Aaron McGruder

Q:  First, why is the show called The Boondocks?

A:  Itís just a reference to the suburbs, thatís all.


Q:  Are Huey and Riley different in the TV version than they are in the strip?

A:  They talk more and curse more and Riley has cornrows.  Theyíre drawn better, the colors are nicer, and because we are able to expand on the stories for these characters, it adds to their depth.  But other than that itís pretty much exactly the same thing. 


Q:  Tell us about the other characters.

A:  Huey and Riley live with Granddad.  Thereís Uncle Ruckus whoís a self-hating black man.  Thereís Tom, who lives next door, and is married to Sarah, and they have a daughter named Jazmine.  Tom is another black male perspective, the ďnot coolĒ guy.  Heís just normal and not an over-the-top geek, but with black people, the bar of cool is so high that you could be normal and be a nerd.  Then thereís also Ed the III, whoís a drunken maniac, and Ed Wuncler, whoís the drunken maniacís grandfather.  Itís characters.  Itís comedy.


Q:  Are these based on any real life people you know?

A:  Some of them are based on real people in that they are parodies of real people or satirical representations of real people, but none of them are actually real people. 


Q:  What was it about Regina King that you liked for the voices of Huey and Riley?

A:  Regina didnít audition for Huey at first.  She only wanted to do Riley.  We never really found the right Huey voice for the pilot.  I would talk to Regina about who to cast for Huey, because whoever got it had to play off Regina.  At the end of the day, we always felt like we werenít getting it, and when the series got picked up, we did a whole other casting search with Regina reading with the perspective voices and still didnít find anyone.  


At a certain point, we realized that maybe she should do both, but I had to talk her into it.  She wasnít jumping at the idea.  When Regina read Huey, it was much more interesting than anyone else had done.  The studio asked her to do a scene with herself with no preparation.  She did both Huey and Riley, back and forth, on the spot and blew us away.  It was amazing how passionate she was to get it right when she already had the job.  


I always liked the idea of her doing both, because I felt it made the brothers feel related.  The voices are similar, but distinct enough that you wouldnít confuse them.  It does give the boys a certain bond, which is really cool.


Q:  Can you talk about your other cast members and guest stars?

A:  John Witherspoon plays Granddad.  I donít think we could have cast anyone else, because everything John says is funny, and Iíve always been a huge fan.  He has already injected so many wonderful catch-phrases into the culture over the last few decades.  Heís an amazingly funny guy and also a really wonderful actor.  There are moments when we get a little dramatic, and heís always just right and a lot of fun.


Cedric Yarbrough plays Tom, this slightly awkward guy, and is great at playing him.  But he also does so many of the other voices on the show.  Heís the voice of Colonel Stinkmeaner, which is one of my favorite performances of the season.  Itís just so over-the-top funny. 


Gary Anthony Williams is the genius behind Uncle Ruckus.  I originally thought that John Witherspoon would be Uncle Ruckus, but when Gary opened his mouth, we were back in the 1700s.  He was a slave for real, and thatís what we wanted.  Gary brings a bigness to the voice that is incredibly funny.   A lot of Ruckusí jokes are Garyís ad-libs.  We let him do as much improv as he can, because he understands the character so well. 


Gabby plays Jazmine and actually looks like her character.  It was down to her and a 30-year-old actress who sounded identical vocally.  The acting was also nearly the same.  Gabby was 9 at the time, and it came down to the sincerity of a childís voice, which is difficult to mimic.  Sheís great and has pulled off some remarkable acting.  She just knows sheís good. 


Jill Talley plays Sarah, Tomís wife.  Jill does a lot of our other characters and fills in as the people in the neighborhood.  Like Cedric, sheís great at improv.  Itís a really strong cast.  Theyíve been very supportive and give up a lot of their time to work really hard and get it right.  They get the show and are enthusiastic, so weíre lucky. 


Guest stars include Ed Asner, who plays Ed Wuncler, a billionaire who lives down the street.  I got the idea of him doing a voice when I saw him on Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Itís weird when you can think, ďI want him,Ē and he actually shows up, because Ed Asner is a legend. 


