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Seth Green talks Robot Chicken, Star Wars, and more - Exclusive interview

Seth Green started acting when he was just ten years old, starring alongside Jodie Foster in The Hotel New Hampshire in 1984. Since then he has appeared in roughly 200 films and TV shows — scrolling his IMDb page will make your head spin when you realize all of the memorable roles he's had in iconic franchises. From the original 1990 It miniseries to the Austin Powers trilogy to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Green has had an impressive career.

And beyond those high-profile onscreen roles, Green has also had a prolific career as a voice actor. Since 1999 he has voiced Chris Griffin on the hit TV series Family Guy, and he does various voices, including the Nerd and Batman, on his long-running stop-motion show Robot Chicken, along with voicing characters on a couple of animated Star Wars shows.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Green hopped on the phone to chat about what it's like working on Robot Chicken, his love of Star Wars, and how he got cast in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Seth Green shares his favorite Robot Chicken characters and sketches

In the beginning, Robot Chicken used the toys you kind of had on hand to create the show. It's a much bigger production now, but do you still go toy shopping, looking for new characters or ideas for the show?

We definitely push our writers to both be inspired by new things and also reflect on the stuff that was most influential to them when they were young. But I do have an ongoing interest in both toys and that aspect of pop culture. So I do my best to stay current and just understand the way trends are evolving or what types of things people are playing with and to what end. But there's an interesting thing that happens when your passion becomes your work. It can either make the focus on it so work-related that it stops feeling fun, or it can continue to drive your creative evolution because you have an organic interest in the area. So I toe that line, I hope, pretty well.

I've had a similar thing happened where, up until I started producing, I was a really voracious reader. I read just about anything. And then as a producer, I wind up reading all day — reading scripts, reading other material, reading emails — and it's made me less able to sit down and focus on something that isn't work-related. It's like I have to really clear my head or go on vacation. Whenever I'm on a vacation, I get a lot of reading done because I'll have days where I don't have anything to do. And then in those days I really want to read something.

Do you have a favorite Robot Chicken character?

I guess that changes from time to time, depending on how we use the character. One of my favorite ones to voice is always our Nerd character, because he's such a joyful and yet ironically self-aware character. So he's always coming from a place of passionate love for something, even as he's deconstructing the inherent ironies of it. And so that's usually fun for me to play.

For fans of yours who've never seen the show, what are some must-watch episodes or sketches in your opinion?

Boy, that's tough. I really love our specials, because we've gotten to take bigger swings with character interpretations or production. Like in our first Star Wars special, where we take the scene in the original, A New Hope, where Luke Skywalker is confronted at a bar by these two rough characters, one of whom gets their arm cut off by Obi-Wan Kenobi, and posited what had happened just before that. So that this character who's introduced, who you meet as a villain, you got some context for who this guy was before his arm was cut off in a bar confrontation. That kind of stuff always makes me laugh the most. Taking a moment that's very famous and imagining some other circumstances that led to it or what happened after that. That's usually my favorite kind of sketch.

Robot Chicken just aired its 200th episode, which was also the season 10 finale, and has been a staple on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim for 15 years. What do you think the secret to its longevity is?

Well, I think the real truth of that is that there's an audience that's interested in watching it. And so for as long as we've got an audience, we'll continue to put everything we've got into making the show. Our responsibility as the showrunners is to continue to make something that is evolving, that is funny, and that is entertaining for the audience that's tuned in.

Seth Green geeks out about Stars Wars, and reveals what's up with the shelved animated series he created for Lucasfilm

As you mentioned, Robot Chicken brought you into the Star Wars universe. You've worked with George Lucas, you've parodied the franchise, you've been on actual Star Wars series. What's it like being part of that world?

Being a lifelong fan of Star Wars, it is an incredible honor to be able to participate in the legacy of it, especially the time I got to spend with George and the relationship that we were able to form. To get to spend so much time with such an iconic creator like George and to get to have casual moments with him in the midst of making things, that's worth more than anything as an actor, as a creator. It's invaluable. There's no real expression for it.

Anytime I've gotten to work with heroes of mine or really, really talented artists, I try to remember that I'm there on purpose, and that it's my responsibility to bring the best of myself to that situation. But I also marvel in the opportunity to just get to witness and share and listen to whoever it is.

Do have any funny stories or memorable moments from voicing characters in The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels?

Nothing specific. It's just fun. Everybody's so cool and nice and collaborative that anytime I've gotten to do voiceover stuff for Star Wars, it's just been fun.

When you were little — or now — what was your favorite Star Wars action figure or set?

