Over 10 years since he last graced the silver screen, Puss in Boots is back in his latest adventure, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. The character spin-off from the beloved and popular Shrek franchise sees our hero face his own mortality after using eight of his nine lives. However, when word of a magical stone that can grant one wish travels to Puss (Antonio Banderas), he teams up with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and Perro (Harvey Guillen) in a race against time and those other fairy tale creatures who want the stone for themselves.
To celebrate the Australian release of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish in cinemas Boxing Day, the incredible team at Universal Pictures gave me the chance to sit down and chat with Harvey Guillen (FX’s What We Do In The Shadows) about his role as the optimistic therapy dog, Perro, and he gives some inspiring words about challenging yourself when it comes to auditioning for roles.
Nick: Harvey, it’s an absolute pleasure to meet you. How are you today?
Harvey Guillen: I’m good! How are you going?
Nick: I’m very well, thank you. I had so much fun with this movie, and a lot of that fun is from the energy your character, Perro, brings. I would say 25% of his energetic nature comes from the animation and what we see visually, but 75% is through your performance! What does a day in the recording booth look like when you have to maintain such high levels of energy for a performance like this?
Harvey Guillen: I mean, you can’t rely on anything else but your voice! It’s the instrument to convey everything. And this character is so optimistic, and bubbly, and fun, and full of energy! So, it takes all your energy as a performer to do it. There’ll always be days when I would go home and just be exhausted because it was basically like working out. Every once of me was engaged.
The scene where Perro makes tries to make the cute face and his eyeball pops open, I was reaching and straining my vocal cords and give every part of me to that bit. Then the director would say ‘cut’ and I would be completely drained! But the results of is that this character might be a little obnoxious at the beginning, but he ends up being what Puss needed all along. We all deserve a friend who is optimistic, lovely, and endearing, like Perro.
Nick: Speaking of Perro’s optimism, when we meet him in the film, he is a little out of his depth as he is a therapy dog pretending to be a cat in a world of cats. But it’s his optimism, confidence and commitment to the bit that ultimately gets him and Puss going on their adventure! As an actor, what is a role you’ve played that you may have felt hesitant or out of your depth on, that ultimately became a favourite for you because of your optimism and confidence to the role?
Harvey Guillen: Oh, wow! Originally, Guillermo (What We Do In The Shadows TV series) was a little bit jarring, because the character was originally 25 years older than I was. So, I thought that there was no way I could play him! And I just kept getting told by casting directors that I was too young, but I was at the point where I had to transition from playing high school or college characters.
So, I told myself not to be discouraged and I did the audition for it on a whim at a wine and cheese night! And I just played him the way I thought he would be at my age, even though it wasn’t that on paper. Then I got the part, and they rewrote the character to be younger, and it worked. And now, I can’t imagine anyone else playing the older version of him.
I like when a character does that for me, it challenges me. It makes me stop and think as to why I am running away from it. Is it because I don’t believe in myself? Or do I think that no one else will believe in me? When I got offered an audition for Perro, I was already in my head asking those questions, but I knew I was going to do it the way I think this character should be accepted and received. And they loved it. It was meant to be for this role, and if it wasn’t, then it wasn’t.
Then we got to develop the character more and found this register for him. Now, looking back, if you always go forward with your best intentions and give your best work, hopefully it comes back to you. And if it wasn’t meant for you, it was meant for someone else. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to. So, to answer your question, my favourite colour is blue! [laughs]
Nick: [laughs] I really appreciate your honesty and inspiration with that answer! It’s such a positive outlook that I don’t think a lot of people think about these days, so thank you! I’m always fascinated in an actor’s process of visualising what you read on the script, especially with animated films! Do you let your imagination run wild, or do you get a clear vision early on from the director about what the film will look like?
Harvey Guillen: I think the director already knows the vision they have for the film. So I find when they’re directing me, they’re doing it that way to get something out of you because they know what the final product is going to be. I didn’t see any animation until I saw a screening of the film at Dreamworks! And I thought it was amazing! Like, no one told me it was going to be this cool!
The colours when they’re going through the dark forest, and all the twinkling stars in the corner of the screen that were so subtle, but beautiful and mesmerising. And of course, all along I knew we were doing an animated film, but I didn’t know we were taking it to the next level with animation. I was so focused on developing the character that I totally forgot it was going to look this stunning!
Nick: And it’s truly stunning animation! I want to wrap up on this question, since we’re both 90s kids! Who would you love to see Perro team up with in the Shrek Cinematic Universe, and what sort of adventure would you send them on?
Harvey Guillen: Oh my gosh! That’s a good one! I mean, why can’t they all team up! Something has to bring them all together, like a fairy tale land has been threatened by something bigger than everyone and they can all bring something to the table. Shrek, Fiona, Donkey! And put Kitty Softpaws and Perro altogether! This is the multiverse I want to live in.
Nick: Kind of like Shrek: Infinity War or Shrek: Endgame?!
Harvey Guillen: Yes! That’s the superhero world that I would love to see. It’d be great!
Nick: Harvey, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. And congratulations on the film!
Harvey Guillen: Thank you, take care.
Thank you to Harvey Guillen for his time, and to Universal Pictures for giving me the chance to chat with him! Check out Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, in Australian cinemas Boxing Day.
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