Smurfs Attack Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays!
By: Lynn Barker
Not really. These two play a cute couple surrounded by invading but friendly Smurfs!
In The Smurfs, out this Friday, Neil Patrick Harris of TV’s popular “How I Met Your Mother” and a guest star in the “Harold and Kumar” movies and Jayma Mays, who plays germ phobic Emma on TV’s “Glee”, co-star as Patrick and Grace, a cute couple expecting a baby when their NYC apartment is invaded by tiny blue Smurfs who, chased by the evil wizard Gargamel, have escaped through a portal from their world.
The confused but friendly Smurfs need to get home before Gargamel tracks them down. Meanwhile, they’ll help Patrick with his advertising career and aid him in accepting impending dadhood and Smurfette (voiced by singer Katy Perry) will become best galpals with Grace.
Jayma and Neil sat down with Kidzworld in Beverly Hills. They were funny and very proud of their work as two of the several live action actors interacting with tiny blue folks that weren’t really there.
Kidzworld: Smurfs are named after their personality traits, so what would be your Smurf name?
- Jayma: I feel like I wanna say Ginger Smurf now, just because of my hair, but I’d have really light blue skin and I’d burn still (just like I do now), like I’d turn a dark blue in the sun.
- Neil: Humm, I don’t know.
- Jayma: Gangsta Smurf!
- Neil: Maybe Variety Smurf. I like to juggle and do magic, see?
- Jayma: Incredibly Multi-Talented Smurf. Triple threat.
- Neil: Threatening Smurf.
Kidzworld: We’ve heard that you had little figures or puppets on set representing where the Smurfs would be in the scene. How did that work for you and were you surprised on seeing the final movie?
- Neil: I was super impressed with the end result in that sense, technically, you just have no idea. It’s blind trust on our part that the animators are effective and also really talented. Our job, more than anything, was to be very specific with eye-line points, where to focus, because anything else that we did they could animate around, but if we just did a blank gaze to the left, it didn’t look right, you had to key in on one spot.
- So that was challenging, and a little bit embarrassing, because you had an earwig in your ear, voiceover actors in another room (reading out the Smurf’s dialogue), so the poor crew, the camera guys, had no idea what was happening in that sense.
- Jayma: But the [Smurf puppets] on set, I did find them helpful. It at least gave me an idea of where they were going and what they were doing, and Raja [Gosnell, the director] was so good at explaining further what the Smurfs would be doing in the scene and how the Smurfs were feeling so you could respond to that
- Neil: It was a bit more embarrassing for Raja than us, because every single shot he was on his hands and knees like a seven year-old saying, “And then Smurfette goes, [HIGH PITCHED VOICE] ‘Oh no, I can’t believe it!’ and then she moves over here.”
Kidzworld: That’s so funny. Maybe it will be on the DVD. Jayma, you seemed to really bond with Smurfette.
- Jayma: I did. She’s such a lovely girl.
Kidzworld: It was a girl power moment. What is it that you think is so special about Smurfette?
- Jayma: She felt maybe she was a bit of an outcast because she was the only girl. I love the fact that the movie was trying to say ‘That’s okay, it’s okay to be unique and you’re not just one thing, like Clumsy Smurf is not just Clumsy, he’s a hero as well’. I love the fact that that was the message coming out of their uniqueness, so I hope girls respond to that well. I hope that’s the message that they take from it. It’s okay to be a girl, and it’s cool to be different, and whatever your trait is, that’s cool and okay.
Kidzworld: Neil, what would your playboy character Barney on “How I Met Your Mother” say if a bunch of Smurfs invaded his crib?
- Neil: He’d probably ask for Smurfette’s number and call it a day.
Kidzworld: You guys are a cute couple in this. Had you worked together before? You’re very different characters: one’s pessimistic, one’s optimistic.
- Jayma: My character is so pessimistic. You’re exactly right. I believe it was the first season of “How I Met Your Mother”. I had a very small guest role on that. I played Coat Check Girl, but we didn’t really have scenes together, and then [Neil] obviously came and did an amazing guest performance on “Glee”.
- Neil: But we didn’t have a scene together on that.
- Jayma: So we were acquaintances, but I feel like we hit it off really quickly.
- Neil: We really did. We finish each other’s sentences and goof off, laugh a lot. I was super concerned about who was going to be Grace in the movie. I just wanted it to be someone that made sense as a couple, and I wanted the dialogue and our relationship to feel like we still were in love with each other, and that we amused each other, even though we were in conflict in the film. Jayma is able to have very earnest, lovely conversations with Clumsy Smurf, and yet you’re enamored by her face and you like her wit, and she can be quirky and fun at the same time. She’s a big star, that Jayma Mays.
