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BWW Interview: Lilli Cooper Talks Playing a New 'Doc' in FRAGGLE ROCK: BACK TO THE ROCK

Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock is now streaming on Apple TV+.

BWW Interview: Lilli Cooper Talks Playing a New 'Doc' in FRAGGLE ROCK: BACK TO THE ROCK

Jim Henson's beloved Fraggles are back in Apple TV's new series, Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock, now streaming on Apple TV+.

Tony-nominee Lilli Cooper plays "Doc" in all 13 episodes. She is joined by all of the beloved Fraggles from the original series, including Gobo, Red, Boober, Mokey, Wembley, Uncle Travelling Matt - alongside new Fraggles and Doozers voiced by special guest stars Patti LaBelle, Cynthia Erivo, Daveed Diggs, Ed Helms, Kenan Thompson, as well as an appearance by Foo Fighters.

BroadwayWorld sat down with Cooper discuss the series' updated version of the character "Doc," plus what it was like working with John Tartaglia and Jim Henson's puppeteers. Cooper also touched on what else she has coming up, including her return to Broadway!

What can you tell us about your character, Doc, in Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock?

So I play Doc and I live in the house that the Fraggles live underneath of. Doc is a really awesome character because she is a PhD candidate and she's a scientist and inventor, and she is working on this project to eliminate microplastics from the ocean. Her storyline is really about a lot of what's going on in our ecosystem right now in the world and global warming and lots of issues that we have. So I think it's really awesome that the writers incorporated this storyline, not only to teach people about what's going on, but just to kind of like open our eyes to the reality of it and to have like this young black woman as a scientist on this show that is a total iconic thing that people grew up watching. It'll be a really kind of refreshing shift from the original, I think.

Doc was played by an older man in the original, correct?

Yeah. It was an older man. He was an Irish actor and he was like this beloved inventor, also. But I think that the writers wanted to kind of freshen up the story and I think the DNA of Doc is very similar in the sense that, you know, she's a scientist and inventor and has her dog Sprocket and they love and adore each other. The only person that Doc communicates with really is Sprocket, her dog. So that's all the same from the original but with a new younger, fresher outlook.

Sprocket is played by a puppet and there are a lot of other puppets featured in the series. This must have been somewhat of like a new experience for you. What was all that like?

It was so exciting because it was such a new experience as an actor to not have a human face to look at, to act with, but to have this, at moments, inanimate objects. But once the puppeteers were working and acting and moving with these puppets, it's truly magical what they can do because it turns on these creatures and it doesn't feel like there's any boundary between you and this puppet. I genuinely didn't have any trouble connecting with this puppet. It was amazing. I remember the showrunner came up to me once and was like, "Do you realize that you're petting Sprocket when John [Tartaglia] isn't even in the puppet?" I made such a connection with Sprocket that he felt like my dog, even when the puppeteers weren't inside of the puppets. It was kind of amazing because they just bring so much life and character to these animals and these creatures. It's really magical.

John Tartaglia plays Sprocket, who is a master puppeteer, but also a Broadway actor and musical theater person who I've known of forever and was just so excited to work with. We connected so much through these characters and I just really admired the work of the puppeteers because it just seems like such an art form that is so unique and challenging and requires so much specific skill. I was so just floored by their abilities. I learned so much of their world. So it was just really exciting.

I think one of the things I was most impressed by learning throughout the process was that the puppeteers have this incredible mind, body connection where they can be acting through their hands in these puppets, but their eyes are actually on a monitor so that they can see what's going on on screen. So it's so interesting to witness how connected their minds and their bodies are because they're not even looking in the same direction that the puppets are looking. They're looking at the playback to make sure that the puppets look good. It was just so incredible. I found myself getting distracted, I was just watching the puppeteers, do what they were doing because it was really, really miraculous.

So many people have grown up with Jim Henson's work, whether it be the Muppets or the original Fraggle Rock. Did you grow up a fan of his work?

Absolutely. I grew up watching Sesame Street and the Muppets. Everything Jim Henson that you can imagine. The Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies. My brothers grew up on the Dark Crystal. So I've always been a huge Jim Henson fan. The original Fraggle Rock was a little bit before my time, but my older brother's watched it religiously. And of course, when I booked the job, I watched it religiously. And I think one of the things I was most excited about when I worked at the job was I called my brothers before I even called my mom or my husband to tell them that I booked this job because I knew how excited they would be, because it really was such an iconic thing from their childhood. So, yeah, my family are huge, huge Henson aficionados.

Other than this new update for your character of Doc, what can audiences who may have been familiar with the original Fraggle Rock expect from this new reboot?

Well, all of the characters from the original are still in the show and some of the puppeteers and the actors who were in the original are actually in this too, which is really cool. So you're going to hear familiar voices from the original. I think very much so the DNA of the original Fraggle Rock is there and it's just kind of exploded with vibrance and color and size and magnitude.
I mean, just the scope of the sets that they created are magnificent. They were huge. They just created these worlds for these Fraggles. It was really incredible to see the scope of all of it. So it's all of the original, plus just this exciting, fresh kind of bigger version. It really transports you to these worlds, to these fun imaginary worlds. And I think one thing that the original really had were subjects that were really deep, not just for kids. I forget who it was that said this, but I remember reading a quote about how Fraggle Rock isn't really just for kids, it's for adults and children can watch along too, because it's the subject matters and the true human, emotional journeys that these crackles go on are so relatable and so honest. So the new version definitely has that also.

Do you have anything else coming up Fraggle Rock?

I do, actually. I can't really talk about what shows, but I have a few, I have a Broadway show coming up and that's supposed to be opening in the fall. I have a concert coming up on Valentine's Day at the French Institute, it's called Muse Sessions. Me and a few other Broadway artists will be singing, just kind of like classic songs that everybody loves. It's going to be a really fun night.

Watch the trailer for Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock here:

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