Q & A: Jonah Hill Talks About His New Animated Comedy, ‘Allen Gregory’

Jonah: "Writing it is just improvising that you write down"

Fans of FOX’s Sunday night ‘Animation Domination’ can add another show to their viewing habits, Allen Gregory. Gregory is about a precocious 7 year-old being raised by his father and his father’s life partner, who due to a recession, has been forced to attend elementary school.

Jonah Hill is the co-creator and Executive Producer of the animated comedy and on a recent call he talked about the show, the challenges of being a Producer and what inspired the character of Allen Gregory.

What inspired the Allen Gregory?

Jonah Hill: Well, Allen Gregory came about because we’re doing animation and … me to play, Andy and I were saying it would be cool to play a seven-year old because I couldn’t play that in real life.  Yes, his parents are going through financial troubles because they spent all their money.  They were like heiresses and they spent all their money.  So you deal with them having to get jobs and having to earn a living for the first time, a bunch of spoiled rich people figuring out how to make their way in the world for the first time.

Check out our previous interview with Jonah here

Allen Gregory airs Sundays at 8:30/7:30c on FOX

For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes

Could talk about a movie where you get to play a character for a finite amount of time and doing  a TV show, where you could play him indefinitely?

Jonah Hill: It’s exciting.  With a film, it’s over with and that character is done with.  And with a show, it’s cool to see them grow and change and what happens to them over time.

How do you see Allen possibly changing? 

Jonah Hill: I don’t know.  I don’t think I’m able to say that yet.  We have to see what the stories are and where we feel things naturally go.  We don’t have an idea of that yet until we explore where we want to go. 

Do you have any rules about the universe of the show, or is there anywhere that you absolutely don’t want to touch or is any taboo—

Jonah Hill: Well, taboo wise, no.  We don’t shy away from anything on the show, but as far as a reality level, even though it’s animated, we don’t describe it a little bit like a spaceship could land there.  Like it’s all reality based.  Like if it couldn’t happen in real life, then it wouldn’t.  That being said, I’ve never heard of a seven year old boy having a relationship with a 70 something year old disgusting woman.

I know that you’re also executive producer of 21 Jump Street.  Can you talk a little bit about what you get from that experience and is that a place that you feel in some ways more comfortable than in front of the camera? 

Jonah Hill: The only time I’ve been a producer on something that I wasn’t in was Bruno, the movie Bruno.  But Allen Gregory and …and 21 Jump Street I’m the star and the producer of those, so they kind of fuel each other.

Because you know you’re working on something that you’re actually going to act in as well, so you have to be cognizant of that and when do put on your actor hat and when to put on your producer or writer hat.

I have control over it, you know, not that I want complete control, but our opinion as the creators of the show we get to decide where we want to take it.

What do you enjoy most about voice work as opposed to live action? 

Jonah Hill: I just like animation, I just like how it’s a different art form.  I just try to do different things and worrying about different styles.  I like that challenge.

In terms of creative vision for the show and in particularly given the fact that Sundays on FOX for so many years have belonged to The Simpsons, as well as Family Guy, was there any attention, to make sure that there was some crossover appeal? 

Jonah Hill: I think we paid absolutely no attention to that.  We want to do our own thing and being unique and different than those was really important as opposed to trying to fit in with them.  That being said, I think people will connect it, if you like The Simpsons and Family Guy, you would like our show because it’s irreverent and different and has an original as those two shows were and are.  I don’t think you’d want more of the same.  I think you want something different, but that’s why those shows are so successful, because when they came out, they were so different.

How much of the show you actually get to improv, because you’re a great improv comedian and how much is just purely scripted?

Jonah Hill: We improvise a lot, but I also wrote it, so writing it is just improvising that you write down.  That’s what fun.  You like to keep it fresh.

Where did you get the idea behind how Allen looks? 

Jonah Hill: Well, we wanted the whole show to feel like it was ripped from like the New Yorker and we showed the animators like Capote and watch Anderson movies to have a feel like across here style of animation.  And Allen Gregory, we just wanted it juxtaposed with his awful attitude to have it be juxtaposed by the more adorable looking kid aesthetically

Can you talk about your day-to-day involvement on the show?

Jonah Hill: Everything from how a lamp looks to what color someone’s tie should be up to the jokes and Jarred Paul, Andy Mogel and myself and David Goodman who ran Family Guy for a long time, we write the episode and we have a staff and we oversee the animation, the animation company, Bento Box.  And it’s such a wonderful process and when I’m off shooting a movie, I’ll write and read scripts at night and give notes and watch cuts and give notes and rewrite and do all that stuff from set.

How do you like doing voice work for animation? 

Jonah Hill: This preparation is more interesting because I wrote the character with Jarrod and Andy, so it’s so designed for what we wanted to do that it’s a lot of fun.

This is your first time really being on the other side of animation comedy and being so involved in the creative process. What were the challenges that you may have come across or were there any things that you really didn’t take into account prior this and then realized that there were a lot of things you had to overcome or anything?

Jonah Hill: Challenges are making a creative product within a big corporation that has so much money and time involved in this and fighting to keep your show exactly how you pictured it and so long as that creates a lot of arguments and fighting, but the truth is our partners at FOX have been so great and it’s scary for them to push the envelope like it would be for anyone that’s investing money in something.  But for me it was it’s going to be like this or we’re just not going to do it.  I’d rather not do it than have it suck.

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