Whether you're partial to his official debut in the cult
classic, The Goonies, or all about his fantastical
character in Lord of the Rings, anything actor, producer,
director, and social advocate, Sean Astin, has played, has
been nothing short of epic.
The father of three has won hearts across America, and as a
super-devoted, non-lame, somewhat crushy fan, I can attest to the
man behind the movies, since I had the thrilling opportunity to
have a long chat with an actor I consider to be at the top of my
list, especially since his latest role is one my own children
As Special Agent Oso, Astin plays an
unlikely, cuddly panda hero a la James Bond lite.
The hit interactive series for preschoolers emphasizes
discovery, humor and organizational skills. Storylines in the
upcoming season model basic social and life skills, from the
importance of telling the truth to what to do when lost, as well as
lots of fun, physical activity themes like catch, mini golf, tag
Paying homage to special agent classics, the new seaon,
premiering July 10 on Playhouse Disney, will include the
introduction of two new special agent characters: Buffo the water
buffalo, voiced by Brad Garrett, special agent Musa, a mysterious
stuffed animal ninja who has taken a vow of silence and dons a
Mel Brooks, whose grandson is a fan of the series, guest stars
as snoring Grandpa Mel. Lou Holtz guest stars as the
football-playing Uncle Lou. Other guest voices include Lisa Loeb,
Rita Moreno, Ming-Na, Freddy Rodriguez and Rebecca Romijn.
Tell me what it's like to be the father of three
I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I'm about to have a
daughter that's thirteen, then one that's eight and five [years
old.] It goes by so darn fast. My daughter is friends with a few of
the girls that have kissed ten boys and I'm like, 'What are you
doing? What about your reputation?' And they're like, 'Whatever,'
but I like that she can see that and that she's choosing not to do
Thirteen seems a little young!
At thirteen they're so sophisticated! With what they watch on
television, what they read, what they do, how they talk to each
other, they're like... they're at thirteen like how I was at
fifteen or sixteen. Not all of them are like that, but they're all
developing. I don't know if it's the hormones in the milk they're
drinking or what. I just like that they're respectful kids. I think
it's what we can hang our hats on when we want to jump into a bowl
of lava because we can't believe that our daughter likes boys.
Just imagine when boys come over to meet you. It's going
to be a lot of extra pressure.
But isn't that a plus for you?
Well, yeah! Sometimes you have to play the alligator role. You
have to be like, 'Hmmm, I don't know about you.' And the kids come
and say, 'Um, hi, it's a pleasure to meet you, sir.' And you get
all stern and, 'Yeah good to meet you, too.'
I think there needs to be a self-help group for this. 'Hello, my
name is Sean, and I have a thirteen year old.'
What do your daughters think of your role?
You know, we got to meet the Disney walk around character and
they've always liked it when I do it, they really like the show,
they watch it sometimes, but when they met the Oso character, they
came home and watched it for two days straight. It was like they
cuddled the Oso character, and now they could just live in it.
What drew you to the Oso role?
They just offered it to me and I did it. To me, Disney is
amazing. What they do is amazing. For all the things people might
be critical of about them, they've entertained and in part,
educated our entire country, our childhood for a couple of
So, for that company to call and say, 'We're doing this
character and we think you should be the lead,' I was like, 'Yep,
tell me where to show up.'
What was it like to play an animated
The three things I'm most known for, The Goonies, Rudy
and Lord of the Rings all involve Oso-like characters if
you think about it. Adeventuresome, they make mistakes, you have to
have a lot of heart and determination. Oso has good values. I feel
like it's a hero character who's bumbling a little bit and that
feels comfortable to me.
Can I presume you like James Bond?
Is the sky blue? Of course I do! My wife doesn't like James Bond
because he's sexist or something, but I'm like, 'No honey, it's
part of his charm.'
I think Daniel Craig is the best one yet.
Really? I'm more of a classic, Sean Connery kind of
But [Daniel Craig] looks so tough. He looks so much tougher than
all of them. Put him in a cage with any of the other James Bonds
and he would kill them. Simmering, brooding, biting tough dude.
