“There will be something here for a lot of people because of the grief, the loss, the unknowns about how to move through grief.”
One Of the first Youtube viral videos was Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Released in 2010 and created and voiced by Jenny Slate with Dean Fleischer-camp, the video about a talking shell has since raked in millions of views, been turned into a children’s book and now is a new film from the studio A24. Behind the voice it started with, Slate says, were “confusing, dissonant feelings about my own worth as a performer, as a person.” In the film, Marcel teams up with a new friend Dean to find his family, along the way being interviewed by his hero, Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes. “Marcel says she’s got class—and she does.” What makes the film version of Marcel different is how unexpectedly deep and therapeutic it is. “Marcel, in different ways, has always felt incredibly important, boundary-breaking and self-affirming to me.” After the pandemic, a universal story of bonding with loved ones and reconnecting with family is not only what fans of Marcel needed, but it’s what Slate needed as well. “I received a lot of personal comfort and rehabilitation through playing the character.”
How wild is it that this video from 2010 is now a movie?
If you had told me back then that what we were doing would become this and that the reaction would be so lovely, I’d probably float around. But I feel like it’s right and good. I’m giving it away. Now it belongs to everyone else.
What is it about Marcel that people connect with?
He’s so unaffected by his own experience. I think he’s very handsome, but he has a comic form. It’s always funny when something’s the wrong size or the unexpected size. I think people like it when it feels like such a large truth is held by something that’s rather tiny, but mighty.
The film is about family and loss and friendship. It feels very therapeutic. Does that stand out to you?
I want it to be used as broadly as possible for whoever feels connected to it. There have been those responses for sure, especially after the last two years. I do think that there will be something here for a lot of people because of the grief, the loss, the unknowns about how to move through grief.
Your cameo in Everything Everywhere All at Once is so perfect. What was it like working on it?
The Daniels (directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) emailed me and said, “We’re hoping you’ll be in our movie.” I didn’t even ask any questions, and I’m so glad. They really are geniuses, they really are.