'I tend to be hired to play very high-energy characters'
Taran Killam has played a wide variety of roles, from the teen pop idol of Stuck in the Suburbs to Donald Trump himself. On Wednesday, he goes full animal with his next foray into voice acting (after Hulu’s The Awesomes) with Nature Cat on PBS Kids. Designed to inspire kids to discover things about nature, the show features Killam as the titular cat as he sets out to explore the world around him.
“I tend to be hired to play very high-energy characters,” Killam says. “Frantic on The Awesomes is always speaking a mile on a minute. Nature Cat isn’t necessarily faster, he’s just more enthusiasm. We’ll come in and record anywhere from three to four episodes at a time, and I’m exahausted by the end of it. I’m drenched in sweat. Nature Cat does nothing half-speed. He’s climbing trees and jumping off rocks and exploring caves. It’s become my workout routine.”
Killam isn’t alone in this adventure. Much of the cast is filled in with SNL comrades like Bobby Moynihan (who plays Nature Cat’s best friend, a dog named Hal) and Kate McKinnon (Squeaks the mouse). Like SNL, several episodes are also set to feature a variety of celebrity guest voices.
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“We’re coming in one at a time, and then we report back to each other when we’re back at the offices. You’ll see, everybody’s doing a bigger character. I think sometimes in animation you get hired for your sort of natural speaking voice, but most of us are playing heightened characters, most of which I hadn’t heard until a couple months ago,” Killam says. “The biggest difference is we’re doing it by ourselves, but it’s awesome to come in and hear Bobby lay down a track with a reference or an inside joke in it, and know what he’s referring to, and be able to build off that. Same with Kate and Kenan [Thompson] too. On top of being the funniest people in the world, they’re also my favorite human beings.”
Unlike some of his other roles (12 Years a Slave, say) it’s a performance Killam’s young children will actually be able to watch.
“It’s exciting. I leave it up to them. Because I’m also doing a character and it’s away from my normal voice I can let them enjoy it without it being ruined by their dad,” he says
Nature Cat airs Wednesday mornings on PBS Kids. Watch the episode “The Treasure of Bad Dog Bart” below.