The American star puts on his best smiley face for The Emoji Movie
Deadpool’s best mate talks Merc with a Mouth sequel – and The Emoji Movie. Yes, he plays an emoji – but it’s not poo.
He does stand-up. He hosts a podcast. He released a comedy rap record (The Extended Play EP). And they’re just the things you probably haven’t heard about. TJ Miller is everywhere right now, thanks in part to playing Weasel, the wise-ass bartender in Deadpool and tech entrepreneur Erlich on HBO’s Silicon Valley. This month, he can be heard voicing Gene in The Emoji Movie (yes, they have made a cartoon based on texting icons – at least he’s not voicing the poo emoji, like Patrick Stewart). Gene is a multi-expressional emoji who must seek out normality. As for Miller’s own journey, it’s about to get real – with the upcoming sequel to Deadpool, thriller Underwater with Kristen Stewart and, most excitingly, the role of I-R0k in Steven Spielberg’s virtual reality yarn, Ready Player One. There really is no stopping him from total world domination…
Do you see any similarities between you and Gene?
When they first came to me and said, “You will play the ‘meh’ emoji,” I said, “I don’t know if that exactly matches my comedy.” But once I realised he was manic in his expressiveness, I thought, “That’s perfect.” There seemed to be a lot of comedy inherent in that. You co-star with James Corden. Were you a fan?
You can quote me on this: I didn’t think he was that funny until this movie. A talk-show host… you don’t have to be particularly biting. His carpool karaoke is just like The Emoji Movie for the people. So I thought he was more charismatic, likeable and British. And then in The Emoji Movie, he is consistently so funny. He has such good jokes, there’s a bunch of weird stuff. So after we finished the movie, I was like, “I have to give it up and show respect for this motherfucker!” With this, Deadpool and the upcoming Steven Spielberg movie, Ready Player One, is it an exciting time for you?
Not really. I did this film Yogi Bear 3D, and that I feel was a defining time in my life. This is just a downward slope ultimately that ends in a cold, lonely death. And The Emoji Movie is a highlight on that downward slope, to be sure! No, I’m kidding, it’s always surprising. I always tell [my wife] Kate, it doesn’t make sense to me, the amount of things that I’m doing. I have a stronger work ethic than almost anybody in the business. I think only Amy [Schumer] and Aziz [Ansari] could touch that. But then Aziz… he’s not in The Emoji Movie. He’s doing Master Of None. He isn’t really in film, whereas I’m in a lot of film as well as television. You’ve done other children’s animations too, like Big Hero 6 and How To Train Your Dragon. Why?
I try and hit every single demographic, because I try and make everybody laugh, not just some people. So some people are like, “Why would you do The Emoji Movie, dude, you’re on Silicon Valley?” I’m like, “No, I’m on both! I’m doing both!” The people that love Silicon Valley may not love The Emoji Movie but that’s on them! So the kids love you?
The kids, strangely, know my voice. When I say I’m Fred from Big Hero 6, they’re like, “I knew I knew your voice from somewhere!” I’m also the Mucinex Man – I do comedy in the advertising space because people are going to be advertising anyway, you might as well make it funny. Were you surprised at how well Deadpool did?
Oh yeah… we had no idea! Now we’re going to make more Deadpools and there will be more R-rated superhero genre films. So that’s really, really good. All we need is for Deadpool 2 to be great. He’s almost the antidote to the poison that is those very milk-toast superhero genre films. Like Fantastic Four came out and everyone was like, “What are they doing?” I like Deadpool being present every couple of years to cleanse the palate. What can we expect from Ready Player One?
It won’t be like anything you’ve ever seen before. A big part of Ready Player One is it’s true to the book because the book is so good. It’s so good, so engaging, the definition of a page-turner. But then Steven [Spielberg] made it a Steven Spielberg film. And what’s odd for me… in everything, I bring comedy, and when I got there I said, “Thank you so much for having me in this film,” and he said, “Are you kidding me? We wrote the part for you!” And that’s just so strange, to be doing a scene with only one joke in it, and after three or four takes, he comes over and says, “TJ – I just want to tell you, I think that line is funny. It’s perfectly placed. I didn’t say anything before but I just want you to know it’s really funny.” For some reason he just thinks I’m a real goof and I’m happy about it! Who better to think I’m a goof than Steven Spielberg?
The Emoji Movie opens on 4 August.