Disney+ Series muppets now is sold as an improvised comedy of iconic characters. (How much of the series is actually improvised is up for debate, however.)
Kermit singer Matt Vogel recently launched his own podcast, Under the frame, where he talks to the cast of The Muppets and sesame street. In a new episode, Walter and Joe the Legal Weasel performer Peter Linz discussed his career with Vogel, including the importance for puppeteers to have strong acting skills:
You have to be a good actor, you have to be a good improviser… That’s my only regret growing up and growing up, something that I didn’t do was I didn’t take a class in theater, I didn’t take improvisation. I guess I have a knack for it apparently because I make a living doing it but I work with people who have had formal training – Matt Vogel – who I see just killing it with every character they touch.
And working in film, working with Amy Adams and Jason Segel, people who are just masters of their craft and who would never do a scene the same way twice. And yet every scene would be just spectacular, you’d be happy to have one of those takes. It comes from a very solid base of acting and improvisation.
You must have all the tools. It’s not enough to be a spectacular manipulator, you have to be able to act. You have to be able to make bold acting choices, interesting, different, and bold acting choices and you have to be able to riff, you have to be able to improve your character.
And that’s something I honestly don’t struggle with, but I’m very aware of working on it.
One of her first roles for the Muppets was that of Miss Piggy in space muppets, yet to be added to Disney Plus. While he was over-dubbed in the film by the character’s original voice actor, Frank Oz, some of his lines accidentally made it into the trailer.
Linz remembered being cast as Walter for The Muppets (2011):
All I know is the day I got it, every one of you [in the top five auditioning] extended his hand to me in some form to congratulate me, which I thought was such a testament to the camaraderie and how much of a whole you really are. This 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 is so small; he’s basically a sock puppet. He really is. It just fit snugly on my hand, any kind of little movement I could make with my fingers would result in an expression, much like Kermit.
Listen to the episode below, or on the website of Under the frame. Two more episodes were released on the same day, August 12, featuring Stephanie D’Abruzzo (The Book of the Bear, Avenue Q, sesame street) and Carmen Osbahr (Rosita on sesame street).