Entertainment Weekly asks veteran actor J.K. Simmons about his role in Kung Fu Panda 3
J.K. Simmons has been acting for over 40 years, so he knows a thing or two about playing all kinds of characters. He’s played soft-hearted characters, outlandish characters, evil characters, dads, friends, bosses. He’s been in movies (Whiplash, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, Junebug, Terminator Genisys), TV shows (“Gravity Falls,” “Law & Order,” “Oz“), animation (“The Legend of Korra,” “American Dad,” “Kim Possible“), even commercials (he voices Yellow for the M&Ms ads). And this time he’ll be voicing the villainous Kai in the third film of the Kung Fu Panda franchise. EW got to ask him a few questions about his role:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What drew you to theKung Fu Panda series?
J.K. SIMMONS: When my agent sent me the offer my only question was, “Is it the same creative team that made the first two films?” My whole family is big fans of the first two, so I was happy to jump on board.
Why is Kai a role you wanted to play?
He’s smart enough and funny enough for parents to not be sitting there catching up on their emails. There are great life lessons. One of my favorite lines ever is in this movie, where the mentor, Master Shifu, says to the student, “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now.”
Kai is touted as the supreme villain of the series. How did you prevent making him too terrifying?
I think adding the humorous aspect of Kai. He was the new bad guy, and he was supposed to be scary, but [the filmmakers]don’t want people carrying their screaming 5-year-olds out of the theater.
[He makes a] big, triumphant return [after]having been banished to the spirit realm, kind of assuming the entire world had been living in fear, but really nobody knows who he is — we had fun with that dichotomy.
You’ve done your share of voice work. How did Kung Fu Panda 3compare?
I’ve been your yellow M&M for, oh, at least two decades or so, and I’ve done a lot of other animated stuff in between. This was great. Once I knew that this was going to be the same team that made the first two films, I was completely confident I was in good hands.
You won an Oscar for playing another fearsome figure, Fletcher, in Whiplash. Who’s more intimidating, him or Kai?
Well, Fletcher doesn’t kill anybody or steal anybody’s soul, so with the swinging ax blades, I think Kai is a little scarier.
Read the full interview at EW.com