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Interview with Hank Azaria and Nicholas
Gonzalez of "Bordertown" on
It was great to speak with these two because their new
show is very funny. Also, I'm a huge fan of Hank's from his
roles in previous shows. I really enjoyed this and hope you
enjoy reading it, too!
Read my Review of
FBC PUBLICITY: Bordertown
December 18, 2015/9:00 a.m. PST
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the Bordertown conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. (Operator instructions.) As a reminder, todayís conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Michael Roach. Please go ahead.
Michael: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today on the conference call with Hank Azaria and Nicholas Gonzalez, who lend their voices to lead characters on Bordertown, a new show from Family Guy producer, Mark Hentemann. Itís a new animated comedy about two families living in a southwest desert town on the US-Mexico border, and the series takes a satirical look at the cultural shifts occurring in America and premiers on Sunday, January 3rd at 9:30/8:30 Central on FOX.
And I guess we start now. Hank voices the character of Bud Buckwald and Nicholas voices the characters of Ernesto Gonzalez and J. C. Didi, weíre ready to begin.
Moderator: (Operator instructions.) Weíll go to the line of David Martindale with Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Please go ahead.
David: HióFort Worth Star-Telegram. Thank you for taking the time to do the call, both of you. I saw the show, and I enjoyed it. Itís very funny. What was it about the premise of the show in general and about your characters in particular, both of you, that turned you on and made you want to be part of the show?
Hank: For meóthis is Hank Azaria talking, and thank you Deirdre, by the way, that was very well done. Will you come and help me wrangle my family this holiday time? You really are good with laying out the rules very nicely.
I always wanted to work with the Family Guy producers because I really love the show, and this show seemed to have very similar sensibility, although itís about different stuff. When I first heard about it a year or two ago, it seemed timely then, and now, I mean, happily or unhappily, itís even more timely. So, itís fun to have that. When comedy is really relevant to genuine concerns, itís always interesting.
Nicholas: Hi, this is Nicholas Gonzalez talking and, I mean, even though weíre in very different places in the animation world and things, my reason is very much the same. I think you look at the top echelons of animation, whether it be TV or film, and Seth MacFarlane and Family Guy and those producers are just at the top, and thatís what you wish for. God, it would be great to have an animated series. Well, what would your top choice be? Well, Iíd love to work with the guys at Family Guy. And thatís the thing that led you into this. This wasnít like a twisting of an arm here, definitely not for me.
But I think also, I agree that for me, it feltóon top of that, what really attracted me to this role was being able to make commentary in comedy and satire about things that do actually matter and things that are deciding our presidential election, funnily enough, things that seem like common sense, and yet thereís a global argument about them, and we get to tackle these issues every week. So, easy deal there.
David: Cool. Like I said, I enjoyed it. Iíll let some other people ask questions. Be cool.
Nicholas: Thank you, sir.
Hank: Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you. Weíll go to the line of Lapacazo Sandoval with the Amsterdam News. Please go ahead.
Lapacazo: Hi, can you hear me? I have a cold.
Nicholas: Yes, I can hear you have a cold.
Lapacazo: Hi, guys. Happy holidays. Happy New Year, all that good stuff.
Hank: Thank you.
Nicholas: You too.
Lapacazo: Thank you. So, the question is for both. Hank, over the years, youíve made me laugh, and you still do. Seriously, dude, you got me out of some bad situations.
So, let me ask you about cultural sensitivity in the creation of this project. I, myself, am half Mexican, and I was married for many years to an Indian man. I didnít realize that I oftentimes would just kind of poke fun of him about his accent. I didnít think it was racially mean, but stepping back, thereís an insensitivity to our culture, I feel. The fact that someone has an accent means that they speak more than one language. Hello? Most Americans only speak one. So, letís talk a little bit about the cultural sensitivity and the nuances that the writers have for shaping this show.
Nicholas: Iím going to take this first before Hank takes my answer again because heís so good at it.
Lapacazo: Heís wonderful.
Nicholas: Heís awesome. I feel thatóI was honestly just thinking about this this morning. I think weíre in a climate now where cultural insensitivity is something that, I think, people that arenítóyou know, I think liberals throw out and then people that arenít laugh about and make fun and think that weíre all being too sensitive. But I think that we were all being a little too racist for too long with things that are just, like, ďItís a joke, relax,Ē things that are explained away like that.
