It’s safe to say that Jason Ritter and Melanie Lynskey‘s daughter will be tuning into her famous dad’s new preschool series, Slumberkins.
“We go wherever the job is, but I’m always looking for something that I can show her that I can be proud of and that she’ll be able to watch with us and enjoy. And this is above and beyond because it’s not just as simple as there are no horrible bad words or anything like that,” Ritter, 42, exclusively told Us Weekly on Wednesday, October 26. “But it also has a lot of beautiful lessons mixed in. And I felt myself as a parent, growing [while] watching it. Just because the emotional element of the show is so — they’ve clearly done their homework and they know so much about it. And it really helped me as a parent navigate how to deal with some of these emotions that come out.”
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The Parenthood alum voices Fox’s dad in the Apple TV+ series, which was created by Alex Rockwell. Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson serves as executive music producer for the show from The Jim Henson Company, which incorporates puppetry and 2D animation.
“It feels like there’s a magical element to it because when you’re just doing regular old acting, by the time you see the finished product you kind of remember what it looked like and remember what you said and what the other actor was doing,” Ritter said of voice acting. “And here you just sort of put your voice into a little bottle and throw it into the middle of the ocean. And then it comes back with all of these beautiful puppets and backgrounds and music and what the other characters are doing. So, it’s really a lot of fun to see the final product be just so wildly different from what your experience was. And especially with puppets and animation and things like that, it just feels like you’re just this magical little part of it.”
The About Alex actor stars alongside Pamela Adlon, Yvette Nicole Brown and more, who he got the chance to meet in-person while recording some Slumberkins episodes.
“It’s complicated because you realize how much you rely on your face communicating. And now all you really have is your voice. And the puppets can take up some of this lack,” he continued. “Luckily on this, there were several times where we got to record as a Fox family. They worked all the schedules out so that all of us could be together, and we could sort of hear each other talking. And that really helps. But it’s not always the easiest to schedule.”
With the exception of voicing Ryder in Frozen 2, audiences are more used to seeing Ritter in front of the camera in the likes of Girls, Us & Them, Drunk History, Quest, A Million Little Things and Raising Dion. In 2013, he met the Yellowjackets star, 45, when they costarred in the dramedy The Big Ask. They welcomed their baby girl in 2018 (her name and birth date have not been revealed) and tied the knot in 2020.
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With two actors as parents, Ritter joked that she “kind of understands that we pretend” for a living. “I think it’s hard to quite understand when she’s playing make believe that this is what we essentially do for a living. But I think it’s fun for her. She was excited to sort of piece it together when she realized that I was this character in Frozen 2 or whatever it is,” he explained to Us. “And then also there’s been an element of a lot of kids shows have toys or Slumberkins have these beautiful dolls. And so if there’s a doll that in her head has my voice in it when I go out of town or something like that, she can sort of hold on to. That it feels more like me than just a regular doll.”
However, “it hasn’t come up yet” if their little one wants to follow in their footsteps. “She’s just playing and it’s hard to discern whether a love of make believe will transfer into like, ‘Oh, I wanna do this every day.’ But we’re both open to it if she were to say that. But you know, she wants to be an astronaut one day and a carrot the next so you never know,” he added, laughing. “She’s very emotionally intelligent. And since she was a kid, we would say like, ‘What’s scared look like? What’s happy look like?’ And she would just do all these [faces]. And we would go, ‘What’s happy? What does it look like when you’re happy on the outside, but scared on the inside?’ Just to see what she would do. Or ‘what does it look like when you’re surprised on the outside, but sad on the inside’ or whatever. And just trying to combine different emotions and what she would come up with these things and then we’d go, ‘Yeah, I guess that’s right.’ I mean, we’re just making stuff up. I don’t even know what that looks like, but to see her kinda process it is really fun.”
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For Ritter, he continues to take roles in all mediums — TV, film, voice acting and theater, but how he chooses his next project is “different every time.”
“A lot of times the difference will be if something really moves me, whether it’s a short film that a friend of mine wrote or something. If it hits me, if I can’t stop thinking about it. There are different triggers that point me to this is the next project that you should do. If something makes me belly laugh or I’m reading it and I go, ‘Well, I know how to do this.’ That all really helps,” he told Us. “And then there are some things that I read, and I think this would be a big challenge, and I’m scared of it. And there have been several times where a strong reaction of fear has come up. And I’ve had to analyze that fear and say, ‘Is this fear trying to protect me? Or is this fear maybe keeping me from something amazing?’ And if it’s the second one, then I try to force myself to do it anyway.”
Slumberkins premieres globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 4.
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