Kyle MacLachlan welcomed me warmly and offered me a seat. No, he did not offer me coffee.
We were on the Disney lot in Burbank, in a giant building held up by seven small pillars—and it was fitting as those seven, the seven that started so much, were each named according to their dominant character trait, and now, so many years later I was sitting with one of the stars from Disney-Pixar’s newest film Inside Out [he plays the father of Riley, the 11-year-old main character], a movie that featured a cast of individuals named for the exact emotions that they embodied. There was something circular about that, and it felt right.
We were on the clock, and so we jumped right in.
Whit Honea: Being a dad, playing a dad, and if I understand correctly your child is about 7-years-old. . .
Kyle MacLachlan: He’ll be seven in July.
WH: Did you relate to the process, the goings-on inside Riley’s head, or did you find yourself taking mental notes for those tween years on the horizon?
KM: Now I know what to expect! Having a child does have massive influence, particularly in this role, but in other things I’ve done as well. Doing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., surprisingly, in how much influence that brings to bear on the character. But in this case, you know, he’s almost seven, so we’re still in the joy [Joy being the name and attribute of the character played by Amy Poehler] years, and the other emotions will emerge here and there, you can see them coming, point them out, they’re very distinct and very clear. As he gets older they’ll get a little more complicated and more complex, I think, so I have that to look forward to.
The big influence was in my taking what Pete [Director Pete Docter] had and offering other possibilities or suggestions, or how I might interpret what was going on. That comes out of having a nature, for myself, of being basically silly anyway. I’m just made that way.
WH: So Dad actually has Goofball Island firmly intact?
KM: He probably does. That’s probably his strongest. And being able to interpret that because of my son, some of the silly stuff that we do together—that was fun. Pete is very clear, very specific about what is happening in a scene and what he needs to happen, but sometimes the approach was different, or I felt I could offer something in the tone, and they were very open to that.
WH: I don’t often reference movies blatantly in real life, at least with regard to parenting, but with Inside Out I found myself referencing it immediately. One of my sons was having a fit and the first thing I told him was to get his finger off the anger button.
KM: Very good!
WH: I’m curious then, do you think parents, kids and parents, will do that more? The movie gives you a way to reference emotion that wasn’t really there before on that scale.
KM: It’s a pretty good blueprint that they’ve created. I think one of the more brilliant things about the film is that, once they set the premise up and you got that, okay, and then it begins to open up and unfold in ways you never expected, right?
WH: Very much so.
KM: I had no idea which direction the journey was going to go. They would take what we’ve seen then turn it around somehow, twist it, and make it work. It’s just brilliant, brilliant writing and filmmaking.
WH: Exactly. I was constantly surprised at how original . . .
KM: Original is a good word.
WH: Here’s something that my wife and I talked about afterward. People tend to see the world, respond to the world, differently after experiencing a traumatic event, and Riley experiences that. I couldn’t help but wonder, is that the whole point?
KM: I know what you’re saying, and I can’t speak for Pete, but I feel that it’s a combination of things. She is approaching adolescence and things are going to get more complicated, and the move is one of the things that changed, and one of the themes of it is how we have to accept sadness and some of those emotions that are a little more difficult to become people. Human beings.
WH: True. And I think that as parents we go through a disconnect with that at some point. We tell our kids be happy, be happy, be happy. It’s okay to let them experience the other emotions.
KM: Yeah, the acceptance of that . . . the beauty of having the parents be scared or sad, it helps, to have the parents admit their emotions, too. You know, I grew up in a situation where some emotions were never revealed, it was never admitted let’s say, by my parents you know?
WH: It was very stoic.
KM: Yeah, different time. Different people. So I was very glad to see that, and it’s something that I try to bring into my relationship with my son, the I’m scared, toos.
WH: Do you find that being a parent, does it influence your career choices? For instance, something like Disney-Pixar, which is going to live forever, frankly, probably a lot longer than anything else, because that’s what we’ve seen throughout the history of Disney . . .
KM: Absolutely. I agree.
WH: Do you look at this and think that it’s something your son will have to show his kids, and it will always be a lifeline to you?
KM: You know, I haven’t thought of it. I mean, I’m aware of it. Seeing the movie, not doing it necessarily, but seeing it, I’m like okay, because immediately I’m thinking how my son, is he the right age, will he be okay seeing it, all of those things, which I think he is, and what questions is he going to have. He’s already seen the trailer, and his favorite part is putting the foot down. He loves putting the foot down. Put the foot down! He’s always repeating that.
But I tend think of it in a bigger scale, like what does he think about what Dad does, what I do, because it’s in public, you know, because he sees it and everyone else sees it at the same time, and that probably is an area that we will have to talk about a bit and make sure that he’s going through it in the right way. That he’s okay with it, basically. So that will come up. It’s weird to think about that.
This post was written in partnership with Fandango Family Digital Network. All views are my own.