Gonzo talks facing his fears in Muppets Haunted Mansion and those Timothée Chalamet comparisons
With Muppets Haunted Mansion, Gonzo takes center stage again...and it's great.
Our favorite blue magician is at the heart of the new Disney+ special, starring alongside Pepe the King Prawn, as the dynamic duo take on the Great MacGuffin challenge and survive an overnight stay in the Haunted Mansion.
While Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang throw their annual Halloween party, Gonzo and Pepe face up to their fears as they meet ghouls, ghosties, and a murderous bride (Taraji P. Henson).
The Halloween Muppets special, which is now streaming, offers a new family entry for spooky season, as well as valuable lessons about facing your fears and plenty of signature Muppet humor and heart.
We reached out to Gonzo to get all the magical details on his latest starring role, including his favorite guest stars, what he might be for Halloween this year (hint: this reporter might just take him up on his offer), and all those recent comparisons to Timothée Chalamet's take on Willy Wonka. Read on for some Halloween tricks and treats.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is your biggest role since playing Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol. What was it like to be back in the center of the action? Fun? Intimidating?
Since I star in my own life daily, making Muppets Haunted Mansion felt totally natural to me. Actually, it felt supernatural, which you've got to expect when you're cavorting with ghosts. By the way, I highly recommend ghost cavorting. It's the most fun I've had since the last time I went bog-snorkeling.
How was working with Pepe as your costar?
Pepe is the consummate professional. At what, I'm not exactly sure. But we definitely balanced each other out. When I wanted to do something totally dangerous and unhinged, Pepe was always there to tell me I was crazy before I did it.
Have you ever visited the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland? Is it a ride you enjoy? What's your favorite Disneyland ride?
I love the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland – and the other Haunted Mansions at Disney theme parks in Tokyo, Paris and Florida. I've spent many happy hours riding around in doom buggies, picking up hitchhiking ghosts. It's one of my favorite rides. But if I had to choose one attraction, it would be the Enchanted Tiki Room. I've been trying to get Camilla and the chickens singing like that for years.
You have a lot of famous guest stars in the special. Was there one you enjoyed working with most?
If there's one thing I've learned from Kermit, it's to never tell which guest star is your favorite. (He also taught me to never stand in the middle of golf course if you're green. Golfers mistake you for a divot and keep stomping you into the turf. Actually, that sounds like a lot of fun.) Where was I? Oh we had a lot of great guest stars in Muppets Haunted Mansion -- Will Arnett Darren Criss, Yvette Nicole Brown, Taraji P. Henson – were incredible. And we had so many amazing cameo guest stars, we actually had to build an extension onto the Mansion. You have to see it for yourself…which is actually the best way to watch.
What was your favorite room in the version of the Haunted Mansion in the special?
The Grand Hall, where all the ghosts gather to sing, party, and cavort. It's the social event of the season – and it never ends. I also have to give a shout-out to Room 999…where I had to face my greatest challenge ever.
The theme of the special is all about facing your fears. Do you have any advice for how best to face your fears?
Wear something comfortable and washable. And face your fears head on. I tried looking askance at them, but the only way to overcome fear is to go eyeball to eyeball with it.
That version of you in that sequence, where you face your fears, is quite scary. What was it like as you were filming this part?
Since I consider my entire life a performance, I never look ahead or use a script. I improvise everything. So the only way to describe my reaction is for you to watch Muppets Haunted Mansion. All screaming is real and unrehearsed.
It was so poignant seeing how much your friends mean to you and you mean to them. What do you think makes the friendships of the Muppets so special?
We care about each other…and that starts with Kermit, who appreciates each of us for who we are and what we do, even if he can't figure out what it is we're doing or why. That trust and caring makes us a kind of family, with all the frantic folderol of any family.
Now that you've faced that fear, is there anything else you're afraid of?
What to have for lunch after this interview. I forgot to bring mine. You wouldn't, by any chance, be on an expense account? I'll gladly pay you back.
Is the Great MacGuffin still your favorite magician after learning the truth about him?
The truth? I can't imagine what you're talking about. At least, not until one watches Muppets Haunted Mansion, in which all is revealed to those who would make me give a spoiler alert here on the pages of EW.
How do you think this special compares to other iconic Halloween specials like It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown?
That's a great special, and personally I am totally with Linus about that whole Great Pumpkin conundrum. But Muppets Haunted Mansion has its own unique spirit, scares and silliness. And we hope it becomes a classic, too.
Favorite Halloween trick?
When trick-or-treaters arrive, I love to answer the door while hanging from the ceiling. Never fails to make 'em laugh, scream…or faint.
Favorite Halloween treat?
Peanut-butter-encrusted anything, preferably left over from a previous Halloween. I find candy is better when it's aged a year or two, but I suspect I'm alone on this one.
What are you being for Halloween this year?
I haven't really decided yet, but right now I'm trying to decide between being a superhero, a Jedi or a reporter from Entertainment Weekly. What size do you wear? Maybe we could go as each other.
Recently people have been comparing Timothée Chalamet's look as Willy Wonka to your garb in The Muppet Christmas Carol. What do you think about those comparisons?
I'm flattered. But the similar look isn't a coincidence. We both go to the same tailor – The House of Maurice of Bayonne. Oh and by the way: Timothée, if you're reading this, I am available to be your stunt double, especially if it involves being dipped in chocolate or flattened by a steam roller.
Would you ever want to play Willy Wonka yourself?
No, I think Timothée has it down. However, if they ever make a movie about Willy's brother, Wilbur Wonka who runs a Tapioca Factory, count me in!