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Don Lake's Extensive Work In Improv Helped Him Capture His Zootopia+ Character – Exclusive

Don Lake got his start with the improvisational comedy troupe Second City, where he met long-time friend and collaborator Bonnie Hunt. Together, the two have worked on several television series revolving around Hunt, including the short-lived "Life With Bonnie."

Beyond that, Lake has found success in his own right as a frequent associate of Christopher Guest, who has written and directed such films as "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show." He also starred on the Steve Carell-led "Space Force" and re-teamed with Hunt for "Zootopia+," a six-part series of shorts based on the blockbuster 2016 animated film "Zootopia" that is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.

No matter what he does, though, Lake's sense of humor and acting style always comes back to the improv skills he learned at Second City. And during an exclusive interview with Looper, he revealed how those skills help him perfectly capture the characters he has played, including voicing fatherly bunny Stu Hopps on "Zootopia+."

'You must remain true to the character and true to the story'

Working with Hunt and Guest has allowed Lake to really lean into his improv abilities, and Lake found the perfect opportunity on "Zootopia+" to capture that spirit while in the vocal booth riffing alongside Hunt, who plays onscreen wife Bonnie Hopps.

"You try to bring that to everything you do, that same kind of feeling," says Lake. "But you have to be with talented people, people who get it and that you can play off. Bonnie and I have done that forever. We met at Second City, so we met onstage improvising, and you gain a trust. From the very first moment we improvised together, it was like, 'This lady is different. This is wow.' And now, we've known each other for so long and done so much stuff together."

But improvising is like walking a tightrope, where you must rely on your keen sense of off-the-cuff comedic timing while sticking to the page in front of you to strike just the right balance between ad-libbing and staying true to the character that was written.

"Our experience has taught us that when you do improvise, you must remain true to the character and true to the story," says Lake. "A lot of people, when they improvise, they go off on these tangents, and it's like, 'Guys, it's never going to be in the final product because you've got to keep moving the story forward and you've got to keep being true to the character because those are the consistent parts of it.' That's the way we were taught and applied it, and always in the back of our head, we know that. That's what has allowed us the privilege of improvising for so long."

"Zootopia+" is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.