Freddie Prinze Jr. talks Thanksgiving and how to tackle controversial topics like Star Wars at the table
Freddie Prinze Jr. is no stranger to getting his hands dirty on the Thanksgiving holiday, he’s been cooking and hosting celebrations for nearly two decades. So it wasn’t a surprise when Butterball called him up to ask if he’d answer their famed Turkey Talk-Line, where he helped solve all types of issues for callers last week.
While the cookbook author and father-of-two talked turkey like the best of them, he admits there were plenty of calls asking for advice about keeping the peace at the dinner table when guests want to discuss hot button topics like politics, religion, and Star Wars.
EW called the Turkey Talk-Line to chat with Prinze about the holiday and all sorts of other pop culture topics that can serve as your go-to conversation starters during those awkward silences.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hey Freddie, thanks for taking our call. Have you received any memorable calls as of yet?
FREDDIE PRINZE JR.: Hey! I’m getting all sorts of interesting calls today. I just answered a call from this guy whose name was Ray, I think. He asked me how to deal with people who come over for Thanksgiving and want to talk about politics.
I had a very natural and human moment where I said to him, “I’m 43 years old and I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner and hosting them since I was 18 or 19 years old. The only rule I’ve had since then is that there is no discussing politics or religion. My rule has been obeyed a total of zero times.”
I could totally relate to what this guy was talking about. What I do when someone starts talking about either subject—if they’ve had some wine—I just leave it alone and go into another room where I start a different conversation. But if they’ve not had a drink of wine, then we can have a rational conversation about why it’s important to me that we focus on family and not try to personalize the holiday.
But if they’ve had some drinks, let them say what they have to say and then move the conversation along to something else. If you happen to be a guest in their home, however, you have no choice. At that point, you can walk away or you can join in.
I told him, “It’s going to happen so just be ready to deal with it.”
Has anyone called you that just wanted to fan out and talk to you about their favorite projects you were in?
Yeah, I’ve had some of those! I did this cartoon called Star Wars Rebels and I had a caller who called me saying, “I have this idiot cousin who doesn’t understand Star Wars,” those were his words, not mine. “Can you explain the Force to me like you did in this one video years ago, so that I can explain it to him in a way that’ll help him understand?”
I started laughing because Star Wars has become as polarizing to some people as politics and religion and people want to argue about fictional facts, which is hysterical to me. So I gave him my education on the Force and balance and what it means in the universe with the hopes that the conversation around their Thanksgiving table will be less hostile than normal.
Speaking of Star Wars Rebels, what do you imagine they eat on Tatooine for Thanksgiving?
Man, I wonder what the indigenous birds of Tatooine are? They would have to be desert-y, so it’s probably closer to a roadrunner. It’s high desert, so yeah, roadrunner for sure would be their celebratory poultry dish. I think they would make it the same way…
The good thing with roadrunners is that they can’t take nearly as long to cook. I wish we had evidence of that but the coyote never caught him. I’m assuming it would take like an hour-and-a-half to cook, to two hours based on the meatiness of it.
What’s a typical Thanksgiving like at your home? How do you and your wife (Sarah Michelle Gellar) celebrate?
My wife’s from New York and she grew up with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I grew up in Los Angeles, so we didn’t care about parades. We would be at the beach in November because the weather here is amazing. We always thought it was crazy the way people would freeze to death to watch balloons float by.
However, once my kids were born, and I saw how much they loved that and how magical it all was, then I got it and understood what it was all about. So the Thanksgiving Parade is always watched at my house. I’m usually cooking pretty early in the morning and all throughout the day, so I don’t care what’s on the television.
Once our meal is done, we don’t really do football because the weather is so nice. We’re usually outside playing whatever the stragglers are. We have a nice little fire going on out there and we play board games, that kind of stuff.
I was born in Southern California and I’m one of the few people that actually goes to parks and goes on the hiking trails. We tend to do a lot more stuff like that.
If you had a bet with your friends to makeover the homeliest turkey in the store into the queen of your Thanksgiving dinner, what steps would you take?
I’m assuming it’s the last turkey in the store and it’s the night before Thanksgiving, it’s in the refrigerator and not frozen. It wasn’t big enough to make the cut, it’s probably only like an 11 lb turkey that didn’t get any love and everyone passed it by.
I would have sympathy for that turkey, it wouldn’t be a cocky ego move. I would take that turkey and I would dress it just like I dress all my turkeys. I would season it wonderfully. And because it was so small, when I put it on the platter everything that I put around it would make it stand out and make it look gorgeous. While my friend with the gorgeous 22-pound turkey that takes up the whole platter will get no love because all anyone would see is the turkey and none of the beautiful stuff around the sides.
That’s how I would dress up that turkey and turn it into Rachael Leigh Cook.
You know a thing or two about horror movies. If you find that your Thanksgiving turkey has come back to life and is seeking revenge, what’s the best way not to get carved yourself?
Oh man, the good thing is that turkeys don’t have thumbs. So you don’t have to worry about the turkey having any kind of weapon to come after you with. The only thing a turkey can attack you with is its beak. And if you don’t fear the beak, then you don’t have to fear the turkey.
My grandmother in Puerto Rico used to take chickens on her little farm there and she would put their beak in the dirt and draw a circle from one point of the beak around the chicken to the other part of the beak and then she’d let it go. She would say, “Try to make it leave,” but it wouldn’t because it thinks it’s stuck and that it’s trapped there.
So even if it was a zombie turkey coming back from the dead to haunt me, there’s no fear when it comes to poultry. I wouldn’t worry too much, it’ll still taste delicious. It’ll still go in my oven. It would just be an angrier turkey than a normal one.
Zac Efron was recently cast as Fred in the new Scooby-Doo film Scoob!. You think he’ll do a good job?
Yeah, I heard about that! He’s going to do a great job. A lot of people on social media were like, “Well, that’s not my Scooby-Doo.” And I said, “Yeah, it’s not. It’s for a new generation.” I think social media has empowered fans to the point where they want to have a genuine impact and effect on the things that they consume, and that’s just not the way the business works. That’s just not the way that art should work unless it was a commissioned piece.
If Jimmy Hendrix existed today and people told him how he should play his music, he’d be like, “What?!” That’s genuinely what people say to artists today, “You should’ve written the script this way, or you should’ve used this character like this or like that,” because they have that connection or that reach.
There’s a whole generation of artists and creators that don’t really worry about that outside noise and they try to stay true to themselves. And if you dig what they make, cool and if you don’t, that’s cool too.
I’m sure they’re going to do a great job with the movie, they’re making it for a new generation. Just like the Star Wars movies, it isn’t supposed to age with its original fans. It’s supposed to be presented to each new generation, and there for kids or for those who are kids at heart.
I think people just need to recognize Scooby-Doo goes back a long, long time ago. And they’ve already done an animated Scooby-Doo called Be Cool, Scooby-Doo. My kids love it and I watch it with them. I’ll be honest with you, I think it’s better than the original!
I know that’s blasphemous to say, but I love their writing and they have really good actors behind it. The animation is cool, almost like Family Guy style. Whatever they do with this new animated project with Zac Efron — who is a super capable actor, he’s really good and really charming — is going to do a great job. So people need to relax.