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Ryan and Daniel: Big Hero 6 Bros

Feb 18, 2015

By: Lynn Barker

19-year-old Ryan Potter, who starred as a teen ninja on Nick TV’s “Supah Ninjas” was thrilled to voice the role of brilliant rebel Hiro in Disney’s Oscar-nominated Big Hero 6. Both he and actor Daniel Henney (“Hawaii 5-0”, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) who voices Hiro’s brother Tadashi, praise the film for presenting positive role models who happen to be Asian.

Ryan Potter as HiroRyan Potter as HiroCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Neither actor has a brother in real life so they perfected their “bromance” through their roles. Both guys are pleased that their characters are both super smart but stress the need to use our hands as well as our brains and technology to tinker and invent things. Cool!

First, the guys gave us advice on how to survive middle school and high school and come out on top.

Kidzworld: For a while, Hiro blows off school. Guys, what advice can you give tweens and teens about getting through school?  

  • Ryan: I know it’s probably untraditional to say this but it’s to pull yourself out of really toxic situations. I loved elementary school. I loved a little bit of middle school. Toward the end of middle school, it became very toxic. It wasn’t a healthy environment for me to be in. I flourished in art classes and sport camps where I could be very hands on and travel
  • When I was in a classroom, it wasn’t necessarily textbooks and learning, I’m okay with that. It was the social aspect that came with it; how nasty kids can be to one another.

Hiro explains his inventionHiro explains his inventionCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Kidzworld: Sadly, that is so true. What did you do about it?

  • Ryan: So, when I pulled myself out of that toxic environment and did home school and started focusing on a career and all my other interests, I was able to get my schooling done. I was able to learn from the textbooks and also able to travel and do other things I wouldn’t have been able to do had I stayed in (regular) school.
  • I don’t know if I’d be the same person I am today, have the same confidence or the self-esteem that I have if I stayed in that school. I think, for middle school and high school students, pulling yourself out of toxic friendships or relationships (helps). Anything you do should be having fun, even learning. If it becomes about something else, find yourself another school or another sports team or relationship.
  • Daniel: I think I’d say just find you. You do that different ways but I think young people struggle finding themselves. Like Ryan spoke about extracurricular and sports things are very important but also I know this from being out of school for a long time, it’s a very small chunk of your life. There is so much focus on your middle school and high school years but remember it’s going to go by quick. Your life is just beginning.

Hiro is accepted to tech school!Hiro is accepted to tech school!Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Kidzworld: Good advice. So, who is the real hero in Big Hero 6, Hiro or Tadashi?

  • Ryan: Tadashi. Hiro wouldn’t be who he is without Tadashi and the continued guidance that came from Baymax and that’s all attributed to Tadashi.

Kidzworld: Is it rewarding to be in a cast with diverse characters from all races?

  • Ryan: This film is a perfect example of what the United States looks like. I don’t see the same face over and over or the same hair color or the same eyes. We need more film and television that represents that. This film is groundbreaking. It’s one of the first Disney films has a multi-cultural character in it. It’s one of the first blockbuster films to have an Asian-American lead at the head of it. It’s very important not only to the Asian community but other mixed-race communities in the U.S. and around the world.
  • Daniel: There have been films before where we’ve been represented but there are very strong male and female leads and as an Asian-American actor I’ve thought we’ve been marginalized at times. The male characters don't seem charismatic or capable or intelligent as we could be or they seem too intelligent or seem one note. It’s nice to see Tadashi and Hiro; strong, smart and doing good things.

Tadashi is proud of HiroTadashi is proud of HiroCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Kidzworld: Daniel do you prefer play the evil brother on “Hawaii 5-0” or a nicer brother?

  • Daniel: To be honest with you the evil brother’s easier because he’s got no rules. That’s what’s fun about playing bad guys is there’s no rules so it’s more fun. With Tadashi, I never had a brother before so I had to learn how to speak to a brother. Plus, you have to stay within the guidelines of who he is. He’s a great guy, a pure person so you’ve got to watch yourself sometimes but it was a lot of fun.

Kidzworld: Did the two of you get to know each other or do some of the voice recording together?

  • Ryan: Not really. The first time we met was the first time we saw the film at the cast screening. The only person I had worked with was Maya Ruldolf (voice of Cass) very briefly but yeah, finding that tone is difficult especially when we don’t have brothers in real life. That’s really attributed to the directors of the film. Don (Hall) and Chris (Williams) did a phenomenal job of setting the tone matching the performance that the other person did give.
  • Daniel: Don can do a pretty spot-on impression of Ryan too. (laughter)

Daniel Henney as TadashiDaniel Henney as TadashiCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Kidzworld: Did you guys have any idea that the film would be as popular as it is?

  • Daniel: When I first went in and saw the concept art at Disney, you have an idea of what it can be. Their films have been pretty hot lately and I saw how different it was, how risky it was and who they were casting for it, it felt different to me from the start so I thought if it was done well, it would have a hell of a lot of potential and luckily they did that and it’s reaching all its expectations.

Kidzworld: How exciting is it to be in an Oscar-nominated film?

