Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
September 14, 2017

Since LEGO started manufacturing their signature plastic toy bricks in 1949, the imagination-fueled construction blocks have spawned a multimedia empire, encompassing merchandise, video games, theme parks, TV shows, and feature films. A number of high-profile partnerships have resulted in LEGO versions of iconic characters from disparate franchises such as DC, Marvel, and Star Wars.

Following in the footsteps of The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is the company's third theatrical release, and is based upon characters and story elements from its animated series LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu. Its central focus is a father and son story between young ninja Lloyd (voice of Dave Franco) and his estranged father, the nefarious conquerer Lord Garmadon (voice of Justin Theroux). Jackie Chan lends his voice as Lloyd's sensei Master Wu and appears in live action segments that bookend the film to create a framework of fantasy and storytelling. The extensive ensemble voice cast includes Olivia Munn as Lloyd's nurturing mom-with-a-secret-past Koko, and Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Michael Pena, Zach Woods, and Kumail Nanjiani as Lloyd's ninja comrades.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie boasts moments of random quirkiness, like Garmadon's explanation for his four arms, and a general who won't stop slurping the remaining drops of her drink through a straw. But the comedy shines brightest during the arguments between Lloyd and Garmadon (who insists on pronouncing both Ls in his son's name, habitually referring to him as "La-loyd"). They banter and squabble, constantly talking over one another. If Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were re-imagined as father-and-son roommates on a sitcom, their dynamic might very well mirror the amusing dysfunction between Garmadon and Lloyd.

In this interview, taken from excerpts of a press conference held at LEGOLAND California, Olivia Munn and Justin Theroux talk about working on The LEGO Ninjago Movie and voicing Lloyd's parents, OG power couple Garmadon and Koko.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

Did you record most of your lines individually or with your fellow actors?

JUSTIN: We did primarily alone. Me and Dave did a whole bunch of stuff together, and then we had one day (which was one of our favorite days) where we all got in a room together and were able to sort of comb over the movie and do a bunch of stuff there. And it was a blast doing that. I mean, it's my first voice [role], so I've never really worked in this process...But it's a very forgiving process for the people doing the voices, because there's sort of no pressure to nail it on the day. You're going to come in many times, and you keep doing this.

OLIVIA: You know, you do your work, and usually they edit it together and we see the full picture, and so you make your choices. But it was funny, because last night, Abbi and I were at dinner, and we were talking with [director Charlie Bean] about how we were using our real voices, but Justin [invented] a voice. [laughs] And so when we were all doing it together, we were like, "Wait, should we have been doing a [different] voice, too?"

JUSTIN: That's because my voice isn't particularly terrifying. [laughs]

OLIVIA: [laughs] No, but it made sense, because Garmadon had to be really scary...You're usually doing this in your own bubble, and you're making your choices...But it's interesting, when we get together, realizing, "Oh gosh, I should have had a [different] voice! I should have been British, or something cooler!" So once we got together, I got a little insecure.

Justin, how did you come up with that particular voice for Garmadon? Where did it come from?

JUSTIN: I don't know, it kind of fell off the truck. We were just playing around, and then, obviously, he had to have a bigger voice than my own. So we just kind of fooled around and found it...We started with a lot of the scenes where I would be attacking the city, so I'd have to be screaming over all the noise and everything that was going on. And then in the sort of moments with "La-loyd," it was that thing where we'd have to go lower--you know, I'd have to be more sinister, so I just sort of found a lower register.

Olivia, your character Koko has a sweet maternal image that belies her storied past as an accomplished hero. What was your take on her?

OLIVIA: The way I looked at this character was that I wanted to play [her] as just the eternal optimist. Lloyd, her son, is going through a really tough time, and she just wanted to love him through it--that no matter what he brought to her, whatever attitude he might have that day, she wasn't going to judge him for that moment, she was just going to keep loving him through it. And then what I love is that as we go through the movie, you see this other side of her that you didn't realize [existed]. What I really loved about that was that it showed the depths of her talent and who she is as a person. You know, I grew up doing martial arts, and everything that Jackie [Chan] was saying about what it teaches you and what you learn is so true. There are things about life and other people and interactions that you only can, I think, truly appreciate when you do martial arts and understand that. And with Koko, what I loved is out of all the things that she could be in the world (and it's clear when she shows who she really is and what she's done), she chose to be a mother. And that said so much to me: that she could have been a hero for many, but she chose to be a hero for one. And that, to me, just shows how important being a mother is. I just love that part of her, and it was really fun to play.

What were some of your favorite moments from the movie?

OLIVIA: When [Garmadon] calls [Lloyd] "La-loyd"...And it was Justin's idea to mispronounce it "La-loyd." [laughs] It's his son but he can't get his name [right]. "La-loyd!" I love that!

JUSTIN: It's also fun to fight with Jackie and have zero potential of getting hurt.

Olivia, you said you grew up with martial arts. How would you describe your childhood?

OLIVIA: Well, I moved around a lot as a kid. I was in a military family. And I was always the new kid. And so one of the hardest things as a kid, I think, is finding a group to hang out with and have lunch with. And that starts pretty early on--like, cliques start like 5, 6 years old. And so it's kind of always been like that. But I had a realization when I was around 10 years old...There's a thing that kicks in when you want to just be liked by people, then you want to be liked by the popular kids, and then "I want that really cool pencil case, and I want that backpack..." And we didn't grow up with a lot of money, so the thing was kicking up in me of, like, always wanting. I was becoming envious and feeling very alone. And then I realized that no matter what, there's always going to be somebody prettier, taller, nicer, smarter, richer, and then there's always going to be people on the other side of that as well. And I just have to do my best at being me, and hopefully it will all work out--because I can't worry about people ahead of me, I can't worry about people behind me. I just gotta run my own race. And I just kept eating lunch by myself. [laughs] But that was by choice. And it was just more of, like, realizing that I shouldn't care about what other people are doing and just work on myself.

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