Every great movie has characters that you love. You either love them or you love to hate them. Cars 3 delivers on both with some of the best new characters of the franchise and with the return of old favorites that we couldn’t wait to see on screen again.
I had the fortune of speaking with some of the most charming characters in Cars 3 about the new blockbuster film. The best part about my sit down? The real people were just as enthralling as the characters they play. Chatting with Lea Delaria of Orange is the New Black fame, Castle star Nathan Fillion, Larry The Cable Guy and Isiah Whitlock Jr. of The Wire fame made for a morning of non-stop laughs as we talked about the third installment of Cars.
But my most “Sterling” moment came a bit later in the day when Nate Fillion saw me taking photos of the Cars 3 World Premiere came over and grabbed my camera and said “Now let’s take a proper selfie!” That sums up the charismatic Nate Fillion. He is a charmer for sure!
In truth, it’s hard to top this moment but there was plenty of scoop and laughs from my chat with the cast.
We heard that Larry the Cable Guy (Daniel Lawrence Whitney) does a lot of improv with his Mater character, but we wanted to know if anyone else did any improv while they were recording.
LARRY : Well, I always do improv on it, from when we did the first one. I remember when I first did it, my opening line that I ever did in Cars was “my name’s Mater, like Tomato, without the To,” and I went — of course, I remember, going, “Hey. My name’s Mater, just like To-mato, without the To!” And he was laughing. And I go, “Well, can I do it another way?” No, he goes, “No, do whatever you want, as long as you’re staying close to the script” and so that’s when all of the “dadgum” and “gee!” — that’s when all of that stuff coming about. So, yeah.
There was a couple of parts in here. I haven’t, obviously, seen it. So, there was a few parts where Mater was supposed to be doing something, but he was supposed to be singing a song, and we had a couple of things, but we didn’t know if he liked it. And they said, “Look, need to come up with something else. Just come up with something else, and next time we tape, we’ll do those,” so I went home and I wrote a bunch of limericks. And so that’s when I actually went home, and actually wrote something. But for the most part, generally, when I’m doing my lines all free from them, I’ll do it just like the line, a couple, or three times, and then I’ll do it “hey, let me try this one.”
And then I’ll do — and that’s generally the one where they go, “Oh, that’s good. ”
NATHAN : It’s so weird. Because when I improv, they always go, “That’s great, stick to the lines.” [LAUGHS]. In the booth, you know? “That’s great. Stick to the line?”
ISIAH : I always say, look, I’m just gonna start talking, cut me off when you’re ready to cut me off. Just tell me. Just tell me to stop, okay?
Q : How did it feel to do something different than The Wire [Isiah]?
ISIAH : Great. I always jump at the chance to do something different. Different characters. And this opportunity came along and I was just thrilled about it. It was totally different. I was in the booth by myself with my own imagination, and I found it quite liberating. Just laying down the voice, and everything like that. But to me, that’s kind of what keeps you going, is that you’re not always playing the same thing, over and over and over again.
And even when I’m doing that, I can always find something about the character that’s gonna be kind of interesting. So that’s what I try to do.
Q : Nathan, I read something in a different interview where you’d described Sterling as “charming.” He kind of felt a little slimy to me, so what part…?
NATHAN : [LAUGHS] That’s fair, that’s fair. I always find that charming, I think, is one of the more misleading directions when you’re reading a screenplay, or a script. People see “charming” and they go skeevy, and they go a little weird. Charming people are not so much interesting as they are interested. They’re saying, “Hey. You are great. You are wonderful. You are the best.” But, in this case, as a businessman first, I think he puts Lightning McQueen into a “you are the best, you are the greatest, but I do have an ulterior motive.”
So I think that’s where it gets a little skeevy.
Q : But you personally are very charming.
NATHAN : Thank you. Maybe you should say that louder. I don’t think everyone heard you. Thank you. Thank you. Told you. [LAUGHS]
LARRY : I’ve never said you weren’t charming
Q : Nathan, you’ve played some memorable characters on TV [Mal on Firefly, Castle, etc.]. And you’ve also voiced some characters [Johnny in Monsters University, The Green Lantern on Robot Chicken]. What do you think your favorite part about Sterling is? What called you to this?
NATHAN : What called me to this is an opportunity to work with Pixar. I’m not going to lie to you guys. I’ve been to the Pixar facility twice. I’ve seen every Pixar movie. I’ve seen the Pixar documentary four times. I am into Pixar. Nothing happens in a Pixar movie by accident. They tell the story, one pixel at a time. It’s very, very careful filmmaking, and it’s very methodically planned out, and to be a part of it, you know you’re going to be a part of a story well told, and it’s going to be beautiful, and it’s going to last.
It’s going to be a story that lasts. So, over and above anything else, I will do anything for Pixar. And, point of fact, I actually did some janitorial work for them two weeks ago. I’m not picky.