But I think whatís nice is that we actually embrace a lot of those things and turn then on their head within the confines of this show, but itís something that, I think, has gone on so long that it seemed like something thatís harmless, but now youíre looking at a top presidential candidate, who shall remain nameless, whoís using some of these and throwing it out, like, no big deal, come on, itís just like we always used to talk and how we used to be. Well, that wasnít working.
Hank: Yes. Nick did take my answer. I agree. For too long, we were too casual about this kind of thing. Whatís funny, though, this show reminded me when I first read it a lot of one of my favorite shows of all time, All in the Family.
Hank: And as much as we can do more now on TV, like with cable, we can curse, there can be nudity, violence, crazy subject matter, really deep issues explored, you know, I donít think that you could get away with Archie Bunker today because of the politically correct thing that Nick was referring to.
What I think is cool and maybe the show is indicative of, although, look, like All in the Family, it mostly tries to be funny, first and foremost, is that weíre maybe returning back to a middle place where we can acknowledge that since racial sensitivity is really important to honor and understand and not be cavalier about, but also be able to talk. Maybe the one good thing about what certain candidates are saying is that it is opening the conversation.
Hank: You know what I mean? It is, like, making it something weíre all talking about openly, which is not a bad thing.
Nicholas: Yes. Conversation is great. I think thatís exactly what this show puts forth, because yes, youíre going to be offended, and you should be offended. You should be offended by things that are going on around in your life all the time, so this is just another thing that you can actually learn from, so be offended and learn something.
Lapacazo: Very cool. Thank you, guys. Happy holidays again.
Nicholas: Thank you.
Hank: Thank you, you too.
Nicholas: [Audio disruption] my motto, by the wayóbe offended and learn something. Thatís sort of how I go through life, you know? Anyway, sorry, go ahead.
Moderator: Thank you, and weíll go to the line of Wendy Pineda with Total Access LA. Please go ahead.
Wendy: Good morning, guys. How are you doing?
Nicholas: Hi, Ms. Pineda. Happy holidays.
Wendy: How are you, Nicholas? Happy holidays to you, too.
Nicholas: Iím good.
Wendy: Well, Iím excited about Bordertown, first of all. I had a great chance to see two of the episodes. Well done, very balanced, not taking heavy sides on either the Caucasian or Mexican side. I did enjoy very much the show, so congrats. So, Hank, tell us, and Nicholas, tell us in your own words about your role, your character, who is Bud and, obviously, as a border patrol agent, Hank.
Hank: Yes, Bud, as you just said, is a border patrol agent. Heís not the brightest bulb in the box. Pretty simple guy, and heís a pretty unhappy guy. Life has not really treated him as he hoped it would. Heís not a very [audio disruption] guy. He takes his job personally and seriously. He really wants to keep aliens out of the country, and heís extremely upset by it. Lives next door to a guy whoís more successful than him, who happens to be Mexican American, and that reallyóhe doesnít like that at all, I think is an understatement.
He is also living in a town in the world where heís becoming a minority as a white male. In fact, thereís an episode of the show where there officially is a census taken, and Caucasians are officially a minority in the town he lives in. That drives him insane, and he is not shy about expressing this opinion, and heís quite tortured by it.
Nicholas: And I play Ernesto Gonzalez. Heís in some ways been described as the heart of the show, although I think at the bottom of all these characters, whether acts are reprehensible or crazy stuff they get involved with, thereís still such a heart at the base and lessons learned as well between the characters. Thereís this constant hate, but thereís also a lot of love between Bud and Ernesto.
Ernestoís his next door neighbor who has a successful landscaping business. Heís a good family man. Heís just a really fun, lovable guy that, I think, all the more fun and lovable he is, the more it rankles Bud. Thereís even an episode at one point where Bud is a super fan of Ernestoís. For as much as he doesnít like him, it really turns out that he just wants to be like him so much.
And then, J.C. Gonzalez, my nephew, whoís now come home from college, who, I think, represents a lot of the way people see the generation now coming out of college thatís without really a compass of where theyíre headed. Heís such an annoyingly proselytizing liberal who just gets caught up in whatever protest is in mode at the time and very outspoken about it and sometimes signifying nothing.
