Lyric Ross Talks Working With Key & Peele on Netflix's New Stop-Motion Film Wendell & Wild

Today, Henry Selick and Jordan Peele's wonderfully spooky new stop-motion film Wendell & Wild debuted on Netflix, and if you're a fan of Selick's past films, including The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, it's a must-watch.

The film stars This Is Us actress Lyric Ross as 13-year-old Kat Elliot, a troubled young teen who blames herself for the untimely death of her parents. When Kat is brought back to her hometown of Rust Bank for a second chance, she discovers its prosperity died along with her parents, and that she's a Hell Maiden tied to two demons, Wendell and Wild (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele). After the demons trick Kat into summoning them, falsely claiming they can resurrect her parents, they arrive in the Land of the Living with a big scheme up their sleeves, leading to a bizarre yet hilarious and touching adventure not one of them could have anticipated.

We were lucky enough to get the chance to hop on a call with Lyric herself to learn all about her history with Henry Selick's work and what it was like to bring Kat to life, and here's what she shared with us.

Sweety High: Were you familiar with Henry Selick's films, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline, before being attached to Wendell & Wild?

Lyric Ross: I actually grew up watching Coraline—and Nightmare Before Christmas, too, but not more than Coraline. Coraline was something that was scary, but it had that kind of eeriness that was almost beautiful. You couldn't take your eyes off of it. It scared me, but not to the point where I had to stop watching it, which was interesting to me. That holds a lot of power over a kid, and I thought it was really great. I respected it more growing up, of course. When I was 7, I was just like, "Ooh, that was weird. I want to watch it again!" Looking at it now, it's like, wow, this is wonderful. This is art.

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SH: Wendell & Wild also has a few of those qualities you mention. Can you tell us about the film?

LR: It's about this girl, Kat, who has kind of an emo, goth style. She walks around now with this guilt over her head, going over the tragic death of her parents when she was little. It's also about two demon brothers, who are actually a reference to her personal demons. They try to take advantage of this girl once they see a vision of her. From there, it goes into this whole journey of them basically playing this game with her when she is really focused on getting her parents back.


SH: As the story begins in the present day, Kat has been through so much. There's a lot of self-blame, and distancing herself from others. As an actress, how do you convey that through your voice and tap into those darker places?

LR: As an actress, I really have no idea. I was taking from the people close to me—family that that I know have been through some dark stuff, whether I have witnessed it or been there with them, or they were generous enough to tell me those stories. I took from that, and used my own imagination, to create her, just putting whatever feeling I got from it into my voice. That was one of the most difficult things, putting my emotion into my voice alone, because I'm so used to using my body for emotion—my facial expressions, my eyes, along with my voice. But that's not the thing I think about the most. I take everything else and put it aside, and bring all of that emotion into one vessel. It was definitely difficult for me, but it was great to exercise and work that out and discover the things that I can bring out from my voice.


Also read about: Everything You Want to Know About This Is Us Actress Mackenzie Hancsicsak


SH: Acting for stop-motion can also be different from live-action because you record early on and it's a long process for the project to come to life. How long ago did you actually start recording your voice for the film?

LR: I think we first started in 2018, so I was about 14 at the time. And it was a four-year process. My last session was actually earlier this year. And your voice changes a lot from 14 to 18! But I did get a little more comfortable with my voice, and noticed that there is a lot of range in my voice. I can go to different places and octaves and all of that to turn it younger or older, or whatever I need. I was able to play with that along the way.


SH: The film also has a notable cast. Were you able to record with your castmates at all?

LR:  I actually didn't get any time with them. It was separate recordings.


SH: Have you gotten to meet the rest of the cast since then?

LR: I did! I got to meet Jordan [Peele] and Keegan[-Michael Key] which was super dope. I met them formally at the TIFF premiere. We got to have a really, really decent conversation. It was all of us, actually—Henry [Selick], Key and Peele and me. We spent a lot of that day together because it was the premiere, with all of the press functions that we had going on. We got to talk a lot about the film and what we feel about it, and it was a lot of catching up, too. I only remember this vaguely, but I met them one time during the process of making this film, and it was very short. I think Jordan and Keegan were walking out of the studio when I was walking in. They're like, "Okay, cool, you're gonna be playing her! Well, nice to meet you. I'll see you again." It was very short, but we got to have a real conversation at the premiere, which was really nice.

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SH: Is it also a challenge as an actress to not have the other actors in the studio to play off of? 

LR: Yeah, it was difficult. I had some of the drawn-out scenes they had put together played out for me before I started my lines, and I really had to find the rhythm in the style of this movie while kind of creating my own along with it, with the style that Henry had in mind. That was actually really cool, because eventually, we got to collaborate a little bit on certain moments in this movie. What would Kat do, with Kat being the person she is how would she react in a moment like this? It was dope to have that kind of communication.


SH: What part of the film are you most excited for fantasy when it drops on Friday?

LR: Honestly, all of Key and Peele's parts. They're just unbelievable—the chemistry that they've always had. It's so surreal to see and watch, both on and off camera. It's pretty much everywhere that I've seen them. I think it's a beautiful setup for this film. I think their scenes are some of the best parts of the movie.


Lyric Ross also stars in the new movie The Class. Click HERE to read our interview with Charlie Gillespie on his role as Jason in the film.