Titan Maximum Interview with Rachael Leigh Cook

Rachael Leigh Cook is a lovely, accomplished actress who is equal parts charming and down to earth, which makes you wonder what terrible secret somebody at Stoopid Monkey Productions knows about her, as she's done many voices on Robot Chicken and is playing Jodi in Titan Maximum. We talked to Rachael about playing Jodi, her acting career, and the trauma that can arise from being the face of a dog biscuits company.

So tell us how you got into the show.

I've been working with Seth, Matt and Tom on Robot Chicken here and there for the last couple of years. I love those guys and when they said that they were going to do a new show and that they were interested in having me be one of their regulars, I said, "Yes," pretty much without reading it.

But I was really happy and comfortable with the idea of playing the Jodi character because she's just... I think we have a lot in common. She's very... Her intentions are always in the right place. She really believes the best of people, expects, you know, that they're going to behave and she's sort of constantly foiled by life and her coworkers but she tries to keep a positive attitude.

And it's just a lot of fun to play. I love the writing. They're just a great bunch. I'm just thrilled to be a part of it.

Were you a big fan of all of these shows that Titan Maximum is kind of parodying when you were growing up?

You know what? I'm just going to get in so much trouble. I have no idea what they're talking about. I really don't know. I really need a crash course in all of these things that, you know, that the show is probably referencing. I really just try to come at it from a pretty standard actor's perspective, just, you know, okay, so, I'm being hit in the stomach - what's hitting me? How hard? What kind of noise do you want me to make? You know, just really standard kinds of things.

But I'm sort of getting, just by practicing, a mini-education. I think Seth was telling me it was based on this sort of - the idea behind a lot of the Japanese animated shows - "from many, one," and "our numbers are our strength" kind of thing and just - I don't know. I think it's really cool.

You've done a lot of animation acting, for Batman Beyond, and Final Fantasy. How is this different from that?

(laughs) It's a hell of a lot sillier. They don't try to, you know, make me laugh sometimes. And Final Fantasy, a lot of the battle sequence acting is a little bit more serious and voice acting gigs like that, it's just, I don't know, it has to be - I mean, you're working backwards.

When we voice Final Fantasy, we're looping English over the sort of mouth shapes that are being created by Japanese actors that are originally animated to say those words. So it's a lot of precision things. Like, they'll say, "You need to make this phrase shorter and stretch out that part," even though it doesn't feel right for performances. It's what's going to match. So it's a lot more technical, whereas this is just what makes everybody in the room laugh. So that's sort of where we're coming from.

Do you record your role on your own or do they bring you in with the other actors?

I think I've been lucky enough to have Seth sort of read off lines for me sometimes. Like, he'll say like, you know, "Breckin said this line like that, so you should respond with this kind of cadence to make fun of him," or something like that.

If someone has a time slot near mine, we'll record together. That hasn't happened very often, though. It's fun when I get to record scenes where my character interacts with Seth though, because he's always just so hands on. I think I've done every recording session I've ever done, maybe save for one, with him, with him around, or directing the episode or what have you. He really is just so involved in the quality control of everything he does. I really respect that.

I guess as an actor he knows how to direct actors well.

Oh, totally. And nobody knows comedy better than Seth. I just think that he and Matt and Breckin and everyone involved - they're just galaxies beyond me in terms of their understanding of humor. I have such admiration for it.

Do you often change lines to make it fit you better, or do you guys generally stay on script?

Um, yeah, I think that if anyone goes off script, it's probably Breckin. I don't mean that to sell him out, it's just he and Seth are so like-minded about the things they like, and I think that he can switch up a line and it could easily make it into the show, whereas I might do something by accident that they'll say, "Well, that was funny, we're leaving that in," or "Make your voice crack at the end of that scream, or something, like what just happened, because that's funny." Anything I do that's funny is usually by accident.

