Tuesday, December 6, 2022

NYCC Interview: ‘Big City Greens’ Cast and Creative Team Talk Characters and the Show

CONVENTIONSNYCC Interview: ‘Big City Greens’ Cast and Creative Team Talk Characters and...

This year at New York Comic Con, the Green family headed to another big city as Disney Channel brought their beloved series and #1 animated kids’ show Big City Greens to the convention. The series follows the Green family – Bill and his two children Tilly and Cricket – as they move away from their life in the country for one in Big City, where they live with Bill’s mother Alice (aka Gramma). While there, Bill and the kids try their best to acclimate to their new environment and embark on various adventures and shenanigans.

During the convention, Nerds & Beyond had the opportunity to participate in roundtable interviews with some of the cast and creative team behind the show. We spoke with creators Shane and Chris Houghton (who voices Cricket), Bob Joles (Bill), Artemis Pebdani (Gramma), Marieve Herington (Tilly), and Zeno Robinson (Remy) about their characters and the show in general.

Note: Answers were edited for clarity.

Bob Joles and Artemis Pebdani

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Nerds & Beyond: I want to talk a little bit about these past couple episodes. The Greens went back to the country, Gramma stayed behind. What has it been like to be able to explore that sort of country space that we haven’t seen yet in the earlier seasons?

Bob Joles: It’s always been Bill’s dream to get back to the country and when he had discovered the house was still there and up for sale, and everything had been working out with selling fruits and vegetables in Big City, it was a natural progression. And I think that’s where Shane [Houghton] and Chris [Houghton] wanted to push things, in that direction and the writers had taken us there, and now we get a whole new bunch of people that are our friends from the country, new friends and old friends. And it’s a great dynamic. It’s just a different side of things and it kind of reflects how their [the Houghtons] life was when they were growing up, you know, their rural lives. But it’s gonna be interesting to see where it all goes.

Artemis Pebdani: It’s devastating for Gramma. They went back to country.

Nerds & Beyond: I know, they left Gramma behind!

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Pebdani: Now what do I do?

Nerds & Beyond: Well, you’ve got the café now!

Pebdani: Thank God I’ve got the café. Something to take my mind off how much I miss [them].

Joles: You’re an entrepreneur.

Pebdani: I’m an entrepreneur-er-er. [laughs] So at least there’s that. There’s the café and there’s Gloria…But ooooh when I read that it hurt me. It hurt me that everyone was leaving, and I had to say bye. But I’m not leaving Big City.

Joles: We’re not that far away. We’re in Smalton.

Pebdani: Yeah, well… traffic.

Joles: Yes, there is traffic. I’ll bring the Kludge [Bill’s trusty pickup] down and pick you up and we’ll go back out.

Pebdani: Oh, my goodness, I didn’t even think about that. I miss the Kludge!

NYCC Press: Well look, let me just say you don’t look like a Gramma Alice to me. It’s just completely throwing me off.

Pebdani: Oh, once all this [gestures at her made-up face], once ALL this is gone, you see it. [All laugh]

Disney Channel

Nerds & Beyond: One thing that I just really, really love throughout this whole show is this relationship that both of your characters have with Nancy. I think she’s been such a great character on her own and through character development for both of you. What has that been like to be able to have characters that get to interact with Nancy, and all grow together in that sort of dynamic?

Joles: It’s nice to have her back around. The episode when it came around, “Well look who it is,” that was a great set-up for all of that. Then having Nancy there all the time, Wendi [McLendon-Covey] does such a great job with the voice. She is so good. One day I’m actually going to meet my ex-wife. [All laugh] I’ve never gotten to meet Wendi yet, because we’ve never recorded together. But she’s terrific. I admire everything that she does. It’s great to have her dynamic in there, and her effect on Tilly and on Cricket with having the mom part of the family dynamic in there now, I think it’s a really good mix.

Pebdani: It’s fun for me to have another character that steps up to Alice, because Alice is a pretty dominating grandma, a pretty dominating character. So, to have somebody else that she can go toe-to-toe with is a great addition.

Shane and Chris Houghton

Nerds & Beyond: One of the relationships I’ve loved watching unfold throughout the show is Remy and Cricket’s friendship. I think it’s just so pure, so wholesome, I love it so much. What has it been like to craft that friendship on-screen, and then [for Chris] to be able to do that with Zeno [Robinson]?

Chris Houghton: It’s great. I think we can all relate to Cricket and Remy’s friendship because they’re little kids and they’re just – if you were to ask them are they best friends, they would both say yes without hesitation. If you asked them, “Will you remain friends forever?” they would both say yes without hesitation. I think we all remember that, and it’s different when you’re a kid. As we get older with different people kind of coming into our lives and going, you realize relationships change, but they are so pure. They’re so in the moment.

It’s been great watching their relationship change a bit as the Greens now have moved to the country, and [as] fans have seen the last couple episodes like “The Move” or “Junk Mountain,” we’ve seen Remy kind of step up and give these great motivational speeches to Cricket, where Cricket all of a sudden is now feeling a little down. Early on, the roles were kinda reversed. So, they definitely pull out the best aspects in each other. They’re very different but they’re very similar, and yeah. I love their relationship just as much as you do. I get it. [laughs]

Disney Channel

Nerds & Beyond: Yeah, it’s great. What are your biggest hopes for them now that Remy is sort of like the, what is it… the fifth Green member?

Shane Houghton: Maybe sixth. I don’t know where Gloria fits in to that, but like Gloria’s living with the Greens.

Chris Houghton: And now with Nancy. The family is ever expanding.