So the very first Star Wars figures I got were R2-D2 and C-3PO. And just the design of them, the fact that they were vacuum-metalized and legitimately shiny when I was four and five years old, that was some of the most important stuff to me. And as I got a little bit older, the other movies came out. Luke Skywalker in the Jedi cloak, that was one of my favorites. And, I mean, obviously, I love Boba Fett and all the different versions of him that have been made. But I get into weird silly ones, too, like the original four Cantina creatures. I love those. I also had the Darth Vader head-shaped carrying case.

My favorite was the Yoda that had the snake that wrapped around his neck...

I chased down that Yoda. This is how nerdy I am — there's two different versions of that Yoda, one with an orange snake and one with the brown snake.

Do you think the animated series you created for Lucasfilm almost a decade ago, Star Wars Detours, will ever see the light of day?

I can say there is no plan for it right now, but it seems more about the overall plan for Star Wars in general and where our show does or does not fit into that. When [producer] Kathleen Kennedy took over Lucasfilm, in advance of it being sold to Disney [in 2012], she said something to me that I'll never forget. Her perspective was that it was her responsibility to steward the brand into the future, into perpetuity, and to that end, it was about what the next 30 years of Star Wars was about. And she made it very clear to me how dutifully she accepted the challenge of giving new content to the next generations in all these different forms.

So, the only thing that I can say about Detours is there has not been a moment where the shape and style of the show, which was created at a time when there wasn't a plan to make new movies, has been able to fit into what the company's intended offerings are. Whether that'll change in the future, I can't say. I can only say that it is absolutely not the focus of the company at the moment.

But Kathleen is one of the most brilliant producers I've ever had the privilege of getting to collaborate with — and I was in awe of her long before she took over Star Wars. Talk about getting to spend time with your heroes. The several months that I got to spend having these conversations with her, I treasure it.

Seth Green reflects on his favorite roles, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Guardians of the Galaxy

You were in both the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and the show. Was that coincidental or did you land the role on the TV show because of the movie?

Totally coincidental. The whole shape of that movie is so fundamentally different from what the show is, it's almost incomparable. But in the movie, I played a teenage vampire with braces who Paul Reubens' character turned into a vampire, and then I turned another character into a vampire. The whole scene was cut from the movie. I don't think when I auditioned for the TV show that anybody even knew that I had done it. It was something that we joked about later. It's just a neat piece of trivia.

Are you still in touch with anyone from the cast on a regular basis?

Yeah, [Buffy star] Sarah Michelle Gellar and I have known each other since we were little kids, and we're still really close. Alyson Hannigan and I have known each other since we were ... I think since she was 12 and I was 13 when we met. And then, I still talk to [creator] Joss Whedon. It's not like I'm out of touch with anybody, it's just that we have only specific opportunities to connect. But it's all love between us. When we got to do that reunion for Entertainment Weekly it was like a fantastic class reunion with a bunch of hugs all around.

Moving over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How did the Howard the Duck cameo come about at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy? Were you a fan of that film originally?

Yes, I love the original Howard the Duck movie. And that role just came out of luck and circumstance. [Guardians director] James Gunn and I became friends when I worked on Scooby-Doo 2, which he wrote, and we stayed friends all that time. Then, when Guardians was almost finished, he called me and said they had this already-animated sequence with Howard the Duck, and did I want to come do the voice? And so it was as simple as that. I went in for a 10-minute session and recorded it. It was just right place at the right time.

In terms of that role or anything else in the MCU, do you have anything lined up with them in the future?

Nothing that I could speak about. But as a lifelong, card-carrying Marvel fan, any opportunity that I get to participate within that world is something I jump at.

Out of the dozens and dozens of TV and film you've appeared in and worked on, which have been some of your personal favorites?

It sounds obnoxious to say, but usually the thing I'm working on at the moment becomes my favorite because I'm the most in the moment and inspired by it. But otherwise, I think it's some of the things that people would most imagine — getting to make Austin Powers, getting to make Buffy, getting to make Party Monster, getting to make [Green's big-screen directorial debut] Changeland. So many of the things that I've gotten to do, like The Italian Job and Without a Paddle, are just so much fun. I've been really lucky throughout my entire career. And we're sort of only reflecting on what the last 10 or 15 years have been, we could go even further back to the things I did as a kid that were so significant.

I've been really luck to have consistently gotten to work with people that I'm inspired by and been able to collaborate with friends of mine. And I got to a point where I made enough money where I could be far more specific about the choices I was making and only work on things that I could predict would be a positive experience or would be something I was truly passionate about. To that end, I love it all. Like, I can't even believe looking back that I've gotten to do the work that I have, and I am eternally grateful for that.