Bobby Moynihan Talks CHOZEN, Voicing the Character, Finding Chozen’s Voice, Improvisation, Balancing His Work with SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and More

     January 20, 2014


The new FX animated comedy series Chozen tells the story of the title character, who is a gay white rapper fresh out of prison.  With a new world view shaped by his time in prison, Chozen (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) is on a quest for redemption and has a desire to claim his rightful position as the world’s top rap artist while also taking aim at the stereotypes of machismo and misogyny that is synonymous with rap music.

During this recent interview to promote the new show, actor Bobby Moynihan talked about how he came to be voicing this character, how easy it was to find Chozen’s voice, what he hopes viewers take away from watching the show, how much improvising they do, balancing this show with his work on Saturday Night Live, and his thoughts on the new African-American SNL cast member.  Check out what he had to say after the jump. 

chozen-bobby-moynihanQuestion:  How did this come about for you?  Did you have to audition for this, or were you involved, at the beginning, with the process? 

BOBBY MOYNIHAN:  I’m actually a gay white rapper cartoon, in real life, so it just worked out really good.  No.  I got an email saying, “Would you like to put yourself on tape for this?,” and it had the little character descriptions and drawings of what they look like.  And they said that Method Man was involved.  So, I said, “Yeah, I don’t want to do anything more in my life than this.”

How did you come up with the voice for Chozen?

MOYNIHAN:  I know it sounds weird to say, but it’s a voice I’ve been doing all of my life.  I feel like I know a lot of people that sound like Chozen.  And when I saw the drawing and read Grant DeKernion’s script, the character was so well-defined already that all I had to do was come in and talk and have a good time.  So, I felt like it was something that I had inside me already.

How do you view Chozen, as an individual?

MOYNIHAN:  To be honest, it reminds me the most of Kenny Powers on Eastbound & Down.  It’s like if Kenny Powers were a real person.  People talk about that character like he’s a real person, and hopefully they’ll do the same with Chozen.  He’s a loose-cannon lunatic, but he’s actually a pretty good person with a good heart.  It’s an amazingly fun character to play because it’s so insane and so off-the-wall, but there is this grounded-ness to him.  He gets what he wants, and he gets results.  He may go about in a weird way, but it’s a very well fleshed-out character, and that’s one of my favorite parts about it.

How do you find that line between the dark side of him and the good side of him?

MOYNIHAN:  I think he just wants love from anywhere, and whatever he wants, he’s going to take, just because that’s how he’s learned how to do things.  But, I think one of the best parts about the show is that we can dance on that line.  There are times when you can take it over the line, and there are times where you don’t need to.  I think it’s a good balance between the two.  There are some lines where, when I watch it, I cringe because I can’t believe I said that, but coming out of Chozen’s mouth, it seems completely perfect.

What do you hope viewers take away from this show?

MOYNIHAN:  As far as an animated comedy goes, to me it’s not like Family Guy, which is just joke after joke.  This is more of a story about this guy’s life.  I hope that people want to see where he goes in his life, and I hope they continue to watch it, so that they can find out.            

Do you do any improvising, at all?

MOYNIHAN:  We do some improvising.  Me and Grant will go back and forth, or he’ll have a line and I’ll add to it, or he’ll say, “No, try this.”  I think it’s a good mix, with the writing on the show being pretty wonderful.  But when we’re doing the recording, sometimes something new will come up or something very dirty, and then I beg Grant not to put it in and he does, and I was wrong because it’s very funny.

chozenWhat’s it like to balance your work on Chozen while also doing Saturday Night Live?

MOYNIHAN:  To be honest, it’s not hard, at all.  Even during the show week, it’s pretty easy.  The recording studio is two blocks away from SNL.  I’ll go run and do that, and then run back to SNL.  It’s not as hard as you would think.  The hours at SNL are pretty insane, but it’s nice to be able to run across the street and act like an idiot for an hour, and then run back and act like an idiot for seven hours.

Are there going to be any other guest rappers or any other big voices, coming up on the show?

MOYNIHAN:  The rap debut of Kathy Bates is going to happen.  No.  I don’t know.  I hope so.  I hope some guys see it and want to do it.  That would be wonderful.  I would like to do an episode where you meet Chozen’s mom, and the voice is DMX.

SNL just hired their first African-American comedian in seven years.  What are your thoughts on that?

MOYNIHAN:  I know Sasheer [Zamata] from Upright Citizens Brigade, so I was very happy.  We’re very, very lucky to have her, and she’s a very talented girl.  I’m excited for her to be on the show and for America to see her.  I think she’s great, and I think it’s a great addition.  With everyone leaving, it’s a whole new world.  I’ve been on the show since Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond were on there, and as a fan of the show since I was a kid, just to see it change internally has been fascinating.  Next year is the 40th anniversary.  It’s very big times over at SNL, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

chozen-posterChozen is such a walking contradiction.  How do you find the balance between all the various sides of his personality, and how far you can push in any of the directions that you have to play with?

MOYNIHAN:  I feel like the characters are so well-realized and so well-written.  I come from an improv background, so the one thing I know when I’m doing Chozen is that whatever he’s doing at that exact moment is the only thing he’s thinking about, and he will do it until he’s conquered it.  So, if that means one second trying to get a boyfriend and the next second trying to make his sister feel better about herself, then that’s just how it is.  And then, he moves on to the next thing that he wants very badly.  It’s just such a real character to me.  The way Grant wrote it and the way that the writers write it is just very easy to do.  It’s very easy to play.  One of my favorite parts about the show is that it does feel like a story about a guy and his friends, and he happens to be a gay white rapper.  It’s not like that’s what drives him, a lot of the time.  I feel like 20 years ago, you’d be like, “Who is this guy?,” and now there’s probably one hundred Chozens running around on this block in New York City, where I am right now.  There are a lot of people like Chozen, who are just living their lives.  It’s not really that crazy of a thing anymore.

Chozen airs on Monday nights on FX.

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