Lilly Singh on social media, labels and putting her own spin on a cartoon reporter in ‘The Bad Guys’

Lilly Singh voices Tiffany Fluffit in DreamWorks Animation’s “The Bad Guys,” directed by Pierre Perifel.

Lilly Singh has been busy.

From “The Muppets Mayhem,” a new Disney Plus series following the Electric Mayhem Band as they record an album, to developing a comedy series for Netflix with “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris, to joining the cast of the Hulu series “Dollface.”

Her second book, “Be a Triangle: How I Went from Being Lost to Getting My Life Into Shape,” came out earlier this month, a followup to her 2017 title “How to Be a Bawse.”

(A bawse, for the uninitiated, is someone who takes charge in life, as opposed to just the workplace.)

She seems to have embraced an ambition she expressed in 2021, when her NBC show “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” was cancelled:

“I have a desire to make longer form content, telling under-represented stories, which is difficult to execute on a nightly show,” she wrote on Instagram at the time.

She’s also a judge on this season of Citytv’s “Canada’s Got Talent,” along with voicing a fearless reporter in the animated film “The Bad Guys,” out in theatres on Friday.

“The Bad Guys” follows a group of five criminal masterminds known as the Bad Guys — Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos) and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina) — who, when caught, attempt to become the good guys, with some disastrous results.

Singh voices sensational reporter Tiffany Fluffit, who expresses the “always judge a book by its cover” biases of society. But it’s Tiffany’s energy and vibe that struck a chord with the actor.

“I honestly was channelling a version of myself,” the Scarborough-born performer said in a video interview. “On YouTube, I think you use the same kind of energy to grasp people’s attention and to make people hang on to every word. So I was kind of channelling this kind of sensational YouTube persona mixed with a reporter. She’s the voice of the people and so I think more than anything, I’m channelling just human behaviour of being very quick to judge and I hope that the message comes through.”

When it comes to how much she has in common with her character, Singh quipped, “A lot!” She laughed and continued, “Minus the questionable things she says sometimes. I’m not going to lie; she’s a little questionable sometimes. But in terms of energy and the vibe, when I look at her I think this is me hanging out with my friends. This is how I talk. This is how I use my hands. This is what my facial expressions look like. So I would say she’s like 60 to 70 per cent me.”

Lilly Singh in The Bad Guys (from left) Tiffany Fluffit (Singh) and Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade) in DreamWorks Animation's "The Bad Guys," directed by Pierre Perifel.

While Singh hadn’t seen what her character looked like until her later voice sessions, she was pretty clear on what she wanted to see with Tiffany from the get-go.

“I was very adamant on her looking South Asian and so I’m very happy that I feel like she looks like a South Asian cool girl.”

The 33-year-old believes that animation needs to have diverse representation.

“I think representation in animation, especially because so many young kids watch films like these, I think it’s really important.”

Previously, the Canadian comedian voiced the character of Misty/Bubble in “Ice Age 5: Collision Course.”

“Voice work allows me to be a little bit more free and creative. When it’s me in a sound booth and I’m not restricted by gravity, or like an actual physical set, I can make up a scenario in my mind and I feel my most creative.

“When you’re alone, and you’re also not restricted by someone else’s delivery, I feel like you can also just take a little more risks; you can take it to the next level, you can be a little more weird. I want you to know that I completely am still physical in the sound booth, even though I’m by myself. If I’m running in the scene, I’m running in my sound booth. I’m punching in the sound booth. I’m doing all that stuff,” she laughed.

“The Bad Guys” has an inspiring message about stereotypes and the perception of the world versus how you see yourself. The timeliness and importance of this message is not lost on Singh.

“Right now, more than any other time, especially with the internet, especially with social media, we really have a tendency to put labels on people, like, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong. This is yes, this is no, this is good, bad, black, white,’ whatever it may be. We define people so easily. I think that does a disservice to us because we’re so complex and we deserve context.”

When asked when was the last time Singh felt the world was judging her and she had to get out of her head to fully own who she was, she paused and said, “Every single day of my entire life.”

She continued, “Truthfully, I think I’ve done a lot of work to combat that. I recently wrote a new book and that has been my journey to kind of let go of external validation like that. So I think for most of my early career I probably struggled with it a lot. I think over the past six, seven months, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable just unsubscribing from this idea that other people can tell me who I am.”

Singh hopes that both kids and adults can enjoy the film and take a different message from it.

“My biggest passion is storytelling and I’m a firm believer that different stories work well through different mediums. Animation is really magical when you’re trying to give a certain message to the audience where kids and adults can enjoy it. I think that’s what this movie is; it is something that kids and adults will watch, they’ll both think it’s hilarious and they’ll both laugh, probably for different reasons and they’ll learn something that’s a little bit different from each other.”

“The Bad Guys” is in theatres April 22.
With files from The Canadian Press


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