Scott Grimes has become a familiar voice in homes across the globe as horny young Steve Smith in Seth McFarlane’s animated comedy American Dad! He’s now preparing to set out on another voyage alongside Seth in the shiny new space adventure The Orville.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Scott to discuss the show, as well as his life as a teenager, and the possibility of a Critters reboot…
So, pitch The Orville to us…
The Orville is an exploratory vessel, exploring the universe 400 years from now. It’s from the mind of Seth McFarlane, so it’s not dark and pessimistic; it’s positive, there’s still humour in the future. People laugh, they drink… They’re human beings just trying to spread through the universe. Obviously, it stands on the shoulders of the wonderful giants that are Star Trek and Star Wars; we’re all big fans.
A lot of people are comparing it to Galaxy Quest. Do you think this is a fair comparison?
Well, Galaxy Quest is one of my favourite films of all time. I can’t believe they never made a series or a sequel… I just love that movie… The difference is, Galaxy Quest is about people from present day being taken to an alternate universe, taken out of their comfort zone. The Orville is legitimately about the future, and people in the future who are 400 years from now and are comfortable in this utopia. It would be more Guardians of the Galaxy, I would say, just because it is what it is; they live in it, they’re not taken there. There’s a little Twilight Zone in there too.
Are you aware of the British show Red Dwarf?
I’m only aware of it because people keep telling me about it! When we started filming, people kept talking about it. They love that show, and I have to see it!
With Guardians, the new Star Trek movies, and now The Orville, why are we so obsessed with this space-based future?
Y’know, I wish I knew the answer to that! I grew up a giant science fiction fan. My grandpa turned me onto it with movies like Forbidden Planet. I just like the escape. That’s what it is for me. I’ve never been into soap operas, which is also a kind of escape into somebody else’s dramatic life, but I think there’s just a little nerd inside everyone who needs a space show! Or, the opposite, which is like Middle Earth, which I also love. But, I never loved space television shows, because I always though the special effects were kinda cheesy. They didn’t spend the money back then. Now, we live in a different world. People do all of these amazing special effects!
You’ve worked a lot with Seth now. What is it about his humour that makes him such a giant in modern culture?
Well, if I knew what was special about it, I would copy it and make all the money he’s made! All I know is that it’s different, and it comes from Mel Brooks, Charlie Chaplin… all the great writers and directors… he’s such a fan of pop culture… movies, comedy… you throw that all together and you get this man. It’s a brand new way of speaking. He writes lines the way you would think them, and want to say them… “Oh god, I would love to say this, but I can’t, I don’t know how to. Is it appropriate?” That’s what he does; he speaks the words that most people would want to be able to say, and he does it with such great comic timing.
Having played Steve now for thirteen years, how does it feel to have been on such a long journey with the same character?
It’s fucking great! It’s the greatest gig I’ve ever had! My job on that show is just to say the words just as Seth wrote them. They edit them, make them funnier. But to play a perpetual fourteen-year-old kid has been terrific. We treat the show the same as we would a real show, not a cartoon; we do read-throughs every week, we try to make it funnier… It’s never been really much different from doing a live-action thing; we concentrate on it just as hard, because the money’s good and I wanna make everybody proud! So, to play Steve Smith has been great, and also to incorporate music, that’s been a fun thing to include. The show would’ve been cancelled by now if we didn’t keep evolving!
Was it difficult finding the voice for Steve?
That’s a funny story, because I never really did voices, and Seth called me up and said “I’m doing this show called American Dad!, can you come up with a voice?” I went in, so nervous, because Seth has all these amazing voices! And I just came up with this one voice that was really harsh, kinda like an exaggerated version of what Steve is now. But it was the only voice I could come up with, and I was scared that he’d hear the voice and go “Okay, great. What else ya got?” And I didn’t have anything else! So, I did this voice and he told me it was good, but not to try so hard. So, I didn’t try so hard, and that was the voice we settled on! The thing is though, it’s more about the humour you can bring to the character, not just the voice, and thank god, ‘cause it’s all I had! It’s kind of a rip-off of Urkel from Family Matters and Spongebob.
Having done such a range of things now, what do you find more rewarding? The voice acting, or the live-action stuff?
Live acting. There’s more you can do with it. With the voice acting, it’s more difficult because you’re trying to create the comedy out of something you can’t see on a face. Seth and I did a whole episode on The Orville where I had to combine the two. We go undercover as these aliens and we had this prosthetic make-up all over ourselves, so you couldn’t really see our facial expressions and we had to sell this comedy with voice alone. I prefer being able to run around and being able to think on your feet.
On the topic of prosthetic aliens, with so many horror movies getting reboots and reimaginings recently, if a Critters reboot were to arise, would you be interested in being involved?
In a New York second! I did two of those moves, and I had a really good time. If I ever directed, I would love to do a horror movie. So not only would I be in Critters, I would love to direct it. I’m putting that out there now!
How would you bring it to the modern audience? What would you change?
I wouldn’t star in it. I wouldn’t do that. It’d be ridiculous to see Brad Brown as a forty-six year-old dude. I love how, especially the second one, looks like a B-movie. I would definitely make it look like a B-movie. You couldn’t do a huge Hollywood two hundred million version of Critters. It wouldn’t work! I’d still use puppets, and try to get as many homages to the original as I could.
Like reimagining the Playboy scene with the staple in the girl’s gut?
(laughs) You know, it’s so funny! When I was a kid… Well, I was sixteen! I was old enough to know what a naked woman was! But it took me a while to get that joke! I didn’t understand it! But, y’know (as Steve) I’ve never actually touched boobs before… Except for my mom’s… Let me tell you about my mom’s boobs… (laughs) Man, I should stop there!
The Orville begins its voyage on Thursday 14th December at 9pm, only on FOX, and you can catch up with American Dad! “Late Night, Every Night. Literally!” on FOX