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'HouseBroken': Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow find humor, humanity in pets

HouseBroken airs Monday nights. Image courtesy of Fox
"HouseBroken" airs Monday nights. Image courtesy of Fox

NEW YORK, June 4 (UPI) -- Voice cast members for HouseBroken said speaking for the animal characters of Fox's cartoon comedy allowed them to be creative and comfortable during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starring Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Clea DuVall, Nat Faxon, Sam Richardson, Jason Mantzoukas and Sharon Horgan, the show airs Monday nights.

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"It's the best job there is," Forte, who plays turtle Shel, told reporters in a recent Zoom conference.

"It's like getting together with a group of friends and having fun and laughing," he explained.

"The only downside has been, in COVID, not getting to see everybody in person, but hopefully that will change soon."

Being new to animation, Kudrow -- who plays poodle Honey, the pets' therapist -- agreed that not interacting live with all of her scene partners was difficult.

She did, however, like how the cast was encouraged to ad-lib and deliver dialogue in different ways.

"You get to keep doing it over and over again," Kudrow said.

"They get to rewrite jokes and hone in on stories and everything, unlike a live-action sitcom where they have 10 minutes after the scene to make it perfect -- so, that's really great," she said.

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"It's really fun to see how much funnier it gets and how much more focused it gets, and they are very patient with me finding my character and figuring out what I'm doing."

Horgan said she misses using her face and body to express herself during her animated portrayal of posh kitty Tabitha.

"You can't use your hands. So, there's no hand acting," she said, adding "eyebrow work," another trick of the trade, also is impossible during a voice-over gig.

Faxon joked that the stars have enjoyed recording their lines at home while wearing pajamas, or in Mantzoukas' case, nothing at all since the filmmakers only need to hear and not see them.

"You can be naked recording. I can just be in my closet naked, recording, but the reality is I was doing that anyway even before COVID," Mantzoukas, who plays alley cat Lyle, kept the jest going. "You want to get the voice in its true, unadulterated form. It can't be constrained or constricted."

The personality of Richardson's tabby cat character, Chico, was largely inspired by his real-life pet, Gus.

"In the recording sessions, I would do a lot of meow‑like sounds and purrs, which I owe my cat, like, a check [for,]" the actor said.

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"We should anticipate a lawsuit from Gus," series co-creator Gabrielle Allan quipped.

Mantzoukas never had a cat, but riffed about preparing for his role by participating for six months "in a very immersive cat boot camp" led by Gus.

"If you go into that workshop with no ego, you learn so much," Richardson said.

"My daughter told me that when you stand on your dog's or cat's toe ‑‑ sorry, I think they are called 'paws,' I did a lot of research -- they don't realize you've done it by accident. They think you really hate them, and so I just kept thinking about that," Horgan added.

Fox's Michael Thorn said the network ordered the show because it so accurately conveys how people love the non-human members of their families and are always wondering what they are thinking.

"The pitch [for the show] I remember ended up with us just alternating stories about whose pets were funnier," Thorn recalled.

"It creates this conversation. And when you put Jen [Crittenden,] Gaby, and Clea -- their points of view -- on the adult humor and why it connects to all of our frailties and personalities, it makes it really universal, and I think, right now, especially during COVID, we are all even more connected to our pets."

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Forte admitted he was a bit disappointed to see what animal the show creators assigned him to play.

"I saw myself as a stallion. Then, sadly, it really is, kind of true that I am, kind of, more of a tortoise turtle," he said.

DuVall, who co-created the show with Crittenden and Allan, said she went into the project expecting to play a cat, but ended up voicing the corgi, Elsa.

"I think that was pretty you," Allan told DuVall. "You were also really bossy and controlling in the writing closet. You were always correcting us, and we just thought we should use that."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, a know‑it‑all," Horgan chimed in.

Faxon said his character, a St. Bernard named Chief, was exactly what he imagined himself as a pet.

"Very simple, somewhat dim, eats anything," he said.

Like Forte, Mantzoukas envisioned himself as something grander like a lion, "the king of the jungle or whatever."

"So, to be a cat ‑‑ not just a cat, but a feral cat ‑‑ not just a feral cat but, like, a feral cat living in a house of dozens of feral cats, you know, it spoke to me," Mantzoukas said.

"I could get there from the king of the jungle on high to really falling pretty far to the point where I'm just a really sad, melancholy cat living a brutal existence. It's kind of a harrowing documentary about feral cats, this show."

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Richardson would have liked Chico to be a tad slimmer.

"But with all of the snacking, lockdown, I can't argue," he said.

Horgan related to her "ex‑show-cat who, you know, has had to come to terms with the brutal reality of her career ending early."

"So, I think it just sets me up for what's ahead of me really nicely," she said.

Kudrow said she couldn't be happier with the dog she gets to play.

"Honey represents me personally really well: elegant, really smart, caring, great advice, actually, overly analytical, controlling, and trying to be fun when it's really not," she said.

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