ComingSoon spoke to Dragons: The Nine Realms guest star Haley Joel Osment about his character Buzzsaw, his love of voice acting, and much more. The DreamWorks series’ second season returns to Peacock and Hulu on May 5.
“Set 1,300 years after the events of How To Train Your Dragon, dragons are now just a legend to the modern world,” says the series’ logline. “When a geological anomaly opens up an immense, miles-deep fissure in the Earth’s surface, scientists from all over the world gather at a new research facility to study the mysterious phenomenon. Soon a group of misfit kids, brought to the site by their parents, uncover the truth about dragons and where they’ve been hiding — a secret they must keep to themselves to protect what they’ve discovered.”
Tyler Treese: You’ve got a really interesting guest spot in Dragons: The Nine Realms. You play this spoiled teenager, who’s named Leonard, but he goes by Buzzsaw, which is so cool. And he runs this logging company? What did you find most intriguing about this character?
Haley Joel Osment: Buzzsaw was so much fun to play because he’s very over-the-top, and is trying to present himself as this outdoorsman and this rugged guy who’s going to conquer the wilderness and cut down all the trees and be this lumberjack. But at heart, he’s a spoiled and sort of fragile child of privilege who really enjoys the finer things in life and has really fancy taste, and he has trouble concealing that part of himself. Even in the middle of the wilderness, he wants a gourmet meal and he wants a fine cashmere sweater, and he really appreciates the finer things in life, even though he’s trying to come off as this master of the wilderness. So it’s fun to play someone with those sorts of insecurities. And he tries to cover them up by being kind of a raging psychopath a lot of the time.
For sure, and what’s interesting is it sets up this villain origin story that can be revisited down the line. Are you hoping to expand on this in the future?
Absolutely yeah. I’m not sure what the future holds for him yet, but it is kind of crazy to see him just keep escalating and raising the stakes the more involved with the dragons that they get. In the beginning, he’s just trying to run a successful lumber mill and, without giving too much away, as time goes on he becomes a much more heightened version of himself and gets empowered by supernatural means.
You’ve worked with DreamWorks recently on the Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous series as well. What sticks out the most when you’re working with this team?
It is so much fun working with them and, particularly during the pandemic, this was the kind of work that we could still do, even in the depths of the lockdown in 2020. There are some similarities between the characters I played in Jurassic World and to Buzzsaw, you know? Somebody who has some insecurities and is trying to be more of a badass than they really are at heart, and it leads to them compensating with some sort of psychopathic behavior in a lot of ways. Even when I was just at home during quarantine, recording over Zoom with my own set up here at the house, it was really fun to be able to sort of go off into these fantasy worlds when we were all trapped at home.
You’ve been doing voice acting for 20 years now. Has your approach changed? Have you learned any techniques of making sure you aren’t doing any damage to your voice? How have you grown as a voice actor?
That is a big part of it, is not losing your voice when you’re doing a lot of screaming. It was funny, I had just moved into a new house in the pandemic and was recording a lot of episodes of these different shows. And a lot of these shows required me to be screaming about dragons and dinosaurs all the time, and I was like, “What must the neighbors think is going on here every day? There’s a lot of screaming coming out of this bedroom!” But it is something that requires a lot of tea and honey and a bit of a vocal warmup, so you don’t lose your voice when you’re screaming for hours and hours on end. But yeah, with experience it’s sort of helped me know how to get a lot of volume and emotion without blowing out my voice too quickly.
One of your most well-known voice roles is Sora in Kingdom Hearts. When you’re doing something like a higher pitch register, how do you still do that voice so many years later?
It is a challenge. Luckily, for some reason, it’s easier to get that 14-year-old voice now that my voice is settled into an adult register. The most difficult period of doing Kingdom Hearts was when I was an older teenager and my voice was still sort of changing, but I was trying to make myself sound like I was still 14 years old. That took a lot of experimentation and hard work to get to sound like he was still a kid. Well, I guess he was, he was 11 for a lot of it too, cuz I was 11 when I first started and at some point in Kingdom Hearts 2. And I was like, “God, I hope he gets older soon, so I can just use my regular voice.” They had a plotline where it’s like “actually, Sora’s going back in time and becoming even younger!” And I was like, “Oh man… ” That made it even harder!
It’s very rare to stick with a role for 20 years like you have with Sora. How have you been able to grow into that role over time as you’ve grown as an actor as well?
It’s crazy. That’s, by far, the longest period of time that I’ve had a relationship with one character. It’s great that Sora is so unambiguously good, and she is a loyal friend, and she has qualities that do not get old over 20 years. If Sora was like a bad person… it would be different if you were playing Walter White or something for 20 years, it would start to affect you in a stressful way. But luckily Sora has sort of an irrepressible sense of good cheer and friendship, and that isn’t as taxing as playing a villain for 20 years.
The Kingdom Hearts 4 trailer just released and Sora’s seemingly in our world. How crazy has it been just seeing this series progress and are you excited to put a new spin on them, being in this whole different world?
I’ve played video games since I was a kid, but I had not had too many experiences with this sort of expansive world that Kingdom Hearts and games like that represent. I remember when we did Kingdom Hearts 2 In 2005, the producers brought in this huge poster board chart showing the flow of time and how we’d be traveling through time and how there’s these parallel universes in the game. And there’s just a really complex plot and lore behind everything that makes it exciting for fans to have a relationship over a long period of time, but it also takes some study for me to make sure that I’m keeping the character consistent within all the rules of that reality.
— Haley Joel Osment (@HaleyJoelOsment) August 22, 2018
Definitely, and you had another great voice acting role in a game, NBA 2K19, you were playing this sneaky agent. I know you’re a big sports fan, so how fun was it to be involved in that sports drama?
That whole system of making the 2K games is so much fun. I had worked with the director, Christian Papierniak. He had written and directed this indie movie I did with Mackenzie Davis and a lot of other great people in this cast, called Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town. So we had worked together before just on a regular movie, but doing 2K in the secret facility up in northern California, where you have all the mocap stuff and these giant warehouses with all the lasers and special lights … I had never done anything like that before. We had some interesting, special effects on AI that used some of that sort of technology, but doing it for a video game was just a whole process. It was almost like suiting up for laser tag every day. Some combination of like tron and laser tag where you’re in this special suit with the balls and the cameras hanging out on a cable in front of your face to capture all of your expressions and everything. It was, technically, a real adventure.
With Jurassic World and then this, you’ve been able to be apart of these huge iconic franchises. You’ve got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the way, Kingdom Hearts with all the Disney stuff. How cool is it as a fan, just being apart of these franchises that you were already a fan of?
yeah. it’s really crazy. 2K was like that, being in a game with current sports stars. I got to shoot one free throw, so that’s a feather in my cap, that I made one free throw in that game. But yeah, working on some of these franchises and doing things with like jurassic-park and Ninja Turtles, things that I’ve been a fan of since I was a kid. It’s crazy to look back and think that I have had some small part in all of these big franchises.
It’s been so fun to watch your career progress through these years. You’ve had such great roles on The Boys and Silicon Valley. What’s your process like when it comes to choosing roles? You do a lot of drama, you do a lot of comedy, you’re very versatile.
Thank you! I feel very fortunate because my main goal in this business is to try and do as many vastly different roles as possible. Voiceover is a big part of that because when it’s animation, you can play all sorts of characters, untethered to your physical appearance. With live-action stuff too, when I’m reading scripts, I’m just looking for characters that I’ve never done before. Luckily I’ve had the chance to work with a lot of really creative people and get to build some characters that take me in new directions, and that’s always what I’m looking for.