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SYFY WIRE The Croods

Amy Landecker carries Ugga forward in 'The Croods: Family Tree'

The star of the animated series shares some voice acting secrets. 

By Tara Bennett
The Croods Family Tree

If you don't have a school-aged child, it may have gotten past you that The Croods has evolved into its own animation universe. The original Dreamworks Animation film was released in 2013 and has since spawned a theatrical sequel, The Croods: A New Age (2020), and two animated series, Dawn of the Croods (2015) and The Croods: Family Tree. The latter dropped on Peacock and Hulu in September and pits the Croods clan against the far-more refined Bettermans.

Taking up the voice of The Croods matriarch is actress Amy Landecker, who many adults will know from her live-action work in Transparent and the recent series Your Honor, where she co-starred with Bryan Cranston. But for the younger set, Landecker is a animation superstar, voicing characters in such recent hits as Trollhunters, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

SYFY WIRE caught up with Landecker about inheriting the role of Ugga from actress Catherine Keener, why she's always up for a voice-only role and how recording The Croods: Family Tree during lockdown ended up being such a unique experience.

You are very busy in plenty of live-action projects but your voice-over resume is racking up the roles. What's the attraction of taking voice-only parts?

First of all, I rarely say no to any voice-over job, because they're usually so much fun and the characters are so entertaining. And for whatever reason, I feel like the ones that I get offered are really cool, either villains or moms. I love to play both of those things. There are so many things you can do in an animated world, and I'll probably never get to be Laura Croft in Tomb Raider on camera, but I get to do it in a voiceover! It's a very imaginative and The Croods is very much in that vein of physical and funny and just really getting to play, which I just really appreciate the opportunity to do that.

Catherine Keener played Ugga in both of the theatrical Croods movies. When you inherent a role established by someone else, are you going for sound-alike voicing or more like capturing the flavor of the performance?

I would definitely say keep a flavor. I kind of knew Ugga in my bones. I had seen the movies and I felt like I knew who she was, just intuitively, I probably didn't get a lot of direction. It was more that I jumped in and they felt like I was in her zone, which is really cool. Catherine is a huge influence on me as a performer in general. She's one of my favorite actresses and she was someone that I always admired when I was coming up. I was very honored to sort of step into her shoes. I do feel like I don't vocally have the exact same space as her, and was not capable of doing a vocal impersonation or sound-alike, so I had to let that go. I think at the beginning records, I did try a little to sound like Catherine, but I can't sound like that. I have to be me and do my version of this and keep the spirit of Ugga that she created. But she definitely laid down [Ugga's] temperament and how she was a parent and how she moved through nature and her world. So I sort of took that from her. And as we've even gone into more episodes, it's been just fun for the writers and me to find Ugga more. Like what makes her tick and what ticks her off. It's been an interesting process to take over as that's not usually something that you do. I hope the fans don't mind that I don't sound exactly like her. But they still feel like they have their Ugga, you know?

How was it recording this series when it's been a new pandemic world of voice artists having to record their dialogue in their basements or closets for best sound?

The creators of the show, for them quarantine and everything that happened in last year meant that they weren't together. The writers were working remotely. But for voiceovers, we're always alone anyway. But what was different and the opposite was that we actually got to see each other. We would sit on a call with the whole cast, or if you were doing like a bunch of scenes with someone. For a while, when we were all home and no one was going anywhere, we were all available to read with each other and record our own tracks. I actually got very close to Amy Rosoff, who plays Hope, through that weird process that was actually pulling everybody else apart.

What's been the best part of working with this cast?

There's a real group of performers in the world that their names aren't as well-known and they don't get recognized because it's mostly their voices, but they are literally some of the most brilliant, talented actors on the planet. A lot of this cast are these really, really brilliant voiceover artists, so to just feed off of them in a big ensemble scene and to play together was really cool for me. I feel like I learned a lot from them.

This series is surprisingly emotional, especially in portraying the female dynamics inside and between the families. What has been most fun for you to play?

One of the things that's really been cool and interesting is Ugga's relationship with her mother. Gran is a wild character. And you learn a lot about how much Gran forced Ugga to take care of herself. There's the sense of healing between them around that a little bit. I think Ugga felt sort of like her mom was competitive with her. I mean, her mom is like a nut and one of the greatest characters ever played and written. I just love her so much. But there's a real progression in their relationship that I think is very touching and a lot of mothers and daughters could relate to healing some old resentments and finding ways to adjust to your child becoming an adult now. That dynamic I thought was really cool. It's mature in an emotional way. This is like a deeper level, emotional journey which I think is really cool. There are some real moments where you might get a little moved by it.

The Croods: Family Tree is now streaming on Peacock.