It’s about fabled ocean dwellers and monster hunters on the surface. But if you dive deeper, says the actor, you’ll find some pretty thought-provoking messages.
You know Karl Urban from edgy sci-fi action roles like Amazon’s The Boys, the dystopian blockbuster Dredd, and the Fox drama Almost Human. But the actor is pivoting this summer to play a decidedly more heartwarming role: that of celebrated seafaring hero Jacob Holland in Netflix’s new animated family film The Sea Beast. And, spoiler alert, you can go ahead and prepare to hear Urban’s voice a lot, because this is one movie the entire family will want to watch on a loop.
Directed by Chris Williams (Moana, Big Hero 6, Bolt), The Sea Beast tells the adventure-filled story of a time when massive beasts roamed the sea and monster hunters chased them (and glory) to the far corners of the world — with none of the heroes more impressive than Urban’s character, the great Jacob Holland. When a spirited young stowaway named Maisie Brumble sneaks onto Holland’s fabled ship, the two find themselves on an epic journey into uncharted waters. Visually, it’s so wildly immersive that your kids will feel like they’re in the middle of the action, right alongside Jacob and Maisie.
Scary Mommy caught up with Urban to discuss his swashbuckling character, the importance of “found” family, and why the film’s take on history is a relevant message for parents and kids alike.
Man, what a beautiful movie. Were you a little blown away when you saw the animation?
I wasn’t a little blown away — I was incredibly blown away. I was really taken aback by the texture and the attention to detail. I think Chris Williams and his animation team have done an extraordinary job of really advancing the whole art and craft of animation.
Let’s talk about your character, Jacob. A huge part of his charm is that even he can’t believe he’s pulling off the things he does. Did you relate to that, or is Jacob’s on-the-fly style something you wish you could channel a little more of in real life?
He’s one of those characters that does fly by the seat of his pants, and I find it a sort of constant source of amusement that sometimes he pulls it off even to his surprise, and other times he completely fails. And I like that while he’s a stereotypical hero in a lot of ways, he’s also a bit clumsy and has these wonderful, endearing faults and flaws about him.
Speaking of personality, Maisie has more than enough to go around. And, really, the heart of this movie is the relationship between Jacob and Maisie. As a parent, did this makeshift family they formed tug at your heartstrings?
For me, some of the most rewarding material was to do those scenes with the character of Maisie. That relationship was a loving one but a frustrated one. It reminded me of really great onscreen sort of argumentative relationships you’ve seen, whether it’s Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting or [Humphrey] Bogart and [Lauren] Bacall, and you know, obviously something completely different with these two characters. It was a lot of fun to play.
That theme of family being something you’re not necessarily born into but that you can make really stands out about this film. Did that draw you to the role?
I feel I identified with that because having worked in the film industry for a very long time, you are constantly making new families from crew to crew. The crew of the ship that we see in this movie is very much that kind of situation. I think that one of the strong themes in this movie is about families and found families, and all of the characters that are kind of searching for that.
There’s also this theme of breaking away from a cycle of hatred and aggression, and ultimately realizing that it’s never too late to see things through a different lens... which feels deeply relevant right now. Can you speak to that messaging a little bit?
I think one of the elements that drew me to the project was the notion of a history that has been taught that you discover to be not true — that you discover to be a flawed narrative — and then having the ability to make up your own mind and forge a new path forward, and that is, in fact, what the character of Jacob does. That’s what he represents. And while this is obviously a fun family movie, I think it speaks on a multitude of levels. If you look for it, there are some pretty thought-provoking ideas in the film.
Indiana Jones is one of your favorite movie series, and Jacob’s definitely putting off some Indy vibes. So, in five years, if they decide to do a live-action version, are you in for bringing this sort of animated Indiana Jones character to life?
(laughs) Yeah, I’m always up for it! I had such a great time working on this movie, and I would certainly be down to continue the adventures of Jacob and Maisie.
For now, we’ll settle for a Sea Beast sequel (hint, hint, Netflix). What do you see next for Jacob and Maisie?
If I was to gaze into a crystal ball, I think they would attempt to lead a quiet life in the country as they have planned, but there would be some adventure that comes along that takes them away from that — whether it’s back to the sea monsters or something else. It’s highly unlikely that those two would stay out of trouble for long.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Julie Sprankles is the deputy lifestyle editor at Scary Mommy. You can catch her on Twitter @JulieLSprankles.