Wendy: Awesome. Thank you so much, guys. I do have another quick question. We did a test, actually, Nicholas, on the video interview that we had the other day with you, and we saw that the demographic on Facebook on the Hispanic side, obviously, in general market, it was very heavy in between 18 and 34. My question is nowó
Nicholas: Well, it should. Isnít that the perfect demographic?
Wendy: Yes. Definitely.
Nicholas: Iím sorry. I donít know. I didnít go to school for it, but it sounds like thatís exactly what everyoneís complaining about. But go ahead.
Wendy: Yes. And it was very heavy male-driven. So, my question, based on that information, is we know itís very political. We know itís very culturally sensitive, but itís really the iGeneration. The generationís going to pay attention. Could it be backwards? Could it be the fact that we already overcame at that age these barriers and itís going to be funny, but we also are going to learn from the show and open up more to togetherness? Whatís your opinion about that?
Nicholas: That prediction? The latter prediction that it leads to us being a little bit more open, or that weíve already learned it?
Wendy: No, because we already learned it at that specific age, letís say 18 to 24, that we already overcame all this racism, and we donít need a world the same as the older generations.
Nicholas: You know what, I think, well, do we not see it the same as the older generations? Yes. I can completely agree, but is thereóare we a little bit better at hiding it because we know itís not something thatís nice to be racist to your neighbor and weíre in a climate where people are highly criticized, even to the point of losing jobs and things on their own opinions about race? So, has it really changed? I donít know. I think weíre better at keeping it close to the breast and only sharing it among close friends in a joke, to be honest.
Wendy: I love it. Hank?
Hank: Yes, you know, itís a good question. I donít know. I think that itís a complicated thing, and that itís something that the more, I think, itís discussed, and the more that itís just an open, on-the-table topic of conversation, the better off we all are.
Hank: And the closer we get to people just being judged as individuals and not as color, race, accents. But hereís the good new, I think. Like it or not, whatever opinion you have, wherever you are on the spectrum of what we just discussed, itís happening in our country.
Hank: You can get on the train or not, but the train is moving.
Wendy: Alright, guys. Good luck with Bordertown. Weíll be posting more and supporting the show and happy holidays to both of you. Thank you so much.
Hank: Thanks a lot. Thank you.
Nicholas: No problem.
Moderator: Thank you, and weíll go to the line of Veronica Mendoza with Latino Scoop. Please go ahead.
Veronica: Hi. Excited for the show, and I had a couple of questions coming from Latino Scoop and wanted to get some feel. The characters are obviously in completely different realms, but wanted to get your feel on what kind of freedom you might have had developing these characters, because theyíre not the normal, everyday characters you might be playing. Did you have any input or anything you saw twisted in maybe adding a couple of improvs to your characters that may have not been in the script?
Hank: Nicholas probably did more than I did, if he did. I really kind of came inóthis thing was a pretty fully formed vision by the time I came on board, and I was really just there to give voice to Bud. I just really wanted toóI focused mostly on finding, literally, the right voice, something that would play comedically and also play the right emotional beats that needed to be played and just really make the vision of this thing that Mark Hentemann had come to life as best I can. And that was really a large job. I didnít get in there and, ďShouldnít we change this or change that?Ē
Nicholas: So, thatís what I was supposed to do.
Hank: Nicholas might have more.
Nicholas: I wish I had done that whole checklist you just talked about because weíd probably be in a lot better position right now. Oh, man. No, heís right. I guess there was a littleóheís right. We came to this project, and the nice part is Mark had a very firm vision about what he saw and put people that were going to fit in there, but I think itís also part of the job more than people realize. Itís not like weíre [audio disruption] work in this animated series. Youíre pretty beholden to the lines. You say it as theyíre supposed to be said, but sometimes you have a little fun or you make some suggestions, and they humor you and everyone laughs and you think itís going to end up in the episode and then it doesnít.
So, you have a lot of fun with it, and sometimes weíve been able to improv and find something that wasnít there before. That way the job is constantly alive. But thereís a lot that just kind of has to fit into its own. If you do your work beforehand with finding where your character stands in all these different situations, then you can just fully flesh it out, which is what, like when Hank came to Bud just really brought a lot of life to it, and thatís your improv within the confines of the show.
