Bryan Cranston is getting used to playing offbeat characters with not-so-nice dual identities. First there was "Breaking Bad's" Walter White (aka Heisenberg), and now there's "SuperMansion's" Titanium Rex. Cranston's providing the voice for the crusty, crotchety, old-time superhero who leads a more than a little dysfunctional super-team/roommates called the League of Freedom. "SuperMansion," a Crackle original stop-motion animated series, comes from producer Seth Green and some of the team behind Adult Swim's "Robot Chicken."
After debuting the trailer at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Cranston sat down alongside "Workaholics" and "22 Jump Street" actress Jillian Bell, who plays Titanium Rex's daughter, for a chat with journalists. The actors revealed why they were eager to give voice to a new -- or rather, old -- breed of superhero.
Bryan, what hooked you about this project -- so much so that you wanted to not only voice Titanium Rex but also get hands-on creatively as a producer?
Bryan Cranston: Because they let me play with the doll. No, I think if it had been pitched as superheroes fighting other super villains -- yeah, OK, so? What really got me interested in doing this was they all live under the same roof, and they all have to deal with each other and the personal space. And it's like being in a dorm room. And who's not cleaning up after themselves? And who has personal hygiene problems? Who has an addiction problem? Who just threw up in the sink? Who's going to go shopping?
So I thought, "Wow, that's great." Because you have this whole world of fighting villains and doing this noble act, and then you have the real world that everybody can relate to about just having roommates, what that was like -- or is like -- for people. And it's like, that's a very relatable thing, so it gives audiences a chance to go, "Oh my God -- they're dealing with the same shit I've got to deal with. And yet now, they're superheroes!?"
Jillian Bell: They feel like, "I know that guy. I was roommates with that guy. He was the worst."
Cranston: But he couldn't fly.
Bell: Yeah, that's the difference.
What are some similarities between your character and yourselves?
Cranston: I can fly. I think my face is just like this guy.
Bell: No, it's not!
Cranston: No, Jillian, listen --
Bell: OK, I'm all ears.
Cranston: When I have no expression, really, when there's nothing going on, I look mean, and so does he. So watch.
Cranston relaxes his face, and it does indeed take on an intimidating look.
Bell: Can I see it! Jesus, man.
Cranston: You can see it, right? It's like, mothers take the hands of their children, [and say] 'come on.' So that's pretty much the main similarity. And I have big, beefy thighs.
Bell: That too. I'm sort of like Lexi, who I play, in that I'm a people pleaser, and I try to enjoy and have fun. And sometimes it doesn't happen, but that's fine. I'll just go home and hang out with my sister. We'll watch "Dateline." Did you get that on the tape?
Cranston: "To Catch a Predator."
Bell: I am obsessed.
Are you conversant in the superhero world enough that you get most of the inside-geek references in the show, like the comic book lore and tropes?
Bell: I feel like [writer] Zeb [Wells] had to explain a few things to me. He's been pretty wonderful but some things go over my head. But that's just me in general. I'm a stupid person.
Cranston: Oh, now, you're just slow, that's all. No, we work for geeks. We work for superhero geeks, in Zeb and Matt [Senreich], and so anything that we don't completely understand, we know they will [laughs]. And it's kind of sweet and sad at the same time, but they know it, and so they write. And it's all before us, and it's well written. It's well constructed. There's always some superhero elements to each episode, and yet there's also some domestic issue that they have to deal with. So it's fun.
Was there anything that you were surprised to learn?
Cranston: That we learned something about ourselves? I don't think so. I'm so self-centered, that I don't think that I'm open enough to learn anything new about myself.
Bell: Yeah, I've always said that about you. I met you today for the first time, but I've always said that about you.
Cranston: Yeah, and you were right. You're slow, but...
Bell: Yeah. Where is the bus, by the way?
Cranston: You're waiting for the number four? It's right out front.
Bryan, you got praise from Sir Anthony Hopkins for your performance on "Breaking Bad." Whose praise do you hope for next?
Bell: You got praise from Anthony Hopkins?
Cranston: Well, I call him, Tony, but... yeah, that was pretty amazing. I think that is why we did this, so we can play with puppets. [Cranston accidentally pops the head off of the Titanium Rex stop-motion puppet and fumbles to reattach it for a few moments before finally settling on a new configuration] I can put his head on backwards.
Bell: Whose praise do you want now?
Cranston: I just want my wife to appreciate and love me and not threaten me anymore.
"SuperMansion" starts streaming this fall on Crackle.