Muppets Most Wanted brings back our favorite felt characters, and a fresh trio of human actors that step up for Jason Segel and Amy Adams from The Muppets. We caught up with Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell to talk about their lifelong dream being achieved by appearing in a Muppets movie as well as how they have newly earned cred with the kids of the world, thanks to Muppets Most Wanted.
As shown in the Muppets Most Wanted trailer, Gervais plays a manager who takes the Muppets on a European tour with ulterior motives (he makes a great Muppet villain), Fey runs a gulag where Kermit mistakenly ends up and Burrell is a French Interpol agent who works closely with Sam the Eagle to crack the mystery at the heart of this latest Muppets adventure.
Gervais’ character is working closely with Kermit doppelganger, Constantine, who is one of the world’s leading criminal minds. “I love this guy,” Gervais said of Constantine. “He’s got it all. I think I’ve melted his heart a little bit. You see he had a bad upbringing. We bonded over our mutual hatred of most of the other Muppets.”
Besides their own personal joy, appearing in Muppets Most Wanted has allowed Fey, Gervais and Burrell to score points with cinema’s youngest audiences. They reported that the film continues the Muppets' long tradition of not talking down to children, all while simultaneously entertaining adults.
“It makes them feel big,” Fey said. “They’re going to like how funny the movie is because I think there are a lot of jokes in the movie -- kids will take a lot of pride in getting the jokes.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t patronize kids,” Gervais added. “It aims higher. I remember when I was a kid watching the Muppets. I had older brothers and sisters and they were laughing. I knew that it was cool. Kids like things that adults like.”
Burrell admitted that the Muppets truly understand where he’s coming from. “I have an IQ of a seven-year-old and I loved this movie so much. I also love juice,” Burrell said and everyone laughed.
But, don’t count on Burrell’s children being among those who are taken by the Modern Family’s star sudden Muppet-based fame. “My kids are still so unimpressed by me. I’m banking this one. I’ve learned this already from any other kids project (like his Mr. Peabody and Sherman) that I want to save my ego -- I’m going to bank this! I’m going to put it in in about five years or something. But so far, it’s one minute of, ‘Why is daddy on screen.’ And 90 minutes of, ‘I’m hungry.’”
Although Gervais does not have children, he found a way to connect. “I haven’t got children but when I found out I was doing this film I just went and hung around schools telling them,” he said and laughed. “I said, ‘Hey kids, you don’t know who I am yet but… do you know the Muppets? Yeah, you wait, you’re going to be impressed,’” Gervais said and laughed.
Fey’s kids are thrilled, but the star admitted that they probably wish mommy was someone else… like from Frozen. “They’re very excited to see the movie, but as far as me being in it -- they just want me to be Queen Elsa,” Fey said.
As Muppets Most Wanted is a musical (check out the opening number We’re Doing a Sequel), all three had to sing. Each was up for it, but credit songwriter Bret McKenzie for making them sound good.
“I was okay with singing. I’m a failed pop star. I always sneak a song into everything I do,” Gervais said. “But my dancing is a little awkward -- a little embarrassed about that. I don’t move well. But I was with a frog and he’s a great tap dancer. So it doesn’t matter. I’ll do anything with a frog. That’s my motto.”
Fey compares her singing to something that might grab dogs’ attention. “My singing sounds like if you’ve ever seen the version of Oliver when the little boy sings and you can hear the hiss,” Fey said. “But I think Bret wrote really good songs.”
As we stated, Gervais is an impeccable Muppets villain. Playing slimy characters is something the actor actually quite enjoys. “It’s quite nice playing a slimeball, a villain. I like that. I’ve liked playing flawed characters. It’s sort of an exorcism. You’re sort of saying, ‘See, I’m not really like that myself,’” Gervais said.
And playing a less than savory Hollywood agent wasn't too difficult for Gervais. “Because pretending to be a sleazy LA agent -- there aren’t any sleazy LA agents!”