Victor Garber talks Kung Fu Panda 2

Victor Garber has done it all – comedy, drama, musicals, series TV and guest appearances, all kinds of film, decades on Broadway.   Garner’s intelligence and skill combined with an elegant persona just work for this singing, dancing actor who cut his teeth on the Toronto stage and whose first major film role was the charismatic Jesus in Godspell.  

More recently, Garber provided the voice of Master Rhino in King Fu Panda 2, something else he does well – narration and voiceovers – now on DVD and Blu Ray.   On December 5th, Garber will star in a one-night only benefit performance of the 1998 Broadway hit She Loves Me, for Broadway’s Roundabout Theatre, with Gavin Creel, Jane Krakowski and a cast of fifteen. 

Monsters and Critics caught up with Garber during rehearsals for the show at New York’s Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

M&C: Victor Garber, you a very successful and prolific actor.   I think you’ve done every kind of character there is.  Are you pretty satisfied so far?

Garber: Yes actually I am. I love what I do and I’m very thrilled to be able to have the kind of career to do different things.  Otherwise I’d go insane.   I only did a character for five years on TV (Alias) and loved it but after a while … The fun for me is going on to do something, say Broadway, the first thing after TV.  It revives me.

M&C: That must be a habit from your early days as an itinerant stage actor.

Garber: I agree.  It’s the stimulation of the stage.  That’s what I thought acting was and still do.  It’s different things for different kinds of people, but that’s the art for me.  When it excites me and whenever I see something scary and daunting, I’ll do it.

M&C: You’re the voice of Rhino Master in Kung Fu Panda 2.   Do you like doing voice work and the isolation of being in a studio alone?

Garber: Yes to both.   I like being in the studio and having a focus and intimacy.  It’s a very significant but small role and it wasn’t terribly demanding in a way other characters were.  I look forward to having that opposite in the future.   I do really enjoy it and it would be fun to play around and do something with more dimension. 

Having said that, this experience was very pleasant and they were open to interpretation and the time spent in the studio was about giving them options to the character and that was fun.

M&C: How do you connect when there’s not much to go on, as in an animated character?

Garber: Really it’s just like anything else.  When I read anything, like a cold reading of a play, it’s exactly the same thing.  That’s what acting to me is.  Your ability to connect immediately with the material dictates the emotion.  

All you have to do is believe, believe you are that character in the situation and let it fly.  That’s really what an actor ultimately does, stripping away all the defenses and filters and get to what’s really happening.

M&C: You’ve literally been on everything from the Ed Sullivan Show to Law & Order to ENG and 30 Rock.  It’s astonishing.

Garber: Every day I recognize how fortunate I’ve been.  Honestly, it wasn’t a conscious decision as much as “Okay what’s next?”, “What appeals?’, “Can I do this?’, “Is it a challenge?”   I’ve turned down things that were a waste of time. 

And there are financial considerations, earning money to make a living and pay mortgages and all of those factors.  And I’ve been lucky because I sing and act.

M&C: Titanic is being re-released in 3D – are you excited?

Garber: Honestly when my manager told me, I said “Really? Okay” But recently a friend attended a 90 minute preview, you know, half the movie, and said it looked like it was always made for 3D.  I realized that James Cameron is a genius and I’m sure it will be a thrilling thing to see.  I bet it will be exciting!

M&C: Despite your incredibly vast body of work, you may well live on forever in an endless Frasier loop.

Garber: Well yes.   That was a very special experience for me.   I loved doing that character and I’m very close with the creator.  It was very special.

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