With a career that has spanned just over two decades now, there’s no denying that acting is more than likely akin to child’s play for Jason Ritter. Which should certainly serve him well for his latest role that sees him stepping into the shoes of, well a child! Premiering tonight on the Disney Channel, GRAVITY FALLS finds Ritter voicing the character of Dipper Pines, who along with twin sister Mabel are in for an unexpected adventure when they spend the summer with their great uncle in the mysterious town of… you guessed it… Gravity Falls. We caught up with Ritter late last week to find out what attracted him to the project, whether or not co-star Kristen Schaal is as funny as advertised, and of course what’s in store for PARENTHOOD fans when our favorite family drama returns this fall.
Aside from being a remarkable comedic actor, one of your late father’s (John Ritter) legacies was that of voicing Clifford the Big Red Dog. Was his wonderful work in the animated world the impetus for you to try your hand at voicing a character on GRAVITY FALLS?
Jason Ritter: It wasn’t necessarily. That was so much fun to see him do that, but he was always a big animation fan so I became one from a young age. I remember every year going to animation festivals in Los Angeles and watching a bunch of beautiful strange shorts so I’ve always been a big fan of the magic of animation, making these completely stationary pictures move and creating the illusion. Basically for the pilot of GRAVITY FALLS, I received this script and I thought it was really funny and unique and new so I auditioned for it and ended up getting the part and I couldn’t be happier or feel lucky, it’s so much fun.
Having watched the first episode, it would appear that this is the type of show that audiences of all ages can enjoy.
Exactly! I feel like a lot of shows and a lot of cartoon movies and things will have all the jokes for the kids and then they’ll sneak in some jokes for the adults that fly under the kid’s radar. But what I really liked about this show is that the jokes and humour are just funny for everyone. They’re not dumbing it down to make kids laugh it’s just things that are universally hilarious, just genuinely weird and bizarre and great jokes. So that was one of the things that really interested me, how funny and bizarre and how surprising the world of GRAVITY FALLS is. You sort of think you know where an episode is going and all of sudden things get crazy and strange.
How much thought went into creating the unique voice of the character?
It’s such an interest thing because you kind of get to know it as you go along. I remember when I auditioned, my audition was slightly different and in the first couple of sessions with [Creator] Alex Hirsch and some of the other executives on the show we kind of were like less of this, a little bit more of this, turn that up, this down and eventually we kind of landed on something that made us all feel good. And it’s funny because the voice of Dipper kind of took on a life of its very own. Dipper has this laugh that I don’t really do but one day my character had to do a lot of laughing and it sort of came out from getting into the head of the character. It just came out that this is how he would laugh, this is how he would enjoy life and that’s how he does it. So sometimes there’s a lot of thinking about it and sometimes it’s about trying to shut your mind off and not over think it and kind of go with it.
Your co-star Kristen Schall’s voice is one of those hilariously memorable ones. Did you get to work with her at all, or was most of the show recording in separate studios?
Well she lives in New York so for the most part we’re separate but she was in LA at one point and we got to go into the studio together and we got to record and it was so much fun. After that, as much as they could schedule wise, they started to have her sessions in New York overlap with mine in LA so we could do the scenes that we have together and hear each other in our headphones at least and that was really fun. She’s such a hilarious person and such an incredible improviser and it was great to just sort of bounce off each other and follow her lead.
And finally, I can’t possibly let you go without one PARENTHOOD-related question. What are you most excited about exploring next season in terms of Sarah and Mark’s relationship?
I am mainly just excited that I am coming back. [Editor's Note: This interview was conducted prior to the news that Ray Romano would be joining the cast for a multi-episode arc!] I have no idea what the storyline is going to be but one of the things that is so great about PARENTHOOD is that it is so unpredictable and every time they come up with something or some storyline it’s so much more beautiful than anything than I could have foreseen and I just am so excited. On a lesser show they would have cheapened my character’s relationship with Lauren Graham’s character and really focused on the age difference and made it some sort of sensational thing. Where as I love how they are exploring what that is to fall in love with someone where there is a little age gap and the great things about that and the difficult things that about that. I’m just excited we continue to explore that because I don’t think it’s something we get to see often on television, people having a real connection but at different places in their lives.
GRAVITY FALLS premieres on Friday June 29th at 9PM on the Disney Channel (Friday, July 6 at 4:30PM ET/PT in Canada)