Zach Galligan: 'Mogwai' is new mythic adventure, not 'Gremlins' rehash

"Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai" premieres Tuesday. Image courtesy of Max
"Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai" premieres Tuesday. Image courtesy of Max

NEW YORK, May 23 (UPI) -- Zach Galligan says he is happy the new animated series, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, is a prequel to and not a remake of his 1984 live-action horror-comedy Gremlins.

"I was excited about that," Galligan told UPI in a recent Zoom interview with reporters.


"Even though it means my character Billy Peltzer isn't there, it still means there is a lot of exploration of the mythology that can happen," he said. "That's one of the things that I always thought was perhaps a little underserved in the first two movies.

"There could be more rules, more transformations. What if they get hit with milk instead of water? There could be all sorts of clever possibilities that they could do with these creatures."


Premiering Tuesday on Max, the 10-episode show is set in 1920s China and follows the adventures of the adorable, magical Mogwai critter Gizmo (AJ LoCascio) and members of the Wing family (Izaac Wang, Ming-Na Wen, James Hong and BD Wong) who adopt him.

Wang voices young Sam Wing, who will grow up to be the mysterious shop owner Mr. Wing in Gremlins and its 1990 sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

The boy is charged with the task of protecting Gizmo from evil industrialist Riley Greene (Matthew Rhys) who wants the critter for himself, knowing that when Gizmo gets wet, he spawns other Mogwai, which then turn into dangerous monsters if fed after midnight.

There is some connective tissue between Sam and Billy in that they are both sweet young men from tight-knit families who risk their lives to guard Gizmo, even though nothing could have prepared them for these challenges.

"Billy is really more sheltered by the fact that he is from an incredibly small town of about 2,000 people and one traffic light, whereas Sam is simply sheltered by having overprotective parents who don't encourage him for adventures because his grandfather was such a rogue," Galligan said.

"They have to use their wits and courage that they didn't know they had to overcome all sorts of obstacles like any good hero's journey."


There is also an age difference between Billy, who was 19, and Sam, who appears to be about 12.

"Interestingly, when Billy Peltzer was first written, he was supposed to be 11 or 12 and then they raised my age -- thank goodness for me -- and gave me Phoebe (Cates) as a love interest," Galligan said.

"Then the funny thing is, for some reason, and I have never gotten an explanation for this. They never raised the age of my friend, which is why Corey Feldman is 11," he added. "My best friend is an 11-year-old, which I always found a little peculiar."

Galligan will lend his voice to a new character, whose specific identity and arrival in the story are being kept under wraps until the premiere so as not to spoil the Mogwai viewers' experience.

"I would have done practically anything to be part of the franchise. I just think it's a fun thing to do and it's a smart thing to do," Galligan said.

"Long-time fans get nervous that somehow you are going to eradicate the past," he added. "I think one of the reasons the new Star Wars series was so successful was because at the very outset they let everyone know Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill [were involved].


"We're cherishing the old ones and we're bringing in the new ones and combining the two."

The actor said he thinks it is "surreal" that the franchise is still so recognizable and beloved after more than 40 years.

In 2020, Galligan and a high-tech Gizmo that moved and talked appeared in a Mountain Dew soda commercial that went viral.

"The old Gizmo was a rotary phone and this one was a smartphone. The technological difference between the two was astounding," he said, comparing the 1984 puppet to the 21st-century robot.

The Irish-American actor from New York said the recurring character he plays in Mogwai is a "big, burly guy" who looks like he'd be a bouncer at a St. Patrick's Day parade.

Galligan decided to give him a voice that sounds like his late father's.

"He had a kind of lovable gruffness about him," Galligan said.

"Billy works in a bank and is affirmatively white collar and this character is clearly a bit more blue collar, so it was fun to try a character like that.

"It was a blast, but I don't want to exaggerate it and make you guys think you're going to be seeing me do huge monologues and stuff like that because it is a fairly small part. But it's noticeable and it's fun and it's nice to be included."


Galligan said he wanted to know exactly what the intentions and tone of the series would be before he signed on to it, so he read the scripts for the first five episodes.

He liked what he saw.

"The series gets a little spooky, a little intense in places," Galligan said.

"But that's the franchise. The franchise is not E.T. It's the dark side of E.T. It has a slightly more mischievous, leaning toward vicious streak. Gremlins has always had a mean streak. In Gremlins I and II, the gremlins are tormenting Gizmo like two or three times per movie."

Galligan said he is aware of comparisons between Gizmo and Grogu, aka Baby Yoda, from the Disney+ series The Mandalorian.

Both are wide-eyed, big-eared, vulnerable-looking creatures with super powers.

But Galligan doesn't think Gizmo should feel threatened.

"There's more than enough room for Baby Yoda and for Gizmo, just like there is enough room for Coke and Pepsi," he said. "It gets people talking."

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