In the National Lampoon comedy Gold Diggers, Will Friedle and Chris Owen star as Cal and Lenny, a pair of small-time schemers who want the good life without having to work for it. To further their goal, the duo plots to marry a pair of elderly women, off them, and collect on their alleged life insurance policies.
In this interview, Will Friedle spoke to us about his character Cal and discussed some of his other film and television roles. Will is best known to audiences as older brother Eric on the long-running sitcom Boy Meets World, and has lent his voice talents to a variety of animation projects, including the futuristic Batman Beyond and the acclaimed Disney Channel series Kim Possible.
Gold Diggers opens in theaters September 17.
Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
August 25, 2004
RadioFree.com: Your Gold Diggers co-star Chris Owen said that this film wrapped up about two years ago...
Will: Yeah, pretty much wrapped it up two years ago and then went back and did some reshooting.
Is it weird promoting a film you did so long ago?
You know, it is and it isn't. It's strange. I think it would be stranger if we actually finished two years ago and then that was it and now it's coming out. But we've been so involved since then with doing reshoots, doing poster shoots, doing press stuff, that, especially over the last say six months, it really feels like we're back in the swing of things.
Oh, so you still actually remember what the movie is about?
What were the reshoots involving?
The reshoots are involving a little bit of tweaking here and there. Basically, I think the director had a vision that, when he saw the first cut, realized it didn't flow the way he really wanted it to. And we went back and, again, did a little bit of tweaking here and there. No major story changes, didn't really pull out anything drastic. So it was just more or less kind of a fine tuning.
What would you say was the funniest scene to shoot in this whole movie?
I'd have to say the funniest scene that I shot was the honeymoon scene with myself and Renee Taylor. It was one of those scenes where everybody on the set was laughing all day long. We just had such a blast.
How was the chemistry between you and Chris Owen?
Chris and I got along from the second we met. I mean, the very first second we met, he and I got along extraordinarily well, and hang out whenever we can.
I understand Gold Diggers screened at the CineVegas Film Festival last year and got a pretty good reception.
It got an amazing reception, yeah.
Despite some positive reaction from the fans, there are already some negative reviews that have popped up on the internet a little early. What are your thoughts on such criticism?
I didn't even know there were, to be honest with you. [laughs] You know, I don't think, until the end, I had read a positive review of Boy Meets World. People who are reviewing are going to like certain things, and they're not going to like others. And that's pretty much, you know, par for the course. You're going to get people that sit through films that 90% of the people in the world are going to love, and you're going to get a group of people that are going to say, "I didn't like it" for this reason and that reason, and that's why they're there. Bad reviews come with everything. I've been getting them my whole life--I get good reviews, I get bad reviews, and that's just kind of the way it is.
What would you say differentiates your character from Chris'?
I think what makes him different than Chris' is the driving force behind the duo. I always describe him as the guy who is just incredibly dumb without ever realizing it. He thinks he's the smartest man in the world, and it's just not the case.
And he's the over-the-top one of the pair?
Correct. He's really the driving force between the two, and he's the guy coming up with the plans and coming up with the schemes. Chris' character really just wants to find love and settle down, and my character really wants to go for the gold, and get the money, and get the women, and that's all that really matters, and he doesn't care about anything else.
Chris had mentioned that his character was the more innocent of the two.
He is definitely the more innocent of the two characters, and I think it's a great combination between the two of us. You've got my character who's driving and pushing, and his character, who's going along, albeit reluctantly at times. So it's interesting.
Being over-the-top, there had to have been a few moments that are really embarrassing for your onscreen alter-ego.
Were there any scenes that were almost too embarrassing to shoot, or maybe embarrassing for you to watch in retrospect?
Well, I think anytime you get the scenes where it's the two older women and the two younger guys doing anything--lying in bed together, or having the honeymoon scene--those are always scenes that, while they're so much fun to shoot, you get a great reaction. But, see, I'm one of those guys that never get embarrassed. I just really don't. I'll do anything to get the laugh. I love it. I love doing it. But it's fun to see a lot of the crowd become embarrassed, where you're kind of watching them almost wanting to not watch the screen, but they have to because it's so compelling comedy-wise--you've got to sit there and watch what these two kids are going through.
Did you watch the film with an audience at CineVegas, or anywhere else?
Yes, I did. Actually, in CineVegas, it screened three times. It was only supposed to be screened twice, but the buzz around the hotel was so big that they actually added a third screening. The response was huge. We were all really excited about that. And I got to watch it again last night, actually, the new cut, with a group of kids, which is basically who it's targeted at. It's PG-13. And I got to speak with a bunch of them afterwards, and they all loved it and thought it was very funny. And they were laughing throughout the whole movie, so we're excited.
How old were these kids?
I'd say about 13 to 18.
Did they recognize you from Boy Meets World?
You're no stranger to portraying over-the-top characters, having played Eric on Boy Meets World and voicing sidekick Ron Stoppable on Kim Possible. (By the way, I know all about these shows because I watch way too much Disney Channel for an adult...)
[laughs] That's okay!
I really dig your show Kim Possible.
Great cartoon, isn't it?
It's very well-written.
Man, the guys, Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley, are just...they're fantastic writers. I'm very proud of Kim Possible. Some of the voice-over actors I've had an opportunity to work with are just so talented. Nancy Cartwright and John Di Maggio, who plays Dr. Drakken--these people are just geniuses.
