L Damon Wayans Jr. had only done brief work in animation — as Thunder in the 2010 movie “Marmaduke” — before being cast in “Big Hero 6.” His character, Wasabi, is the voice of reason (or panic, depending on how you look at it) for a group of nerds who create their own super powers.
Wayans found the recording sessions a collaborative process.
“They told me, ‘We want it to be your voice, we want it to be your comedy and do the weird stuff that you do and riff and take it in any direction.’ They provide you with such a great foundation, such good writing, such good stories, such great characters, so it’s easy to riff off of those,” Wayans says during an interview at the Walt Disney Animation Studios. “It was very much that experience of a Podcast, like I could go anywhere that my voice could take me in my weird, strange mind.”
And his mind can make some crazy leaps, especially when it comes to comic book heroes. When he’s not working in front of an audience, Wayans is an avid comic book collector and is in the process of creating his own comic.
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He won’t talk about his own creation, but he offers some clues on what he likes when it comes to superheroes. One of the things Wayans likes best about “Big Hero 6” is that the main characters are normal human beings who are superheroes in their own minds.
“They’re not from a Planet Farkinon or somewhere that gives them their powers. It wasn’t a spider bite. It was just their will and their ingenuity combined with their costumes. I really love that. I love, it kind of being about you are superhero of your mind first,” Wayans says.
Wayans’ character facilitates a lot of the comedy in the movie. The lighter moments, such as when Wasabi argues the merits of caution, are there to take the edge off the danger the group faces.
Wayans loves that his character is the anchor who keeps reminding the group of the dangers they face.
“He’s the guy who says, ‘Look, we are all nerds. We are good at what we do and that’s being scientists. Why are we trying to save the world?’ The beauty of the character is that his love for his friends helped him overcome his fears,” Wayans says.
Being part of an animated project means years of commitment because actors record their lines in scattered sessions. There was so much time between when he auditioned and was told he got the role — while filming his recent cop buddy comedy, “Let’s Be Cops” — that he almost forgot about the job.
He stays busy. He joined the cast of “New Girl” and continues to work on his comic book and do stand-up comedy.
He always knew he was going to be a stand-up comedian. That’s because he looks and sounds like his father, Damon Wayans. He calls the family name a double-edged sword.
“You have the comfort of the name, and people are interested in seeing you. But I always felt like they were interested in seeing me because they knew I wasn’t going to be as good,” Wayans says. “Once they realized you have talent, then the name really helps.”