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Zazie Beetz And Lilly Singh Share Their Experiences Voicing The Bad Guys - Exclusive Interview

The animated film "The Bad Guys" centers on an infamous criminal gang made up of some of the most vicious predators in the animal kingdom. Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina) delight in living up to their bad reputations by pulling off some of the most elaborate heists their city has ever seen, but they aren't the only ones shaping their story.

Lilly Singh's Tiffany Fluffit is a reporter who covers the notorious outlaws with sensationalistic zeal, and it's her black-and-white take on them that helps ensure that most people see the group solely as irredeemable villains. Meanwhile, Zazie Beetz's smart and charismatic Diane Foxington is the recently elected Governor who initially comes across as an enemy to the Bad Guys. It quickly becomes clear, though, that she is more sympathetic to their plight than she initially seems, and her powerful position gives her the opportunity to champion the group and even teach them that their past doesn't have to dictate their future.

Singh, a famed YouTuber who hosted the talk show "A Little Late with Lilly Singh" and has acted in movies like "Bad Moms" and TV shows like "Dollface," gives Tiffany a fun exuberance that makes her exaggerated takes on the Bad Guys' activities uniquely hilarious. Meanwhile, Beetz, who's best known for her role as Vanessa in the series "Atlanta" and has also appeared in movies like "Joker" and "Deadpool 2," brings a knowing dignity and understated nuance to Diane Foxington that makes her one of the movie's most fascinating characters. Singh and Beetz sat down with Looper to talk about why they wanted to be a part of "The Bad Guys" and the journey to finding their characters' voices, and Beetz reflected on returning for the third season of "Atlanta" after years away.

A movie with a great cast and great characters

What attracted you both to "The Bad Guys?"

Lilly Singh: A lot of things. One, the fact that it's based on books ... I always love when there's existing IP that I know they'll be fans of. That's always so exciting. Honestly, the cast [is] full of people that I look up to and think are amazing and so talented, and I was honored at the chance of being alongside those names.

Zazie Beetz: And piggybacking off of that, I liked the story. The characters are all quite charismatic and interesting. They already had drafts of some of the scenes. Some of the animation looked like it was going to be this really cool visual experience. The character, Diane, is really interesting because of her past and who she is today. It was an easy yes.

Developing their characters' voices

Zazie, your character is very upstanding. She's very elegant, but she has this hidden past that we don't know about. How did you navigate her journey through your voice work?

Beetz: It was a journey. Initially, on the page, she was a bit more finger waggy and a little holier than thou and preachy. We really wanted to try to get away from that, especially since a lot of her speeches are "the Governor." It was easy to make her sound aloof, and we played around. It took a few sessions to really find her voice and find something that felt like it married her past and her present.

When we did find it, it was such a cool springboard into her full character. There was a monologue that happens at the top of the movie where I riffed on it and after we taped that, everybody was like, "Ah, that was it." From that point on, we had found Diane. It was a cool moment for sure.

Lilly, your character is a reporter who's following the story of the Bad Guys, so you fill in a lot of facts of the story, but you're also really funny. How did you balance those two things?

Singh: I was very adamant on Tiffany not being unlikeable, because I thought, "Even though what she's saying is a little questionable and she's carrying on this narrative that everyone might not agree with, especially as a viewer, I still want her to come across fun and lovable so that people can see that she's not just evil and she's not just conniving." She actually really wants to be good at her job and she wants to be first on the scene and she wants to succeed and win. She actually believes these things. I thought I could pair these questionable things she was saying with a very high, fun energy and a lot of facial expressions and a lot of hand motions. That was really easy for me because that's how I am in real life.

Their animated characters reflect their acting work

How much of your live-action acting as you were going along voicing the characters did they manage to bring into the animation?

Beetz: I'm sure a lot of it. I don't remember exactly what I was doing with every take. I feel like you do have to become quite physically expressive in order to really get everything you can out of your voice. You definitely get much more cartoonish, I suppose, or animated. They record all of it so that they can use some of what you're doing. I assume a bunch, but I don't know.

Singh: Some of my facial expressions, definitely I can see in Tiffany. A lot of her energy of how she moves close to camera and away from camera, that's honestly how, if you look at my earlier YouTube videos, how I edit them as well.

Beetz: I wonder if they watched your YouTube videos.

Singh: I do think so, but a lot of that energy of roller-coaster-type cadence of delivery and even the facial expressions, I do see myself. When I posted this, a lot of my fans had said, "She looks exactly like you and she acts like you."

Beetz: I think she looks like you.

Returning to Atlanta

Zazie, the latest season of "Atlanta" is airing now. What was it like to come back to your character on that show after such a long time away?

Beetz: We all were a little bit nervous about that, actually. I remember I re-watched some of the show because I was like, "Who's Van?" And then as we dipped in, it was cool to see, "Oh yeah, these are all a little bit the more grown-up versions of these characters." All these characters are within us all the time, and so tapping back into that version of myself was really lovely. It felt very [much like], "I remember you." 

I feel like a lot of actors feel this way, but I want to still take care of Van. I owe her things or I want to protect her. It was cool. It was like meeting an old friend, honestly. We all talked about [it, and], we were all like, "Oh, I haven't done this character in a while. Hopefully, I remember them." I think we all did.

"The Bad Guys" premieres exclusively in theaters April 22.