- Jayma: My head is exploding right now.
Kidzworld: Do you have a favorite scene?
- Neil: I liked the physical comedy stuff best. I think that first scene, when they come bursting out of the box and I’m whacking at stuff with an umbrella and crack myself on the head and fall over and dogs jump on me and I get hogtied by the Smurfs, that was really weird and fun to film, and I think equally amusing to watch.
Kidzworld: Were you a fan of the Smurfs growing up? Did you watch the TV series? What did you know about them when you got the script?
- Neil: I thought that the whole thing was created by Hanna-Barbera (TV Producers) in the ‘80s. That’s all I knew. (Note: The Smurfs were created by a Belgian artist named Peyo for his comic book in the 1950’s. They were called The “Schtroumpfs” then)
- Jayma: I have a little bit of a different background with the Smurfs. My mom was a big, big Smurfs fan, so she would force me to watch every Saturday morning. I had no choice in the matter. I would jump downstairs on Saturday morning, “Hurray, cartoons!” and she would say, “Smurfs! That’s what you’re watching.” She’d sit me in front of the television and so, to spite her, I would say I loved [bad guys] Gargamel and [his cat] Azrael, and they were the best! I did secretly love to watch the show, and I think she loved the fact that there was a message behind it. It was a good show for a kid to watch.
Kidzworld: Neil, can you talk about your character’s fear of becoming a dad? Considering you’re a dad of twins now, could you identify?
- Neil: I did. When we were filming the movie we were about five, maybe six months pregnant and weren’t telling anybody, so it was my little secret, and it was certainly easy to play things like looking at an ultrasound photo and feeling what emotion that brings. I finally went up to Raja, who had been telling me what it feels like to be a potential dad, and I said, “I’ve got a secret. We’re expecting twins in October.” And he melted and was a little bit embarrassed that he had been so forthcoming in trying to explain to me what that felt like. It was nice that, when the script came my way, we had just started that process, so it seemed like good timing when I looked ahead into the future.
Kidzworld: Was there any scene that was particularly difficult for either of you, be it physically or emotionally?
- Jayma: My most difficult scene was purely technical. It was the scene where I had to brush Smurfette’s hair. We were supposed to be connecting as girlfriends, and I’m getting the eye-line straight and there’s a mirror thing there, and then I’m having to figure out the exact wave of her hair and you’re still trying to find your light and look up. and look down. It was so difficult. That scene for me was very technical, and the girl bonding at the same time, and there’s a person (reading you Smurfette’s lines). I felt like a mental case that day.
- Neil: I had the most trouble keeping track of eye-lines, like there was a scene in Patrick’s office where all the Smurfs are standing here, but they switch places in the middle of the scene, and so I’m looking at all these different colored dots with one earwig in my ear, and ‘that white dot is now Papa’, but then it ends up Papa’s over there, and so you have six of them. That was a little tricky just remembering, because you really want it to be good. You want to know that you whip over and you look right at this little person, even though they’re not there. Those technical elements were tricky.
Kidzworld: Season by season, you discover new sides to your characters on your TV shows. Jayma, what have you discovered in the last season on “Glee”?
- Jayma: I know for my character, Emma, she went through quite a lot, In this past season she got married, got divorced, and she’s still discovering how to deal with these germ phobic issues that she has and her OCD. I was surprised towards the end of last season that they did have her seek out help and admit that she has a problem and I’m interested to see where that’s going to go. She’s taking medication now and sometimes that medication works for some patients, and doesn’t for others, so it’ll be interesting.
- Neil: I think Barney’s real journey is just to figure out how to [hook up with] the same girl over and over and get something out of it, instead of just feeling strange.
Kidzworld: Jayma, “Glee” has really helped theater and chorus classes in high schools. Have you experienced anyone talking about that?
- Jayma: They definitely approach me about our show. I think there seems to be a real revival for glee clubs now, and drama. At the high school I grew up in, we didn’t have money for the arts, so we didn’t have theater or drama or anything like that, but I was very close with the teacher there who would talk to us about the possibility to pursuing performance or theater as I went to college or beyond that. She e-mailed me last week and said that they have signed her up for the first ever drama class at my school so that’s really exciting! I just got chills! There’s talent there, and students that are yearning to express themselves in that way, so that was very, very exciting news for me.
Kidzworld: That’s so great!