Veronica: Okay, thank you.
Moderator: Thank you and weíll go to the line of Daedrian McNaughton with Premiere Guide Miami. Please go ahead.
Daedrian: Hi, can you hear me?
Hank: Very indistinctly.
Nicholas: Not really.
Daedrian: Just like The Simpsons and Family Guy, will you guys be pushing any boundaries?
Hank: I didnít quite hear that. Iím sorry.
Daedrian: Just like The Simpsons and Family Guy, will you guys be pushing any boundaries on this new series?
Hank: Nicholas, can you translate? I didnít hear that first part.
Nicholas: Yes, sheís saying like Family Guy and The Simpsons, are we going to be pushing any boundaries on this series?
Hank: I would say yes. I think The Simpsons, 27 years ago, pushed boundaries and then directly or indirectly or consciously or unconsciously opened the door for shows like Family Guy, South Park, and other great shows. And when I say this has a Family Guy sensibility, what I mean is that it will really go to like a whoa place, like, wow.
Letís put it this way, there are some lines I said as Bud that I was glad it wasnítóit was just my voice and not my face associated with the line. I was, like, wow, this is quite something to say. And Family Guy goes there; so does South Park. And yes, the show, part of the point of the show is notósometimes itís just there for comedic shock value. A lot of times itís there to make a point as well.
Daedrian: And for Nick, this is kind of a departure from what youíre used to. Can you give me a little bit of an insight of why you chose this, to be part of an animated series?
Nicholas: I like money, for one thing. And itís not like a windfall at this point of the show, but yes, thatís the main thing. I was telling one of the earlier interviewers is thatís kind of what actors want. There are very diverse markets available these days, whether itís video games and performance capture and straight voiceover, book deals, like where youíre reading books, book narration.
Thereís something you always want to get into, and something like animation is a great job that works around your schedule, and itís funny. Youíre surrounded by brilliant people, and I get to work with people like Hank that arenít only just trying to beat me on the poker table, but we finally get to work for the forces of good together. So, for me, itís all a win-win. You donít have to ask why I do something like this, because itís around extremely creative people that are hilarious and happy to be a part of it and want to continue doing more.
Daedrian: And Hank?
Hank: Yes, you know, I always wanted toóI kind of look at Family Guy as being the cool kids, like the big kidsí table. Simpsons, we donít get to push things as far, and Iím sometimes jealous of that. Iíve admired Seth for a long time and Mark, and you know, saw a way to jump in here that was really fun. Itís something Iíve done for years, primetime animation. I really, really enjoy it. So, why not try something a little different?
Daedrian: Well, gentlemen, thank you very much and happy holidays, and I wish you were at the beach with me right now.
Hank: Thank you.
Nicholas: I wish I were at the beach with you right now, too.
Daedrian: Miami Beach, Iím sorry. Sorry. Thank you, guys.
Nicholas: Iíll be there soon. My fiancťeís looking at me like Iím an asshole right now for saying that. Thanks.
Moderator: And weíll go to the line of Suzanne Lanoue with The TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.
Suzanne: Good morning. Itís great to talk to you guys. Hank, Iíve been a fan of yours ever since Hermanís Head.
Nicholas: God, I love that show.
Hank: Going back a ways. My goodness, yes.
Suzanne: I have a website about it, honest.
Hank: A website about it? My goodness.
Nicholas: Iím standing outside your door right now, Hank.
Hank: Itís weird, yes, it is weird.
Suzanne: Yes, so, I watched the first episode of Bordertown, and I just laughed all the way through it, so you guys did a great job. Itís good.
Nicholas: Thank you.
Suzanne: I was wondering how many episodesóI came into the call late, so forgive me if somebody asked this, but how many episodes have been filmed, and how long did it take you guys to do your part of it?
Hank: Itís noisy here [audio disruption].
Nicholas: Thirteen episodes, and it took somewhere around, all in with starting the script read-throughs to doing the last minute ADR touches and screenings and stuff, about two years.
Suzanne: So, each of you took that long or just the whole thing took that long?
Nicholas: Yes, I mean, the whole thing. And of course, Hank and my character, Ernesto, are throughout all the episodes, so you know? Some we were able to come in and knock out really quick, but animation takes a long time.
Suzanne: Cool. Well, thanks, you guys. I appreciate it.
