The Drake & Josh star talks about this new animated sequel to the Jerry Lewis classic
Drake Bell has been best-known as Drake from the hit Nickelodeon show Drake & Josh, but he's expanded his repetoire in the past few years, with roles in a few of this year's comedies such as College and Superhero Movie. Drake's latest project has him going into the world of animation with his voice role in The Nutty Professor, an animated sequel to the original film. Bell voices the role of Harold Kelp, grandson to Julius Kelp (voiced by the legendary original actor, Jerry Lewis) in this new adventure. I had the chance to speak with Bell over the phone about this new project, and here's what he had to say.
So how did this whole project come about for you? Is this something they reached out to you for?
Drake Bell: Well, I had done a film for Mirimax, Superhero Movie, so I kind of just fell together. When I actually got in there, it was so ironic because I'm just such a huge Jerry Lewis fan. I mean, if you come to my house, every portrait on the wall is Martin and Lewis. I grew up on them and to actually come in and do The Nutty Professor, there was no way I was going to turn this down. I was on tour while we were doing it, so they were thinking, 'He's busy, he can't do it. We can't fly him out to L.A.' So I said I'll pick a day off and I'll come in and make room wherever I'm at. So we did it when I was in Arizona, I think. I just went in there and did the vocals and then did the second day when I got back to L.A. and that's how it happened.
So you had obviously followed everything before. It's pretty cool that this came to you and you're such a big Jerry Lewis fan.
Drake Bell: Yeah. When I was in there, they were trying to explain to me how Jerry talks and how The Nutty Professor is and I'm like, 'Guys, just let me go. I've got it. I've seen every single Jerry Lewis movie 100 times.' I don't think you can have a bigger fan... unless I was French.
(Laughs) Exactly. So how did the recording process work? Jerry does the voice in this as well, so did you get a chance to meet him at all during the production?
Drake Bell: I did, but it wasn't during the production, which is cool because during production, we're working and while I could hang out with him, it's still a work environment. So, his daughter is a big fan of Drake & Josh and wanted to meet me. I was playing a show in Las Vegas and she came to the concert and got backstage and got to meet the band and everything and she requested to meet me. So I got to go to his office in Las Vegas and... the memorabilia in there is just crazy. He has everything on the walls. I got to spend four or five hours just hanging out with Jerry Lewis and it was amazing.
So, you're pretty new to doing these kinds of voice roles. You did the Tortoise vs. Hare one...
Drake Bell: Yeah, I did the Tortoise vs. Hare one and I've done a couple of episodes of Rugrats and things like that. But yeah, I'm not really a veteran in this field.
How is this process for you? Is this easier or harder because you only have your voice to work with, as opposed to body language?
Drake Bell: Yeah. It's definitely... it's a whole different beast. The director that was working with us was just so amazing. He had done tons of my favorite cartoons growing up like Tiny Toons and Cow and Chicken and he had also done the voices on there. It was kind of intimidating to be doing it in front of him because when he'd be directing you, he'd do it perfect. The voice would sound perfect and all the inflections would be there and you're like, 'Oh man.' I can do that with my face, but man. It's like, 'OK, here you're going to climb up a ladder and jump off a cliff then you're going to land and skid and hit the wall.' So I had to do every single noise and it's pretty intimidating. It's a whole different beast than being in front of a camera and being able to use your entire body.
The original is obviously such a classic and it spawned the Eddie Murphy series as well. Why do you think now is kind of the right time to bring this story back in this kind of a format?
Drake Bell: I just think it's a good story. We have all these Hannah Montana's and films that are telling kids that, 'Oh, you're not cool unless you put on a blonde wig and dance like this.' This is kind of showing that you don't have to drink the potion and be like everybody else. You can still just be yourself and be all right.
Do you think they might try to turn this The Nutty Professor into a franchise? A straight-to-DVD series that goes on for a few years?
Drake Bell: I haven't heard anything, but it could. We'll see how this does.
Have you heard any talks about a Superhero Movie 2 yet?
Drake Bell: No, not yet.
So what can you tell us about the Drake & Josh Christmas special?
Drake Bell: It airs December 5th on Nickelodeon and it's the first time that Josh and I have experienced Christmas. We have to give this little orphan girl the best Christmas ever or we have to go back to prison. We get arrested, basically, and it was one of those creative judges, you know, you either have to give this little girl the best Christmas ever, or you go to prison. It's kind of a social services kind of thing.
Will that get a DVD release before the holidays as well?
Drake Bell: I don't think it will be on DVD before the holidays... you know, I'm not actually sure about that. I don't know.
Well, there have been a few of these TV specials that will be on DVD a few days later.
Drake Bell: Yeah, like the Colbert special. Yeah, I'm not sure. They might be, they might be on DVD before Christmas. I'm not sure though.
Is there anything else that you're eyeing up right now or will be going into production with soon?
Drake Bell: Well, I just toured Mexico and we shot a lot of DVD out there. That will be out December 16th, so that will be in stores. Other than that, I'm working on a new record for next year and that's about it.
You've been pretty ingrained in the kids aspect of entertainment. Is there anything else that you'd like to sink your teeth into maybe down the road? Action or horror or anything like that?
Drake Bell: Yeah, I mean, if I love it, then cool, but I don't know. I don't know. I'm not really looking for my De Niro role right now. I'm just trying to make a record.
Finally, The Nutty Professor comes out on DVD on November 25th. How do you think this new generation of youth, that isn't familiar with the tale, how do you think they'll react to this DVD?
Drake Bell: I think they'll love it. Jerry is hilarious, the script is funny and it stays true, thanks to having Jerry invovled in this. It's not like somebody or some company just went and put the idea and the name and went and did something. It stays true to the old story, although it is animated. It caters to the younger people and it's just really really funny and entertaining.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you, Drake. Thanks so much for your time and good luck down the road.
Drake Bell: Awesome. Thank you.
You can hear the voices of Drake Bell alongside comedy legend Jerry Lewis when The Nutty Professor hits the DVD shelves on November 25.