Shane Houghton: It is. The original title for the show was Country Club – which, granted, not a great title. Like when you Google that, it’s not good. But what I like about that is like the idea was this family moves to town and due to their heartwarming neighborliness, their family grows, and they start kind of pulling people into their circle. And that’s such a nice feeling when you kind of are the surrogate kid to another family. You get roped in; you spend holidays [with them]. There’s a nice feeling and we knew we wanted that to be the trajectory of the whole show. So, looking at where we’re at now, like at the end of season 3 and even season 4 and beyond, it’s kind of about pulling in these people. And Gloria’s living with the Greens, Remy’s basically over there every day, [and] it’s nice to see their family kind of grow over time.

I think we’ve got some really fun stuff planned for Remy, and also Vasquez. I love the Vasquez/Remy dynamic. There’s just something really funny about their relationship. Vasquez is just so endearingly protective of Remy, and Remy has gone through a lot of growth and is – especially in the country episodes, he’s way outside of his comfort zone. There’s an episode coming up this weekend [now released] call “Farmer Remy” where Remy really stretches his boundaries with what he’s comfortable with in this country farm setting. He’s a city boy. He’s never been out here. He’s gonna milk a cow, and it goes terribly wrong. But it’s a lot of fun and Remy gets a lot of change and growth coming up.

Marieve Herington and Zeno Robinson

Nerds & Beyond: [To Herington] First of all, Tilly is just such this wonderful, creative, weird character, and I’ve loved seeing her evolve over the show. [To Robinson] And similarly for Remy, he’s just the complete opposite of the Greens but he’s been able to have his own growth. So, I’m wondering what has it been like to be able to explore those characters throughout the show, and be a part of that growth and watch them grow as well?

Disney Channel

Marvieve Herington: Yeah, I mean Tilly, from the pilot, from “Space Chicken,” used to just be this real ancillary character, you know. It’s like Cricket and Remy were doing their thing, [and] she was just kind of very flat and kind of spoke slower. She just had a slower rhythm and would come into the room, say one thing, and leave, and that was kind of the whole – she was just very much in her shell. And as the show has evolved, she’s this like – I don’t think that I would say feisty – but she very much walks to the beat of her own drum, and she’s got her own life.

There’s this great line – I can’t remember which episode it is – but Cricket is running from some peril and finds Tilly, and she’s just walking around with a balloon. He’s like, “Ah, Tilly, you’re here! What are you doing here?” And she’s like [in Tilly’s voice], “I have my own life.” [All laugh] That’s such a great line because she really has her own life and we’ve gotten to explore what that is, you know. Her incredible imagination, her relationship with Andromeda, her relationship and connection to animals, and getting to sing more. It’s been wild to see how this very kind of like quiet, subdued character – she goes wild with her Tilly Tornadoes and all that. [laughs] Like who is this gal, you know? We’re still learning more and more and more now like 100 episodes plus in.

Zeno Robinson: Yeah, like I think Remy was first, to my understanding, kind of pitched as this character who was very sheltered and even though he lived in the city he hadn’t really experienced much of life or living on his own or stepping into his own, because he’s very pampered and had a lot of his decisions made for him. And over the course of the series, as we were recording it, it’s been a lot of him kind of stepping into his own or Cricket helping him out of his shell.

But I remember very distinctly when we were doing a lot of the preliminary records, a lot of the times the brothers [Shane and Chris Houghton] would give me the direction of “Can we make him not this?” like this eyebrow thing. [makes gesture]

Marieve Herington: Oh, like stressed or something?

Zeno Robinson: Yeah. He would always be like [in Remy voice], “I don’t know, like nuh nuh nuh nuh,” you know, and they’d be like, “We just kinda want to get him away from this,” you know, this eyebrow thing.

Marieve Herington: He’s never come across as whiny.

Zeno Robinson: No, never whiny. Just always like this kind of concerned, you know.

Marieve Herington: Too much anxiety. [laughs]

Zeno Robinson: Yeah, exactly. [laughs] But it’s perfect for me. [laugh] Over the course of the show, even if we’re seeing his growth in the new episodes, he’s become very supportive and a rock that Cricket and the Greens can rely on. And even in the episode “The Move” when he has his big speech at the end kind of picking them up when they feel down is a testament to how much he’s grown and become farther away from that.

Marieve Herington: From that stressed little boy.

Zeno Robinson: Yeah, stressed little boy. [laughs]

Disney Channel

Nerds & Beyond: For Zeno, another relationship that I’ve just loved throughout the show is the friendship between Remy and Cricket. I think it’s just one of the most wholesome things in the world. What has it been like to see that relationship unfold on-screen and to be able to voice across Chris [Houghton] for that?

Zeno Robinson: Chris is great, and he’s hilarious. He’s so freaking funny and he’s just a natural at voiceover. It’s really irritating. [All laugh] In the most loving way possible because he’s just like born as a natural at it. And the dynamic between their friendship, as I’ve said earlier, is usually just kind of Cricket being like, “Remy come do this thing that you’re not used to,” and Remy sort of being open to it. Or Remy freaking out about something and Cricket being his rock or a solid place and getting him to think things in another perspective. So, seeing it grow in the home where Remy sort of becomes the rock that Cricket can rely on, in his territory, on his turf, I think is a great metaphorical culmination of their friendship and how solidified it’s been, like over the time we’ve been doing the show. It’s been a great dynamic to play something that supportive and wholesome. It’s a balancing act, as is all friendships, I think, and relationships.

Big City Greens airs Saturdays at 9 a.m. ET. It’s available to watch on Disney+ and DisneyNow.

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