Alex Brightman’s Blossoming Cartoon Career Has Beetlejuice to Thank

On Screen

Zack Barack, Alex Brightman, and Kody Kavitha | Photo: Netflix

Caroline Cao
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August 2, 2022 12:10 PM

Like a spider catching prey in a web, Alex Brightman is snagging animated voice gigs thanks to his “mutant” (his words) vocals in his notorious Broadway Beetlejuice role.

Netflix premiered the cartoon Dead End: Paranormal Park on June 16. Created by Hamish Steele (writer and artist of the original graphic novel), the animated show focuses on the sociable and determined Barney (Zach Barack), the brainy Norma (Kody Kavitha), and the amoralist-with-a-heart-of-gold demon Courtney (Emily Osment) as they work in a supernatural theme and investigate the disappearance of its owner (Clinton Leupp, as known as Miss Coco Peru). But I have yet to mention another lead, Pugsley, Barney’s adorable pug, as voiced by the Beetlejuice star. He’s not just there for cutesy comedy relief, explicitly asserted by Pugsley himself (“I’m the comic relief”), but talking about the pug might open a can of spoilers. 

Renowned for his signature cobwebby Beetlejuice rasp on the stage, Brightman has flexed his vocal talents across 2D in his own Beetlejuice cartoon reprisal in Teen Titans Go and as the singing Robo Fizzarolli / Fizzarolli in the adult animated Helluva Boss.

What was your reaction to being cast as this magical talking pug with wizard powers?

Honestly, it was my last birthday wish. I can't believe it came true. I mean, now I'm mad that I didn't wish for like 10 million dollars. But I guess playing a magical possessed wizard pug is a nice close second.

How does acting for a cartoon compare to acting on stage?

When I act on stage, I have my whole body and face at my disposal. And I am an incredibly emotive actor. I use a ton of my body on stage. And recording is just like that except you can't use ANY OF THAT. But with the cartoons I've been lucky enough to be a small part of, I have had the freedom and room to bounce around a studio and get a slight bit of what I capture on stage. My characters are zany and off the wall, so getting the chance to really act them in the room helps with the vocal performance.

Pugsley and Barney | Photo: Netflix

Have you hung out with the cast members of Paranormal Park? What’s it like working with Zach Barack and Kody Kavitha?

The only people I have gotten to hang out with so far is Z Infante (a long-time friend from wayyyyyy before this) and Hamish Steele. We all recorded this during the pandemic from various states and countries. So we just haven't had the moments to connect. We've all slightly connected over the internet and social media, but nothing would make me happier than to have a big Dead End love fest in person. Working with Zach and Kody is like a voice acting fantasy camp for me. I heard their reads and I was like, "oh… oh crap… now I have to really step this up." They make it look so easy and I know it's not easy. So the work they've put in to make it sound that way is immense. So they inspired me every time I knew I'd be in a scene with any one of them. I'm a big fan of theirs.

Were any parts of the show directly influenced by Beetlejuice?

I mean, it's pretty hard to hear Temeluchus and not think of Beetlejuice. I have no problem with that comparison. Because it's pretty one-for-one. But I think it served the character really well and I knew I had the voice. And I also knew that not EVERYONE knew me from Broadway and I figured more people should hear this comedically demonic maniacal voice.

So in the show, Puglsey is possessed by demonic entity Temeluchus, who you also voice. How do you get into the groove for nice guy vs. mean guy?

What's really funny about all of this is that I mainly play evil or weird demons in cartoons. That has just been my career so far in animation. I attribute that to having a showcase every night on Broadway doing a crazy voice. Getting to do the real Pugsley voice was a scary departure for me. Just to have a sweet voice was something I found kind of difficult. When I use the gruff, gravelly, demon voice, it feels like putting on a mask I can hide behind and make crazy choices. With Pugsley, it's just vulnerable and out there without any net. But it's fun to be challenged that way. I also just think about my own dog, Kevin and how sweet he is and I gave that sweetness a sound. And that's Pugsley's voice.

The penultimate Dead End episode is a musical episode (thanks Pugsley). Did they show you the visuals when you were singing in the recording studio?

First of all, how good is the musical episode. Props to Patrick Stump for writing some of the most kick-ass tunes I've heard in a while, inside or outside of a musical theatre setting. I didn't get to see ANY of the visuals when we recorded "Driver's Seat." But to me, that's fine. I loved being surprised when I got to see a cut of the episode. It was thrilling to see what they did with it. I was pleased and, needless to say, tons of others are as well. Here's to more musical episodes!

You sing that duet with yourself in that episode. How do you sing duets with yourself? Are you tough to work with?

Thankfully, I didn't have to be in the room when "Other Alex" recorded. We don't typically get along all that much. But this goes back to the years when we used to compete in talent shows. Always with the competition and sniping. "Other Alex" has his own life and I wish him well. I think we sound good together, but he is a genuine pain to work with and I hope nobody gets the "pleasure."

Brightman as Pugsley | Photo: Netflix

Pugsley incants, “Bippity boopity Patti LuPoney Menken Tessori Manzela Minnelli” at one point. Did you ad-lib this in the booth?

One thing you should know about Hamish Steele. Musicals are very deep and entrenched within them. We were able to dialogue about musicals without missing a beat the first time we met. So this line was already in the script when I got it. But I couldn't be happier to have gotten the opportunity to deliver it.

Do you have a favorite animated avatar you voiced? 

I would say that right now it's a tie with the projects I've done. I have a fondness for Fizzarolli on Helluva Boss and I love Temeluchus/Pugsley on Dead End. I have a few more projects coming out in the near future that I can't talk about. But one of them might be a new favorite, even though I don't know if anything can beat the Pugsley of it all. Pretty high bar for me.

Do you hope they typecast your voice for newer animated roles?

I have no problem if people want to typecast me because it means I'm GETTING CAST! I love working. I love working on new stuff. So yes, please cast me in all of your projects and I promise I'll do a good job. And I'm also really funny between takes, if I do say so myself. 

How would you encourage people to watch Paranormal Park?

This show is so good, you could watch it on mute and still get a million things from it. But when the sound is actually on, it's a story that is deeply felt by all who come along on the journey. It's a story with a real issue at the forefront, dealing with identity, where you belong, and chosen family. Those are my favorite kinds of shows, the ones that stealthily or explicitly deal with real human issues. And this show is funny, like laugh-out-loud funny. I don't say that because I'm on it. I say that because I have laughed out loud on my couch watching it. If anyone is a fan of mine and trusts me as a creative person. Trust me when I say that this show is more than worth your time. You're welcome in advance.

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Caroline Cao

A Houstonian at heart, Caroline Cao graduated at The New School with an MFA in Nonfiction. Her wit has appeared on SlashFilm, Polygon, TDF Stages and more. She also has also penned performed arias and duets for the Really Spicy Opera - Aria Institute. She does not shut up about animation. When she's not writing about theatre, movies, and TV, she's writing librettos and fanfiction and cooking ramen.