Ramon Rodriguez Praises On Set MOCAP Actors in The One and Only Ivan

When it comes to being an actor, there is a lot of using your imagination and even more so in effects-heavy movies. You have to stand in front of a green screen and act against it and make it believable. One of the things that movies have really done more these days is putting a person in front of the actor in a motion-capture suit, so they have someone to act off of. It's one of the most thankless jobs in the industry when these people are essential to bringing these characters to life. Yes, Bradley Cooper is the voice of Rocket Racoon, but Sean Gunn wearing the mocap suit, is just as essential. During the virtual press conference for The One and Only Ivan actor Ramon Rodriguez praised the on-set actors who helped bring Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant alive.

It was really interesting to see some of the characters that played, you know, Ivan, Ben Bishop, who was amazing. Um, you know, he's wearing like a- spandex all over his body and these stilts. But he really, you know, when I watch the film I could actually see so much of his performance. I could see so much of what he gave to that character's physicality, the eye. It was really kind of incredible to work with him. And even, you know, it was a character that played Ruby that would get into this small, baby green elephant outfit and we walking around the set. And after a while you'd kinda just go, that's a baby elephant. You know, it was actually nice to have that. Um, I've done stuff where there's nothing there. So, it was actually really nice to have something about acting along, you know, a real person. So, Ivan having been there and having him really react to you and perform, uh, as well as Ruby and the people that did Stella… It was a great gift to be able to have those actual people performing. And they're great-they're incredibly skilled.

Ramon Rodriguez Praises On Set MOCAP Actors in The One and Only Ivan
Ramon Rodriguez at the Catalina Film Festival – Opening Night at the Art Theater on September 26, 2018, in Long Beach, CA. Editorial credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

Bleeding Cool got the chance to speak to Rodriguez one on one, and we asked if he could elaborate on what they meant to him as one of the three main human actors on set in The One and Only Ivan and how much it helped improve the experience for him as an actor.

"We were lucky because we had people playing Ivan, we had someone playing Ruby," Rodriguez explained. "We had several people playing Stella. There's one thing about acting with nothing there, and you sort of create it all in your head. And that's one aspect of it. You can engage it physically, but there's something about having a living, breathing thing to react to and to act with, that's giving you energy back. I would look in Ivan's eyes, was played by Ben Bishop, and he did a brilliant job and of becoming a silverback gorilla. And it was really powerful to be able to have that interaction with a breathing thing."

Ramon Rodriguez Praises On Set Mocap Actors in The One and Only Ivan
Bryan Cranston and Ramon Rodriguez in The One and Only Ivan (2020). Credit: Disney

"The person that played Ruby would climb into this little green elephant suit that looked exactly like a baby elephant, except it was green," he continued. "The stunt performance was so great at physicalizing the baby elephant that when we would cut, it would stand up, and it would be so weird. It was the strangest thing to see a baby elephant get up on its hind legs and just start walking away. It literally got me every single time. You kind of just believe it. Once they start performing and moving, your imagination goes with it. It's pretty phenomenal. We're very lucky that we had those performers. They gave us so much to work with."

It's an unsung profession in the industry, and it's always great to hear an actor sing the praises of the mocap workers and how essential they truly are to the business.

The One and Only Ivan, directed by Thea Sharrock, stars Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren, Brooklynn Prince, Chaka Khan, Ron Funches, Phillipa Soo, and Mike White, as the animals with the human characters played by Ramón Rodríguez, Ariana Greenblatt, and Bryan Cranston. It is streaming to Disney+ now. 

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About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on instagram. She's also a co-host at The Nerd Dome Podcast. Listen to it at http://www.nerddomepodcast.com
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