LARRY : And he was charming while he did it.
ISIAH : And skeevy.
NATHAN : And skeevy.
Q : Do you have a favorite part, either your character, or anything in the film, that is your favorite?
NATHAN : Listen. When you do a Pixar movie, right before you do the PR stuff, and all of this publicity stuff, they put you in a beautiful room to watch the movie. There’s a big party. Some people get dressed up as their characters. It’s really, really wonderful. There’s lots of food and drinks. At least, I imagine that’s what happens. I had to work that day, so I missed it.
ISIAH : I found it very emotional. I found myself tearing up a little bit, you know, and kept saying, “Okay. Think about something else. Think about something else.” Don’t start crying, you know. But when they deal with change and aging and things like that and moving on, you know…[he fake cries]. “That’s like my career!”
I was glad I brought my sunglasses with me, so I could put those on, and pretend like I was just sitting cool in the movie theater. But I did see it, and I found it just extremely emotional. I think the story’s going to be powerful.
Photo: Louise Bishop/Momstart
Q : Out of the three, it’s my favorite because of that emotional aspect. And, Larry, for you, doing the other two, was that a little different, because it does have more heart and emotion to it than the other two?
LARRY : I gotta tell you, these are always hard questions to ask, because when we do the voices, we don’t see anybody else, we don’t know anything else, we know the script, we kind to know what’s supposed to happen, but you don’t really see anybody else, you don’t interact with anybody else. So, when you’re doing your emotional part that you’re supposed to be doing, you’re just doing it with John Lasseter sitting on a chair, with a piece of paper, telling you, “Okay, this is what is gonna happen” and he’s gonna — and so you do the part.
I had not seen this. I remember doing my lines. So, when she says — when he says — because I knew it was going to be that kind of a movie. So, I’m glad that it’s ripping everybody’s hearts out, so that’s what it’s supposed to do. As far as Mater is concerned, I knew when I taped it, Mater had some pretty good scenes with McQueen. When I do Mater, I want Mater to be lovable, and I want him to be funny. So, I always — whenever there’s a scene where you’re just — when it’s really sad, you want Mater to pop in and lighten the mood up a little bit.
So I hope that’s what Mater did. When you said “what’s your favorite scene in the movie,” I don’t know what it is yet, but when I did the script, I think my favorite scene would probably be Mater trying to figure out Skype. So that’s pretty much it.
Q : There is a mentor, mentee relationship theme in the movie. Who are some of your mentors, either professionally or personally?
NATHAN : Bob Woods, who played my uncle on One Life to Live. I wouldn’t have moved to Los Angeles without his sage advice.
LARRY : You know what’s crazy? That’s my mine too! [LAUGHS]
NATHAN : So odd. [LAUGHS]
ISIAH : I had a mentor in college, and he had seen me in a play in college, and he was kind of like this nutty, crazy professor that everybody kind of stayed away from, but this guy said, he pulled me aside and he says, “look, you know, I saw you in a play last night.”
And he says, “I thought you were great. You got to get out of Minnesota, man. You got to go to New York, and you got to start knocking on doors.” And I thought, knocking on doors? What? Just going around to people’s apartments? Just knocking on doors? I took him literally. But then he said, “look at all of these monitors.” He said, “Someday we’re going to be able to talk to people and do our banking and — ” and I said “This guy is really nuts.” — and that all came true.
But the one thing he told me, he says, “If you really want to be a great actor, you’ve got to start studying psychology. You’ve got to know the human condition. You’ve got to know how people tick, and how you can figure out all of these characters,” and so I thought, Okay, I’m gonna try that. And I studied psychology for about two years. And I just play a bunch of characters who’ve got problems. [LAUGHS] But it was some of the best advice I had ever gotten. And when people talk about mentorship, I always think about this one, this guy, because it’s — I really did sort of learn about the human condition, and how — what makes people do what they do, and how they believe that, you know, they’re right in what they do.
So, that was some of the best advice I’d ever gotten in my life.
Q : Larry, can you share how you came up with the name “Larry the Cable Guy”?
LARRY : I sure can. And in all seriousness, I know I said Bob, but mine would’ve been Jeff Foxworthy. I have known Foxworthy for 30 years, and he really gave me awesome advice about the business, and how to be kind to people, and be kind to your fans, and so he would’ve been my mentor. But, how I came up with the name Larry the Cable Guy is, I was doing stand-up, and you always go on stage, and you’d try new stuff out. And I’m a big rodeo fan, and I used to watch mesquite championship rodeo on Sundays. [LAUGHS] I’m a country kid, so I grew up in a small town in Southeast Nebraska.
