The young actor discusses his role as Eddie, a mischievous possum, in the computer animated family film
Josh Peck is the voice of Eddie, a mischievous possum in the new computer -animated family film: Ice Age: The Meltdown. He stars along with Seann William Scott who plays Crash, his brother. Their 'sister' is Ellie a woolly mammoth voiced by Queen Latifah, who is convinced that she is a possum, just like them. The fact that possums are tiny and Ellie is very big seems to be irrelevant, because the three characters have built their own strong familial bonds.
The popular young actor, Josh Peck brings a refreshing vigor to Eddie, his character in Ice Age: The Meltdown. He and Seann William Scott play a pair of funny, daredevil possums in the new computer animated movie. They are the brothers (at least in spirit) of Ellie, voiced by Queen Latifah, a mammoth who thinks she is a possum and refuses to accept her true genetic makeup - despite the obvious differences between her and the smaller members of her 'family'.
This sequel to the huge hit, Ice Age, is even more exciting as the seasons change and the prehistoric animals have to set out on a risky journey - or they are in grave danger of losing their lives. Director Carlos Saldanha brings warmth and plenty of emotion to his story. The script is crisp, the dialogue is sharp and the physical comedy is hilarious.
He is only 19, but Josh Peck is already a rising star. Popular with children because of his hit TV comedy series, drake and Josh, Peck also appeared in The Amanda Show. He grew up in New York with his mother Barbara, dreaming of becoming a comedian. Because he suffered badly from asthma, he was often at home and watched a lot of comedy-reruns of popular TV shows, as well as movies. It soon became clear to his mother, that he possessed an unusual gift and he started performing at comedy clubs.
His other film credits include, "Max Keeble's Big Movie", Mean Creek and Snow Day. He has also appeared on many TV series such as ER, The Gaurdian and Filmore. He lives in Los Angeles and enjoys playing the piano and ice hockey - though his real passion is film.
Warm and introspective, the actor, who is tall dark and slim, dressed from head to toe in black, discusses his career in the following interview, conducted in Los Angeles.
You play Eddie, a possum; can you talk about your character?
Josh Peck: "I imagine Eddie consuming about ten energy drinks and two pots of coffee every day. He is always energized, no matter what. He is fiercely loyal and fiercely protective of his sister. He is never far from trouble and he has a real, pure, good heart. What he lacks in stature and size, he makes up for in mischievousness and bravado."
How much fun was it portraying this character?
Josh Peck: "it was fantastic. When I was alone doing the dialogue, I got to rediscover parts of my brain that had gone dormant over the years. I rediscovered the fact when I was seven, eight and nine years old I had a vivid imagination. During those years I would be in my room building forts and doing character voices in my head and talking to myself. So when I was in the recording booth I would do that and create my own little world, so that I felt I really was in the Ice Age. I asked them to crank up the air conditioning so I felt genuinely cold and then I would blast off. When I was working with Seann (William Scott) who plays Crash, it was like having a hurricane and a tornado in the same room and we would bounce off the walls going nuts. We got on so well, it was a blast."
That is quite unusual isn't it, having two actors working together in the same sound booth on an animated movie?
Josh Peck: "Yes it is absolutely, and we only got to do it once, but Carlos the director was so amazing, he was unbelievably flexible and was really the captain of our ship. We went into the booth and just became Eddie and Crash and went for it. It was such a great pleasure."
How exciting and challenging was it to make this film?
Josh Peck: " Walking into this cast of all stars and being the rookie was daunting in itself, and knowing the precedent that the original movie had set was certainly a big challenge for me. I did feel a responsibility. But I think with the second movie, they have surpassed everybody's expectations. Knowing what I was getting into scared me a lot, but I have learned to run towards that kind of fear and confront it, because it allows the possibility of greatness and it means I get the chance to be involved in a project like this, with great, creative people. These people only make you better as a performer."
How did you first get into acting as a child?
Josh Peck: "I grew up as a really sick kid, I had really bad childhood asthma and was at home all the time in New York. I was born up in Hells' Kitchen we were poor and I lived there for the first fourteen years of my life, just me and my mom. She was a single parent raising me and I would be inside all day, watching cartoons and TV and I would start emulating them. I loved old episodes of THE HONEYMOONERS and I LOVE LUCY. All my friends were outside playing soccer and I loved the TV shows and theatre, my mom wanted to support me in whatever I was interested in. I loved children's theater and got involved in stand up comedy when I was eight years old. I went out and had instant material, because I had a neurotic Jewish mother. I had plenty of stories from being sick, also stories and anecdotes from my school. Half the clubs wouldn't let me in because I wasn't old enough, and the other half did, but I was performing at 10 or 11 or night, hearing curse words. It was fun though and everything led me to where I am now. Eventually I got the role in the movie SNOW DAY. What I have discovered recently is how amazing and supportive my mother was. She gave me so many pearls of wisdom when I was 15 or 16. At the time I refused to listen to her but she was so wise and I realize that now."
