June 29th, 2012
04:52 PM ET
You might recognize Jason Ritter’s face from a lot of movies and TV shows without even realizing it.
He’s Mark Cyr on “Parenthood,” the English teacher who, in the season 3 finale (spoiler alert!), proposed to Sarah Braverman. He also played Sean Walker on “The Event” and the paraplegic Kevin Girardi on “Joan of Arcadia.” In movies, he has survived “Freddy vs. Jason”; portrayed Jeb Bush in “W.”; and also a romantic video store clerk in the acclaimed “Good Dick.”
But Ritter’s latest role, in the Disney Channel's comedy-adventure series, “Gravity Falls,” has him in a completely different environment.
Ritter provides the voice for Dipper Pines, who, with his twin sister Mabel Pines (Kristen Schaal), spends the summer with their Uncle Stan in Gravity Falls. The show, which premieres on the Disney Channel tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET, follows their encounters with the strange happenings in the town.
While he is known for his dramatic roles, Ritter told CNN that at a certain point he started looking for roles in animation. Having grown up watching shows like “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” the actor said he's always been a fan of absurd humor.
To Ritter, “Gravity Falls” provides that middle ground between raunchy animated shows and saccharine children’s programs, with jokes like this one from animated Uncle Stan: “My ex-wife still misses me, but her aim is getting better. You see? It's funny because marriage is terrible.”
“This is a show that anyone could enjoy,” Ritter said. “Generally when you go to a comedy club, the more shocking the jokes the more laughs you’ll get. To have these jokes that I could tell to my (little) cousin then not feel like terrible person, it was really nice and refreshing.”
On the show, Dipper is the level-headed, serious but ambitious twin, and Mabel is the silly, sparkly and imaginative one. This humorous dynamic comes from the experience of the show creator, Alex Hirsch, who himself is a twin. Of course it helps that Mabel is voiced by none other than comedian Kristen Schaal, whose instantly recognizable tones and high-pitched squeals from “Bob’s Burgers” give the show its punch.
“It has been so much fun to work with Kristen,” Ritter said. “She is silly and annoying in the most charming way. When she is being super silly, it’s hard not to laugh and be charmed by the things she is doing. It’s hard to keep a straight face, or in this case a straight voice.”
Keeping his voice intact for the show has become quite important for Ritter, especially since he can't rely on using subtle facial expressions. And while voice acting may seem like it would be less time-intensive than acting on screen, Ritter said that it's all about nailing the timing and the pitch for emotion.
“You don’t have any visual cues to help you think about where you are,” Ritter said. “You have to rely on your imagination. It’s very odd. You are completely disconnected from the body of the actor.”
Drama has been Ritter’s specialty, but he said that after doing plays, producing “Good Dick” and acting in music videos, he is ready to do more comedy.
“This feels like a perfect transition,” he said. “(Comedy) scares me a little bit, and is one of my big fears. It's nice to dip my toes into it.”
Ritter will be back as Mark Cyr on season 4 of “Parenthood," and he's gearing up for the release of a slate of independent projects, including “I Am I,” “County” and “Teddy Bears.”
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