And I did this rodeo cowboy, got kind of a laugh. And so the next day I changed it to a cable installer, and it got a big laugh. And I had a buddy of mine who had a morning show, and he said, “you’ve got to call our morning show, that’s funny. You should pretend you’re the cable guy.” And so I called up. And I remember the first time — the first thing I ever said on the radio. I called up and I said, “Hey, Ron & Ron, what’s goin’ on, fellers. What’s goin’ on, fellers.” And they go, “Well, who is this?” It’s the cable guy. Y’all said y’all wanted that hookup down there, didn’t you? And they said, “Well, what’s your name?”
And I didn’t really know. And I’m going, “Uh…Larry!” Oh. It’s Larry the Cable Guy? And it just caught on, and I started calling as Larry the Cable Guy, and then I got syndicated over in Orlando, which syndicated me into Tulsa and to Baltimore. And I was a standup. I was still doing standup. But I was doing these calls while I did standup. I ended up getting syndicated, around the country, on 27 radio stations, getting up every morning, doing radio calls.
27 stations. All different times. I think I did 14 was the most I did in a day, but I’d do five days a week, for 13 years every day, doing a commentary in the n — and “get ‘er done” just started getting popular from the radio, and so then I s — everybody just started calling me Larry. And that wasn’t my name, but it was my radio name. And so it just kind of stuck. Kind of a nickname, more than anything else. And that’s how Larry the Cable Guy came to be on stage, when I was doing a show in St Petersburg. A buddy of mine owned a comedy club, I walked in, and it said on the billboard, “Dan Whitney, AKA Larry the Cable Guy,” and both shows sold out.
And I said, “What’s going on, you got a convention here or something? I can’t find a place to park.” And they go, “No. They’re coming to see you.” And I said, “Wow. I didn’t know he was going to do that,” and I went on stage, and people started going, “Get ‘er done, get ‘er done.” And I couldn’t do my regular act. And I went into Larry the Cable Guy, and [FAKE CHEERS]. And then if I came out of the act, and [MAKES A RASPBERRY]. I couldn’t follow it. And I got off stage. And the guy, Lester McCurdy, from McCurdy’s Comedy Club, said, “Can you do your whole show like that?” And I said, “Yeah. You know. I act like a redneck all day long, ’cause I is one.
It’s like what Jeff says — ’cause I is one.” And so he took my name off, and it said “Larry the Cable Guy.” And I took the stage as Larry the Cable Guy, and then I started weeding out all of the other stuff that I had and I started rebooking dates as Larry the Cable Guy. And that’s how I was born. That was it. It was all completely by accident. I never thought it out. It just evolved into what it became, so that’s how it happened.
Q : Can you share how you became involved in the project?
LEA : They called me.
Q : And why you wanted to do it?
LEA : Why would I want to be Miss Fritter? Have we seen her? She’s awesome. I mean, come on. Her stop sign is a buzz saw. She’s terrific. Also, I grew up where they do stock cars. I grew up where demo derby was a big deal. I grew up in a really small town on the very tip of Illinois that’s right by Kentucky. So that was like, a Friday night entertainment for me. So the idea of being the queen of the demolition derby? Awesome. And they let me say the high school that I went to.
A shoutout to that. That’s the side of the bus is the high school that I went to. Which is, I mean, the people of Belleville, Illinois, which is a tiny little town, they’re gonna go nuts when they see that. It’s kind of awesome. And so when they came at me and said “do you want to do this?” I was like, “Yeah. I have a really good idea of how to play her.” And they were all in and, as was I, so, it was awesome.
Q : Lea, one of my fans wanted to know, who do you like playing more: Miss Fritter or Boo?
LEA : Oh. That’s rough. [LAUGHS]. Well. I’m kind of gender fluid, so I’m going to say both. [LAUGHS] That was an adult joke. I gotta say, that’s really hard, you know. But Boo pays a whole lot more, so I’m going with Boo.
Q : You have a lot of interaction with your fans on Twitter. How do you fit that in between all the other things you do?
LEA : I feel the same way these guys feel about engagement with my fans. I mean, I’m a little — but I’m not 110 years old, so I’m more over at Instagram. That was a shot. I go on Twitter more as an afterthought, and it is — it totally is, I mean, you can go on social media, and see how it tears down. My fan base, because of Cars and Orange is now a much younger base than I used to have.
I’m a lot older than people realize, so they’re on Instagram. So I reach out a lot on Instagram, I post every day, I try to respond. Especially, they direct-message you, so only you can read it and no one else on Instagram. So, for that, I mean, just in terms, politically for me, as an openly gay activist, I get a lot of people that direct, that DM me, about problems, you know. Which I take very seriously. And I’m the same way.
I try to keep up on it. I can’t do it every hour, every half hour. I actually have someone now who helps me with my social media, because it’s just gotten a little out of hand. But I think that it’s the best way to reach people, and also, it’s a great way — Twitter is a great way to keep up with the president. [LAUGHS]
Cars 3 Official Trailer!
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CARS 3 opens in theaters everywhere on June 16th!
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