Love him! And they also try to go back to the books with him and
make him a little edgier instead of just debonair and I like
I think Oso has some of that debonair thing
He's got panache. He falls into a box of ping pong balls and his
butt is sticking up in the air and he sits up and goes, 'Hey it's
all part of the plan, more or less.' You gotta love that. It's such
a good thing to model for kids. You try to butter a thing and the
peanut butter falls on the floor and it's like, 'Hey, well, we'll
do it next time.'
Keep moving forward!
Exactly. Trying to get better all the time, but keep going.
What interests you about entertaining young
It's just right. On its own, when you're interacting with
children it's beautiful. Role playing is great. It's a little bit
out of the ordinary, but you kind of get it.
It always amazes me that adults go through their adult life
having a sense of humor just doing what they're doing, but in a
split second when they're around a kid, they can click into whimsy.
All of a sudden, they can be a pirate or be a queen and take a sock
and put their hand in the sock and be Captain Hook. And you
realize, when we entertain each other, we're interacting with each
Kids are so direct and specific about it. We have different
writers on the show, and we'll get to a line of dialogue, and
everyone at the exact same time will stop and say, 'Uh oh, that's
not Oso. Or that's not Paw Pilot.' And you kind of know what you're
doing. You have in your mind the child audience that's sitting in
front of the television watching it, and it's satisfying.
They say, why climb Everest? Because it's there. Why do this?
Because it's here. It feels appropriate. You have a lot of people
working really hard and I'm really connected to the fact that
everyone's doing it together. In this instance, there are a lot of
people working to make Oso special. I think that's so positive and
upbeat and I love the pedagogy. I love the way they do the
teaching. The way kids start out not knowing how to use chopsticks.
And then Oso says, 'That's ok, let's try it,' and he does it wrong
and then the kid says, 'No Oso. This way.' And the kid goes from
being someone who was too afraid to start something to the one
who's teaching it. This is good modeling.
There is something to be said for clear deliberate instruction.
It's embedded in the entertainment, but you know - it's three
When my littlest kid was watching the episode about how to build
a puzzle, we'd built a million puzzles, but she never does what you
say. We're like, 'Find the edges, find the corners,' and the whole
time she's chewing on it, she can't quite figure it out. So she
watches the Oso show, and no joke: Step 1: find the flat edges;
Step 2: find the corners; Step 3: fill in the middle. She turns the
show off, she gets up, and she knows right where it is in the
cupboard. She pulls it out, sets down the box, opens it up and
finds all of the flat parts and sets them aside from the others.
And I'm looking at her and looking at the television and I'd tried
a thousand times to get her to do that, so I don't know if the
penny dropped and she finally gets it, or if it's the colorful,
musical, high-toned characters and squeaky voices talking to her.
It's all basic, household stuff, like making your bed. I think
that's pretty cool. We want to be responsive to what's' going on.
It's a win-win for everyone.
How do you become one with the panda when you're
I say his catch phrase. It's in a higher register, so you
actually have to compress your diaphragm. So you kind of have to
suck in your stomach muscles and sometimes it's not easy to do, and
he sounds the same every single time. That's my hook.
Do your kids think you look like Oso at
Yes, in the cuddly sense. I think I physically do look like him
though. I'm a little taller, but I have a belly now. And my face is
You sound like a wonderful dad.
I'm an awesome dad! I'll tell anyone. I might not let them talk
to my kids to get a second opinion though.
I love my kids, but the best way to be a great dad is to have a
great mom. The kids always go to school prepared and feeling
confident about what's in front of them. They come home, their
homework is always an experience that's rewarding for them. She
knows just the level to help them so it's not too hard and to let
them do it themselves so they get good at it. The amount of work
she puts into being a good mom makes being a good dad easy.
Convonista says: Sean and I had a fantastically animated and
involved conversation in early July right around my birthday. This
interview was originally released a few days later.
Maria Pilar Clark is a mom times two and Windy City-based writer.
See more of Pilar's stories here.
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