‘The Prince’ Creator + Producer Gary Janetti on Working in Animation: ‘Just Keep it Real’

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Photo Source: Courtesy HBO Max

When writer-producer Gary Janetti first began posting his comedic Prince George memes on Instagram, there was no assumption that they would take off the way they did. “I didn’t have any expectation that was going to become a thing; it was just me being silly,” Janetti admits. “Then as it became more and more popular, I thought of the Instagram posts in my head as: I’m going to treat this as if it’s a TV series.”

Still, Janetti never would have believed his playful posts would eventually evolve into HBO Max’s satirical animated series “The Prince.” Created, written by, and starring Janetti (whose writing-producing credits include lengthy runs on “Family Guy” and “Will & Grace”), the show takes light, waggish aim at the royal family through the lens of a fictitious take on 8-year-old Prince George—voiced by Janetti.

The show also features the vocal stylings of Orlando Bloom, Condola Rashad, Sophie Turner, Lucy Punch, and Alan Cumming. Janetti says that casting actors who have great stage presences was necessary to elevate the animation to something special. “I thought that by making sure I hired all of these really accomplished actors, along with me, that it would make the contrast between George and everyone else even funnier,” he explains. “I knew it would be a contrast to me, because I’m untrained. I’m not a stage actor; I’m not an actor by profession. I thought it would be good for the comedy of the show.”

Working with the cast was a highlight of the production for Janetti, and it has led him to a newfound appreciation of actors. Because he was also recording the lines he wrote, Janetti suddenly had a first-hand understanding of what dialogue works and what’s instead “an awkward mouthful.”

“You have much more compassion for the actors [and] what they go through,” Janetti says. “It’s like: Why did I write a line that was so difficult to spit out and have to be recorded over and over again to get it right?”

Writing any series is wildly hard, but given that each episode of “The Prince” clocks in at 13 minutes, there was zero room for missteps. Janetti welcomed this challenge, as it allowed him to tell the story with more precision while balancing the comedy with authentic character moments. Even in satirical animation, Janetti knew audiences needed to care about the characters that were being portrayed onscreen.

“There are small, real moments that go through the show,” he says. “Even with animated characters, sometimes you have to feel for them and you have to like them, and they have to be real.”

That’s a motto Janetti stands by—and it is, in fact, his advice for voice actors looking to work with him: Just keep it real. “I think with voice acting for animation, it’s always more of a heightened universe, so you can play a bit more. But at the same time, they should always feel like real people,” he insists. “Don’t make it cartoony. If you can keep it connected [to] some kind of truth, that will always be much funnier and will translate better.”

READ: How To Become a Voice Actor

Janetti offers that same tip to aspiring writers and creators. “Write what you think is funny; write something that only you could write, that’s specific to you,” he says. “Write what you want to write about, write what you feel passionate about, because it’s really difficult to get something from the page out into the world. You need to really love what it is to get it all the way there.”

This story originally appeared in the Sept. 23 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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