Maya Rudolph and Nick Kroll on Emmys, Working During COVID and How ‘Big Mouth’ Is Keeping Up With the Times

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For Maya Rudolph and Nick Kroll, there’s a bit of déjà vu to this year’s Emmy nominations. Rudolph is back nominated again as guest comedy actress (“Saturday Night Live”) and character voice over performance (“Big Mouth”), two categories she won last year. And Kroll, as executive producer of “Big Mouth,” is back in the running for the third consecutive year for animated program.

“I just want to say I’m so, so relieved that I was not nominated for voice too, because it would have been embarrassing to beat Maya,” jokes Nick, who voices the character of prepubescent Nick on the show. “It’s such a relief to not be recognized!”

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Rudolph and Kroll joined Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast for a wild chat about “Big Mouth,” the Emmys, what they’ve been up to during quarantine, and a lot more. And then Kroll’s brother delivers him a massive sandwich for lunch, and even more silliness ensues. Listen below!

Rudolph won the Emmys in both the guest comedy actress and character voice over performance last year while watching the virtual Creative Arts Emmys ceremonies at home. It was quite a surreal experience. But then again, this pandemic has been an adjustment for everyone and everything.

“I gotta be honest, I’ve been in and out of, ‘what the fuck is happening?’” Rudolph says of the past year. “Working in quarantine has been a very interesting experience. I was just out of the country working in Ireland the entire summer, which has a different mindset about quarantine and there’s less divisiveness in the country.”

Adds Kroll: “You said the divisiveness, like the toxicity of the conversation feels almost more crushing than what we have to deal with in day to day stuff. Similarly, I’ve popped in and out of some work. I was not in Ireland for the summer.”

Season 4 of the delightfully filthy “Big Mouth” centered on issues of anxiety, and introduced a new character — Maria Bamford as Tito the Anxiety Mosquito — to address mental health. Of course, Kroll was back as Nick, the self-conscious, almost adolescent boy with over-protective parents, while Rudolph is Connie the Hormone Monstress, who initially was Jessi’s and Missy’s hormone monster, but has become Nick’s as well… at least for a while.

Rudolph was initially cast just as Nick’s mother, opposite Fred Armisen, “which I thought was like, just dream casting,” she says. But soon she was asked to do more, including take on Connie when the idea was born for a hormone monstress.

“When you get Maya Rudolph, you get a you get 100 little voices to sprinkle in,” Kroll says.

“Big Mouth” continues to explore puberty and everything surrounding the awakening of human sexuality, while also taking on racial and sexual identity and love in all forms. And there are plenty of outlandish stories this season, which kicks off at summer camp.

Another big milestone this year is the change at the end of the season in Missy’s voice, from Jenny Slate to Ayo Edebiri, a nod to voicing the character, who is Black, with a Black performer.

“As the show evolves, and these kids evolve, we continue to explore more elements of their identity,” Kroll says. “And our writers, specifically our diverse writer staff, really fell in love with Missy and embraced her as their own. And as we started going further into seasons, her racial identity became something that they were really excited to talk more about. And it was becoming more difficult to do that with Jenny, a white Jewish woman voicing the character.”

In light of last year’s nationwide conversation about Black Lives Matter, following the murder of George Floyd, “the tenor of everything really started to change and Jenny came to us, to her credit, and was like, “I don’t think I should play this character anymore,’” Kroll says. “We then looked at the season and figured out where, because we had already recorded basically the entire season at that point, was a good spot where it felt like there would be a natural transition.

“This whole season is really about Missy reckoning with her racial identity, and the end of Season 4, she really comes to grips with the idea that she is a mosaic of all these different people. It felt like a very natural place to introduce Ayo Edebiri, who had been a writer on the previous season of ‘Big Mouth’ and was a friend of the show.”

Meanwhile, Rudolph also discusses the challenging return to “Saturday Night Live” last year during the pandemic. “It was so different,” she says. “But it did become a bit therapeutic, because we were dealing with pre-election, and we were dealing with the bizarre time that we were going through in real time. I mean, I was there the week that Trump got COVID. Or, when we finally found out about the election, it was Saturday morning, before the show and it was exciting. For me, having been in that building for so many years and having it be my home, it was comforting, because I knew that it was being handled.”

But adjustments had to be made: “I remember the first week we weren’t getting the changes on the cue cards on time, not to anyone’s fault,” she says. “Cue cards are normally on the same floor as eighth floor, but they were down on the third floor because everyone was separated. And physically, what they pull off on that show normally is insane. And because of COVID, it couldn’t happen in that same way. And it was a miracle that a lot of things happened the way they did, but it was really different.”

Also in this episode: Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking” offers an inside look at the custom of matchmaking in Indian cultures through a contemporary lens. Matchmaker Sima Taparia guides clients in the U.S. and India in the arranged marriage process, offering an inside look at the custom in a modern era. Variety’s Jazz Tangcay spoke to Auntie Sima from ‘Indian Matchmaking’ on the contestants, dating advice and how she got into matchmaking. But first, she talked about the amazing reaction that the show has received around the world.

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