  • Ryan: It’s unreal, absolutely unreal. It’s been wish fulfillment to even be a part of the film. We were joking around earlier; we would have paid to be in these roles. People are like “what interested you in taking on the character?” No, no, we are grateful that they had us come in for the audition and chose us so it goes back to that.
  • Daniel: I’m not a big texter and I sent out that text to a lot of people “we got an Oscar nom!”. When I didn’t get a text back I’d write “Why are you not responding? This is a big deal!” It changed me. It’s super special. I never thought in my life this would happen to I’m happy to be a part of it.
  • Ryan: I haven’t been in the film world long enough to really understand the gravity of “Big Hero’s” success. I’m just happy that it is translating well internationally and that the story and the characters are loved by audiences around the world and everything that’s come after that has been secondary to the initial response.

Baymax comforts HiroBaymax comforts HiroCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Kidzworld: Daniel, you do a lot of different things as an actor, was this voice work different for you?

  • Daniel: It was very therapeutic. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had to be able to go into that room (recording booth) and there’s no wrong or right. You just get to free-flow for twenty or thirty minutes and you walk out like you were in a therapy session and when you’re playing a character like Tadashi who is super pure, smart and good and kind; everything a man should represent, I’d walk out every afternoon feeling better about myself that I could get to those places so it was special.

Kidzworld: How important is it to you that a film like this celebrates learning and science and robotics and technology as we move forward into the future?

  • Daniel: I think it’s super important because nowadays we are so advanced with our phones to tablets. I also think it’s good to celebrate the idea of using your hands, going out and working on something. When I was a kid that was what it was all about; going out into the garage and taking apart the lawn mower and putting it back together and figuring out what all that meant. I fear that we have strayed from that sometimes and movies like this will help us get back on that track.

Hiro in his superhero outfitHiro in his superhero outfitCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Kidzworld: Ryan, you lived in Japan for part of your life so what was it like to see San Francisco and Tokyo melded together?

  • Ryan: It’s spot on. I grew up in Tokyo and spent basically every holiday season in San Francisco I know both cities. I know what they look like. I also know the feel of the cities. To get the look is pretty easy. You can look at photos and reimagine it in your own way but to get the feel of both cities, that is attributed to the research and field work that the filmmakers did.
  • The production designer Paul Felix absolutely blew my mind with the stuff I saw, even the smallest details. Hiro and Baymax, when they go out to fight crime, they’re running through this alley in Japan and there are these plastic cartons that they get rid of their recycling in and there they are; those plastic cartons piled high at peoples’ back doors. Someone who lives in the United States won’t necessarily know what those are. Someone in Japan will. And a cable car, someone in Japan doesn’t necessarily know what the cable car is but someone in the U.S. will. It is just such a perfect blend. It is absolutely seamless.

Hiro and flying BaymaxHiro and flying BaymaxCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Kidzworld: I can’t imagine losing a sibling. What do you think this movie tells kids today about loss?

  • Ryan: In Baymax, Hiro finds a person he can talk to and heal and talk about his emotions in a healthy way. Over the course of the film, Hiro kind of realizes that what he is doing is fueled by the wrong emotions. If someone loses a sibling they’re not going to go try to stop a supervillain but dealing with their everyday life, going to school, finding that best friend at school that you can talk about your emotions with or baseball, finding that one person like Baymax that you trust wholeheartedly and talk to them honestly (is important).
  • Daniel: Yeah. I think all of us, especially as men, to turn inwards when you’re faced with tragedy like that and that’s what Hiro does initially. This film tells us that it’s not only your immediate family but your friends who become that support system for you. I can’t remember that being showcased in a film like this before. You can love your friends as much as your immediate family. This speaks to that very well.

Tadashi introduces Baymax to HiroTadashi introduces Baymax to HiroCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Kidzworld: Did you guys do any research into the source material when you got these roles. It’s not too close but…

  • Ryan: There’s no source material basically. There’s kind of a guideline. Man of Action did the Marvel comics books and I actually owned a few of them and I skimmed through them. Once I got the audition and then the part, I went back and I bought all the comic books and I read through them. Both of them are good in their own sense.
  • The comic book is more of a Marvel comic book and “Big Hero 6”, the Disney version, is the Disney version. They are two completely different things but they mirror each other in a lot of ways. Disney gave a lot of nods to the comic book. These characters are still driven by certain things. The comic book was an awesome concept and guideline for the film.

Kidzworld: Has the studio talked about more movies using the characters?

  • Ryan: I think we just started talking a little bit about it today.
  • Daniel: Yeah, it’s just seeing how it performs and doing okay. I think we’d have to find a way for Tadashi to get involved again cuz he’s in a bad place right now. Maybe an origin story?
  • Ryan: The world (of San Fransokyo) is large enough for a sequel. You never know what will happen.

Kidzworld: We could have the birth of Tadashi, how he gets into science.

Daniel: Cool!

Big Hero 6 Blu-rayBig Hero 6 Blu-rayCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Big Hero 6 is available on Blu-ray + DVD February 24th!