Why, what did she say?
Josh Peck: "She told me to do live comedy, go to performing arts school and she said we should move to California because she wanted me to pursue acting and performing. I was offered THE AMANDA SHOW when I was 13 years old which meant moving to California. But I told my mother I would not do it. I said 'I am a New York actor and I don't like these LA types.' I was really stupid. I said 'I don't want to do it'. She said 'you are going'. At the time I was at performing arts high school and had just started making money which was great because my we had been broke. We didn't even have enough money for pizza sometimes. My mom said 'all this great luck and good fortune is raining on you. We have to go, if you don't like it you can come back'. She was absolutely right and it is all thanks to her that I am here."
Who are your influences?
Josh Peck: "I love Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby. And I love old TV shows. At 19 years old, I don't want to watch regular TV anymore. Sometimes I don't want to go out and socialize; I just want to watch my favorite shows and comedians. But then I have to remember that it is important to participate in life if you want to portray real life on screen."
Do you have a role model, someone you emulate?
Josh Peck: "My favorite actor is Sir. Ben Kingsley, nobody is as good as him in my opinion. I think he so good as an artist. Real artists take the misery and sadness of life and translate it into art. People like Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman are my favorites. When I watch them I get excited about acting. And then in terms of comedy greats I love watching Jackie Gleason and Jerry Lewis. I watch shows done in 1955 and still laugh so much and it really shows me that comedy transcends time, funny is funny. I think this movie ICE AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN encompasses that kind of comedy that is universal. Laughter doesn't know color or creed."
Do you ever watch yourself?
Josh Peck: "No never, I have never seen any of my work, I can't watch it because I am ultra critical. We all have little mannerisms that people may love about us, but can be embarrassing. Perhaps we got teased about them as kids and we may not like them ourselves. That is what it is like for me, I can't look at myself on screen even if the audience loves what I am doing."
You sound as you though you have a very serious and reflective outlook on life for someone so young, is that true?
Josh Peck: " Yes I think so. I do hang out with girls, I do relax. But I am a hermit sometimes and get a bit too introverted, too 'Jean-Paul Sartre' and intellectual in my head. And it's like a Kafka novel in there, things get nuts. Then I have to remind myself to get out and I will go and play ice hockey with my friends. I am happiest when I am working though, when I am being creative. I realized at a very young age what I loved doing. I think it is so important for people to pursue the things that they love and not give up on their dreams. I do work too hard sometimes but my mom is such an inspiration. She tells me to 'chill out' and not take things so seriously. She will say: ' go and have a massage.'"
You are obviously very close to your mother?
Josh Peck: "I am and the reason is that my mom is an older parent, she is 61. She had me at 43. She was only with my father once and it was meant to be. She had always dreamed of having a child and at the age of 42 had grown accustomed to the fact that it might never happen for her, she might never have a family. So when it did happen, people told her 'you are crazy to have a kid at this age and do it alone' but she just wouldn't accept that. Then I got sick and had to be at home and her priority became me. I was the focus of her attention and it was tough for her to make ends meet sometimes. She was a headhunter. She would find people jobs and worked for Avon back in the seventies. She is the smartest person I know and had no traditional education. I have only recently realized how much she did for me. I know now how hard life is. When you peel off the layers of the onion, sometimes tears come up and I have learned that from her. Sometimes we didn't have money and she would have to call my grandmother to get help. But I never knew it. If we were staying in a month-to-month rental place, I was living with my mom, and that was all I cared about because I love her. We didn't have enough money for me to go to summer camp but I was just happy to be with her. We are still very close and she just moved back to New York a week and a half ago. So I am missing her and learning to cope on my own."
"How is your heath, you seem to have lost a great deal of weight? Are you over the asthma these days?
Josh Peck: "Yes I still carry an inhaler but it is more psychological these days, I don't often need to use it. I grew out of it. I did lose a lot of weight, over 100 pounds. And that helps with the asthma. I made a conscious effort to lose weight because I knew I could be happier as well as being healthier. I started by going on a diet a year and a half ago and I got a personal trainer, but I definitely have a healthier lifestyle now. Also I feel that because I do so much children's television, I am a better role model. I don't really understand why I should be a role model but I know that children do look up to me, so it is my responsibility to motivate people and be inspiring. I hope that I can do that for kids. It doesn't matter what you look like really though, it is who you are that matters of course."
What are you dreams, would you like to go to college?
Josh Peck: "I just want to continue working, I am trying to ride this train as far as it will take me. I do have a thirst for knowledge but also feel that college can wait, I love what I am doing."
Ice Age: The Meltdown is in theaters this Friday.
Ice Age: The Meltdown was released March 31st, 2006 and stars Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Queen Latifah, Will Arnett, Jay Leno. The film is directed by Carlos Saldanha.