In last year’s release of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Gregory Mann voices the titled character Pinocchio, having booked the role at the age of nine, and he worked alongside a cast including Finn Wolfhard as Candlewick and David Bradley as Geppetto. The stop motion animation film was released on Netflix in December, and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio has won and been nominated for nearly 200 awards so far, which has seen Gregory attend this year’s Oscars and BAFTAs, where the film won Best Animated Film at both ceremonies, and he was invited by Netflix to attend screenings in Los Angeles and New York. Previously on screen, Gregory played William Monmouth in Series 3 of Victoria and, for his first film role, he was in the cast of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as Young Eli. Alongside acting, Gregory has a passion for music, and has recently been writing his own songs, which he hopes to release in the future. Gregory talked to us about voicing Pinocchio in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, seeing the success of the release worldwide and his time on set of Victoria and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
You voice the leading role of Pinocchio in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role?
My mum got the call from my agent, but I was actually at my friend Sam’s house when I found out! I was only nine years old, and I didn’t have a mobile phone, so my friend’s mum came in and handed me hers. It was my brother on the line, who said ‘Can I call you Pinocchio now?’ I knew straight away what he meant, and I was over the moon. None of us knew then how amazing the whole journey would be.
Can you tell us about the film and how did you find the experience being involved with a Guillermo del Toro production?
Pinocchio is a stop motion animation, unusually set in Mussolini’s Italy, and discovers themes like loss, love, friendship, and the bond between father and son. What I love most about the film, is the fact that any age group can watch it, just they might interpret it a different way. What was so great about working with Guillermo, was the fact he didn’t treat me like a kid, he treated me like an actor, which made it all the more enjoyable.
What was Pinocchio like to voice and how was it getting into character?
The good thing is, when we recorded the songs and dialogue, I was ten years old and I was very similar to Pinocchio! I was cheeky, curious, and I loved hot chocolate just as much as he did.
At the times I found getting into character slightly difficult, Guillermo always had a trick up his sleeve. My favourite technique he gave me was to shout DUMMY at the end of each line. Although it was cut out of the final product, it gave me something to direct the line at. It turned into an inside joke between us, and I’d say I’m probably the only kid around who can call one of the greatest living directors a dummy!
How was it meeting and working alongside the rest of the cast?
What a lot of people don’t realise, is that with voice acting, most of the time you’re alone in a booth. Although this is how most of the scenes were recorded, I was lucky enough to work with Finn Wolfhard to record our heart to heart scene, and David Bradley, who played Gepetto.
I loved working alongside them, as I found it much easier to bounce off of other characters. Of course, once the film came out, I was lucky enough to meet the rest of the cast at the premiere, which was awesome.
What was it like seeing the completed animations for the first time?
Seeing the movie from start to finish for the first time was one of the most satisfying moments of my life. The animation took over 1000 days to make, so after all that time, it was really incredible to see the final product. Of course, I don’t sound like that anymore, so it was funny to hear my ten-year-old voice again.
How has it been having the film win and be nominated for many awards including winning Best Animated Film at this year’s Oscars and BAFTAs and what were the ceremonies like to attend?
It has been incredible! When I first got the part at nine years old, I never even imagined the film would do this well, and I’m so thankful I was able to be a part of it. Netflix invited me to LA and New York for screenings, which were amazing experiences, especially since there was time to explore. I went to Disneyland with co-director Mark Gustafson, producer Alex Bulkley and head of puppets Georgina Hayns. And then, of course, attending the Oscars and the BAFTAs was surreal: I met some of my acting inspirations, like Andrew Garfield and Brendan Fraser and felt very lucky indeed. It was amazing to have been included in the awards season, flying to America for the weekend – I could get used to this!
Why would you recommend watching Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and who do you think will enjoy watching it?
I find the stop motion animation beautiful, the script is really funny, and I’m sure you’ll be humming the tunes for days after watching!
How did you find your time filming for Victoria as William Monmouth and can you tell us about your character?
It was almost five years ago when I filmed Victoria, but I remember having a great time. My mum reminded me that I had to relearn my lines in the trailer because there was a last minute re-write! I got to play with Victorian toys, dress in old-fashioned clothes, and run around the set – which was an incredible stately home.
What do you remember most from playing Young Eli in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society?
Guernsey was the first movie I had ever been in, so the whole experience was exciting and new. I couldn’t believe I had my own trailer on set! There was one major scene which I was part of, with 80 extras, filmed in a tiny fishing village in Cornwall. The second AD shouted instructions through a megaphone as everyone had to rush down cobbled streets to the dock again and again. It was an incredible production to be part of – I even got to take a ride in a rowing boat!
Where does your love of acting and voiceover come from and how did you get into both?
When I was five, my grandparents took my brother and I to see Singin’ in the Rain in a small theatre in Highgate, North London. We both adored the tap dancing, and so Mum found us a boys performance school to join at the weekend (NLPAC), they then recommended us to join an acting agency in Covent Garden (Byron’s Management)! I often hear people talk about how watching a movie, or reading a book helps you escape into another world, and that’s what I love about acting. Not only are you in the own world of your character, you are able to help other people escape, into their own worlds, and beyond!
Is there anything you enjoy most about working as an actor and how different do you find voiceovers to on-screen acting?
I love that I am able to become a completely different person. No matter how I’m feeling that day, it doesn’t matter while I’m acting. Voiceovers are very different to on-screen acting. When you’re on set, you have a costume, makeup, props and all the other characters to bounce off, but when it’s just you and the recording booth, you have to really believe in what you’re doing and exaggerate your emotions.
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch?
Where do I start! Watching movies is a great hobby of mine, and what I love most is a movie that inspires me. An example of that is Good Will Hunting, my favourite film (at the moment). Not only is it an amazing movie, but the story of how Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote it, really inspires me. The Muppets Movie, is another all-time favourite for me, as it’s easy to watch, a bit silly and puts a smile on my face! Finally, I love the movie Whiplash, which I watched on the plane journey home from the Oscars when I was struggling to sleep, and every aspect from the acting, to the incredible soundtrack made the film a 10/10 for me.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Music is my favourite thing in the world. I love to play the piano, listen to my favourite artists like Queen, Rex Orange County, and Loyle Carner, and recently, I have started writing my own songs. When I’m older, I hope to be an actor, who also has his own album! I also enjoy going to the gym, and riding my bike with friends.
What are you hoping 2023 brings for you and do you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about?
So far, it’s been great! With the whole awards season, I’m only really just getting back to normal! I have been writing my own music, which eventually I hope to publish, and doing lots more to improve myself, like taking singing, piano and boxing lessons. I really hope a role for a 13 year old with a broken voice comes up soon!
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