ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with Rugrats stars Ashley Rae Spillers and Tommy Dewey about the modern reboot. The duo discussed moving Rugrats from the 1990s to the 2020s and their personal histories with the series. Rugrats Season 1 Volume 2 is available now on DVD.
“The Rugrats celebrate Halloween along with new traditions, rescue Angelica’s doll Cynthia, plus many more adventures in twelve fun-filled episodes,” reads the synopsis for Season 1 Volume 2.
Spencer Legacy: What was your experience with Rugrats before taking the projects? Were you fans when it first came out?
Ashley Rae Spillers: Yeah, I watched a bit of Rugrats. I wasn’t a little kid, but I liked Rugrats. I loved watching it, and I wasn’t a big cartoon watcher. I was really into “movies with real people,” as I called them, but this was the one cartoon that it’s just so human and hilarious and funny. I watched it, and I cannot believe I get to be a part of it.
Tommy Dewey: I feel the same way. I kind of fall between the cracks generationally. My favorite experience, as it relates to this show, is telling my now mid-20s nephew that I was doing it. He could probably not care less about all the rest of the work I’ve done, [but] when I told him I was getting to be Stu Pickles in the new Rugrats, he finally respected me. [Laugh]. He went nuts because it was his show. So it was cool to break that news to him.
Ashley, even though the babies are on all the merch and stuff, the adults are just as important as characters. How do you approach the more adult role of a character like DiDi while keeping her as fun to watch as the babies?
Ashley Rae Spillers: Oh gosh. It’s the writing of this show and just who DiDi already is — it’s all there. I just show up and take all these words and put them in here and let them out and just kind of go. She’s just really, really fun. I think the beautiful thing about this show is because it’s so human and it aims to be so true to our real-life experiences and the things that we go through day to day, I can relate to so much of it that I’m really just leaning into what’s there and letting it rip.
Tommy, Jack Riley, the original voice of Stu Pickles, had a really distinct voice. When you first got the part, did you want to implement aspects of his performance into yours? How did you go about doing that?
Tommy Dewey: No, only because his was so distinct and so fantastic. I think I had to stay away from the original because I think the worst version of things is doing a bad imitation of your predecessor. I was encouraged to by the creative powers that be to just own the role and make it my own.
But I think when they’re putting these things together, all these people that are smarter than me saw enough of an overlap that they thought the new updated millennial Stu … whatever qualities my voice has have a natural nod to what Jack was doing. Jack’s thing exists in the world and it’s kind of perfect in its own right. I wouldn’t want to get too close to that. I think it’s a dangerous place to be as an actor.
Ashley, since Volume 2 of the episodes has released, you’ve played DiDi for a while. Has the process changed or gotten easier at all?
Ashley Rae Spillers: It’s gotten a little easier in that I trust that I can do it now. [Laugh]. I think, initially, because it’s Rugrats and it’s so beloved, I felt a lot of pressure to really fill these shoes and be as great as this show is. I’ve really gotten to know her. I know the parts of myself that really relate to her where I can lean in harder to really find her more. Now it’s just a joy.
Every time before, I’d always be nervous, and I’m always like, “Oh, can I do it?” But once I get in the studio and I’m with Charlie [Adler], our director, and Kate [Boutilier], our producer, and the writers … I feel a bit more at ease with it all now and can jump back into her quite quickly and easily.
Tommy, same for you. Has your Stu voice gotten easier to do or is it similar to when you started?
Tommy Dewey: I always start a session or a day of work, really, on anything a little jittery. I was telling Ashley earlier it [that] with, with this group on Rugrats, about five minutes in after I’ve fallen on my face a couple times, I find Stu again. I think one of the great things is it’s such a lovely group of people, Charlie and Kate and everybody else, that I just feel … safe is too strong a word, but the joy of the work now is that I feel like I can make all the mistakes and try big things or whatever.
You’re with good, creative people that know that that’s part of how the sausage gets made, whereas early on in any job for me, you start out too often trying to get things right and there’s really no “right” in this work. You just try stuff until it kind of sinks in and feels like it fits the material. So that’s a long, rambly answer. [Laugh].
Ashley Rae Spillers: I totally relate to that — it’s so true. You have a tendency to really want to get it right, but to be surrounded by people who really get that and know [that] the process is kind of messy and there’s going to be some falling and some weird stuff that comes out of your mouth that you feel slightly embarrassed by, but they embrace it and it’s cool. It feels nice! [Laugh].
This version of Rugrats is a more modern take where the kids who watch the shows can now see themselves in these millennial versions of the adults. What did you think of that update at first?
Ashley Rae Spillers: I was really excited by it. I think that’s always been what makes this show so special. When it first started, I think it was groundbreaking in a lot of those ways because it was so honest and of its time and addressing issues that were very real, that were maybe not always being addressed in kids’ shows. And I think that’s what it’s doing today, for today, and I think it’s awesome. I was delighted to see these updates, like ClikClak, which is our Rugrats version of TikTok — that’s funny. [Laugh]. So yeah, I love it. I totally embrace it. It’s great.
Tommy Dewey: I think that’s right. The update gives you something with which to really anchor the performances, right? Like there’s an episode where they put their smartphones in a box so that they can actually enjoy human interaction. I mean, if we can’t all relate to that! It allows me, at least, to bring some stuff that I’m going through to the performance. I also have a 14-month-old, [and] being able to bring some of the chaos of modern parenting to this role is a blast.
I’m so grateful for the update. They’ve been so smart about it, and I think it makes it really enjoyable for parents. I know that sounds like a line, but you really can watch this with your kids. It’s really funny and subtle in ways. There’s that layer of jokes that only adults will get and it’s so rewarding to sit down and watch it.