ABOMINABLE AND THE INVISIBLE CITY: Check Out Our Exclusive Interview With Star Tenzing Trainor!

Tenzing Trainor makes his return as Jin in DreamWorks Animation's Abominable and The Invisible City, and talks to us about what fans can expect from Peacock's sequel, his approach to the character, and more.

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Abominable and The Invisible City is a comedy adventure series that continues the wild and wooly fun of DreamWorks Animation's Abominable. Through Everest the yeti, Yi, Jin, and Peng know that there’s a whole magical world out there, and now it’s even closer than they think!

When they discover that their surroundings are teeming with magical creatures in need of their help, the kids will set out on extraordinary and heartfelt adventures throughout their city and beyond.

All ten episodes premiered on Peacock and Hulu on October 5, and we recently had the chance to sit down with star Tenzing Trainor to discuss his return as Jin. He's joined in the show by Chloe Bennet, Alan Cumming, Ethan Loh, Michelle Wong, Karen Huie, and Darin De Paul. 

In our exclusive conversation in the video below, Trainor talks in detail about his return as Jin, revealing what fans can expect from the small screen Abominable sequel and his approach to bringing the character to life in the recording booth.

The actor also reflects on working with Chloe Bennet, his family’s real-life history with Mount Everest, the importance of Asian representation on screen, and all the online chatter that he could one day soon join the Marvel or DC Universe. 

Check out our interview with Trainor below: 
 


It’s been three years since Abominable was released and even longer than that since you first voiced Jin, so what was it like returning to this franchise for The Invisible World?

Yeah, it’s really crazy. I was super excited when I heard the news that we were going to be making a TV show out of it because I love playing this character so much and the whole world. Of course, all the great cast and people I met shooting the film and getting to be with them again. It’s so great. I had to say yes, of course. 

The show picks up pretty much straight where the movie left off, so was it challenging to step back into Jin’s shoes and find him as a character again?

No, not at all! I played Jin for the movie for four years of my life. That was just going in for so many different recording sessions, so I really had that character down. We kind of meshed into one and I think we share a lot of similar qualities, so I was able to pull from my own emotions and real life for a lot of this character, so it was super easy to step back in and I was just super excited that I got the chance to do it again. 

I came out of Abominable hoping for a sequel, so to get 10 30-minute episodes is a real treat. What was your reaction to learning that the plan was to continue this story in a TV format?

I thought, either way, I would be happy, you know what I mean? If we’d got a sequel, that would have been great, obviously, but a television show is also so much fun and fantastic. Each episode is a different story. We meet a new character or creature in every story which is a lot of fun, and we also learn a lot about the characters as the characters learn a lot about themselves as the series goes on. Either way, I’d be happy, but with the television show, recording it was so much fun.

As an actor, what would you say are the biggest advantages of playing a character like this over an episodic format rather than in the confines of a 2-hour film?

Yeah, I think both ways of telling stories have their own great qualities whether it’s a movie or television show. I think that, throughout my career, you can see I’ve done a lot more television than I have film. I really enjoy doing television and, as you said, there’s a lot more time to go through each episode and your character develops more and more. Doing the film, though, my character went through a lot and I was able to go through those emotions from start to finish. I’m happy to do both and it was really fun to do the TV show because we’d done the movie and it was fun to see the TV series version of it all. 

We do see Jin spend a lot more time with Yi, Peng, and Everest. Which of those relationships has been most satisfying to better explore?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I would probably have to say maybe Yi. I build a relationship with all the characters throughout the story, but with Yi, we always butt heads. In the show, we learn to work with each other and see the great qualities each of us provides in these situations. With Peng, we learn to take him seriously, He’s not just the comedic relief. He has good ideas and is a smart kid. With Everest, in the movie, my character was the only one that wasn’t the biggest fan. But, in the show, we become best friends and I really need his help in helping these creates and he needs our help. I think all these relationships really grow stronger throughout the show.

I thought it was very cool to see Jin get some new tech as part of this quest to find all these magical creatures, but what about that did you have fun with?

It was really cool. When I heard that he would get a super fashionable pair of sunglasses, I thought, ‘That really is the perfect thing for Jin.’ He’s all about style and way that he looks. The sunglasses are super cool. I remember recording, I’m literally in the booth without sunglasses pretending I have sunglasses. I’m acting it out myself, so that was a lot of fun to work with. 

Talking of those creatures, there’s a really rich variety of them in this show with a lot of real-life and mythological inspiration, but did you have a favourite? 

There are a lot of great characters. They’re so different but so cool in their own ways. Picking a favourite is really hard. My favourite would probably have to be Morty, the one that makes Jin invisible. That's a little later in the show, so spoiler alert [Laughs], but he’s super cool. He can turn anything he wants invisible, so that’s the coolest creature. 

Jin is a kid who is very conscious of his appearance and his social media presence, but there’s more to him than that as he obviously really cares about his friends. What would you say about how we see both sides of him develop in this series?

