Disney Plus series Muppets Now is being sold as improvised comedy from the iconic characters. (Just how much of the series actually is improvised, however, is up for debate.)
Kermit performer Matt Vogel recently started his own podcast, Below the Frame, where he talks to cast members from The Muppets and Sesame Street. In a new episode, Walter and Joe the Legal Weasel performer Peter Linz discussed his career with Vogel, including how important it is for puppeteers to have solid acting chops:
You have to be a good actor, you have to be a good improv-er… That is my one regret in my childhood and growing up, something that I didn’t do is that I didn’t take acting classes, I didn’t take improv. I suppose I have a knack at it, apparently, as I make my living doing it, but I work with people that have had formal training — Matt Vogel — who I see just killing it with every character they touch.
And working in film, getting to work with Amy Adams and Jason Segel, people who are just masters at their craft, and who would never do a scene the same way twice. And yet every scene would just be spectacular, you’d be happy to have any of those takes. It comes from a really strong foundation of acting and improv.
You have to have all tools. You can’t just be a spectacular manipulator, you’ve got to be able to act. You’ve got to be able to make bold acting choices, interesting, different, bold acting choices and you need to be able to riff, you’ve got to be able to improv in character.
And that’s something that I frankly, I don’t struggle with, but I’m very conscious of working on.
One of his earliest roles for the Muppets was as Miss Piggy in Muppets From Space, yet to be added to Disney Plus. While he was over-dubbed in the movie by the character’s original performer, Frank Oz, some of his lines accidentally made it into the trailer.
Linz recalled being cast as Walter for The Muppets (2011):
All I know is that the day that I got it, every single one of you [in the top five auditioning] reached out to me in one form or another to congratulate me, which I thought was just such a testament to the camaraderie and just how much of an ensemble you really are. That wouldn’t happen with any other audition…
Peter Linz also performed Tutter on Bear in the Big Blue House, which has yet to be added to Disney Plus. “He’s so tiny; he’s basically a sock puppet. He really is. He just fit super snuggly on my hand, any type of little movement I could do with my fingers would translate as expression, not unlike Kermit.”
Listen to the episode below, or on the website of Below the Frame. Two other episodes were released on the same day, August 12, featuring Stephanie D’Abruzzo (The Book of Pooh, Avenue Q, Sesame Street) and Carmen Osbahr (Rosita on Sesame Street).