Golan the Insatiable's Josh Miller on Minnesota, auditioning Mark Hamill, creating cartoons
The show, which features the voice talents of Minnesota comedians Mary Mack and Maria Bamford, tells the suburban tale of a fearsome ruler from another dimension, and is the product of two Minnesota natives, Joshua Miller and Patrick Casey. Raised in Bloomington, Miller and Casey began sharpening their comedic knives back in high school with a long-running cable access show called YRU-Up. Post college, the duo relocated to Los Angeles, where they quickly managed to do the unthinkable: sell a movie script.
Ten years later, the two have found themselves as the creative force behind a gory, fun, and twisted television series about a demon-like creature and his friendship with a little goth girl. We caught up with Josh "Worm" Miller to pluck a few thoughts out of his skull before the show continues to defile the Fox network this Saturday.
In a recent interview, you described Golan the Insatiable as sort of a grown-up version of Calvin & Hobbes. While Hobbes was always the one sort of giving life lessons to Calvin, who's teaching who on Golan?
Dylan is definitely teaching Golan. That's sort of the conceit for the show. Golan is an evil tyrant from another world, but he spends all his time with a little kid, so his entire perception of Earth is skewed through the prism of a second grader's worldview. The Calvin & Hobbes comparison isn't a direct one, since Golan is nothing like Hobbes. But as we transitioned from the original short stories, in which Dylan was a peripheral character and a boy, C&H served as a great touchstone for everyone at ADHD to wrap their heads around the direction we were heading. Even though Golan is real, in a sense Dylan and Golan are always in playtime mode and looking for adventures away from the parents.
There are plenty of references to Minnesota places and things on the show. Is it meant to intentionally parody Minnesota culture in a certain way? Or is it used more as a means to establish the setting?
Both. I just think Minnesota is such a funny and odd place. So when trying to think of the least desirable spot for an evil, deposed demigod to be trapped, the whole "Minnesota Nice" element felt obvious to me. Golan's world, Gkruool, was inspired by the artwork of Frank Frazetta and the old Heavy Metal magazine covers. And what is the polar opposite of heavy metal if not Garrison Keillor? I still love all things Minnesota, so it's a fun way for me and fellow Bloomington native Patrick Casey to wallow in our roots. Plus, Minnesotans have the funniest last names.
There's a perception in the Twin Cities that places like New York and Los Angeles are fascinated by Minnesotans. Do you find that people in Hollywood seem to think you have some sort of different perspective, as you grew up in Bloomington?
They are fascinated! Well, that is, if they even know where Minnesota is. I once had a girl ask me if Minnesota was a city or a state. She went to my college in L.A., which didn't exactly make me feel like the school had stringent academic requirements. I think Los Angelenos in particular are just fascinated by the cold and snow. "The buildings downtown are connected with tubes?!" And Los Angelenos always have stories about how nice the previous person from Minnesota they met was. You almost feel bad informing them that, yes, there are insufferable pricks in Minnesota, too.
I wouldn't say people in Hollywood think Pat and I have a different perspective. Though at ADHD it is a bit different, since the show is set there, and we're the only ones who know anything about it. So there is a lot of talk of slang, Scandinavian culture, winter activities, and what exactly lutefisk is.
The voice of Dylan's sister, Alexis, is possibly one of the most over-the-top character voices in a cartoon, which is saying a lot. What was the inspiration to have her sound like some sort of valley girl fallen into toxic waste?
I like that description of the voice. We were struggling with the character of Alexis early on, because we knew what she needed to be, which is the exact opposite of Dylan: blond, popular, civic/school minded, religious. But given the constraints of doing 10-minute episodes, we knew we wouldn't be able to explore that right off the bat since the show needed to focus on Golan and Dylan. So Alexis was coming off flat and kinda cliche.
We decided to let the voice casting help define the character. It was Nick Weidenfeld [head of ADHD] who tossed out the idea of exploring the kind of awful-sounding, post-Kardashian girl that seems to exist these days, where it frankly sounds like there is something wrong with their brains when they talk. Rachel Butera won a contest doing impressions of the various sideshow regulars who appear on Howard Stern, so she was able to channel that deranged sensibility. We thought we might have gone too far with the voice, so we also immediately determined it was exactly what we needed.
On the subject of character voices, there was a rumor going that you had to audition Mark Hamill for a part. Is it hard to imagine someone with such an already defined character voicing one of your creations?
It can be, and was indeed an issue with some other actors who auditioned (and will remain unnamed). Not with Hamill though. Most people don't seem to know, but Hamill is one of the busiest voice actors in the business, and you'd never recognize him by his voices. He was the Joker in the Batman cartoons for nearly two decades. I've always wanted to work with him, so I couldn't pass up bringing him in. His audition was fantastic, but we ended up moving the character he read for in a different direction that just didn't work with the voice. I'm hoping we can bring him back for something else, should the show continue on.
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