When Freeform’s new animated series Praise Petey premieres this Friday, you won’t recognize any of the faces, but you’ll certainly recognize the supersized talent behind them.
Prolific actor Stephen Root is among the actors who will use their voices to bring a wide array of characters to life in the new series by creator, writer, and executive producer Anna Drezen, a former head writer on Saturday Night Live.
We had the chance to chat with Root during a recent press day, and the pleasure was all ours. The interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.
There’s no doubt that you are familiar with many of Root’s roles over the years.
He’s incredibly talented, and his acting chops tear apart roles in both comedies and dramas, but he leans heavily into the former, even when taking a dramatic turn.
Whether it’s a no-pants-wearing judge in Justified, a continuously abused employee clinging for dear life to his red stapler in Office Space, or a handler in the assassin business on Barry, Root creates works of art from every character he plays.
Praise Petey is the story of Petra, aka Petey (Annie Murphy), a New York City “It Girl” who thinks she’s got everything figured out.
When her well-curated life suddenly comes crashing down, she’s shocked to discover her deceased father (Root) has left her his cult, New Utopia.
Petey is definitely not ready to assume the leadership role her father vacated, but she’s willing to give it her best try, and that means ignoring the anything but sage advice dear old dad left behind on WHS.
Praise Petey is a smart and funny look at outsiders finding each other and creating something special from the chaos, and Root’s role, although small, is very effective. Even in small doses, he’s always incredibly entertaining.
Root is no stranger to animation. He had years of success playing Bill Dauterive and other characters on King of the Hill and has dozens of other credits under his belt.
His enjoyment of voice acting comes from his love of theater, as he can get away with things in both mediums that he couldn’t in any other.
Like every role he plays at this point in his career, what drew him to Praise Petey was the good writing, which he calls “phenomenal.”
He notes that great character and voice actors are the backbone of the entertainment business, and this is a “nice mix” of the two.
In our interview, which you can watch below, Root talks about roles he would love the opportunity to play and discusses his career highlights, and he also teases the King of the Hill revival, which sounds like it’s going to be well worth watching.
And yes, he even touches upon the red stapler from Office Space, which has followed him around like an entertaining anvil around his neck, keeping him firmly cemented in popular culture over 20 years after making his mark as Milton Waddams.
For our full discussion, click play now:
Joining Root and Murphy in this delightedly irreverent new series are Christine Baranski, John Cho, Amy Hill, Eve Plumb, and Kiersey Clemmons.
With a cast like that, how could you possibly let it pass you by?
Praise Petey, premiering on Friday, July 20 at 10/9c on Freeform with the first two episodes, and watch the full series on Hulu the next day.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.