Photo Credit: Rich Marchewka Photography.

Photo Credit: Rich Marchewka Photography.

GALO: Okay — are you the type of person who usually likes to do hours of research for a role or are you more likely to go with the flow?

BS: You know, it’s interesting — for this movie, for animation, you get called in and you don’t really know what you’re coming into. I really take my direction from Tim Johnson, from the director. He’ll come in and give me his take on what this movie is about and what this character is about. I kind of go from his point of view. If I was doing something on camera that was based on a historical novel or something like that, I would definitely jump in and do all that research. But it’s interesting that you say that, because I haven’t read the book. Now I have to go on Amazon — I’m going to go buy it.

GALO: In Home, you star opposite of Jim Parsons, Steve Martin, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez. That’s quite the caliber of star power.

BS: Hello, hello, hello — and me!

GALO: And you — of course, and you. [Laughs]

BS: You left me out of that. I don’t know what that’s about. [Laughs]

GALO: No, no, of course, and you! All of you together, that’s quite the round up. Were you ever intimidated or nervous about working with the likes of Rihanna or J-Lo?

BS: You know what? I never got to work with them in the booth. In my career, doing animation and film, I have been able to work with a lot of people — I’ve worked with Jim Carrey and Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling and Danny DeVito, a lot of people, and I really don’t get intimidated. I actually feel a kinship with them because we do the same thing.

GALO: The heroine of the movie, Tip, voiced by Rihanna, is the first character of color to play a leading role in a 3D animated film. Disney’s Oscar-winning Big Hero 6 also featured a pretty diverse cast. That sets an important precedent, I think. How do you think this sort of representation will affect the children and parents who will be going out to see the movie in theaters?

BS: Hopefully, they don’t even think about it. I mean, honestly, my hope is that they watch it and it doesn’t even occur to them. And to be honest, it doesn’t even occur to me when I watch the movie. Hopefully, they’ll just see a little girl.

GALO: Why do you say that?

BS: Just because it would be nice for them not to even have to see color. This is a story about a human being that’s struggling to find home, whatever they consider home to be.

GALO: That’s a very relatable and universal theme. So you’ve been on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody on Disney, and you’re currently in Ricky, Nicky, Dicky and Dawn on Nickelodeon. I’ve always found the line between the adult and youth world fascinating, particularly in film and TV, because it seems like now, more than ever, that line’s becoming blurred. I’m noticing more mature jokes appearing in programs aimed at younger audiences, and as a result, a lot of those programs have a lot of older fans. What’s your take on this as an actor right in the middle of it all?

BS: The type of stuff that’s happening on the Disney channel and Nickelodeon with the multi-cam comedies, I think in their style, in their genre, [they’re] very similar to sitcoms from the ’80s. It’s very much Three’s Company, tripping behind-the-couch kind of over-the-top, fun stuff, which I always say it’s the last place to do musical theater, on television. You know what I mean? The real quick turns — it’s almost like live-action animation. I’ve had a lot of 20-somethings come up to me that recognize me from Suite Life, and I’m realizing a lot of people grew up with these shows — and in their 20s, [they] keep checking back in with Nickelodeon and the Disney channel and it’s kind of like a comfort food. They kind of go back there [to these channels] for their sustenance. I think it’s kind of neat to see young adults still watching this stuff.

In terms of the jokes that are aimed at adults in the kid’s stuff, I think that’s always been the case. If you ever watch the old Bugs Bunny [cartoons], there’s always adult jokes sprinkled in there that kids never understood — when I was a kid I never understood [them], but when I watch it as an adult, I’m like, “Wow, they snuck that in there. That was really cool.” So in a sense, I think, it’s [also] to try and keep mom and dad a little enticed as well, while they’re watching [with their kids].

GALO: So you also starred, co-wrote and produced Brian O’ Brian, which aired on Disney channel in over 60 countries. But as I understand, it was produced in Italy and not the United States?

BS: It was. We shot it in Italy and I couldn’t answer why that happened, other than that [the] Disney channel wanted programming — short-form programming — that could air in its original incarnation in every country. So Brian O’ Brian was silent. It had no dialogue at all, so they could air it as it was and not have to dub it or do anything to it everywhere. Because it was an international film, I think they just felt, for whatever reason…we ended up shooting all of it in Italy. We did 40 episodes.

GALO: Do you personally still enjoy watching animated movies as an adult?

BS: I will admit that my favorite thing to do is to go see animated features. I find that because they have a lot of time to be developed [unlike] a live-action film, they’re made over years, so they can really tweak them and storyboard them, and put them up on the screen and look at them and fix things. I find that they’re very entertaining. I have three kids; I get to take my kids to them. I think at this point in my life, I enjoy seeing an animated feature more with my kids than going to see a live-action feature.

GALO: Are there any animated features that you’ve recently seen with your children that you enjoyed watching?

BS: Toy Story 3 ripped my soul apart. I just wept like a child. I had my daughter on my lap and I was trying not to shake. I was trying so hard. [Laughs]

GALO: Aww! [Laughs]

BS: I absolutely love that franchise and I adored that movie.

GALO: Yeah, that was a soul-crusher. Everyone grew up with the Toy Story story.

BS: Exactly, everybody’s connected with that. It was just a beautiful film.

GALO: And how do you think animated movies have changed within the last 10 to 20 years?

BS: I remember when The Little Mermaid came out — and it just changed the game. It was this sophisticated movie that appealed to adults and kids and I think, ever since then, it’s been a different world. And then when Pixar started making films, such as Toy Story, it brought it up to another level. I think they’ve become very sophisticated.

GALO: This is a challenge now — can you summarize in one sentence why everyone should go check out Home in theaters?

BS: People should go see Home because it is an unbelievably entertaining, fun, funny movie exploring what “home” is — whether that’s a place, a feeling or people. I don’t know how eloquent that was…but that home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling, or the people we surround ourselves with.

GALO: Yeah, I think you nailed it! So thank you so much for your time today, I’m really looking forward to seeing Home.

BS: I think you’re going to love it. It’s really a fantastic movie.

Video courtesy of DreamWorksTV.

Home is currently playing nationwide. For more information about Brian Stepanek and his projects, you can follow him on Twitter @BrianStepanek.