Although Hiro Hamada is the lead in Disney’s animated hit Big Hero 6, it is Baymax that is the warm fuzzy center, voiced by Scott Adsit. Adsit starred on NBC’s “30 Rock” as producer Pete Hornberger and was a member of Second City Mainstage in Chicago. He also performs regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC. He produces, writes, directs and performs on “Moral Orel,” a stop-motion-animation show on Adult Swim.
We got the opportunity to sit in with Scott Adsit in a round table discussion in Hollywood, CA recently to talk about Big Hero 6 and voicing the lovable robot, Baymax.
The dialogue below has been edited for clarity.
EE: Did you ever think that the Baymax fistbump would be what it is today?
Scott: No, who’d know! That was just a little moment that we kind of created in the studio. And I fistbump a lot now.
EE: How has your attitude changed, or your view of the movie from before the movie came out to now it’s a world wide hit and up for an Oscar. How do you see this looking back?
Scott: Um, it is like fulfilling my greatest fantasy about it. You know, I don’t go into anything expecting anyone to notice anything I’ve done. So when anything I do gets recognition it’s amazing. And I’m a very small part of this to be sure, but to see the posters on the sides of buildings with Baymax on it… when we started, Baymax was not necessarily the center of the film. And he still isn’t. Hiro is the center of the film but Baymax has become the face of the film and knowing that I’m a very small part of that character is hugely rewarding. Especially to my family when they are driving down the street and risking their lives taking pictures of posters so they can send to me, and they’re very proud. So, the best part of it for me is my family’s reaction to it. I took them to the premiere and we were on the red carpet together, all ten of us, and I’m the only actor in the family so they don’t know anything about this industry or how it works and they’re just so excited about every tiny thing. That keeps me humble.
EE: Baymax is such a lovable character; so many great qualities about him, you know his moral integrity, his certain innocence, his sweet naiveté, is there anything in particular you really like about Baymax?
Scott: I like how much he loves Hiro. I like that his whole existence to be sure that Hiro is safe. He’s like a parent but he’s also like a child and he’s like a brother. So he’s just family. That’s the best thing about him. He’s reliable like family; in every iteration of family
EE: How much direction did the filmmakers give you on the character of Baymax, in the intonation of the character? How did you or they shape it?
Scott: Well, it was pretty much there in the audition. I came in wondering if I would put on some robotic voice but when I saw the drawing, they had already designed Baymax by then and so when I saw the picture of him, his shape just informed that I needed to have a very benign voice. And I put a little spin on how he talks by giving him an automated phone system rhythm, where a sentence is planned out by his programming but there’s variables within it. That’s how I approached it from the audition. And that’s what they liked about it, that I had that idea already. So not much changed except for these scenes where he had low battery. That was something that came in halfway through the process. They wanted to show a different aspect of Baymax. So do I just do Baymax as a drunk and what does that sound like? I asked how robotic should this be and they said “not robotic at all. Just be plowed. Be as human as you like.” And I did and I guess with a little processing of the voice and the visual, nobody really notices that I’m just playing a soused man.
EE: What do you think it is about Baymax that people relate to?
Scott: He’s portable.
EE: Isn’t he a little chubby too? People can relate to him..
Scott: You know, Tadashi designed him, as did the people who did the film, to be the most benign and huggable character you can imagine because he’s their comfort. He’s designed to be huggable and user friendly.
EE: He’s a robotic Winnie the Pooh.
Scott: Alright, I like that. Yeah. He’s a little smarter than Winnie the Pooh.
EE: How do you prepare for a role like this? Since he’s a robot are you supposed to show emotion? Yet in the film, he really can feel emotion, not that it’s part of his programming.
Scott: Right, well, we decided early on that he is just a robot; a very well programmed robot, and that any emotion he has will probably be projected on him by the audience. I think that’s generally what happens although, I’m skating a line of emotion where I’m doing my best of just being a robot, and then I’m being on either side. Just that tiny window of an emotion is a floodgate for anyone watching. While I did very little, the audience is doing a lot of the work. I think by the end he does have an emotional life but you can’t prove it. He might have a soul but you won’t find it if you open him up.
