Still swooning over the lobby at the W Hotel, I’m sitting in a monotone grey room, a Big Hero 6 Poster adds a splash of color to the color scheme, then Daniel Henney and Ryan Potter enter the room. Immediately, these two are recognizable, perhaps not by name, but by their Big Hero 6 characters. There’s a striking similarity to their real life features and those of their animated character.
and here the duo is as Tadashi and Hiro:
Daniel Henney may be someone you recognize beyond Big Hero 6 and his role as Tadashi Hamada. He has appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Last Stand adn made appearances on Hawaii Five-O, and NCIS: LA.
Ryan Potter is the lesser known of the two, he’s the voice of Hiro Hamada.
As the applause fades, questions begin regarding their roles in Disney’s Oscar-winning animated film, Big Hero 6.
Potter, born and raised in Tokyo until age seven, admits he has always been a huge anima and manga fan. Working on Big Hero 6 and the boy-genius, he said, “It wasn’t necessarily a love for robotics and science. It was more for just a love of creating. Within robotics, there’s so much you can create.”
He brings up a LEGO set, and Henney confesses, “I had that, too.”
Potter continues, “I had a lot of models and robots and all these different things that I just loved piecing together. So it wasn’t necessarily a love for robotics and science but more just wanting to be able to kind of build things that were almost trapped in my mind. It’s very meditative for me to use my hands and to build things. Being able to voice Hiro, that’s literally who I was four years ago. I was that kid I think I still am.”
The questions focus on Henney and his previous experience with Marvel in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
He admits right off that as a child, he was “not huge” into comics. “...but I was definitely into them. I was into Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, stuff like that. It’s still very surreal, though. It isn’t like this is my normal: Tuesday fighting Wolverine and dying in a helicopter. That’s not normal for me. This movie was very, very special. You could feel the Marvel influence, but it was just a whole other beautiful experience. It was just bigger than anything I’d done before. After I finished Big Hero 6, I was like, ‘Oh yeah! I did Wolverine, too, so there is a connection there, but I didn’t think about it until afterwards’.”
If you have seen Big Hero 6, you already know that Tadashi has a small role, but a very important one. Henney speaks about his time in that role, as Hiro’s big brother, starting with his real similarities.
“I dress just like Tadashi. I always have. I don’t usually wear suits. There’ll be days when I walk out of my house and I’ll take a look in the mirror, and I look just like Tadashi. I wear a cardigan and a baseball hat.” and then he talks about Tadashi, “But to answer your question, he’s made me a better person. He really has. Living in this world, we all get caught up in things and sometimes it’s hard to appreciate every moment.”
“It was a beautiful opportunity for me to go and play this guy who is such a role model for what a man should be at such a young age. So smart, beautiful, intelligent, caring, genuine, the ultimate big brother, and very selfless. Everyday I would walk out of that room feeling like I just sat through a therapy session. Like I wanted to tackle the world.”
Being a voice actor is different than filming a movie. Potter and Henney share that they have similar experiences and similar backgrounds, but interestingly Henney admits, “(Ryan and I) met for the first time on screening day. It was weird, you know? I’m not lying at all when I say that I feel a brotherly bond with this guy. The day of the screening I hadn’t met any of the cast, but I was the most excited about meeting Ryan.”
Potter jokes, “You just didn’t care about the other people.”
Henney continues, “Yeah, I didn’t really care, and I was just looking up, and the minute he walked in the room, I had gravitate towards him. I felt we needed to connect, and we did. It was a big hug and it just felt very organic.”
A fun fact about Big Hero 6, it’s the first multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Disney movie. Potter is sincere when he says, “It was absolutely a huge honor. We would’ve paid them to cast us. There’s something with a Disney film, it’s like wish fulfillment. It’s every kid’s dream come true to be able to be a part of a film like this and this one is really special because of how diverse it is, it breaks the mold. ”
Henney makes it a more personal experience, “I grew up in Michigan. When I was growing up, there was no one on TV that looked like me. If there was, they were a martial artist, and they had very heavy accents and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. My father’s Caucasian so I had that connection, but yet, I was very much Asian. So it’s very satisfying to know that we can do projects like this now, that can give children that little moment, where they say, ‘Oh, I can do that because they can do that.’”
And while Big Hero 6 is now an Oscar winner, and celebrates family, Potter wants us to also realize it is about so much more, “The characters are all geniuses. The film does celebrate science and robotics, and just being a smart person, but what it really celebrates is being yourself, and these kids just happen to be very smart. Every single one of these kids are all brutally honest in who they are, and they’re proud of it. They don’t shy away from who they are,. So yes, it does celebrate robotics and science, but it also celebrates just being a nerd. It celebrates being an outstanding young man and having high morals, and being a strong independent woman, and it celebrates simply being yourself.”
With Big Hero 6 wrapped up, the duo discusses what’s next for them:
Henney: I can’t really disclose much, but I have a TV show I’m probably doing here in the States. I guess it’ll be coming out this fall. It’s another one of those things where it’s not necessarily a role that you see an Asian-American man cast for, and so I’m proud to bust those doors open a little further. So this will be a big one, and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, everything goes well.
Potter: I applied for college. I love it. I applied for an art school. My entire family, they’re all educators. They all had four years of education. They’re all pushing USC on me and it just simply wasn’t an option. My mom grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. Her dad just said, ‘do whatever you want.’ She followed all her dreams and carried out all these different fantasies. She’s been the one family member in my life that’s been, like, ‘do what you want.’ I don’t want to go to college and study math and science and English. I want to study photography and film. I want to create, and I want to bring the things in my head to life.
Big Hero 6
On Blu-ray and Disney HD TODAY!
You can learn more about Ryan Potter in this Big Hero 6 Interview