This week sees the premiere of Disney’s latest animated series Kiff, a nutty animated buddy-comedy about an optimistic squirrel Kiff and her chill bunny bestie Barry. Created by Lucy Heavens and Nic Smal, the duo were inspired by their experiences growing up in Cape Town, South Africa. Throughout the show, viewers will watch and be entertained as Kiff and Barry navigate school, relationships and their often-eccentric community in Table Town, a world where animals and magical oddballs tackle day-to-day life together.
Voicing the titular character is none other than acclaimed and award-winning actress Kimiko Glenn. Ahead of the premiere of Kiff, The Beat had the opportunity to chat with Glenn about playing such an oddball character as well as what viewers can expect.
Taimur Dar: I learned during interviews you did for Baby Shark’s Big Show that you had to audition multiple times for Baby Shark because it was such a major franchise and they wanted to make sure they got it right. For Kiff, since you’ve worked on numerous Disney projects and at this point they probably know you well, did you still have to audition or did they approach you directly?
Kimiko Glenn: I definitely auditioned. Kiff is a tricky one. She has a lot energy and Is very fast paced and has a very specific rhythm to her. When I auditioned they had me sing some songs. Songs are pretty hard! [Laughs]. “Thirst to be the First” and another one called “Things” are similarly intense songs. It wasn’t as extensive as Baby Shark.
Dar: Even though you probably weren’t in the same room, I believe you and H Michael Croner, the voice of Kiff’s best friend Barry, recorded your voices together. I don’t know if you recorded with any other members of the cast, but I think having you two together was essential because the characters have such a close dynamic. Did recording together make a difference?
Glenn: Of course. We’re ping-ponging back and forth. [H Michael Croner] is so playful and just intimidatingly wonderful and hilarious. Being able to actually read with him and getting his inflection really helps make it sound like an actual dialogue and conversation. It’s always so fun and such an honor to be able to work with him. It’s mostly isolated and us recording separately. But when our schedules and the scripts align we definitely do it. It’s random here and there but I cherish it.
Dar: I’m a big fan of Lauren Ash from Superstore and James Iglehart from his musical theater work. They voice your parents in the show. Did you get to record with them?
Glenn: I didn’t know they were a part of the cast until I actually saw it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to work together with anyone other than H Michael. I would love to. I’m a big fan of a lot of people in the show. One of my friends Eugene Cordero plays The Pone and Secretary Prince. I found that out later and I’m like, “We did the same show together? How fun! I wish we got to record!” Such is the world of animation. Somehow they make it great. It’s such a skill and it’s always so impressive.
Dar: One of the key people making that happen is Kiff voice director Sam Riegel who is incredibly accomplished not just as a VO director but in the entertainment industry as a whole. You’ve worked with him for pretty much all if not most of your Disney animation projects. What’s been the experience with him as a voice director?
Glenn: Sam’s the best! I’ve known him for many, many, many years. The evolution of our friendship has expanded. He also reads you in with the funniest reads. I’m in awe of him. I realized recently that he was pretty famous. I had no idea because it’s not often that a voice director has that sort of notoriety. They’re often in the background. I felt so silly for not recognizing that until recently. He is so talented and wonderful. We love Sam!
Dar: Aside from your animation voiceover work, I think most people are familiar with your on-camera work like Orange is the New Black. For you as a performer, what kind of satisfaction do you get from working in children’s media?
Glenn: I love children’s programming. I want in my life to be a mother and to be able to see what we’re teaching kids. The fact that I play a part in that somehow, it tickles me and makes me feel like I’m making a difference directly. I do TV and film and it’s wonderful. It sort of feels almost selfish in a way. But this feels very selfless because it’s not me in the forefront. It’s Kiff in the forefront. I’m just voicing and interpreting this character that they’re going to know and love. I take it to heart.
Dar: There’s definitely some who view kindness as a weakness. However, I feel like there’s been a shift in our culture away from that pessimism towards valuing positivity as exemplified by media through shows like Ted Lasso. Do you see that trend in a show and character like Kiff?
Glenn: Absolutely. It’s something that we’re learning as a society that positive reinforcement and positivity in general is the way to go, or at least the way I like to go. I appreciate it because it’s going to expand children’s minds and allow them to realize that it’s okay to be earnestly passionate about things and to lead with a smile. I truly appreciate it. That’s a great question and something I’ve thought about a lot.
Dar: Finally, what do you hope both kids and adults can get out of watching Kiff?
Glenn: I hope that they get a sense of enthusiasm. It can truly open portals with their brain to develop their sense of humor. The situations are so outlandish and creative and interesting. The first episode talks about whether or not you get the first or fifth bath. What a concept! The whole series gets weirder. The creativity of that is so funny. I hope that parents actually get to enjoy the shows they’re allowing their kids to watch. I think a lot of times they just set them in front of the TV and go, “Ok, have fun!” I think people are actually going to enjoy watching this with their kids.
Kiff premieres on Disney Channel on Friday, March 10 (8:00 p.m. EST/PST) and on Disney+ shortly thereafter.