Frankie Muniz Talks About "Racing Stripes"

Frankie Muniz Connects With the Animal Inside

Frankie Muniz Mandy Moore Racing Stripes
Mandy Moore and Frankie Muniz provide the voices of Sandy and Stripes in "Racing Stripes". © Warner Bros. Pictures

"Malcolm in the Middle" star Frankie Muniz provides the voice of Stripes, a little zebra who believes he can outrun racehorses and be a champion, in the family comedy, "Racing Stripes."

"Racing Stripes" is the touching story of a baby zebra who was accidentally left behind when the circus left town. Rescued and raised by Nolan Walsh (Bruce Greenwood) and his daughter, Channing (Hayden Panettiere), Stripes doesn't know he's different.

He just assumes he's a normal horse who loves to run. Surrounded by a group of farm animals who look after the little guy, Stripes grows up to believe anything is possible.

While "Malcolm in the Middle" fans may be disappointed Frankie Muniz only provides a voice in the movie, Muniz himself loved the idea of being able to work on the film in a more relaxed setting (any time you can wear comfy clothes to work, that's a big plus).

In this interview, Frankie Muniz discusses the voice work process, how much longer "Malcolm" may go on, and the end of the "Agent Cody Banks" franchise.

INTERVIEW WITH FRANKIE MUNIZ ('Stripes' the Zebra):

You've done voiceovers before. How was this different?
"I love doing the animated stuff. It seemed like a great idea and I knew there was going to be a great cast. I love the 'Doctor Doolittle' movies [and] 'Babe.' Those were some of my favorite movies growing up. So I thought it would be fun and I had a good time."

How did you like playing a zebra?
"I started doing my voiceover stuff like four months before they even started filming the movie. I had no idea how anything was going to look. It's kind of hard to guess. They videotaped my mouth to try and match the animation to my mouth. I did it how I thought it should be and it turned out good.

I went back to do the final (voiceover) once the movie was cut together and got to know the other actors by name. That was part of the fun because I had to go in a bunch of times to re-do scenes, because after the other actors would go in, they'd change lines or ad-lib so I had to react different. I've worked with great actors in this movie but have never met any of them. (Laughing) Seeing it cut together, all the scenes turned out pretty well, I think.

It's so funny because people say, 'Oh, you worked with Whoopi Goldberg and all these people.' And I say, 'Actually, I've never met them.' They had me go in for one session with Dustin Hoffman. 30 minutes. There's one scene where we have a lot of back and forth. You have to have the actor there to get into it. It's hard to say the lines without getting a reaction. You get used to it. That was the last session we did. They wanted it to be more intense, more real. So they had him come in with me and we did it together. It totally changed the way [the scene worked]. I was very intimidated at first. He's a very respected actor and I'm just me, doing what I do, hoping it was okay. But he was really nice and we worked well together and it went real fast."

Was this easier than doing a live-action movie during your time off from “Malcolm?”
"Definitely. I worked on this movie for two years… I had a fun time. It's always cool. I can go in in my pajamas. I can go in and do it. You get to play around with it and not worry as much about being on camera and stuff, and have a good time."

Did you get ever get to visit with any of the animals?
"They filmed the movie in South Africa. I went to the first two of my recordings in London, then they went South Africa and filmed the movie and then six months later, I went in [and recorded] again. I wish I did, because I love animals. I saw the behind-the-scenes footage. It looked like a fun set.

I went to a zoo in Australia and they let me feed all the animals, but they wouldn't let me touch the zebras because they're really mean animals.

I knew they were going to film zebras and was wondering how they were going to get Hayden [Panettiere] to ride the zebra, but it looked good."

The producers of “Racing Stripes” also did “My Dog Skip.” Is that how you got involved in this film?
"Yeah. I have a great relationship with them. They're friends of mine. They came to me with it and I thought it would be a good idea. I didn't want to do just anything, but I thought this would be fun."

Do you think any of your younger fans will be disappointed you’re not in the movie, just your voice?
"A son of one of the crewmembers on 'Malcolm in the Middle' came up to me and said, 'What's it like to be a zebra?' They hear my voice coming from the zebra's mouth. It says it on the poster." (laughing)

This movie is tracking well and “Malcolm's” going strong. You must feel like you can do no wrong.
"I've been very lucky with everything. Hopefully, this will turn out well. Hopefully, I'll keep going with this because you never know when you first get involved. You can have the best script and the best idea and nobody goes to see it. Or it could be something horrible."

Page 2: Frankie Muniz on Career Choices and Another "Agent Cody Banks"

 

Are you careful about what you take on?
"Yes. Especially now that I'm 19. The reason why I didn't do movies this past summer is because I want to take the right [project]. [Something] more dramatic, something different from what I've done before. You have to be cautious. You can't go out and do everything and anything that's there. This [I did] because I knew it was just a voice, and I knew it would be big.

You have to cautious. You have to pick the right movie.

I'm actually going through a time [in my career] that's kind of scary. This next movie I do, where I'm seen in it, has to be right and different and I have to do a good job in it. I have to act in it. With 'Malcolm' I just do it, and other stuff I just kind of have fun and do it. But now I actually have to work with great people and really get into it. We'll see what happens."

Will there be an “Agent Cody Banks 3?”
"There won't be (laughs). Mostly, just because career-wise, I have to [become] an actor."

How do you feel about the second “Agent Cody Banks?”
"I had a great time filming it. It did well."

Have you got any projects lined up?
"I have a bunch of stuff for the summer because I only have from mid-April until the beginning of August to shoot. Once I pick what movie I'm going to do, they really have to get on with scheduling and get everyone else together.

That's the hardest thing because all the movies I've read or been offered, or that I want to do because it would be the perfect role or the perfect people, are filming right now [in winter] while I'm doing 'Malcolm.' It's so hard being on the show and having a respected movie career."

How many more seasons of “Malcolm” do you think are possible?
"We're in number six right now.

We've done like 125 episodes. It's going well. I hear the ratings are still good this year. So probably next year. After that I'll be 20. We'll see what happens."

How have you managed to remain so level-headed after all these years of acting?
"I've always been independent and have known what I wanted to do. I've never been a partier at all. I bought a house that is a cozy, comfortable family house. Then I bought another house that was more like a cool, young bachelor-type house and I got rid of it after 14 days because it wasn't me. I'm more of a chilled, laid back guy. I'm always working and I don't want to throw anything away. I've been so lucky it would be stupid to throw it away."