Lilly Singh is determined to help Muppets reach great heights in 'Mayhem'

"The Muppets Mayhem" is now streaming. Photo courtesy of Disney+
1 of 5 | "The Muppets Mayhem" is now streaming. Photo courtesy of Disney+

NEW YORK, May 10 (UPI) -- Lilly Singh says Nora, the human talent scout she plays in Muppets Mayhem, sees magic in Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem that most of the music industry seems to have missed for the past 45 years.

Premiering Wednesday on Disney+, the musical comedy focuses on the eccentric rock band -- which also includes Animal, Janice, Floyd, Lips and Zoot -- as they finally get their big break.


"Nora has a very special connection to music in general. It has helped her in a lot of hard times in her life, especially when her parents weren't around and she was raising her sister. Times were really tough," Singh told UPI during a recent roundtable interview with reporters at New York Comic Con.

"Her connection to the band is,'They've gotten me through a lot,'" the actress added. "She not only has an affinity towards them, but she wants to help them achieve greater heights, so that more people can have that experience."


Tahj Mowry's character Moog is inspired by the infinitely upbeat musicians who are always authentically themselves.

"He loves music. He is an audiophile. He knows his way around a mixing board and all that," Mowry said.

"This band is his life and how they live their lives, he looks up to that -- their fearlessness, the fact that they are so different, but they are comfortable with the ways that they are different and they put that in their music and they put that message out there."

The actor thinks viewers will enjoy getting to know the band beyond its outrageous antics.

"That's the beauty of this show -- it's got so much heart," Mowry said. "It's funny and silly at times, but it's also grounded. At its core, it's about love."

Singh's favorite scenes to shoot were ones where she is in a car with the entire band, as well as the human puppeteers who brought them to life.

"My mind melted," she laughed.

"The car was really interesting and probably the most challenging to shoot in because you are in such a small space and it's not a real car. There's no bottom to the car. It's really me sitting on an apple box that has been fastened."


It was such a ridiculous situation that writer-producers Adam F. Goldberg and Jeff Yorkes left their offices and came down to the set every time they heard the cast was cramming themselves into the car.

"They felt FOMO," Singh said, using the slang for "Fear of Missing Out." "There was too much fun happening."

Mowry's best memory was a scene when exhausted Animal and Lips were draped across him.

Singh teased her co-star, saying because he got to briefly move one of the puppets' hands, he considers himself an official Muppet performer.

"You looked at me that day and you were like: 'You got your phone? Take pictures!'" she said.

"It was amazing," Mowry agreed.

One of the biggest challenges of making the show is how furniture is lifted four feet off the soundstage, so that the puppeteers can stand below the Muppets that they are manipulating.

"It's pretty dangerous," Mowry said. "Everything is elevated. The dining table was, for sure, the craziest set because our chairs are literally bolted. You're not going anywhere, but the floor."

Mowry and Singh feel honored to be part of such a beloved franchise and all the legacy zaniness that comes with that.

"I grew up watching these [characters] and I'm in this now and it's also like, 'Oh, my God, I'm stepping in as this human counterpart to this iconic [brand].' I was like, 'Will the fans accept me?' It's a lot," Mowry said.


"I'm thankful that everything was on the page already and all I had to do was go to work and be Moog, which I like to think a part of me is in him anyway."

Singh said she felt nervous at times because this was such a high-profile project.

"Of course, it's very scary and huge pressure, but what I keep telling myself is that nothing else matters besides the fact that we had so much fun," she said.

Mowry chimed in, "It's hard to have a bad day with the Muppets."

Bill Barretta -- co-creator of the show and the voice of Dr. Teeth -- credits the enduring appeal of the Muppets to the legendary late puppeteer and filmmaker who introduced them to the world in the 1960s.

"It's just Jim Henson and a tone that he's created that is passed on through the generations of Muppet performers, even though some of the originals have passed away, that feeling has passed through to characters that people can relate to," Barretta said.

"That's why they continue to hang in there," he added. "There's always new generations who can identify with a Gonzo or a Kermit or a Piggy or an Animal. That's the magic of any great character, whether they are Muppets or human actors."


Barretta started off working at Pennsylvania's Sesame Place theme park and worked his way up to puppeteer at the Jim Henson Workshop.

He eventually starred as Earl Sinclair in Dinosaurs and took over as the voice of numerous Muppets characters -- including Pepe the King Prawn, the Swedish chef and Rowlf the Dog -- after Henson's death in 1990.

"A lot of people focus on the voice and say, 'Does it sound enough like him?' And I know that's important, but I think it's about the energy and trying to understand the character," Barretta said.

"I just try to find the essence of his characters and make sure the energy works. I think that's what people are drawn to - the energy and the spark of the characters."

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