EE: Has anyone come to you and asked you to check his or her health?
Scott: I had a few people ask me to scan them… but then I just make stuff up. So people have gone out and had very unnecessary medical procedures done because I thought maybe their posture wasn’t good enough.
EE: Any voicemail requests?
Scott: I have left quite a few voicemails for the children of my friends, yeah.
EE: Have you ever thought about what would happen if Baymax met WALL-E?
Scott: Sure they’d get along. They may not have much to do with each other. WALL-E is there to clean up and Baymax doesn’t really make a mess. I like to think of Baymax and Olaf doing a road picture. Olaf is such a huge personality and Baymax is such a straight man.
EE: And they both like warm hugs.
Scott: Well, Baymax could melt the little guy…
EE: Have you been able to make it to the Disney theme parks with the Baymax meet & greets yet?
Scott: No, I watched it on YouTube though. I think both the actors are doing a great job and I really wish I gotten there to Disneyland, I might make it to Florida, but it’s pretty exciting. And that costume is amazing! It’s so cool.
EE: Have you traveled outside the country to promote the film? I’m just wondering what kind of reactions you got from journalists or people you ran into elsewhere.
Scott: I didn’t get out of the country no. I think the budget went to other things. And it’s doing very well in Asian countries and some of them are shown in English.
EE: Did you voice Baymax for any foreign language versions?
Scott: No, I did change some of the names for the Korean version, and maybe the Chinese version as well. Just to suit the local preferences. I think Hiro’s last name is different, Tadashi’s got a different first name just because they wouldn’t fly with those countries. I don’t think Korea and Japan get along too well. They also went in and changed some of the signage in San Fransokyo to be less Japanese.
EE: Is it rewarding to see kids falling in love with Baymax?
Scott: Yeah, I never experienced anything like it. I did a panel at comic-con in New York and as a group we were walking off to the elevators and a woman came up and waved at me behind security, and she was all by herself. She asks if her daughter can just say hi to me and I say “sure”. This is the first fan interaction I’ve ever had because we had just announced the cast. This little girl came over and she was like 3 years old, and she was just so excited. She was told I was Baymax and I thought “well, she’s going to hate Baymax now.” The little girl told me “I like Baymax.. I love Baymax because he heals people.” And that’s very simple, but I get very emotional about that because she gets it. And she doesn’t see Baymax but anything he’s meant to be but lovable.
EE: How many Baymax action figures do you own?
Scott: I have quite a few. [laughs] I have everything they made and then I have doubles and triples and quadruples to give to people and sign for people. I got a box in my room.
EE: I always wondered, do they send you toys? I work at a lot of collectible shows and some of those Baymax toys are hard to get.
Scott: Yeah the big plushie is that is really high quality, they sold out immediately and it’s backordered, that’s’ pretty cool. I have a few of those, but I generally have to ask for them. They’re not sending them. They used to send Alec Guiness a bunch of Obi-Wan figures and he’d just be all “I don’t want these!” But I want them, I want them all.
EE: I spoke to an engineer at MIT and he got emotional with this movie because that’s what they’re working on, these inflatable arms and things, so when they see this they get really emotional because this is like their dream come true. You’re also part of this inspiring thing where engineers and scientists are watching this film.
Scott: Wouldn’t that be incredible for us as a team to inspire people to strive towards something like that? They inspired us, but I think of Star Trek and the space program affected by the popularity of Star Trek and it’s like art imitates life, imitates, imitates, imitates. That would be incredible to be part of that legacy.
EE: You voiced Baymax for Disney Infinity…
Scott: I did! Yes, Disney Infinity is this game and Ryan Potter and I play Hiro and Baymax in it. It’s pretty cool. It’s a whole new realm.
EE: Can we expect to hear you as Baymax again?
Scott: Well, we’ll negotiate and see. [laughs] I’ll be Baymax as long as they’ll have me, yeah. I love doing it. Don’t tell anyone this but I would do it for free. Please don’t tell my agent!
Big Hero 6 is out on DVD and Blu-Ray February 24th.
Photography by David Yeh