I didn't realize John Di Maggio could do so many voices until I looked up his filmography.
Oh, and there are times where he's playing five characters on the same page! And it's crazy. I kind of sit there with my mouth open watching this man acting against himself as five different people. It's just nuts.
And then, of course, there's Kim Possible herself, Christy Carlson Romano...
Oh, fantastic. They really put together a top-notch cast, and the writing staff is great. I would always get so excited every time I got a script, because I knew I'd get to do something funny and wacky and weird, and I love it.
Do they separate you all while recording the voices, or are you guys in a room together with a chance to work off each other?
You know, the first season we were all separated, and then the second season, it was mostly Johnny and I that would work together. So John and I would sit together in a room usually once a week, and I got to play off of him. And then a lot of times when John and I were there, Nicole Sullivan would come in to do Shego. Unfortunately, we only had one session where it was almost everybody. But Christy, you know, is in New York at school, so she would always be phone patched in. But we had a wonderful time, yeah. And every time I got to work with everybody else was always the most fun that I had.
Not everyone knows that you've done a significant amount of voice work, and on Batman Beyond, you were the future's incarnation of Batman.
I was Batman, yeah. Very cool. And I've just started actually getting into video games. I'm such a video game fan that being able to do voices in video games is just fantastic.
So what are some of the benefits of doing voice acting versus live acting?
Well, you get certain benefits like you don't have to get dressed up, you don't have to wear makeup, you can come as you are to go in there and sit down. But some of the other benefits are, truly, that doing Batman and Kim Possible, I've gotten to work with some of the most amazing people. When we did Batman: Return of the Joker, the Joker is played by Mark Hamill, so I got to sit next to Mark Hamill for two straight weeks. And I had the honor and privilege of working with John Ritter. And getting to meet people that I've admired my entire life, and getting to meet them in such a way where they're coming in to play completely different characters than I had ever seen them do is just wonderful. And not to mention all the directors that I've had the opportunity to work with are fantastic. And I think, especially in the last ten years, the writing on animated shows has just jumped by leaps and bounds. I'd like to do voice-overs my whole life. I'm genuinely excited every time I get a script, and get to kind of create a character and go in and play.
What did you work on with John Ritter?
He came in and did a Batman, and was, I think, arguably the nicest man I've ever met in my life.
Yeah, I was actually told in another interview that he was quite a remarkable person.
I'll never forget this till the day I die. When we did Batman, we did have the whole cast, and there would be times where there'd be fifteen people in the room. And he walked right over to me, and I of course stood up. He's John Ritter, and I'm such a sitcom fan, he was the man...
Oh, yeah. Jack Tripper...
Yeah, exactly! And he just grabbed my hand and he said, "I'm so excited to be here working with you, and I've watched the show and I think you're great." And I just was speechless. And he just made the effort to go out of his way to be as nice a man as he could be. And everything just hit me so hard when I heard about it. He was great. And again, knowing him as little as I did, I could tell he wasn't faking it. He truly was just that man.
That's very cool. So all of this energy that you have when it comes to voice acting--is it easy to translate that into live action? Or is it harder to let it all hang out in a movie like Gold Diggers when you can't hide behind the animation?
You know, it's a different kind of letting it all hang out. Because a lot of times, when you're doing a lot of these characters, you've got to make very strange facial expressions to hit the high notes. Or you have to contort your body in a certain way to hit a low note. When you're on film, you can't exactly sit there and scrunch up in your chair to screech or something like that. So you do, in a sense, get to hide behind your voice, which is nice.
Although speaking of facial expressions, you were always good at doing that sinister eyebrow thing.
[laughs] I had the eyebrow thing! I don't know, people have said that to me, yeah.
Do fans often ask you to "do the voice" or say catchphrases from Boy Meets World, like that certain way Eric had of yelling to Mr. Feeny?
It's funny, I get two things a lot. I get, "Can you do Ron Stoppable and say, 'Booyah'?" and the other one is, "Do the Feeny Call," which is what everybody says. And you know, these are people that kept us on the air. These are our fans, that were just the most loyal, amazing people you would ever meet in your life. We had one family that came to every taping for six years. I mean, we just had the most loyal, wonderful people behind us. When someone comes up and says, "Can you do the Feeny Call?" I don't mind. You get a lot of actors that are like, [lowers voice to a grumble] "Oh, no, that was a character I was playing..." It's like, you know, I don't care, it makes them laugh! Occasionally, maybe once a month, I get somebody who asks me to do the Feeny Call, and I have no problems.
What other future projects do you have in the works?
Well, I just finished another film about six months ago up in Utah called Love Surreal, and we're not sure when that's coming out. That's starring Nick Zano and Shiri Appleby, and I got to go up and play with them for a couple of weeks. So that was a lot of fun. It's in post-production, not sure when that's coming out. And then, working on something with ABC down the line, that I'm not allowed to actually get into yet, but hopefully it's going to be a lot of fun.
Are there any types of projects you're looking to do in particular?
You know, I'm just looking to make as many people laugh as I possibly can, and I don't really have my heart set on any one thing. I want to go out there and I want to do the best work that I can, and I want to be in this business as long as this business will have me. And I want to kind of go from there.
Well, it sounds like you're having a great time!
Will, thanks for taking the time to do this interview.
Oh no, thank you so much.