Movies & TV / Columns Interviews: Big Hero 6 Stars Ryan Potter and Daniel Henney

February 24, 2015 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris

Ahead of the upcoming home video release for the hit Disney and Marvel animated movie, Big Hero 6, I had the chance to speak to the star voice actors from the film Ryan Potter and Daniel Henney. Potter provides the voice for the film’s main character in Hiro Hamada, and Henney voices his older brother Tadashi. The film has been overwhelming success and just won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Ahead of Big Hero 6, Potter starred in the hit Nickelodeon TV series, Supah Ninjas as the lead character Mike Fukanaga. He also got the chance to voice Hiro Hamada yet again in Disney Infinity 2.0. Henney appeared in recurring roles on such TV shows as Hawaii Five-0 and Revolution. His film work includes another Marvel property, as he played Agent Zero in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He later appeared in The Last Stand opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here is what Henney and Potter had to say about being a part of a classic Disney animated feature:

Jeffrey Harris: Daniel, do you prefer playing the evil brother on Hawaii Five-O or the nicer brother in Big Hero 6?

Daniel Henney: To be honest with you, the evil brother is easier because when you’re evil you have no rules. That’s the thing about playing bad guys. There are no rules, so it’s more fun. But Tadashi, I’ve never had a brother before so I had to tonally figure out how to speak to a brother, and plus you have to stay in the guidelines of who he is. He’s a great guy, a big guy, a pure person. You got to watch yourself sometimes, so it’s a lot of fun.

Jeffrey Harris: Ryan, you have lived in Japan for part of your, so what was it like to see San Fransokyo in the film and see the mixture of architecture?

Ryan Potter: It’s spot on, yeah. Like you said, I grew up in Tokyo. I basically spent every holiday season in San Francisco. So I know both cities. I know what they look like. I know them like the back of my hand. I also know the feel of the city. To get the look of something is pretty easy. You can kind of look at photos and kind of re-imagine it in your own way, but to get the feel of both cities – that is attributed to their research and the field work these guys did. Paul Felix, the production designer, absolutely blew my mind with the stuff that I saw. Even the smallest details, Hiro and Baymax, the first time they go out to fight crime they’re running through this alley. In Japan, they have these plastic cartons to get rid of the recycling. And there they are, those plastic cartons piled high at the back of people’s backdoors. Someone who lives in the United States won’t necessarily know what those are. Someone in Japan might know what those are. And the cable car. Maybe someone in Japan doesn’t necessarily know what the cable car is, like Market and whatever street. But someone in the United States will know what it is. So it is such a perfect blend of both worlds. It is absolutely seamless.

Jeffrey Harris: When I saw the architecture of the Golden Gate Bridge mashed together with the Itsukushima Shrine torii gate, my jaw dropped. Like, I want to live in that city.

Ryan Potter: I do too.

Jeffrey Harris: So where were you and what were you doing when you got the roles and what were your reactions?

Ryan Potter: Where was I? I was in the car with my mom and my agent called asked if we were sitting down. So we were like, “Oh no!” He was like, “Yeah. It’s going forward.” We were like, “What?! Are you sure? Me?” “Yeah.” I was just in the care with my mom and just one thing led to another.

Daniel Henney: Wow. I think I was just at home, and I got the call. But I had been on pins and needles because I had done the audition, and I thought it went really well. Then I didn’t hear anything for a couple weeks, which is strange. You usually hear something like you’re on hold, they liked you – it was just dead silence. And then I got the call, “You got it.” I had a little moment. Freaked out a little bit, danced with my dog, you know, had a beer. No specific order.

Jeffrey Harris: How long ago was it for you two?

Ryan Potter: I’m coming up on two years, so I’ve been a part of Big Hero 6 about a year and seven months.

Daniel Henney: Yeah, about a year for me.

Jeffrey Harris: The whole heart of the movie is the brother relationship between Hiro and Tadashi. So was that biggest part of it in tonally getting that relationship right? Those older and younger brother moments?

Ryan Potter: Absolutely. I think from the very beginning of creating the film it was finding an important part of the story, and they really rested it on Hiro and Tadashi and then Hiro and Baymax and how that relationship almost translates. Basically, that’s the heart of the story.

Daniel Henney: Yeah, it was tough too because – especially for Tadashi because we didn’t have a lot of time to get that across. I had to do that in 20 minutes.

