Actor Jack Black, who lends his voice to Po from Kung Fu Panda, talks about living the role and the joys of fatherhood.
While actor Jack Black’s recent declaration is debatable — that his co-star from Kung Fu Panda 3, Bryan Cranston, deserves an Oscar instead of Leonardo DiCaprio — many are on the same page with the American actor when it comes to preferred US presidential candidates (“anyone but Trump!”). The 46-year-old has been the voice of Po the Panda since the beginning of the series, Kung Fu Panda, and again, now, for the third time — when Po not only turns teacher, but even meets his biological father. The School of Rock star talks about the popularity of the series, his co-stars and fatherhood.
How was it to return to Po?
It is always fun to jump into his enthusiastic skin and relive the dream of becoming the master, the Dragon Warrior.
How much of Po is in you?
A little bit, it’s inevitable. I’m just being myself with Po, and not putting on a voice. I’m just being a more enthusiastic and a more innocent version of myself.
Bryan Cranston plays your dad….
When I heard he was going to play my father, it was a huge deal for me. The original idea for the character was that he was going to be a quiet, noble and stern father figure. But with Bryan, it was apparent that his character was going to be like Po. In a way, he’s a bigger child than Po.
Fatherhood is a big theme in the film, isn’t it?
It is, and I have a similar dynamic to the one Po has with both his dads, because I have a stepfather who I’m really close to, and I love my biological dad very much, too.
How was your experience working with directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni?
It was great working with Jen (Yuh) again. She has a deep appreciation of martial arts films and an approach to the emotional life of characters. It was a joy to come in and record with both directors. Their styles are different — while Jen is quiet and directs in whispers, Alessandro is passionate and funny.
How fulfilling and challenging is fatherhood?
It’s all about being there for the kids. Fatherhood is about getting them ready for when you’re gone, though that’s a dark way to say it. It’s all about teaching.
Po reluctantly starts teaching in this film. How valuable is this theme for children?
You’ve got to keep pushing and stretching and growing and learning. You can’t rest on your bygone laurels for very long. Po’s got to learn how to be a teacher, just like I’ve got to learn how to do television.
Do you have any interesting hobbies?
I’m a numismatist (collects coins). The most precious coin I have is an American penny, worth a lot more than a penny. It is a ‘flowing hair cent’, I think from 1812, and her (Liberty’s) hair is flowing in the breeze. It’s rare because it was considered too racy at the time.
The film releases today.
— Team Indulge