What if the craziest conspiracy theories were not only real, but managed by a secret government agency tasked with keeping them a secret? And what if that agency was, well … kind of a mess?
That’s the premise behind Inside Job, the adult animated series from Netflix and creator Shion Takeuchi that imagines a world in which lizard people and chemtrails are real, the Earth is hollow, and a bunch of dysfunctional agents are tasked with making sure the truth stays hidden. Leading the team is socially awkward genius Reagan Ridley, voiced by Party Down and Masters of Sex actress Lizzy Caplan. She’s joined in the series’ cast by Christian Slater (Mr. Robot, Heathers), who voices Reagan’s paranoid father, Rand, the disgraced former CEO of the shadow agency.
Caplan and Slater spoke to Digital Trends about their work on the series, making the transition to voice acting, and some of their favorite conspiracy theories.
Digital Trends: Lizzy, Reagan seems like such a fun character to voice. Did you enjoy playing the character?
Lizzy Caplan: Absolutely. I enjoyed learning how this whole animated thing works, too. I was naive entering into this, thinking that it would be an easy thing to take on. You just go in and record for half an hour and it’s just your voice, so it doesn’t actually take as much energy as a live-action thing, right? I was mistaken. And now I have nothing but respect for this medium and the people who do it. It was definitely a steep learning curve.
Apparently, the whole thing with breathing exercises and vocal exercises? They’re not just for theater students who are being obnoxious. They’re real things.
Christian, so many of the characters I associate you with have strong, anti-authority elements to their personalities. They’re skeptics. Rand is like the apex version of those characters. Did the character feel familiar to you?
Christian Slater: He did, to a certain degree. I found him to be a hilarious, overbearing, completely out-of-control guy who’s definitely living on the edge — and those are the types of characters that I do at times respond to, and certainly have in the past. But I was just grateful to get the opportunity to play somebody so outrageous and to work with Lizzy in this capacity.
It’s always weird, though. You never really get to meet the other person when you are recording these things, so right now, this is our first time … getting to actually say hello to each other. It’s a very bizarre process to be a part of, but fun at the same time.
You touched on this already, Lizzy, but voice roles are such a different experience when it comes to acting and how you approach your performance. How do projects like Inside Job differ for each of you from on-screen roles?
Slater: I love doing animated stuff. I love going to the studio. It’s a pretty wonderful gig, you know? When you’re getting filmed, even today, they have the groomer come by and put the powder and the whole bit on my face. I can’t stand that stuff. It’s like, “Come on.” But with the animation world, you get to kind of roll in, do it, have some fun for a little while, scream and yell, and get to just have a lot of fun with the character. All the other stuff that comes with having to be in front of the camera, you don’t have to worry about it.
The other thing with animation that I love is that the characters never get any older. You don’t have to worry about aging. You can just do this forever and ever. I love this opportunity.
Caplan: That’s a fair assessment. I, too, like that you never see these characters in high definition. It’s a dream!
I’m sure you see some character designs and such prior to voicing the characters, but was there an element of the series that really surprised you when you finally got to see it all put together?
Caplan: I just watched it last night and it does not feel for one second that Christian and I were not in the same room acting out these scenes together. It’s miraculous. [Before this,] I’d only done a guest spot here and there on other [animated] shows, and I always found it to be pretty difficult. It made me realize how much I relied on expressions and my body language in live-action stuff. But for this, seeing the care that has gone into the animation, I guess I forgot about the fact that they would need to add in expressions — and they were perfect. They were exactly what I would have done if it were a live-action show, which was eerie and exciting. My two favorite things!
Slater: Yeah, that’s really cool. You never know when you sign on to something like this what it is going to look like. So it’s always a gamble. You get a sense of it, and like you said, they give you some rough sketches of what the character’s going to look like, but you’re really creating it on the day and in the moment. I was very impressed with the animation, too. I thought the stories were hilarious. I love the talking mushroom character. It’s nice to watch something and be genuinely charmed by it and to know that you’re working with people who are extraordinarily talented and really committed to doing a great job.
It feels like conspiracy theories are everywhere you turn these days. Is there a particular conspiracy theory you really enjoyed the show’s spin on, for one reason or another?
Caplan: My favorite episode also has one of my all-time favorite conspiracy theories: The one about the lizard people. I find that so delightful in every way, that this is something that people genuinely believe to be true.
Slater: It’s incredible. It’s amazing the things that people believe to be true, I mean, there are so many conspiracy theories. The ones around the moon landing I certainly find interesting, and I’ve always liked the ones about Elvis being alive somewhere. I would like Rand and Elvis to actually sit down and maybe share an iced tea together or something like that. That would be nice.
When you were initially figuring out how the characters should sound and how to play them, what sort of notes were you given? Were there any characters outside the show used as reference points, for example?
Slater: Yeah, I was certainly given some guidance, but I think we all agreed that [Rand] was a pretty raucous, very loud character. And I naturally have a voice that projects. My wife says that all the time. She’s always like, “Take it down, take it down a bit.” So there were a few moments when they were first showing episodes to me and I’d say, “Maybe I could tone it down a little bit here and there.” So we did get a second opportunity to try and create some different levels for the character.
Caplan: I did the same thing. For me, it was the equivalent of, “Oh, my face really looks like that when you see it on camera?” Because for this, it was like, “Is my voice really that loud?” So I dipped my toe into that aspect of things as well. But looking back at some of the notes Shion gave, some of them were pretty specific and different for each line. But looking at the finished product, it’s clear she really saw what this was going to be from the start. She saw the finished product in her mind’s eye. There’s something nice about giving up some of that control, too. I think I’m a lot less precious about that kind of direction in the animated world.
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