Ryan Potter: You got to love him really fast.

Daniel Henney: You got to love him really fast. That was the tricky part. The directors and producers worked to that very much. Tone was very important. So all in all, in retrospect that’s how it turned out. I know I’m not the first actor that they tried for that. It’s not because I’m a better actor, it’s also about specific voice tone too. I think it took them a long time because they knew how important – they knew exactly what you just said. If this doesn’t work, the movie doesn’t work. So it was a very specific thing they were looking for, and I was very lucky I got to do that.

Jeffrey Harris: Daniel, even though we don’t spend a lot of time with Tadashi and he goes away early, the audience feels his presence throughout the rest of the movie either through the video messages or just through Baymax himself. To feel that you got to help create that part of the character, what did you think when you saw the finished product?

Daniel Henney: The whole experience was very special to be honest with you. Even if he wouldn’t have come back after 10 minutes, if he just opened the movie, I would have done it. But I was very thankful to the creators because they didn’t have to do it like that. They did. He does exist very much after his death in many ways. He’s spoken about often in the group of friends. Baymax says his name a bunch of times. He comes back in the video. He’s there constantly, so I was very happy. I’m really proud that people have embraced him even though he was there for just a little bit of time, so I’m grateful.

Jeffrey Harris: I’m very glad I was wrong, but I initially predicted that Tadashi was going to be Yokai.

Daniel Henney: Really?!

Jeffrey Harris: Yeah.

Daniel Henney: I don’t even think I thought of that until I read that somewhere. Some critic said, “I thought he was going to come back as the villain.” God, I didn’t even think of that.

Jeffrey Harris: It’s like, “Luke, I am your father!” You know?

Ryan Potter: *Laughs* It’s so twisted! Oh man! I can’t – some people were tweeting me like, “I know who the villain is! It’s the brother!” I’m like, “Guys. This is Disney. It’s not just Marvel. This is Disney-Marvel.”

Daniel Henney: That would have been so twisted.

Ryan Potter: No, kids would’ve walked out of that theater completely mortified.

Jeffrey Harris: I’m glad I was wrong.

Ryan Potter: *Laughs* Yeah.

Jeffrey Harris: Ryan, Supah Ninjas was such a fun show.

Ryan Potter: Oh, absolutely.

Jeffrey Harris: What was it like for you with your first big show getting to work with guys like Randall Park and George Takei? And Randall Park is just blowing up right now.

Ryan Potter: I say that Randall Park is still the most unfamous famous person to this day. He was that two years ago. He had 12 national commercials running in the year of 2012. And then he got Kim Jong Un and Fresh Off the Boat and Supah Ninjas. He’s literally the Asian Dude in everything. In every movie. His comedic timing is so unmatched, I don’t understand how he’s not famous yet. Being able to work on Supah Ninjas was a lot of fun mainly because of the people I got to work with. Carlos [Knight] and Gracie [Dzienny] are two of my closest friends, and George is like a grandfather to me. He’s a mentor. Randall is a really close family friend. Working on the show for eight months a year and then six months the next year, everyone grew so close together. It was like family. We had fun.

Jeffrey Harris: Daniel, you also did Agent Zero in Wolverine. You [Ryan] did Supah Ninjas and then you did this show. So let’s keep the superhero motif going. Marvel’s doing a bunch of shows for Netflix. DC has a boatload of shows in the works. Superheroes are the huge thing right now. Who do you want to play next?

Daniel Henney: I don’t have anyone specifically in mind, but if I do, we were talking about a fleshy colored super-suit that I might want to do. Something really interesting. *In an effeminate voice* I’m here to save the day. I have no idea to be honest with you. I’m open to anything, and I don’t discriminate. It’s kind of hard after you play one Marvel character and blow up in a helicopter–

Jeffrey Harris: I don’t think you’re dead.

Daniel Henney: I don’t think I’m dead either.

Jeffrey Harris: They are going to do Wolverine 3. They are doing Deadpool. Let’s get you back in there.

Daniel Henney: If you start it, I’ll jump on that bandwagon. Bring Agent Zero back. He’s a pleasant guy. So he shot a grandpa and grandma?

Jeffrey Harris: Deadpool’s done even worse, and they’re making a whole movie about him. Ryan what about you?

Ryan Potter: I feel bad because I’m forgetting his name, but in Teen Titans, the Robin in Teen Titans; there’s two versions–

Jeffrey Harris: There is Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake.