It was really cool. You see throughout the show how he changes from the self-centred kid who only cares about himself and his appearance…I mean, he was only ever trying to become a doctor because that’s what he thought would be cool for everyone else. You see throughout the show it’s not about what other people think about you; it’s what you think about yourself and you should do everything for yourself and no one else. He learns that throughout the show, so it was really cool to dive into those emotions and play that character as he grows. 
 

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With COVID and everything else that’s been going on, were you able to get into the recording booth with your co-stars for the show?

You know, they gave us the option actually at the start of the show and I just did not trust myself enough to do it from home [Laughs] even if they sent me all of the equipment. I was like, ‘I will drive to wherever you guys want.’ It was a little different in the booth compared to when we did the movie because I was the only person in the studio. It was me and the audio guy, but the directors, writers, and all that were on Zoom. It was a little bit different and we did have to manage some things differently than we would have before COVID, but we got it done. It was a great experience. I was really happy that we could do it.

When you are recording your lines, are you someone who does get quite physical in the booth? I’ve heard about actors just covered in sweat and losing their voices after action scenes, for example. 

Yeah, 100%. 1000%. I know a lot of people, and Chloe has said this hundreds of times, who think voice acting is just a walk in the park. You go in wearing your pyjamas, you stand there, lay your lines out, and you’re out. For a show like this, there’s a lot of running and screaming. They tell me, ‘Okay, now scream like you’re floating on a cloud shaped like a fish.’ I’m like, ‘Uhh, okay! I haven’t done that before, but I’ll try my best!’ I like to put my all into it and actually act like I’m experiencing it for myself. 

You’ve very much made this character your own, so when you are in that booth, are you improvising a lot and bringing your own ideas and personality to Jin?

Oh yeah, I think we were able to do that on the film as well. It has a lot to do with our great team and the trust that they have in us to bring what we want to the roles. I’m really grateful for that and I would say I do pull from a lot my own experiences and emotions to convey the way Jin might feel in certain moments. Our directors and writers are really accepting of that and 100% sometimes let us take the wheel. I think that’s so much fun. 

I’ve read that your grandfather was one of the first people to reach Mount Everest’s summit, so does having that inspiring family history factor into how you approach a project like this at all? 

Yeah, so much. I remember getting the audition and it was from an agent who wasn’t even my voice agent at the time. It was just a random email. I was with that agent commercially, so he took me on as well, and the original title was just Everest. It was for a voiceover role and there wasn’t much of a description behind it. I guessed with Everest that I could relate to it, so I tried it, did the audition, and had no idea what was going on. All I saw was a magical yeti and that was enough to blow my mind. A year later or so they said, ‘It’s yours.’ I had forgotten about it, but okay, here we are today. I’m really grateful I was able to join the franchise and a huge part of that did have to do with my grandfather. Physically, I don’t make the journey to Mount Everest, but I did it in animation, so…

It’s pretty damn cool and it must be an awesome thing to have in the back of your mind. Like the film, this series mines that amazing Chinese culture; what does that authenticism mean to you? 

Obviously, being a person of Asian descent myself, I’m really happy to be able to join a project like this. The whole team on the film, and I think on the show too, the whole cast - and even background actors - are all Asian people. It’s really cool we get to make this series and the movie and represent people out there who maybe don’t get to see themselves that often in those lead roles or going through these emotions on the screen and being an inspiration to kids. I think it’s all really cool. 

I know you’ve got a big fanbase out there and, writing for a website called Comic Book Movie, I have to ask - is a Marvel or DC superhero project something that interests you at this stage of your career?

Oh, 100%. 1000%. That would be so, so cool. I see those Tweets and I see those Instagram posts. I’m all for it. It makes me feel like a little, little kid again. That would be so cool, so yes, 100% I would love to do that. Fingers crossed every day. Every day [Laughs].

Should the Abominable franchise continue beyond this series whether it be as another movie or season, what are your hopes for where Jin’s story could go next?

I’m open to anything. I really love this team and trust that anything they have in mind, I will love. A movie sequel would be pretty cool, but it’s ultimately not up to me, it’s down to what they want to do. Anything they want to do, I want to do. I’m just so happy to be here.

Did you get to work with the rest of the cast on the movie in person at all? I know COVID stopped that happening this time, but have you guys caught up to discuss the series since working on it? 

Yeah, we talk occasionally. In the film, we did get to do a couple of scenes together in person. That scene in the bamboo forest in the film with me and Chloe. Like we talked about earlier with the whole improvising thing, that whole scene was pretty much improvised. That was them saying, ‘You guys know these characters, you’ve recorded the whole movie, so you know where you are in this moment. Just talk. Just have a conversation.’ We did, and I think that it’s one of the best scenes in the movie. It’s one of my favourites and Chloe absolutely kills it. Those moments were super fun to do and, unfortunately, we didn’t get to do that on the show because of COVID. I really wish we could have. 

Abominable and The Invisible City premiered on Peacock and Hulu on October 5!
 


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