Senreich talks "Robot Chicken: Star Wars: Episode II"

Sat, November 15th, 2008 at 5:58am PST | Updated: November 15th, 2008 at 9:54am

TV/Film
Jami Philbrick, Staff Writer

"Robot Chicken: Star Wars: Episode II" airs Sunday November 16 on Adult Swim

This weekend, the Chicken Strikes Back!

On the heels of last year's extremely popular “Robot Chicken: Star Wars,” co-creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich return with an all-new Star Wars send-up. “Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode II” follows the story of everyone’s favorite bounty hunter, Boba Fett. The show explores the role of bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe, while featuring sketches that spoof moments from throughout the entire Star Wars saga.

The episode premieres this Sunday, November 16 on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and is directed by Green himself. It features Star Wars icons Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams reprising their legendary roles as Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian, respectively. The impressive cast also features Conan O’Brien (“Late Night with Conan O’Brien,”) Andy Richter (“Blades Of Gory,”) Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”) as Emperor Palpatine and "Robot Chicken" writer Breckin Meyer as Boba Fett.

CBR News had a chance to speak with Matt Senreich about the new special, his self-proclaimed man-crush on Billy Dee Williams, and how Christian Slater stalked the "Robot Chicken" head writer to get a part on the show.

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CBR: To start with, what can fans of the series and the first “Robot Chicken: Star Wars” expect from Episode II?

Matt Senreich: It’s one of those things where with the first Star Wars special, we really just kind of did everything that all the geeks were talking about for years. We just threw it all in. The second time around we actually got to sit down and talk over what we wanted to do. We got to talk about it and come up with what we hope is somewhat of a linear story that goes through the entire special. Which is, you know, who're these bounty hunters and how did they get hired? We keep coming back to that.

Scene from "Robot Chicken: Star Wars: Episode II"

We still jump around the universe a lot but there is that hint of a through-line that we can play with a little bit more. We got to explore those characters a lot more than we did in that first one. We got to look at The Emperor and Boba Fett again and really explore who these characters are in the Robot Chicken universe as opposed to the Star Wars universe.

Were there any unused ideas from the first special that you decided to put in to this one?

You know, not too many. We put as much stuff on that first special as possible. Or we put it on the DVD. With this second one we kind of came in cold and rotated a couple of new writers in. So it was just fun to play.

Were you surprised by the success of the first special?

To some degree I’m still shocked that people watch our show as a whole. It’s a very flattering experience. You work so hard and you’re so isolated by being in a studio from the crack of dawn to late evening. You don’t really know how people are going to react to what you’re putting together. For the most part we’re just trying to do stuff that makes us laugh and if it makes us laugh, we’re hoping that other people are in on the joke with us.

Star Wars creator George Lucas was reportedly very pleased with the first special. Was it easier to get his approval again the second time around?

You know, for the most part, the second one was a lot easier to pass through. After talking over the first one with [Lucasfilm], we knew what they liked and didn’t. Probably the biggest debate that we had with Lucasfilm on the second one was our youngling sketch. There was a lot of concern. Without giving too much away about what happens, we explore that moment where you see Anakin go into the Jedi temple and you don’t know what happened to the younglings. We wanted to see what happens when those doors close. And there was a lot of concern about that. We said, “You have to trust us. In the way we’re going to shoot this, you’re not going to see violence, per say, to any kids.” That was a big concern. I think we did it in a creative way that is dark. It’s a dark type of humor but it’s still funny. That segment came out really well and we were really happy with it.

Scene from "Robot Chicken: Star Wars: Episode II"

It was funny because a few weeks ago we went up and watched it with George Lucas. I think that was one of his favorite sketches because afterwards he was quoting that scene a little bit.

Is it intimidating watching the show with Lucas, considering that it spoofs the universe he created?

You know, it’s one of those things where I think he’s got a wicked sense of humor. I realized that very quickly when we were doing the first special and he came in to voice himself. He just had a good time with it. The thing is, we’re there to do a job. Our job is to get the best performance from our actor as possible and in that case he was our actor. And this is just a guy who likes sci-fi. He’s just like us. He’s someone who made something that really hit and exploded onto the scene. And at the core of it all is just a guy with a fun sense of humor, who likes what we’re doing. I think he likes what we’re doing because we’re not necessarily making fun of, we’re having fun with and I think that’s part of the fun of it. I said "fun" way too many times.

