Welcome to Awards Contenders. This month, SYFY WIRE is talking to the actors, directors, designers, and craftspeople whose work was featured in the best movies and TV offerings of 2019, and who are now leading award nominees. Today, we're speaking with co-creators Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg about Big Mouth.
In Netflix's animated series Big Mouth, a bunch of middle-school kids — including younger versions of creators Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg — find ways to explore their hormonal urges via their shoulder angels (or devils), which are known as Hormone Monsters. (One of the kids, Missy, who is voiced by Jenny Slate, got a new one in Season 3, voiced by Thandie Newton.)
"We really want the Hormone Monsters to give voice to all the different kinds of emotions that one person can have," Kroll says. "So that even if, like Missy, they're a nerd into sci-fi, they can have a London party girl as their Hormone Monstress." Missy's randy side comes to the fore with her venture into erotic fanfiction, while the rest of the Bridgeton students explore the complications of group dynamics via a school musical and a superhero showdown.
Below, read SYFY WIRE's conversation with Kroll and Goldberg, where the pair explain how the best moments of Season 3 came together.
Missy's had a crush on Nathan Fillion for a long time, but her collaboration with Jay on a man/horse space epic fanfic is a whole new level. How did it come about?
Andrew Goldberg: Missy just seemed like the kind of girl who would be into Firefly, and Nick knew Nathan because he had played a Canadian mountie on Kroll Show, and Nick knew Nathan would be down for it.
Nick Kroll: I think I just texted him some version of "Would you like to be on this new show as yourself?" Originally, he was just the dog who looked like Nathan Fillion, right?
Goldberg: We're always trying to figure out a way to bring Nathan in for at least one episode, because he's just so funny, and so much fun. And I love his dynamic with Missy because it says so much about who Missy is and what she values in a person.
Kroll: We always thought there was an element to Missy's personality that she would be into sci-fi, and into a show like Firefly, like it was something she shared with her dad. Nathan was game for all of it and has continued to be game as it has gotten weirder and weirder.
Goldberg: There's usually a three-sentence catch-up for the actors, like, "Okay, Nathan. Since the last time you came in, Jay has come out as bisexual, and Missy was reading this story where a man turns into a horse, and now they're writing fanfiction together where you're in love with this horse." And the actor's always like, "Okay! Great!"
That's one of two erotic thrillers this season. The other one, of course, is Disclosure the Movie: The Musical.
Kroll: We knew we wanted to do a musical, and we thought it'd be funny to do a musical based on a movie or TV show. This was right after the #MeToo movement had really taken hold, and it felt like it would be interesting to revisit an old piece of pop culture that might be relevant now. And I said, "What if we just did a musical based on the movie Disclosure?" Then I said, "That's a bad idea. We'll figure it out eventually."
We looked at Revenge of the Nerds, which, like a lot of those '80s sex comedies, doesn't hold up anymore. Sixteen Candles, it's not as much fun. It was almost too weird, too real. So we kept coming back to Disclosure because it worked perfectly with the idea of weaponizing sexual harassment claims. It felt perfectly inappropriate and ill-timed to have kids do a musical about it.
Nick, you also voice Lola, the person affected by sexual harassment in that episode. How did you decide it should be her?
Kroll: As we worked on it, we realized that often these inappropriate relationships involve kids who don't have necessarily the most stable home lives. Older people kind of prey on vulnerable kids who aren't going home to incredibly present parental units. And we wanted to get into that gray area where it's not sex, it's not sexual assault, but it's still deeply inappropriate. Lola felt like a good place to tell that story.
Goldberg: I also like it being Lola because the teacher, Mr. Lizer, is like, "Come on, you're going to believe Lola?" Which brings into the story the idea of predators, instead of defending themselves, try to attack the person who's making the accusation.
In the finale, we have a superhero showdown, where the Bridgeton students, suddenly transformed into superheroes, have an epic battle. At least in the mind of one student, that is.
Kroll: One of our partners, Mark Levin, had been pitching doing a story from Caleb's perspective. Caleb is our kid who is on the spectrum, and we thought it would be interesting to see how he processed the world and what was going on emotionally around him.
The documentary Life, Animated shows an autistic boy who uses the characters of Disney films to process emotional reality, and we thought it would be fun if that happened with superhero powers. Nick and Andrew going into battle is a little like Marvel's Civil War, with Captain America versus Iron Man, in that no one is necessarily right. Both sides have a point.
Goldberg: The one moment I really wanted, that I loved, is when Nick and Andrew kind of have a truce for a moment, and they have that handshake where they grab each other's forearms. Something always tickles me in those movies when they grasp arms.
Kroll: We always knew that Paul Scheer would do a good Bain. Paul plays Kurt, Jay's brother on the show. Jay's family is more DC Universe.
Goldberg: I feel like Wolver Peen was your pitch.
Kroll: It would not surprise me.
All of this is caused by a fight between your alter egos, Nick and Andrew. Did you ever fall out over someone kissing a girl the other one liked? Or what did you fight about? Because perhaps that can give us hope that this friendship can be repaired.
Kroll: We didn't fight very much. And we definitely didn't fight over girls. The only fight we ever got into was driving to the Baseball Hall of Fame with Andrew's parents, and we argued about the lyrics to the Flintstones theme song. We'd been in the car for a week …
Goldberg: It's that game where you're trying to think of songs with lyrics that mention body parts. And I said, "Let's ride with the family down the street / Through the courtesy of Fred's two feet." Nick was adamant that this was not the lyric, and it came to blows.
You survived, though?
Kroll: We're just aware of how volatile these middle school friendships can be, and how high the stakes are. We've been friends since we were six years old, even though we now share an office, which could have been a real friendship destroyer.
Goldberg: [Laughs.] We're still functioning.