with Happy, the series features veteran voice actors Bill Farmer (Doc), Dee Bradley Baker (Dopey), Maurice LaMarche (Grumpy), Billy West (Bashful), Scott Menville (Sneezy) and Stephen Stanton (Sleepy). Instead of hanging out with Snow White, the band of buddies live in the whimsical world of Jollywood where they assist Queen Delightful (Leigh-Allyn Baker).
Richardson's character is so happy, he will create and perform a song about anything and everything. When Richardson signed on, he didn't know there would be singing. But he happily attacks each ditty with enthusiasm.
One reason he can get so pumped about a silly song is the way the recording sessions are done. Generally on animated shows, actors record their lines separately, then the work is edited together. In the case of "7D," the seven actors often record together.
"One of the recording sessions can really pick me up," Richardson says. "There have been a couple occasions when things weren't going well and after we would record a show, I felt better. That's because we're always laughing. We can get laughing about the littlest things. There are times when we are trying not to laugh but that just makes it more fun. We feed off each other."
Richardson has a lengthy resume of work that's put him into recording studios, including "The Cleveland Show," "Lilo & Stitch," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Ultimate Spider-Man." He is also the voice of Ryker in the Disney animated feature film "Planes: Fire & Rescue," scheduled to open on July 18.
Even from an early age, Richardson knew he wanted to be an actor. In grammar school, Richardson would tape record his favorite TV shows so that during lunch and recess, he could play back the audio and imitate all of the voices.
He's been the voice of so many characters that Richardson can't speak in public without someone recognizing his voice. As soon as he gets recognized, people will do impersonations of the voices he has done in TV and film, plus ask him to do a recording for their voice mail.
He calls being a voice talent "a beautiful thing."
"I can play anything from villains to kids to grandfathers. I am very fortunate that I have been able to get such a wide range of roles. And, now to be a dwarf. It didn't really hit me until we were finishing that this is really an important character in Disney animation history."
"The 7D", 10 a.m. Monday, Disney XD