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BWW Interview: Jane Krakowski Talks Her Role in THE WILLOUGHBYS & Opens Up About Her Future on Stage

BWW Interview: Jane Krakowski Talks Her Role in THE WILLOUGHBYS & Opens Up About Her Future on Stage

Today, Netlix has released a new animated family comedy, The WIlloughbys. In the film, convinced they'd be better off raising themselves, the Willoughby children hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation. The siblings then embark on their own high-flying adventure to find the true meaning of family.

Tony winner Jane Krakowski voices the character of Mother Willoughby, and she took the time to talk with us about the film and creating her character! Krakowski also opens up about the current state of the world and her hopes for when Broadway reopens.

Read the full interview below!


With everything going on in the world, it must be a unique time to be a part of a movie like The Willoughbys, where families have the time to sit down and watch this together.

Personally as a single mom, I'm extremely appreciative of all the film companies that have decided to put movies, especially the ones for kids, directly on live television and that's been a great help. And you know, The Willoughbys is such a unique movie. I think it's tone is different than most animated features I've seen. And I agree with you, I think it's a time that's kind of a great movie for parents and kids to watch together, because I'm sure there's things to talk about it within it. But ultimately, I think it's an uplifting story about siblings who are in control of their own destiny. And in my particular viewpoint, I like that there's a family you can choose, that the traditional family doesn't have to be your family. And we certainly live in a world where there are more and more nontraditional families and I think it's a wonderful truth to embrace.

How did you get involved with the film?

Well Kris Pearn is the creator, writer, executive producer, director and I had worked with him before and I adored working with him. So he asked me to come back, and interestingly enough it was really billed as an independent animated film, which I think was sort of a sign that it wasn't gonna be as commercial or as by route as some of the others. I was just so taken with the animation. I think it's so unique looking. It feels like there's like traveling shots and there's depth to all the drawings in their own unique way. And, of course, I got the chance to work opposite Martin Short, which, you know, I had a comedy crush on Martin Short my whole life. And I've gotten to work and sing with him a little, but this was the first time I got to play opposite him. And the process of making an animated film goes on for a very long time, you go in for many recording sessions and you tend not to be with your partner. And so it was really fun for me to act with Marty, just based on everything and all of his mad vocal skills that he was recording. I would go in and hear all of his recordings and try to follow his lead and create the parent storyline within his mad skills. So it was really fun for me, and I think because of the nature that these characters we were able to raise them to such a height of almost vaudevillian characters because they're so self-involved and so obsessed with their love for each other. They're blinded by everything else and are blinded to everything else. It was really fun to sort of bring these parents to a vaudevillian level, vocally.

How did you find your character's unique voice?

Certainly it's your director and leader in the room. You don't see very much of it when you're making it, since all the creators are creating at the same time. So we'll record a vocal and they'll only be a pencil drawing, then the next time we come in, it's a full color drawing, the next time, it's fully animated. So you're all creating and collaborating the parts throughout the whole process, which I really enjoy. And also, there's a chance to go back and say, 'I think we missed that. Let's add some more stuff and see where it goes.' And so you can mold the parts even post some prior recordings, which I really enjoy. It's something that I enjoy about the theater as well. You're in the rehearsal room, and then you hone it more when you hear the first audience's reaction, and then hone it more. I think there's no greater teacher in the theater than the audience. They make it very clear what they get and what they don't get. And that's why preview time is my favorite time because you really can mold your performance to what the audience is getting and how the show is being configured and developed. It's one of my favorite bits about it. And I feel like animation is like that, you create the characters as they are creating the movie all together, and Kris Pearn has such an OPEN HEART and loves what he does so much and loves every character that he creates. And he's so infectious with his love of the project he's working on that he inspires you to bring the best view possible to whatever the role is.

In this particular case, the parents are sort of a heightened comedic British. It is based on a British Newbery Medal winner book by Lois Lowry. Although this film is quite different in tone than the actual book is that it's based on, though the story is the same. I think we both wanted to give it that international, affected, not sure if it's British, not sure what it is kind of comedic sound and voice.

You must enjoy getting to create these outlandish otherworldly characters that are unique to animated films.

Right, there are things you can't necessarily do in other formats. Yeah, and how big you can go and how far. I know for sure that we played very different tones of these parents in the recording room and then there was a moment where we realized where they should live. It's fun, I love ALL THAT playing. It's also like you're playing with only your vocal skills and emotion and there's a different level that you almost have to do it where you can't see the facial expressions. And that's always a challenge and really fun for me. I also really love all the stuff where you just scream and yell. They call it 'Walla Walla' and it's like 'cough for five minutes and run' and you're not actually running, but running with your voice. I love that skill and some people are great at it and I'm learning as I go, but I find it fun.

Being able to use your voice in that way must help in all areas in your acting.

Yeah, I think it's just another artistic exercise in this world that I love so much, and I always have been so appreciative, but now even more than ever, I'm so grateful for what I do, and I can't wait to get back to it. I'm really happy these are coming out, and especially at home when everyone can watch them as we're all social distancing, but I really look forward to when we can all fully go back to whatever our new world is going to be now.

Definitely. I know it's been a few years since you've been on the Broadway stage, but do you think, especially with everything going on, you'll be drawn back soon?

Yes, I mean, it's my favorite thing to do so whenever I get asked or the opportunity [comes], I'm in. I do also feel that I've never had a greater passion to come back and do the theater and give people the confidence to go back to the theater. I'd like to be a part of the big push of bringing Broadway back and making people feel comfortable and welcome and celebrate the live arts.


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