In "The Lorax," Helms voices the Once-ler -- a well-intentioned young man who, despite the warnings of the Lorax (Danny DeVito), winds up destroying every Truffula Tree in the town of Thneed-Ville. In our conversation, Helms discussed his affinity for the original Dr. Seuess book on which "The Lorax" is based, as well as the logging community's answer, "The Truax" (a subject that was actually cover on "The Daily Show"). And Helms addressed the complaints against "The Hangover Part II" and revealed how Andy Bernard landed the role as branch manager.
I know you've done voice work on television, but this seems like a no-brainer for you since you do have an animated voice and I'm under the impression that you like to sing. In this case, it was beyond a no-brainer -- it was something that I actively pursued. I grew up hearing the story of "The Lorax" frequently. My mom was a huge Dr. Seuss fan and just read all of that stuff to us all of the time. "The Lorax" was a favorite. When I heard they were gearing up development on "The Lorax," I asked for a meeting and if there were any part in the movie where I might just fit in, no matter how big or small...
And then they said, "Oh, how about the lead role?" [Laughs] Yeah. Actually, a couple of months went by and I didn't know what was going on. Then they called with that offer and I was floored and insanely excited.
It's an interesting movie because there's no true villain. I know Rob Riggle's O'Hare is kind of a dick, but he didn't cause the problems; he just capitalized on the problems. Yeah, he's trying to preserve this status quo. And I guess that's sort of the villainous M.O. And I really love that joke at the end when [laughs] it looks like O'Hare is going to turn it around and he's singing, "Let it die!" But you're right, I guess there isn't a true villain. Which is to say that everybody is culpable. And the Once-ler is just like anybody else.
Do you think the other characters did not join in on O'Hare's song more because of the message or because of Rob Riggle's singing voice? [Laughs] Well, Riggle is twice my size. So I'm just gong to say that he has a beautiful singing voice.
Do you like doing voice work? Were you with anyone else while recording? It's funny, I really kind of cut my teeth in show business, if you will, doing voiceover work. But not animated characters -- just commercial voiceovers. When I lived in New York doing standup, I did hundreds and hundreds of TV and radio commercials. I mean, I'm very comfortable in that environment, a recording studio setup. Which is good, because there isn't anyone there to work with, except for the director. And for most of the movie he was via satellite in Paris, where the animation was happening. That's one of the harder things: It's not a difficult job, being an animated character's voice. But that is one of the weird sort of twists on it -- that you don't get to act in a traditional sense. You're just performing words in a void.
I'm not endorsing the use of mind-altering substances. But, for adults, this might not be a bad idea with this film. There are a lot of pretty colors and it's a little more surreal than I was expecting. Interesting! Yeah, there's ... I just think they did an absolutely incredible job just building this world. It is visually stunning. Especially that opening number -- I just had the biggest smile on my face.
Apparently when the book came out, the logging community got very upset and they released their own book. We covered that on "The Daily Show." We did a story on "The Truax."
I just read "The Truax. You've got it? Wow.
I have a PDF on my laptop right now. It's really something. The author bio says that he's "an active member of the hardwood flooring industry." Right. I'm trying to remember which correspondent covered it. It very easily could have been me and I'm just forgetting, but I don't think I did it. I think it might have been Samantha Bee who did it years ago. Yeah, it's an interesting spin.
I could live without a "Truax" movie. Well, who knows? There would certainly be plenty of money behind it.
So you're going to do voice work in "The Truax"? Listen, man. I'd do anything for a paycheck [laughs]. The Once-ler is the hero of "The Truax," right?
He actually is. He's comes off as this reasonable guy who explains why cutting down trees is actually a good thing. And the villain is the tree. Oh, right! He actually is a tree.
A very evil-looking tree, I should add. It's like, you can make a case for moderation -- having a moderate view of industry versus the environment. But, for God's sake, when you swing the pendulum all of the way back, why is that any better? Anyway.
OK, I'm going to say something, but I don't want you to take it the wrong way. I really enjoyed the first "Hangover." I didn't care for the second one, but I still liked the characters. Totally fair.
But if it's not a repetition of the first movie, I'm still looking forward to a third one. No, I think that's a -- I wouldn't judge anyone's opinion on it. And it's certainly nice to hear that the world of "Hangover" has enduring appeal -- these characters and these relationships and their vibes. That it is something that people relate to and want to hang out with. That is a huge compliment, regardless of preferences for one or the other. Or even disdain for one or the other [laughs].
I think that people -- and when I say "people," of course I mean "me" -- just want to see them do new things. Like when they were in Alan's room in the second film, I enjoyed that scene because it was completely new. Right! Yeah. There was a little bit of a new energy there. I agree. That's fair. We've gotten to know these guys and we've seen how they handle certain situations and it's worth kind of mixing it up. That said: I can't really speak to the certainty of "Hangover III." It's still just sort of a work in progress as far as getting it over the finish line. But we're all hopeful.
Did you lobby for Andy's promotion on "The Office." In a, "Here's why this happening to this character would be interesting," kind of way? I made it clear that I felt confident and comfortable taking on that role. But I certainly didn't -- as a writer myself, I'm very sort of deferential and respectful of a showrunner's vision. And also their need for to be able to make those kind of decisions privately. Kind of with an eye toward what's best creatively. The answer is "no." I did not lobby for it, but I just made it clear that it was something that i was delighted to take on -- that I'm a passionate cast member on that show, no matter what.
The reviews for this season have been mixed. Is that to be expected when there is that big of a cast member change? I don't think that change necessarily means there's going to be sort of like tumultuous times. But I do think that we have -- you know, sometimes change is greeted with flat-out hatred and sometimes change is greeted with flat-out bliss. And maybe it's more likely that you're just going to have to have people falling on either side of it. And that's where we are. I'm insanely proud of what the show's done and we've tried some new things. We've tried a lot of new things this season. And it's not just Andy's promotion. Obviously James Spader is a huge addition and, narratively, we've wondered around in different territory. So, yeah, there's just going to be a response. There's definitely going to be a vocal response. And we're just sort of like proud to be moving forward and getting it figured out.
I know Steve Carell left before the end of last season, but then there was the big buildup to who will get the job. Did it take a couple of episodes to have the feeling of, "This is our new direction and we're starting to feel it"? I think that it's probably a different question for the writer's room and the cast. I know that on the floor of the sound stage, everyone was just gung ho and feeling psyched and good to go from day one. Certainly Steve's departure from before last season helped us kind of feel like we had our legs before the season ended. At that point, there was no decision about who would be the branch manager, either.
So the last time I spoke to you for "Cedar Rapids," you really didn't know? No, I didn't. I definitely did not. I didn't know until, maybe, gosh, a month before we started shooting. There was a lot of ambiguity and I think that it's a testament to the really solid friendships in that cast. That we were all just ready to roll with whatever came down. And it's been fun. It's been a lot of fun. And I'm psyched because I think there's some fun stuff ahead. So, no, I definitely did not know during "Cedar Rapids."
I thought you were just being coy. Right! [Laughs] I wasn't being coy. I'm not coy!
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter