“So if you’re an actor free on a mic to kind of imagine all that, it’s kind of, it’s a wonderful state to be in.” – Benedict Cumberbatch
Oscar-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch has played plenty of heroic characters like Doctor Strange, but he’s always shown a mean streak in movies like Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit, and now as the voice of Dr. Seuss’ most popular villain in The Grinch. In an interview with NPR, Cumberbatch speaks about the glee of playing a villain and the fun of unleashing his imagination in the world of Dr. Seuss.
When it comes to playing a dastardly character like the Grinch, Cumberbatch admits that it’s awfully fun to play such a mean-spirited character and easy to lose himself in the satisfaction. He explains, “I had a lot of fun doing that. It’s lovely being mean. It’s great fun. I wouldn’t, myself, go about knocking the heads off snowmen, or taking a jar away from a woman who’s trying to reach to the top shelf to get it, and then put it back out of her reach. But I quite like playing those things, because watching them, you get a vicarious thrill out of it. As far as getting into character goes, it really was the book I went off first, and then we realized, oh Christ, he’s just really mean. He’s very kind of growly and snarly — that would take some enduring for an entire film, it would be a bit scary for kids. So we decided to remind ourselves that he really, really enjoys Christmas.”
With that in mind, Cumberbatch reflects on performing and how it really is an extension of playing and imaging. He says, “You know, what we do for a living, there’s a lot of navel-gazing, it gets a little bit serious in some interviews talking about all this, but the fact is, it’s play. All of this is play. We’re narrators, we’re storytellers, and you reduce back to that innocent state of imagining and imagination, which is what all of Seuss’s worlds are from. They’re so extrapolated from our reality, they’re so odd and unreal, and yet universally catchy and poignant and pertinent, and they transcend cultures and logic, because they just tap into that need for story and theme, and through rhyme and amazing illustrations, they do all that. So if you’re an actor free on a mic to kind of imagine all that, it’s kind of, it’s a wonderful state to be in.”