During our recent press trip to Pixar Studios, we had the opportunity to meet with Phyllis Smith and Richard Kind – the voices of Sadness and Bing Bong from Disney•Pixar’s INSIDE OUT. Sadness and Bing Bong were two of the biggest stars from the animated film, and I couldn’t wait to hear from the actors their perspective on the movie. Continue reading for our conversation with Sadness and Bing Bong including how Richard Kind always knew the film would be a hit and Phyllis Smith’s beginnings as a dancer.
DISCLOSURE: I was hosted by Walt Disney Studios on an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco, California including airfare, hotel accommodations, transportation, and meals to attend this press event and learn more about Disney’s films and shows. All opinions expressed are those of the author.
As Phyllis Smith entered the room, taking cell phone pictures of the 25 bloggers all taking photos of her, she instantly put everyone at ease. Phyllis Smith was so humble, thankful, and always deflected praise; while Richard Kind was animated, outgoing, and gregarious. In so many ways they embodied their characters from deep inside 11 year old Riley’s brain, and the actors appeared to have a genuine admiration and affection between them. When asked if she was surprised by the popularity of Sadness, Phyllis Smith was taken aback, “I don’t really know how popular it is to be honest.” Richard Kind quickly jumped to the rescue saying to Smith, “How popular your character is? Alright, I’ll tell you. It’s popular.” And we were off…
Richard Kind went on to explain he knew INSIDE OUT would be a huge hit after a trip to Pixar Studios with his family. Kind elaborated,
“A year ago summer I took the family on a trip from Los Angeles up to San Francisco, an eight-day trip up, five hours back. One of the stops was at Pixar, and they got the tour. [My kids today, they’re 13 and I have ten year old twins.] They show us the first 20 minutes of the film, and as we’re walking away from the editor’s office, they go,
‘hey, we’re doing a scene. It’s down in the canyon with the wagon. Do you want to see it?’
Of course! It was a very rough cut, but when the scene is over my oldest daughter collapsed in her mother’s arms, sobbing, sobbing, sobbing. I had proof at that point that this movie would resonate.”
Richard Kind turned to Phyllis Smith and asked how she felt about the film. She mentioned she saw it a couple of times in St. Louis, but was in a vacuum and didn’t really know how it was received. “I’m glad that people are enjoying it,” she elaborated, “and every time I make somebody cry I go, YES! Cry, YES!”
Turns out Phyllis Smith was well outside the Hollywood bubble, and took a quite circuitous route from dancer in St. Louis to NFL Cheerleader to actor and now voice actor. We asked how she got into acting. Smith replied,
“By God’s grace. I say that honestly. I had been a dancer, and had an injury. So I knew that my career as a dancer was at the end of its life. I needed to work. I needed to pay my bills and my car insurance, my rent, my health insurance and all of that. I ended up taking some classes in commercials and such, and ended up as a receptionist.
A friend of mine called and said, Phyllis, they need a mousey woman for one of the court shows. And I said, oh, I don’t know if I can do this. Because it was in LA, there’s the valley and over the hill to Hollywood. I only had certain length of time for lunch, and didn’t think I could make it back and forth because I had this job at an aerospace defense company. They don’t understand art, you know?
In the haste of getting to the audition, I ripped a huge hole in my nylon. I walked into the casting director’s office, and said, excuse me, are you looking for a mousey woman or a tacky woman? So I didn’t get the job because I wasn’t mousey enough, but in the midst of all of that I told them I thought I’d be good in casting. She called me a year later after that audition, and I ended up in casting for 19 years.
I worked for really lovely, good casting directors, and The Office came along. We were doing the second day of pairing the leads in the casting process, and Ken Kwapis (director of the pilot) said, ‘Phyllis, I want you to read the character of Pam.’
I went okay, because I had read with thousands of actors over those 19 years, and I mean thousands. So, when he asked me about reading the Pam character, I thought ‘is somebody late? They couldn’t find parking? What’s the deal?’
So I went in and I read, and they didn’t tell me I was auditioning. About two weeks later wardrobe calls and said, ‘I understand you’re playing the character of Phyllis.’ And I go, Yes. I am. Because I’d been in casting long enough I knew when wardrobe called, it was actually a hire.
And in all seriousness I think God knew the inner desires of my heart and allowed me to have a new career in my older age.”
Disney•Pixar’s INSIDE OUT is available now on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere, and on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray Combo Pack and On-Demand November 3rd.
The INSIDE OUT home edition includes an extensive line-up of bonus features including deleted scenes (click here for an exclusive look), the theatrical short film LAVA and an all-new animated short “Riley’s First Date?” We were also able to screen “Riley’s First Date?” during the press junket, and talk with its director as well as the actors who voiced Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and her Dad (Kyle MacLachlan). Stay tuned for their thoughts on this new short, and click here to catch the “Train of Thought” and read our full review of Disney•Pixar’s INSIDE OUT.