Hank: Sure, thank you. You know, guys, I have another phone interview I need to get to. I need to jump off.
Michael: Do you guys wantódo we have one more question or, I guess, or should weó?
Hank: I can do one more, and then Iíve got to go to my next call.
Nicholas: Go ahead. You can answer first, Hank, and get off.
Moderator: Thank you. Weíll go to the line of Robert Hernandez with Think Latino. Please go ahead.
Robert: Hi there, guys. Good morning. Can you guys talk about the process of finding the right voice and pitch for each of your characters? Was there a specific sound that you guys were aiming for?
Hank: Yes. In my caseóthis is Hankóit was hard, harder than usual to find this guy. We worked a lot, Mark Hentemann and I, to sort of figure out how he should sound. Mark had a very definite idea. We sort of opened it up. There was a day where I came in, literally dropped like a dozen voices I thought could work, and it ended up coming down between the voice that was in there and another voice. Itís actually a voice thatís based on a Simpsons writer, actually.
But, you know, it was tricky getting this character, making him funny, silly, pathetic, but also believable with the proper level of anger, and then also sustainable. And also didnít sound like anything Iíve done, because Iíve done so many voices on The Simpsons, I didnít want to recreate anything, and sometimes he sounded sort of similar to Comic Book Guy. I had to rerecord some things that sounded too close to that. So, it was a little harder than usual for me, this one.
Iíve got to run, guys. Happy holidays, everybody.
Nicholas: Happy holidays, man.
Michael: Thank you, Hank.
Nicholas: So long. Bye-bye.
Michael: We can do a few more questions with Nicholas before we wrap if we have any.
Nicholas: And everybody just hangs up.
Moderator: We do have a question from Axel Perez with AxelPerez.us. Please go ahead.
Axel: Hello, how are you doing? I was on my way out, so thank you for the opportunity. Let me get back to the studio now. Okay. How are you doing, Hank, Nicholas?
Nicholas: Youíve got Nick here. Hank had to beg off.
Axel: Alright, Nicholas, how are you doing? Happy holidays, guy.
Nicholas: Hi. Good.
Axel: Well, Iíve heard a lot with the other guys before, so what was the funniest thing you have done so far with this new series, Bordertown?
Nicholas: Whatís the funniest thing?
Nicholas: I guess the most fun thing because of it has really been a lot of the publicity, you know, with Comic-Cons and those kinds of things with the cast, finally getting in a room with Hank Azaria and Alex Borstein, Missi Pyle, Judah Friedlander, for all of us to be together, because weíve all been so spread out and have never even really been together for a table read. So, thatís been, honestly, the most fun for me has been hitting the road with those guys and getting to play to live audiences and talk to people.
Axel: Right. So, probably weíre going to see reality between the borders, some kind of reality of sorts that happens?
Nicholas: Whatís the question?
Axel: What we are going to see on the Bordertown is probably some kind of a reality between the north border, I mean with Mexico and the US in some way?
Nicholas: Oh, yes, itís all pulled from real life. Some of it is satire, of course, taken to the absurd, but some of that absurd actually proves to be things that are actually happening now after the episode was written and shot. So, yes, regardless of whether it be absurd or the everyday violence on the border, all of it is represented in this show in its own way.
Axel: Right. And maybe, possibly a message to the Hispanic community from your side and Ernesto Gonzalez or J.C.?
Nicholas: Are we seeing that side represented through them? Is that what youíre asking?
Axel: Right, yes.
Nicholas: Yes, of course. Yes. Definitely. Thatís why half of the characters are Latino characters.
Axel: Right. Okay, so, thatís great. Awesome. So congratulations.
Nicholas: Thank you.
Axel: Best wishes and, of course, a happy holidays for you guys.
Nicholas: You too. Thank you, sir.
Axel: Thank you.
Moderator: We have no further questions in queue. Please continue.
Michael: Great. Thanks, everyone, today for your time, and as a reminder, Bordertown premieres on Sunday, January 3rd at 9:30 p.m./8:30 Central on FOX. Nicholas, thanks so much for taking the time out today, and again, thanks, everyone else.
Nicholas: Thank you. Thank you to everyone else for taking the time as well. Much appreciated.
Moderator: Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T TeleConference. You may now disconnect.
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