The episode features some legendary Star Wars actors lending their voices, including Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher. What was it like working with them while they were reprising their famous roles?

Billy Dee Williams, Seth and I are in love with. I think there’s a man-crush going on. He came in to do the third season for us and we did a diner sequence that actually shows up in this special. It’s the only repurposed material we used. I think he was a little hesitant coming in not knowing what to expect. Then we brought him back for the commentary and he had a really good time doing commentary for that episode. So when we called him to come back in for this, I think he just liked us. He just had fun with his performance and we were just laughing the whole time. So he’s been great.

And Carrie Fisher is phenomenal. She had worked with Seth before on “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” so she was a lot of fun. She even joked that if George can do this show, she could do it.

Scene from "Robot Chicken: Star Wars: Episode II"

It’s one of those things where before and after, you really are geeking-out, but when you’re in that moment you’re just enjoying it. We’ve had people come in to do the show who are just like our childhood heroes and you kind of have to shake it off. When you have Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise in a booth together, having a great time and you watch Burt actually slap Don when he screws up, you’re like “oh my god, did that just happened?” Then you have a moment where you just have to bring yourself down to reality and say, look I need a certain performance from these people and I just have to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment.

With Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams, we were just enjoying the moment.

Not long after your first special aired, “Family Guy” debuted its own Star Wars spoof, “Blue Harvest,” which also featured Seth Green. Can you talk about the friendly rivalry between the two shows?

It’s funny that you say "rivalry." It’s one of those things where I think it’s a friendship of sorts. If we know that we’re both working on “Star Wars” spoofs, we’ll call each other up to say, “Hey, are you guys doing this trash compactor joke? What’s yours? Okay, this is ours.” Making sure that we don’t step on each other’s toes. We like to have fun with each other. I guess it is a friendly rivalry of sorts.

But Seth MacFarlane is our Emperor, you know. Seth Green is Chris Griffin for them and plays their Luke Skywalker. Everyone form Alex Borstein (Lois Griffin) to Mike Henry (Cleavland Brown) to Mila Kunis (Meg Griffin) has done voices for us. We talk to David Goodman (“Family Guy” Producer) and all those guys over there all the time. So it’s a nice back and forth. It was such a pleasant nod when Seth went into read that little knock that they did to us at the end of the “Blue Harvest” episode. It was one of those things where it just kind of gave us a little thank you. It was very flattering and fun in the way they did it.

What’s your favorite sketch in “Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode II?”

Well, it changes on a day-to-day basis. I love our Emperor character to death but I think Boba Fett stole the show at the very beginning. The Boba Fett opening might be what I love the most. Seth, I think, goes with Jar Jar in this one. A spoof of the Geico commercials featuring Jar Jar as the celebrity spokesperson. I think he really enjoyed that one, but again it depends on the day you ask him.

"Robot Chicken: Star Wars" available on DVD

Finally, "Robot Chicken" has a huge fanbase, and a lot of celebrities are fans as well. Which celebrity fan has surprised you the most?

You know, there have been a few. Christian Slater followed around our head writer at a party. He was quoting the show to him non-stop from our “A-Team” sketch and begging to be on. To which he’s now become one of our regular Christmas characters, he’s our Composite Santa character. So that ended in a fun little friendship.

Then most recently we had Zach Efron, who we had heard was a fan of the show and we brought him in and he was great. He sang for us and he’s such an amazing talent and so humble. I can’t speak highly enough about him.

And I don’t know if you’ve heard of T-Pain, the rapper, but he just came in and did our show. And Cee-Lo (Gnarls Barkley) is another one. Both of them saw Seth at award shows and were like, “When am I going to be on Robot Chicken?” So we lured them in and they did a phenomenal job. Writer/Producer Ron Moore from “Battlestar Galactica” is another one who saw Seth in the airport and is a huge fan. He appears in our forth season opener, he actually guest stars. It’s a very Ron Moore-specific “Battlestar” spoof. He plays himself and does a good job. It’s all walks of life that have asked to be on our show. I’m always curious who’s going to say something next.

“Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode II” brings the force to you this Sunday night on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.

TAGS:  robot chicken, star wars, matt senreich, adult swim, family guy

 
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