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The Bad Guys' Marc Maron, Craig Robinson, And Anthony Ramos On Voicing Deadly Animals - Exclusive Interview

DreamWorks Animation's "The Bad Guys" centers on a bunch of anthropomorphic animals. Some of them are cute and maybe even cuddly, but don't tell that to the characters that make up the title gang of criminals. The infamous group is led by Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), but each member contributes something important to their heists. Marc Maron's Mr. Snake is an expert safecracker (who also enjoys eating the odd guinea pig or two), Craig Robinson's Mr. Shark is an accomplished master-of-disguise, Anthony Ramos' Mr. Piranha acts as the group's brave if slightly unhinged muscle, and Awkwafina's Ms. Tarantula is a tech whiz. While the group may excel at being bad, when they're finally caught, they strike a deal that requires them to forego their wicked ways, something neither they nor all the people that see them only as villainous predators ever considered.

Looper sat down with the actors behind three of the five Bad Guys — Maron, Robinson, and Ramos — to discuss the entertaining and hilarious film. Maron, a revered stand-up comedian, is well-known for his starring turn in the critically acclaimed series "GLOW;" Robinson rose to fame playing Darryl Philbin on the beloved comedy "The Office" and has appeared in everything from the head-trippy "Mr. Robot" to the hysterical Peacock series "Killing It;" and Ramos was part of the original cast of the beloved musical "Hamilton" and has been seen onscreen in the adaptation of the musical "In The Heights" and the lauded HBO series "In Treatment." All three bring something special to their roles in "The Bad Guys," and their work helps make the film an endearing, lively, and captivating treat for kids and adults alike.

Bringing deadly animals to life

You've all done voice work before, but you're playing some deadly animals here. Is there a different approach you take to get into the mindset of characters from the animal kingdom than you do humans?

Marc Maron: I think I've mostly voiced animals. I did one human. I don't think I differentiate. I'll voice whatever, a rock, a squirrel, a guy. I don't think my approach is any different. I go with the script and the emotional tone of what's happening.

Craig Robinson: I watched about three months of "Shark Week," and that really got me set ... no, what happens is, you go in there and the director tells you what they want and then you go back and forth. A beautiful thing about animation is you get a few scenes in and, let's say, you finally found the energy of the shark, now we can go back and get those other scenes. It was about finding it in the room.

Anthony Ramos: Yeah, it's an animal, but what helps is, "What is this animal's temperament? Is this animal lighthearted? Is this animal a little crazy? What's the vibe here?" You make choices from there.

Maron: I ask myself those questions every day.

Ramos: Right, yeah. When we wake up in the morning, [laughs] brush your teeth...

Maron: What's the animal going to do today? [Laughs]

Ramos: ...what's my vibe? Who am I? That's how the voice is developed. Over time, too, you make choices and then you find what hits.

The joys of voice acting

All three of you are primarily known for your live-action work. What do you enjoy about voice acting?

Maron: Like these guys were saying, you can do things until they are perfect and there's no real constraints on location or amount of shots you can do. You have a lot of freedom within the one little world you're working in. It's a little easier, I would imagine, for most people than live action. [pointing to Ramos] He's got to go to the gym for his next movie ["Transformers: Rise of the Beasts"] a lot. [Ramos laughs] You don't have to do that for a cartoon.

Ramos: You don't. [Laughs] You get to do as many takes as you need to get it right, and then at the end of the session, if you're like, "Yo, can we go back to Scene 33 again? Actually, I want to try that one more time," you get to go back. If you discover you did a reading later on in the script, and you're like, "Oh, actually I would do that line differently now because I just did this one like that and I want to change that line there," there's that freedom in animation that you don't really get in any other kind of...

Maron: Yeah. Once you do a live action, it's in the can and you don't know what they're going to do with it. [Laughs] True, right?

Ramos: Right. Facts.

Did you get to see the characters beforehand and get in the mindset of, "This is what it's going to look like?"

Maron: Yeah. They showed us the pictures.

Robinson: Yeah. They showed us some drawings, some sketches and then showed us the books [that "The Bad Guys" is adapted from] and this, that, and the other. As you would go along, they would show you the progress of the movie and what was going on.

Maron: Yeah, how they moved and stuff.

Singing ... as a shark and a piranha

Craig and Anthony, you're known for singing and you both have songs in "The Bad Guys." Did you find yourself bringing a little something different to these songs because you were singing as your characters?

Robinson: No, it just so happens, Shark sings like me. [Laughs] I rolled with it.

Ramos: Very little differences. I kept a little bit of that gravel in his voice for the song, but I keep telling the story, that song wasn't even there and then it was, later on. We threw it together pretty fast, quickly. You definitely try to keep the character in mind when you're singing.

Maron: I got to watch the movie again. [To Robinson] You sang in it?

Robinson: Yeah, I believe it was a little bit. It might have been tagging onto [gesturing to Ramos] his song.

Maron: Oh yeah?

Robinson: Yeah.

Maron: All right. I'll watch it again. I hear it's good.

A movie with meaning

The story deals heavily with these themes of stereotypes and whether individuals can change. Was that part of what made you gravitate to the script?

Maron: You want something that's got a little weight to it, and all the themes [are] good for both grownups and kids. Tthey're put in a language that actually can be appreciated by both grownups and kids. That's a rare thing because those [two] themes, those are pretty big themes in life, and in this movie, they're made accessible for both adults and children. That's a great thing about the movie.

Ramos: There's good in everybody, even people who are labeled as bad. I don't think anyone is born bad, so it's beautiful to see these characters in this story discover the good within themselves and people to start to see the good in them and watch that journey.

Maron: Yeah. And guinea pigs, a lot of guinea pigs.

"The Bad Guys" hits theaters exclusively on April 22.