Sarah Silverman started out with a small role in films like There’s Something About Mary and Say It Isn’t So, before she emerged as one of the most controversial and provocative comedians of the era, capping off her success with her own Comedy Central series The Sarah Silverman Program.
Now the 41 year-old crosses off her appeal to the animated realm with a role Vanellope von Schweetz in the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph.
Wreck-It Ralph stars John C. Reilly as the title character, a villain of a 1982 video arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. who becomes bored with his job, so he escapes from his game world to become a hero in other ones, unintentionally causing chaos to the natural order of things. Sarah’s character Vanellope is a 9-year-old racer from a go-kart video arcade game called Sugar Rush.
She talks about her first impression of her character.
“Reading the script and seeing like the original sketches,” Silverman says, “It just, I don’t know, I was like, ‘Ah, she talks like this,’ uses just like a higher voice, and maybe like I’ve got a cold because she’s scrappy, like a permanent cold.”
Silverman discussed her delight at how much the character design of Vanellope captured her likeness.
“I was like, ‘Wow,’ she says, “I mean, first, as the character developed, the sketches changed and stuff. And then, when I first saw like, the eyebrows and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s like me.’ You know, and when the hair turned black in a ponytail. And it’s so neat, it’s already so cool to be in a Disney movie.”
“They don’t want to just crank them out,” Sarah continues, “They take a lot of time and are constantly honing and tweaking, and making every moment as rich as possible. And it’s cool to be a part of that. And then to see like, ‘Oh, if I didn’t forget to have children, that could have been my kid, maybe would like that.’”
Sarah was asked if Disney had any concern about her being on board for Wreck-It Ralph.
“I know,” Silverman says, “It’s like, “Do they only know me from like Monk and Yo Gabba Gabba! or something? No, you know, they knew full well what they were getting into, but they found it worth it.”
“And I am shocked and grateful,” she adds, “But you look at the dirtiest comic of the 80’s was Eddie Murphy, and he’s slipped into this world pretty seamlessly, but I have other sides of me that can be lovely and child-appropriate.”
Silverman was asked if she ever imagined she would ever be a Disney character, with an action figure.
“No, I didn’t,” she says, “But I’ve also learned not to have any expectations. I remember my therapist saying, it’s such a Jewish beginning of a sentence, I was stressing about, ‘Well, and what if I never… and what if?’”
“And he goes, ‘Have you ever predicted anything in your life?’” Sarah adds, “And I’m like, ‘No.’ “Oh, and have you ever predicted anything in your life?’ ‘No.’ So we don’t know what’s coming. But yeah, I was thrilled, and surprised, and happy. I mean, unfortunately for them, it’s landing on an election year when I’m at my most polarizing. But if Disney can’t bring Democrats and Republicans together, I don’t know what can.”
Sarah was also asked if she had to prepare for her role as Vanellope any way.
“No,” Silverman says, “I mean, I read this part and we worked piece by piece by piece, and I just know her. I think she’s kind of an every man, an every girl. She’s this scrappy, obnoxious, precocious, tough kid. But behind every tough kid is a scared little boy or girl. And so I think she’s very human and relatable in that way.”
It was brought up whether Silverman was like Vanellope in any way as a child.
“Terrified, tough kid?” Silverman replies, “Yes.”
Silverman was asked if she had any input to Vanellope’s looks and mannerisms.
“I mean, I didn’t give notes to the artists,” Sarah replies, “I just was there and they have, in the recesses of the room and the shadows, there’s a camera, and like a little camera on each of us.”
“And I didn’t, I only every once in a while would notice it and, ‘What’s that for?’” she adds, “And then, you know, as you see animation, the things come up, there’s mannerisms and little features that are a little more similar and stuff. So I think that’s something they want to do. I mean, look at Jane. Jane looks just like Jane. It’s so cool.”
Silverman was asked about what it was like to work with John C. Reilly and whether or not she did any improvising during the recording sessions.
“It was so cool,” Sarah answers, “We got to sit right across, you know, stand right across from each other. And we could play the scenes, and really look in each others’ eyes, and, and improvise. And I think it gave our dynamic in the movie, that little extra something that you wouldn’t get if we were each alone in a booth.”
She also talks about what she got as a parting gift, now that she is immortalized as a Disney character.
“They gave me the doll that you press her and it’s like right in her throat, right, there’s something like, ‘Ugh,’ Silverman says, “But yeah, you press the button and I had recorded stuff and it’s so, it’s so cool.”
Silverman went on to express how she felt about being immortalized as a Disney character.
“It’s exciting, you know. [Walt Disney Animation studios chief creative officer John Lasseter, I saw and I said, ‘This is such a gift you’ve given me, you know,’” Sarah says, “ And he said, ‘Yeah, I have. I’ve given you a gift. And Vanellope is going to be someone that’s in peoples’ homes for beyond your years.’ And I was like, ‘Ah, that’s so neat.’”
Silverman was asked whether she had ventured into video arcades in her youth.
“Yeah, we had a place called Space Center in New Hampshire where I live,” Sarah remembers, “And actually, in northern New Hampshire is Fun Spot where King of Kong takes place, the movie where the grown men are very into Donkey Kong that compete.”
“Yeah, my sisters and I played video games at night, that was like the thing to do at night,” she adds, “And our local Dairy Queen had a game called Joust that I mastered while eating a dipped cone.”
Sarah talked about what she had planned for the future.
“I have a bunch of different things, but I’m going to do another special,” Silverman says, “So it’s been seven years, so it seems like time, and I’ve got a lot of new stuff I want to put out there. And I have an app coming out at the end of this month. You’re not going to believe it. It’s for babies and toddlers, because I love kids.”
“It’s like I know I don’t have any, but I’m crazy about babies and toddlers and I have a whole other thing of – I have a whole other set of material that’s for babies and toddlers that I do. I kill with them. So I said, “I’m going to make an app.” I think I’m going to call it Uncle Sarah. But it’s coming out at the end of the month. Been working on it all year. It’s so dumb. But it’s, you know, I think like people my age who are fans have kids, now have little kids. So I figured it would be fun.”