The teenage clone of Joan of Arc spent Clone High‘s first season pining after the teenage clone of Abraham Lincoln. It was a tale as told as time. Kinda. But it’s one stars Nicole Sullivan and Will Forte have had to wait 20 years to resume. The cult classic animated MTV series is finding new life at Max.
Did the two ever expect to return to school? What was it like having their characters thawed out after such a long time? And what’s it like playing Joan and Abe now? Those are just some of the questions we asked Sullivan and Forte when we got a chance to speak to them ahead of Clone High‘s long-awaited second season.
Nerdist: Did you give up faith this revival was going to happen someday? Or did you always have hope it would?
Will Forte: I didn’t give up faith just because after it was canceled the first time I assumed it would never happen again. Then somewhere along the line, maybe a decade after it was canceled, I think I heard some kind of rumor they were going to try to bring it back. Or maybe even Chris [Miller] and Phil [Lord] said, “Oh, we should try to bring Clone High back.” So there was something in the air at some point that that was on their wish list.
I do remember having a very positive feeling. This was my first acting job. So it was a very special experience that I had back in the day. I was way more nervous than I probably should have been just because it was such a low-key job with friends. So it was very, very nice. When I heard it finally was actually going to happen, it was just exhilarating. I never knew it was even possible. That’s not something I thought. And this time around I was just so much more relaxed because I had 20 years of experience under my belt and it was just like this fun homecoming. A little reunion party with our buddies.
Nicole, you get the phone call this is really going to happen. What’s your reaction?
Nicole Sullivan: My reaction, honestly, was I always thought it would. When I was recording it, I didn’t quite get, I just didn’t get it exactly. I was like, “This is a young person show.”
And then I watched it when it came out and I was like, “Oh, this is genius.” Then I thought, “There’s no way. There’s no way they can’t revisit this.” And on my social media and stuff, people are always talking about Clone High. Always, always, always. I mean, you can’t assume anything, but then when [co-creator] Bill (Lawrence) gave me the call and was like, “I think we’re trying to do this. Don’t tell anyone.” I was like, “I’m there buddy.”
What people now think is funny is really different from when Clone High debuted. Did either of you have any concerns you could still make the show that fans love?
Forte: Well Chris and Phil, I mean, that whole team is so smart and so funny and they’re just good people, too. They have such a way of creating these shows that they can appeal to a mainstream audience, but still be delightfully weird. Most stuff that’s trying to appeal to a mainstream audience is pretty vanilla. They have a way of bringing people in with these weird concepts and they’re just so smart.
Sullivan: Right. I know them well, but I don’t pretend to know their inner workings. But exactly what Will said, they’ve got this ability to run on two different bandwidths, which is, “I’m a professional, let’s set up the shots.” And then the second bandwidth is, “What can we do to make this interesting?” They just live there. So when you’re working with them there’s no doubt that a) they’re going to get the thing they want done, and b) they’re going to make it crazier and more interesting than you ever thought.
Twenty years between seasons is a really long time to stay in character. What did you have to do to rediscover Abe and Joan?
Sullivan: Well, we mostly just would meet each other for lunch and not make out. That was what we did for 20 years.
Forte: [Laughs] Yeah, I mean, my Abraham Lincoln voice was just this. [Laughs] It’s basically been just saying whatever words are on the page with my natural speaking voice pretty much.
Sullivan: That’s my favorite thing is when people go like, “Oh my God, I love your show. My cousin, can we call him and you do the voice for my cousin on the phone?” I’m like, “Umm…I can do the voice, but it sounds a little something like thiiiiis.”
It’s sounds exactly like me, so it’s not like you’re calling The Simpsons characters. And that’s a different thing. We’re just using our voices.
But human voices do change, especially over 20 years. So did you have to do anything to try to recapture exactly how you sounded then or did you just go with the flow?
Sullivan: [Laughs] Should I have?
Forte: I feel like maybe in 15 more years it might have been an issue or start to get [changes voice to sound like an old man] that Grandpa Walton sound. But really, if anything, it was way easier this time around. At least for me. I was so in my head the first time I did this because I just felt like my voice was so boring. I wasn’t used to doing this kind of work.
Then you come back and you have a little more confidence, a little more experience, and I was able to have so much more fun this time around. Not to say that it wasn’t a blast back in the day. But I was just so filled with neuroses just because I had never really done it before. So getting to do this again at this stage of my life has just been a very pleasant experience.
Nicole, you’ve played some normal characters over the course of your career, but Will is the teenage clone of Abraham Lincoln the most normal character you’ve ever played in yours?
Forte: The most normal character? Certainly up there, yes. probably the guy I got to be in Nebraska. Yeah, him and Abe Lincoln in Clone High.
Sullivan: Character from Nebraska. I totally agree. [Note: This was also the only answer the Nerdist staff could come up with ahead of this interview.]
Forte: Or Alan Bishopman, E-Z Swords salesman in Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. That’s my other very normal character.
Last question. I have a theory I would like to run by the both of you. My theory is that this revival has nothing to do with finishing the story or bringing back a cult classic. I think Phil Lord and Chris Miller simply wanted an excuse to do the voices of Scudworth, JFK, and Mr. Butlertron again. Am I 100% right or only 99% right?
Sullivan: Can I tell you, when I watch them and they’re both on camera and they’re doing the voices, they both make each other laugh so hard, still. They have to go off, they find it hilarious. And I think that’s the most endearing thing about them is that 20 years later they love what they’re doing.
Clone High season two finally debuts on May 23 at Max.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.