Charlie Murphy does the voice of Ed the III, and I felt really lucky to get him.  He was an amazing part of Chappelleís Show and is really, really funny. 


Xzibit did the show as himself, which was a lot of fun.  Quincy Jones was on the show, and it was one of those momentous occasions when a legend walks into the room.  He was great, and I was really thankful he showed up.  It was really surprising that most of the people we called actually showed up, because you think theyíre not going to, but they do.


Q:  Do you think people will focus on the ďnĒ word a lot?

A:  Yeah, they will, but you know, it is what it is.


Q:  But you donít think the focus is warranted?

A:  Why are we still asking the question since so many shows have used it?  I wonder if we get cancelled, and then next year, thereís another show with ďnigger,Ē are we gonna be talking about it again?  Granted, weíll say it a lot.  But I feel like it just is what it is.  Itís the way people talk.


Q:  You developed the show for network TV, but ultimately ended up on Adult Swim. 

A:  Yeah, Adult Swim prefers funny.  The show for Fox was very sitcom-y and very structured.  From a storytelling perspective, it was almost as confining as the strip.  When it was all said and done, it wasnít that good of a show, and we knew it was never going to air.  


Itís really hard to make things funny.  There are a million ways for them to be unfunny and sometimes you have to hit a pretty exact mark, especially when youíre talking about race and politics.  Cable is the only place where you can still be honest and actually have fun.  And Adult Swim has been supportive throughout the process.


Q: Has Adult Swim given you any restrictions?

A:  There really hasnít been anything that theyíve said I canít do. 


Q:  What are the challenges of taking it from the strip to an animated series?

A:  Mostly, it has to do with having a lot employees who complain and want time off, rest and lives.  Thereís no time for that in the animation business.  Itís like painting a picture with moving brushes that want to talk back. 


I spent five years working alone and became a very antisocial and unfriendly person.  Thatís just how Iím used to working, so there are always unfortunate people who now have to put up with the insanity that up until now has only been inflicted on me.  Iím just not good with others.  I donít work well with others.  Iím not nice.



Q:  Itís hard to give up some of the control?

A:  Itís tough, because it canít be a committee.  Itís a personal vision, yet it canít be done alone.  People have to give up time and so much of their lives to do it.  Theyíre looking at you going, ďYouíre getting rich off of this one day. Itís just a job for me.  Iím going home.Ē  And you canít be mad at them for going home. 


Fortunately, I have found enough people who are willing to sacrifice a lot of time, and the show looks really good.  Being a cartoonist is an isolated job and most cartoonists are standoffish, isolated people.  It has been a dramatic transition to go from being alone to having all of these actors, producers, artists and writers.  Itís just a lot to manage.


Q:  Do you think youíll have any backlash for calling people out?

A:  I hope not, because that would be unpleasant.  Thereíll be people who get angry, sometimes people donít take jokes well.  R. Kelly might find this all incredibly funny.  I donít think so, but Iím hoping.  Oprah wonít be mad, because sheís not visually represented in any way, and thatís important to stress.  R. Kelly will be mad. 


Q:  Describe your animation process.

A:  The script is written, then designers design the characters, props and backgrounds.  Board artists draw the show, and then actors record it.  We put it together in an animatic Ė a rough, ugly version of the show made from storyboards laid out over the dialogue track.  I sign off, and itís shipped overseas.  It obviously takes a long, long, time, but those are the big steps.  Itís about a year from when the episode is written to when it will air.


Q: Is there anything about animation that you donít like doing?

A:  Shipping the show so far away, because at that point you lose some control.  I wish the studios animating it could have a closer relationship with us.  The two Korean studios we have do a wonderful job.  I just wish we could walk down the hall and work with them.  In animation, there are a lot of people and long distances for one performance, and you donít know what you will get until itís almost too late to go back and change it.


Q:  Do you think this could be a live action show?

A:  No, I would never have sold it as a live action, because that would be really bad.  Some properties you can do that with and some you canít.  I donít think you can do The Boondocks in live action.

Source: Cartoon Netork Pressroom (Now defunct)