Earlier this year, Santino Fontana received his first Tony Award nomination, for his performance as Prince Topher in the Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. As if that weren't enough, Fontana, whose stage work ranges from Hamlet to Sunday in the Park With George, now has his own action figure.
This is a perk of appearing in Frozen, the 53rd animated feature from Walt Disney Pictures, which hits cinemas today, November 27. TheaterMania chatted with Fontana about his experience recording the voice of his character, Hans of the Southern Isles, and he shared his excitement over the most important part of the whole shebang — his new toy.
What was it like to record the voice of a character in a Disney animated feature?
It was a great experience. It was a really liberating, totally imaginative time to be able to record all these different sessions for the movie. Working with Jenn Lee and Chris Buck, the directors, and writer, was really exciting. You're not limited by anything physical. Or even logical. It's just pure imagination, which is so great.
These films take years and years to create. How long did you spend working on it?
I only did five [recording] sessions. They all varied in length and they always worked around my Cinderella schedule. I flew out a couple of times to L.A. to record and then the rest were here in New York and kind of Skyped in. We went through the role a couple of times and that was it. The script would be changing. I never got access to the whole script; just my stuff. And then that would change.
Is that nerve-racking?
Well, you know, I trust Disney. [laughs] Even when I saw the movie, [I was] reminded of how much work the animators and directors put into this thing, and how huge a feat it is. It's really all in their control. Film work and television work is totally out of your hands once you do your job, but this is even more so. You're giving them a bunch of creative options and you're trusting that they're going to choose the ones that serve the movie best.
You were alone when you recorded your role?
It was just me and a microphone, usually with a reader. One time, I did work with Kristin Bell in L.A. We recorded a song together and a little bit of one of the scenes.
Tell me about your character, Hans.
Hans of the Southern Isles is a royal who hasn't quite found his place. He's been overshadowed by his brothers and his family. He comes to Arendelle to see the coronation of Idina Menzel's character, and in doing so, falls in love with Anna and sees a mirror image of himself. They both think they found true love. And then craziness ensues. Her sister has all these magical powers and Hans is there to help.
Was this a bucket-list experience? Were you a Disney movie nut?
I remember seeing The Little Mermaid as a kid. I remember Aladdin coming out and loving it, and Robin Williams. I was a big fan of the score of that movie. I never really thought there was going to be an action figure of me, which there is [for Frozen]. That's all crazy.
There's an action figure of you?
Oh, there is. You should go to Toys R Us or The Disney Store and pick one up. I highly encourage it. [It's] flying off the shelves.
What's the coolest part about having an action figure?
Well, the coolest part is that it looks nothing like me. [laughs] He has red hair, and he's super tall and Waspy. [He's] in our apartment, [and] I don't really know where to put him. He's kind of holding up space above the television. There's one in my dressing room, as well. A fan gave it to me — I think they wanted me to sign it and mail it back but didn't leave an address, so right now it's just in my dressing room. So now there's a Hans in both places.