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Fox411 QA: David Schwimmer defends neurotic 'Madagascar' character, talks 'challenging' directing style

  • Madagascar.jpg

    This film image released by DreamWorks Animation shows, Gloria the Hippo, voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith, left, Melman the Giraffe, voiced by David Schwimmer, center, and Marty the Zebra, voiced by Chris Rock, in a scene from "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."AP

  • DavidSchwimmer.jpg

    David SchwimmerAP

‘Madagascar 3’ finds Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman traipsing through some exotic locations like Monaco, Rome, Paris and London with a traveling circus making their way back to New York. It’s a terrific romp that is filled with some amazing 3D animation and enough adult jokes to please mom and dad. There are new characters including an Italian seal, voiced by Martin Short, who seems to be an aquatic version of Roberto Benigni and of course those lovable penguins are back. 

David Schwimmer aka Melman spoke to Fox411 about voicing a giraffe, being a new Dad and if he’s a nice guy. The 45-year-old actor has carved out an interesting post-"Friends" career, directing 'Little Britain USA' and stage work – this fall he'll be appearing on stage with Amy Ryan and of course he's achieved animation immortality as a gawky giraffe.

Fox411: Did you research the role?

David Schwimmer: You mean in terms of reading about giraffes?

Fox411: In terms of hanging out with them.

DS: No, I felt like I had enough preparation having seen and met a few giraffes in the zoo. I have to confess I didn’t go all the way to Kenya to do research.

Fox411:So, you're saying you're not really a committed actor.

DS: If that’s how you would like to interpret it!

Fox411: Would you describe Melman as a neurotic Jewish giraffe?

DS:Again, if that’s how you would like to interpret it. I think he started out as a hypochondriac, definitely awkward and vulnerable and with each film it seems that he’s become less fearful and more confident as his experience in the world grows.

Fox411: Can you believe you just said that about a giraffe?

DS: (Laughs) - And I’ve said a lot more.

Fox411: Do you feel goofy sometimes?

DS: I just came from an interview with four 10 or 12-year-old girls who had really intelligent and interesting questions actually. That threw me for a loop because they were so interesting. It is funny that we get into deep conversations about a film like ‘Madagascar 3’ which is really just meant for everyone to have a blast.

Fox411 :Is doing this voice like planting a money tree in the backyard?

DS: It's a great gig. The greatest part is you don’t have to go through makeup and wardrobe and wait hours and hours for lighting or set. You kind of just role up in sweat pants, tennis shoes and a t-shirt because all the work is in your head. You get a call every couple of months, 'Hey can you come in for five or six hours?' and you go in and go crazy and then they say, 'Oh we'll be in touch,' and then three years later you see the movie and it's kind of mind blowing.

Fox411: Ever show up without showering in really ratty sneakers?

DS: No, I’m lucky that I have a shower at home, I try to use it daily and I try to respect others.

Fox411: You have a year old daughter (Cleo). You're an instantly cool Dad because you've done a cartoon voice.

DS: I have to confess I have thought since having my daughter and working on this latest installment that I really do look forward to showing her the films one day and for her to make that connection, 'Oh my God that giraffe sounds like my Daddy!' That's going to be really fun. 

Fox411: You co-founded the Lookinglass Theater Company in Chicago.

DS:Yeah I started it out of college at Northwestern with seven other students. I'm directing a play for the company next fall.

Fox411: Are you a nice director or scary?

DS: I think I'm a very very nice director. Very supportive, very nurturing. I definitely try to challenge my actors but I think I'm very supportive.

Fox411: Your parents are both lawyers. Were they disappointed that you didn't become one?

DS: No, because I played a lawyer a lot and they also had my sister who went onto become a fine lawyer so I'm off the hook.

Fox411: So do you get a boatload of 'Madagascar' goodies?

DS: I sure hope so. I have so many people asking me for it for their kids. It's also good for charity stuff, get a toy and sign it and give it away for charity. 

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