If "Curb Your Enthusiasm" actress Cheryl Hines can put up with Larry David's neurotic ways, she should have no trouble coexisting alongside the gigantic Galactus. That theory will be put to the test in the two-part season finale of "The Superhero Squad Show," Marvel's family friendly animated series that airs Saturday nights on Cartoon Network.
In the season's final episodes - "Last Exit Before Doomsday" and "This Al Dente Earth," airing on February 13th and February 20th, respectively - Hines provides the voice of Stardust, a herald of Galactus seeking to prepare Earth as her master's supper. But Stardust's motivations take a turn for the heroic after a chance encounter with the Silver Surfer, a former herald himself and a member of the Superhero Squad.
Hines spoke with CBR News about her involvement in the show, her knowledge of Marvel Comics, the complexities of voiceover work and her thoughts on another season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
CBR News: Cheryl, as far as I know, "The Superhero Squad Show" is your first real visit to the comic book world as an actress. How did you get involved in the show?
Cheryl Hines: It is, yeah! I have a friend who is working on the project and he was telling me about it. It sounded exciting. He asked me if I'd ever wanted to save the Earth, and I said, "I have! Indeed, I have thought about it a lot!" [Laughs] So they asked me if I wanted to do this role, and I said that it sounds great.
Anytime that you get to fly around another galaxy [is fun], and I'm kind of a badass in this! Which is nice, because in real life, I'm not. [Laughs] That was exciting. I get captured by Doctor Doom. I have a lot to do. It was very fun and exciting. I love seeing the animation. It's always so fun, and it's pretty flattering to think that you have a character out there that your voice is attached to.
Did you have any familiarity with the material going into the project, or was this your first real exposure to Marvel Comics?
I'm pretty new to it. When I was growing up, my brother was way into Marvel's comic books, but that's really my only exposure to it. I have a little girl and she's six, so she's not really part of that world, yet. I was thrown into the fire a little bit.
As you said, Stardust is a bit of a badass. She's a herald of Galactus, but she's also someone that ultimately becomes sympathetic to the viewer. What was your take on the character when you first read the script?
I like that she starts out as basically a bad guy and then she makes that turn and helps to save the Earth. It was kind of fun to be able to turn and get to play both sides, actually. [In playing her], I really just went with my gut. I'm looking at a picture of her right now and she is very intimidating and could use a pedicure of some kind. [Laughs]
Good thing Silver Surfer has a giant nail file with him!
Yeah, that's what I need. [Laughs] I guess that's not so intimidating then, is it? But no, I like that in this world, different creatures exist and it's not so much about male or female - it's about getting the job done. She works for Galactus and she's looking for another planet for him to devour, basically. I don't want to spoil things, but let's just hope that the Earth doesn't get eaten!
"Superhero Squad" is an interesting project in that you're dealing with these concepts of superpowers and dangerous threats, but at the same time, the show is so cutesy and young viewer oriented. Is it bizarre for you to ride this line between playing a world-ending threat in the framework of a family-friendly light-hearted show?
It's really hard. You know, I think what's great about animation is that you can have that tone. The world might be ending in the next five minutes, but you're still able to make a joke. If you're watching it on CNN, it's not that funny. But if you're watching an animated show, it's pretty funny! [Laughs] You have room to crack a few jokes.
Can you talk about your experience working with the other "Superhero Squad" actors while recording Stardust?
I actually did most of my work by myself, but I know that some of the actors were together. That's what's interesting about voiceover work - you kind of never know. If you're doing it in private, you go and do your voiceover, and it's interesting because you're in a booth and you're trying to create this world in your imagination. Unfortunately, I think I was out of town when everybody was all together. But I'm looking forward to watching it and seeing what happens. I haven't seen it yet.
You've done some voice work before for "Father of the Pride" and "Space Chimps." Were those experiences helpful when working on "Superhero Squad?"
It was very helpful. The first time you do this, it's such a strange feeling, because you're in this booth that has this big glass window and there are usually, I don't know, five to eight people on the other side staring at you with their headphones on. You can't really hear what they're saying, unless they want you to hear what they're saying, and then they push a little button and say something to you. Otherwise, you'll do a take and see them all talking. "Oh no, what's going on in there?" Then they'll push the button and go, "That was good, but let's just try it one more time." [Laughs] They're always super calm when they talk to you, because they don't want you getting rattled. They have their conversation and then they talk to you and say two words. It's like someone speaking in a foreign language and then someone tells you what they said. They talk for two minutes and you ask what they said. "They said 'Thank you.'" [Laughs]
I remember the first time I did it, I was sweating. You're not sure if you're doing it right. You don't really know what you're doing. After you do a few [takes], you realize that there's actually no right or wrong. The people on the other side of the glass, they're listening and they're really good at imagining the world that you're creating. They've heard the other actors and they know the tone, so it's actually very helpful that they're there. They come back and say, "When so-and-so did this, they were yelling because it was so important. Try one where there's more energy." It's helpful, because how can you know that?
You are so exhausted at the end of recording something like this. It's very draining. I mean, let's be honest, I'm not digging ditches, but your whole body is all tense and you're trying to get it right and you're so in it and concentrating so hard for three or four hours at a time. When it's over, it feels like you just ran a marathon. Plus, with everybody's eyes all on you, everyone's listening to every little swallow, and God help you if you have any other body noises. [Laughs] It can be very stressful!
But it's weird. It's a different way of working. This is like the opposite of doing "Curb Your Enthusiasm," because when I do "Curb," all of the dialogue is improvised. I never know what anybody is going to say and I'm really listening to the other person to know what's going on in the scene and what's going to happen next. ["Superhero Squad"] is all about the dialogue that has been written and what other people have already done or what they're going to do, so it's a totally different way of working.
I can see how it's different from "Curb," especially since you're not improvising your dialogue, but you do have to have a certain level of anticipation of how the other characters must be interacting so that you can shape your own performance. Did that help at all, being able to bring that skill from "Curb" over to "Superhero Squad?"
Yeah, I think it did. It really helped me to have done improv and sketch comedy. I trained at The Groundlings Theater and it was very helpful. There, when you're doing improv, people throw out crazy situations. Where are these two people? They're stuck in quicksand and they only have two seconds to live! So you have that sort of thing that you're thrown into and you have to commit to the reality of what's happening. I think it was very helpful for something like "Superhero Squad." You can quickly imagine this world, and what's going on and what the other characters are doing. You commit to it one hundred percent.
Is there any news on another season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," or are you still waiting to hear something?
I think there's a chance. I was just texting [Larry David] and I asked him, "What are you doing right now? Nothing or writing?" And he goes, "I'm doing both." Oh brother. [Laughs] I always ask him if there's going to be another season and he always goes, "Why are you asking?" Well, because it's my job! Am I working or not? [Laughs] He doesn't give me an answer, so I don't know. But it's not a no. I know it's not a no.
What are you working on next? I know that you just directed a movie.
I did. I directed a movie called "Serious Moonlight," and it's about to come out on DVD, actually. I'm doing a little arc on "Brothers and Sisters," too, which is a lot of fun. I'm already shooting it. It's really fun because I watch it every Sunday, so it's just so weird to go on and be part of the show. It's really exciting for me! [Laughs] So I'm doing that, and then I don't know. We'll have to see what shakes out with "Curb." I'm keeping it loose. Wherever the wind takes me.
Cheryl Hines plays Stardust on "The Superhero Squad Show." The final two episodes of the season, "Last Exit Before Doomsday" and "This Al Dente Earth," air on February 13th and February 20th at 7:30 PM on Cartoon Network.