This show, as opposed to Robot Chicken, has a big overarching story. When you're playing this character, do you have to keep that in mind, like, "I need to be here at the end of this episode but I need to get here by the end of this one?"

That's a really good question. I think that they really keep that in mind with the writing, and yeah, you're constantly asking, "What are the stakes? What's going on in this imaginary world?"

Like, okay, my part of the spaceship is plummeting but is it as bad as when something similar happens toward the end of the episode? You have to make sure that there is some sort of levels to it and they keep a really close eye on that. It's a funny process and it's all very silly so we get away with a ton, but that doesn't mean that they're not trying at every turn.

And I think that it's an interesting job that I have because she's sort of, you know, Jodi is sort of the one who is supposed to have her foot in some type of reality. All of the other characters are pretty over the top in one way or another. Either they're like a monkey that doesn't speak or the whore of the galaxy or what have you. It's all pretty ridiculous. I think, as the jobs go, mine is pretty much the most straightforward.

Okay, totally switching gears, we were doing some research about you on the Internet.

Oh, God.

And, according to one source we saw, you were a model on a box of dog biscuits.

(laughs) Yeah, that's true. I was a child!

Do you still have the box?

I think my parents do.

How was it to go to the grocery store and see yourself in the aisle?

Well, what's hysterical is that the person - it was a little boy who was on the box before me - and he was on it, I heard, for like fifteen years or so, and I think that the box I was on ran maybe ten. I don't know. It was really around for a long time. I'd get a call from my accountant or somebody and he'd be like, "You're not going to believe this, I'm in the pet food aisle..." and I'd be like, "Oh, here we go..."

But it's not a good thing when you're - you know, I mean, I thought like, "Oh my goodness, this is so fancy." I thought it was pretty neat. I was a pretty shy kid, but you know, little things like that gave me confidence, but then it came around and it totally slapped me in the face. Because when you're in fourth grade and you're posing next to a dog, all that's going to happen is that people are going to say, "Ha, ha, which one is the dog?" And then you end up crying. (laughs) It's just horrible. Yeah, so I definitely got made fun of for that as well.

So, outside of Titan and Robot Chicken, what have been some of your favorite acting projects so far?

I'm having a great time working on Psych, which is a show for USA. I'm, sort of, in and out of that one. Last season and this one I'm the love interest to sort of throw a wrench in the works so he can't get together - the lead psychic detective, or not psychic detective - can get together with the person who he's supposed to end up with, the lady detective on the police force. So, I'm sort of there to just keep them apart for another episode so it doesn't go Moonlighting.

Is there anything else you want us to ask that we didn't ask?

Oh gosh, um, I don't know. I'm super-excited about this show. I think everyone in that world knows Seth and knows that he does good projects, but if you guys have any ideas to help us get the word out, we're all ears, and I really appreciate you doing this. That's all I can say.

Here's a question we've been asking a lot of people today - if money and time were not an issue at all, what would your dream project be? or dream role?

It's really funny but I was just waiting in the lobby. I was going to meet with my agent, and I got to talking to this guy who was waiting to meet with his agent. He was a writer. And he, out of nowhere said, "You should totally play, like, a hitman."

I was like, "That's the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard." He said, "No, it would be amazing, no one would ever suspect you. It would be really funny." And I thought, "That is what has to happen." So that's sort of like my new, temporary, but very unlikely dream role for right now. I think it would be kind of hilarious and unexpected.

Your character is kind of the straight person.

Yeah, definitely.

And sometimes the straight characters from the other shows will show a dark side or a weird side, like Lois in Family Guy or Frylock in Aqua Teen...

Right.

Is there any sort of ugly underbelly that's going to develop for your character? A dark side?

You know, I'd like to see that. I would really like to see that. Do I think that she'll turn like Seth's character and go rogue? I doubt it, but God willing, if we get to season three and we want to mix it up, I think that's an awesome idea.

Titan Maximum premieres Sunday, Sept. 27 at 11:30p ET/PT on [adult swim]