The Cleveland Show's Kevin Michael Richardson on Kanye West's Return, Voicing the President
The Cleveland Show
Kanye West, LeBron James, Justin Timberlake, Shaquille O'Neal, Snoop Dogg and Tony Hawk — all will appear as guest stars on The Cleveland Show, which is just entering its second season. Kevin Michael Richardson, the voice behind Cleveland Brown Jr., Lester Krinklesac and President Barack Obama, talked to TVGuide.com about what's next for Cleveland Jr., Kenny West's new rapping partner, the secret to voicing the most powerful man in America and the formidable list of guests.
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TVGuide.com: What is coming up for Cleveland Jr. in Season 2?
Kevin Michael Richardson: For one thing he's going to be through some challenges as far as his weight is concerned, with Kendra Krincklesac, Lester's wife. They're tired of being made fun because of their weight and dealing with the challenges of being overweight, so they decide to move to Wisconsin where they believe it's acceptable. That's going to be a lot of fun. Then Junior is also going to dress up as a pancake for Halloween. He's all excited about that. You see him standing in front of a mirror going, "Oh yeah, I'd eat me. I'd eat me." Junior has to stay home and give out the candy while his parents are out, which he's not happy about.
TVGuide.com: How do you about preparing to do Junior's voice?
Richardson: My natural voice is considerably different from Junior's so I had to really stretch to another register to do him. I had to keep on exercising my voice by either singing a lot of songs in my car on the way to the table reads, especially higher songs like "Special Lady" by Ray, Goodman & Brown. Keeping my high notes up there, so I can get into the rhythm of Junior.
TVGuide.com: How often are the guest stars able to come to the table reads? What is it like to see them perform the voice in person?
Richardson: Sometimes they do, a lot of the times they come in and record separately. We've had the pleasure of having Kanye [West] come back to the table, everyone loves that. You'll see Carl Reiner, who enjoys coming to the table. ... When Kanye was here, he was so excited about being a cartoon. He was like a little kid. He was so fascinated by the whole concept of him being animated. It was real trippy to watch. It reminded me of when I first came to the world of animation and I remember having that same excitement. So it was very cool to see someone with that creative magnitude enjoy that kind of thing.
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TVGuide.com: Will Kanye rap again?
Richardson: He does a little rap-off with Cleveland Sr. Kenny West's career is down and out and Cleveland Sr. takes him under his wing and helps him get back on his feet. They do a song together called, "Be-Cleave in Yourself." I know [creator and voice actor] Mike Henry is excited about that. It's his turn to do a little singing with Kanye.
TVGuide.com: Walk us through the process of crafting President Barack Obama's voice.
Richardson: My wife and I were very proud to see him out here in L.A. at a benefit. We were literally about 20 feet away from the man and we got to see him speak. This is a person, mind you, that I thought I could never ever imitate. ... But when I saw him talk and he looked at me, there was something that went on and I came home and I started doing him. My wife was looking at me like, "What the hell?" That was kind of trippy. I don't know if I absorbed the man, but just seeing him in person gave me an automatic sense of what he's like. It could just came out.
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TVGuide.com: Have you ever thought about the fact that he might see your impression?
Richardson: Now that you mention it, I've never thought of that before. It didn't really hit me that he might check this out. You figure, he's the president, so he's got a lot of things to do. Just to picture him sitting there watching it with his feet up with his kids, I would like to see the man laugh at this. I have a feeling he's going to because I know he likes basketball, and the episode we're having him in, he's playing basketball. It should be pretty cool.
TVGuide.com: Who are some of your dream guest stars you'd like to see on the show?
Richardson: One of my big idols who unfortunately passed on is Barry White. Other people I would have loved to have on the show are Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes. The fact that we got Earth, Wind and Fire, and Fergie; I'm so happy with who we've gotten so far. It's like: What next? If we did really get President Obama, forget it, I could retire. I would love to see somebody like him, or Sting on the show. Never say never though, because from the look of things, these folks may very well come on one day.
For Los Angeles readers, click here to find out where to grab free ice cream courtesy of the Fox Animation Domination lineup on Sunday, Sept. 26. The new season of The Cleveland Show premieres Sunday at 8:30/7:30c on Fox.