Scott Adsit reprises role of Baymax in 'Big Hero 6' sequels
He didn't know it, but when comedian and Northbrook native Scott Adsit did a one-night performance of his comedy show "Celebrity Autobiography" in Los Angeles, Disney casting executives were in the audience.
The show features Adsit and others reading aloud from celebrity autobiographies.
"The (Disney executives) weren't there for work. They were there to enjoy themselves," Adsit said. "They heard my voice and looked at each other and whispered 'Baymax.' I got a call the next day saying, 'Would you like to audition for a part in a Disney film?' Um, yeah!"
Adsit landed the job as the voice of Baymax -- the star caregiver robot in Disney's 2014 animated movie, "Big Hero 6." Now, he's reprising the role in "Baymax Returns," part of a new TV show called "Big Hero 6 The Series."
The animated series premiered Monday on Disney XD Channel.
Over the course of Adsit's career, he's worked on more than 100 different movies, TV and comedy shows, but he's perhaps best known for his starring role as Pete Hornberger on "30 Rock" and the voice of Clay Puppington in the Emmy Award-winning animated Adult Swim show "Moral Orel."
"Most of the things I've done are obscure. My little things do have some followings," he said modestly.
One of those obscure jobs was a 1997 pinball game, Medieval Madness, which he helped write and voice with his longtime friend and colleague Tina Fey. It ended up being one of the highest-rated pinball machines ever made and developed a cult following. In 2005, Adsit bought one from someone in Germany for $8,500 ("that was half of what I had in the bank").
"Without telling her, I had it shipped to my sister's house in Atlanta," he said. "She knows that anything that comes unwarranted, or is a burden, is coming from me. It's still there and we play it every Christmas and Thanksgiving."
Adsit's voice is distinctive -- he described it as "nonthreatening, Midwestern and sheepishly confident" -- which is perfect for voicing Baymax's gentle, caregiver personality.
"I picture Baymax doing a lot of work with the elderly. Like the best nurse you could have. I found the voice that could lull you into relaxation," he said.
With voice-over work, actors have to repeat a lot of lines with different intonations. The lines Adsit repeated the most with "Big Hero 6" were: "Hello, I am Baymax, your personal health care companion!" and "Oh no."
"I remember having to repeat all of his low-battery stuff, too, in this loopy and robotic voice. That was mostly improvised," he said.
Adsit, who turns 52 Nov. 26, gave his first onstage performances while a student at Glenbrook North High School. He credits his teachers, Pat Murphy and Charles Dribin, for teaching him how to craft a show and giving him the encouragement to perform.
"They gave me positive enforcement, and occasionally, negative reinforcement," he said, laughing.
Adsit's path to Hollywood would be via Second City. He started at Second City Northwest in Rolling Meadows before working his way up to the main stage. The Second City shows he did in the late '90s were such hits that Hollywood jobs writing comedy soon beckoned and he moved to Los Angeles.
"It's a very nice niche I've carved out for myself. I don't have any other skills, so I don't have any choice," he said. "Fortunately I have a lot of talented friends."
-- Jamie Sotonoff