Ryan Potter: Tim Drake and Dick Grayson are the two that people have tweeted me. That would be super cool to be able to play that. To see a different version – see an Asian American Robin. Why not? Or maybe in a couple of years see a Nighthawk. But I don’t know. There really aren’t a lot of real Asian superheroes. That’s why this film is [so good].

Jeffrey Harris: Let’s get you in the new Power Rangers movie. That’s coming out next year.

Ryan Potter: It is. It’s funny you say that. That may be happening. We’ll see.

Jeffrey Harris: How did you like coming back as Hiro for the Disney Infinity game?

Ryan Potter: It was just like a quick little thing for a couple hours one day. It was awesome because I hadn’t finished recording for the film. It was a lot of specific Infinity like lines that we did. It was just a lot of fun. It’s a kids’ game; a lot of really fun lines.

Jeffrey Harris: Daniel, you mentioned this earlier. This is really the first Disney animated movie with Asian Americans as lead characters. To give that to the world is really special because as you said, this film is what America looks like. It’s everyone. And I am happy to see Asian Americans get better representations that way. There was Mulan before, but that was a period piece, Chinese folktale. This is a modern, contemporary story.

Ryan Potter: Yeah. Even with that, there was a little bit of controversy here and there with that project.

Daniel Henney: And people had a preconceived idea of what Mulan would be. This was an original story basically. This is something very new.

Jeffrey Harris: And these were three dimensional characters. Great characters.

Daniel Henney: Strong characters.

Ryan Potter: It’s interesting because people were trying to start controversy like, “Well. If they’re Japanese American, why is Daniel [in the movie]?” (Henney happens to be Korean American, but he voices a Japanese American character in the film). It doesn’t matter. They’re Asian American. Someone was like, “Well, why is Maya Rudolph playing Aunt Cass?” Well, we actually don’t really specify if Aunt Cass if Aunt Cass is the Japanese side of the family or the Caucasian side of the family.

Daniel Henney: We don’t even specify if she’s blood related.

Ryan Potter: Exactly. Maybe she’s the Caucasian sister to the Caucasian mother of the two boys. You don’t know. The fact that they even cast us for the roles and cast Genesis Rodriguez for Honey Lemon and Jamie [Chung] for GoGo Tomago and Damon [Wayans Jr.] as Wasabi – the casting is so spot on that – people are just trying to find something. There’s nothing to be found.

Daniel Henney: That’s just the nature of how people tend to be these days. It’s a beautiful thing when you’re in a theater and you’re sitting there and you see these families. Whether it’s a Latino family or a Hispanic family or a Caucasian family, these kids are watching these characters and they’re saying, “It’s Hiro! It’s Tadashi!” I’m thinking to myself, “When I was a kid, you wouldn’t have seen kids saying those names.” You wouldn’t have seen kids saying those Asian names with Asian heroes on the screen. It’s a testament to Disney and what they are trying to do and taking those risks. That’s why I’m so proud to be in it. It’s a pretty big step forward.

Jeffrey Harris: For Ryan, your line that connected to me the most was when Hiro was looking at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology and he says, “I really want to go here.” You can really here the emotion in that line, and it spoke to me on a personal level because I think back to when I was that age, well older than Hiro because he is like a prodigy, but having that sense of what you want to do and what school you want to go to.

Ryan Potter: Yeah. Absolutely.

Jeffrey Harris: Was it difficult to go that place and get your voice to that level?

Ryan Potter: It was very easy. Obviously, I’m applying for school right now, so I know that feeling. I want to go to this art school. Entrance is purely judged on your artistic ability. They look at your grades, but it’s not a huge factor. The average GPA at the school is whatever. They don’t care about that. They want to produce the next Tim Burton, the next David Fincher. You know what I mean? The next Walt Disney. And they’ve done that time and time again. So that’s the reason I want to go to the school that I’m going to. I know that feeling. I’m still there.

Jeffrey Harris: Gentlemen, thanks so much for your times. Congratulations on this great movie. Both of you are in the Disney history books now, so congrats.

Ryan Potter: Thanks.

Daniel Henney: Thank you so much man.

Thank you to Ryan Potter and Daniel Henney for taking the time to speak with us. Big Hero 6 hits Blu-ray and DVD on February 24.

article topics :

Big Hero 6, Marvel, Jeffrey Harris