Interview: Ryan Potter, Hiro in “Big Hero 6”

Posted on February 24, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Ryan Potter provided the voice for Hiro in this week’s DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week, the Oscar-winning Big Hero 6. Talking to him on the phone, it was easy to imagine I was talking to Hiro himself.

Other than a few moments with Maya Rudolph, who played Hiro’s harried guardian, he did not interact with the other voice performers. But, he told me, he was never recording by himself. “You know, it’s funny, sometimes you work with another actor, sometimes you don’t, but you are never really in a room by yourself. You are in the room with people just as important as other voice cast members of the film. You are in the room with the head of production, the director, the producer, the editor, the sound engineer the head of story. You get to create with people just as important to the film as let’s say Scott Adsit, who played Baymax. So you’re never in there by yourself.”

Copyright 2014 Walt Disney Studios
Copyright 2014 Walt Disney Studios

He was excited to find out that “Baymax is kind of a real thing. Someone over at Carnegie has created soft robotics and it’s unreal. There’s kind of danger of having a robot nurse or a robot caregiver is that they could potentially harm you because they are made out of metal. And we’re not made of metal so we are definitely susceptible to being injured by that. But having a soft kind of robot, not pliable but a rubbery or a bouncy nurse would make total sense. They would be able to be a caregiver without harming you.”

Potter told me that the filmmakers wanted “to cast true to Hiro’s ethnicity, which was Japanese-American. They just couldn’t quite find somebody and I guess they didn’t know about me at the time. And they were calling school programs and church groups. Don Hall was not going to give up on casting a Japanese-American, so when they found out about me I guess they were very excited and it kind of showed in the audition process. You usually to go in do this whole song and dance and go, ‘Oh how did I do?’ and the casting director would go like, ‘Alright, thank you, bye.’ This time I went in and I met Don and he was kind of quizzing me on Japanese pop culture. The two of us vibed. Instead of an audition it was more of a work session. It kind of created what Hiro ended up being in that audition. At the end of the day it came down to me being myself. And it was very surreal, I walked out of there very confident in what would we had done and couple hours later they called and asked what my availability was, and if I could send them everything I have done work wise. A couple weeks later we got the call that we got it and I’m like, ‘You are sure you don’t want to do a second audition?’ It was great.”

Copyright 2015 Ryan Potter
Copyright 2015 Ryan Potter

In creating the character, Potter had “a little bit of source material with the comic books,” but “Disney wanted to do their own interpretation. I saw how similar he looked to me when I was 13/14 years old. I went in there and said, ‘that looks at me when I was in middle school.’ So it was great.” He has spent a lot of time in both San Francisco and Tokyo, so he especially enjoyed the imaginary world of “San Fransokyo.” “Being able to see the blend is just uncanny. Tokyo is in a constant state of renewal. When a building gets too old they tear it down and build something new. And San Francisco is the very opposite. They appreciated heritage and preserve it to the best of their ability. So seeing how well they blended the two cities is absolutely unreal. They didn’t lean heavily to one side or the other. It’s literally the perfect 50-50 blend of both Tokyo and San Francisco.”

He feels that 2014 was one of the best years in the history of film, especially films with very smart heroes. “The Theory of Everything,” “Whiplash,” “the Imitation Game” are just three that like “Big Hero 6″ celebrate smart individuals in their field. It is an absolute honor to be able to be in ‘Big Hero 6’ and to represent one of the most successful films of the year in a year where film was as important as it was 75 years ago, in a year of legendary classics.”

He is also proud of the film’s ground-breaking representation of diversity on screen, “what the United States genuinely looks like. If the United States is the melting pot of the world you need entertainment, you need visuals that represent that. They were the first multicultural animated Disney characters of all time. I am very proud to be able to be a part of the film that’s going to open so many door for the Asian American community and the Latin American community and the African American community.”

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