Nick Kroll is having one hell of a year, including his role in Don’t Worry Darling and unforgettable cameos in Our Flag Means Death and What We Do In The Shadows. It’s his remarkable work on Big Mouth, however, that leaves the most lasting impression. Kroll voices several characters in the Netflix adult-animated series he co-created with Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett. The show is based on Kroll and Goldberg’s childhood experiences during puberty, and even led to a hormone monster spin-off, Human Resources (which also premiered in 2022).
Big Mouth’s sixth season, which dropped on October 28, remains a perfect blend of brazen and oddly sentimental. The A.V. Club spoke to Kroll about developing the show’s absurdist tone, how he perfected voicing characters like Maury and Lola Ugfuglio Skumpy, and working with Matt Berry in WWDITS’ fourth season.
The A.V. Club: This is mentioned in our season six review, but Big Mouth is a perfect Halloween show because of how it handles the scariness of puberty in a gross, emotional way. How do you approach the show as far as how weird to get while handling it?
Nick Kroll: We always approach the show as honestly and from as grounded a place as possible. For example, in season six, we went in with the objective that family would be a central theme. We were writing and voicing much of this season during the lockdown, so we spent a lot of time at home with our families. It felt like a subject we hadn’t fully explored inside of the show, and yet is obviously such an important element in our lives, especially for middle school kids who have to spend so much time at home with their parents, their siblings, and everyone else. We always start there, and then we start to let our disgusting imaginations run wild to find stories that support the idea of our theme, and things we want to get to each season. It happened with the third episode, “Vagina Shame.” It felt like we had been figuring out how to talk about it for several seasons, and it finally came together.
AVC: That was my favorite episode of the season.
NK: Oh, good. Whew. It’s a crazy one, right? Another version of that would be the purity test episode. We came to it while discussing it with some students we were talking to. We have yearly conversations for every season with different kids, and then there are some we have ongoing chats with, and they told us about the rice purity tests. That was a great idea, and felt like every kid from Big Mouth could have a take on it, and we can make it weird and super gross.
AVC: Even for being animated, Big Mouth ventures where few shows rarely have. Again, “Vagina Shame” is a great example. Are you ever nervous about dissecting some of these topics on TV, or whether it will be too graphic for Netflix even?
NK: Frankly, when we first started, it was unchartered territory for the show and for Netflix. It was still a new service comparatively, and there really were no rules. They continue to be unbelievably supportive of what we are doing creatively. We are six seasons in and not newcomers anymore, so people have strong opinions of us, positively and negatively, by now. It doesn’t stop us from trying to stay true to our goals, which are telling honest, funny, emotional stories about adolescence. We are pretty confident about doing that. But sometimes I think, “Oh boy, how will people feel about this?” The truth is, people can get upset about even the mundane stuff now. We happen to be pushing the envelope further than most shows are.
AVC: Yeah, it’s super visceral, but there’s a lot of depth to be found. How do you juggle evolving the kids physically and emotionally, as you did with the family threads in season six?
NK: The beautiful thing about doing a show on puberty is that it’s constantly changing. It’s in our credit song. We really try to stay true to that. For us, as writers and performers, it’s exciting to let them change. It was never our intention to do it another way. With true love and respect for The Simpsons, that show is built to continue while everyone stays the same age. It would be disrespectful to puberty to have these kids not evolve physically and emotionally, so we aim to lean into that. It provides new territories because, as real kids and adults, we can still fuck up constantly, so there’s no shortage of material when we let people in our show learn these things. There are still new ways for them to evolve. It’s all new colors to hopefully build out fully fleshed-out characters, as we do with Nick’s family members or Andrew’s relationship with his parents as they go through a tough time.
AVC: The other advantage is that season six spends much more time with the adult characters than ever before. What was that like?
NK: Yeah, seeing kids interact with, whether they want to admit it or not, the most important people in their lives will be fruitful comedically and dramatically. Also, the parent performances are some of my favorites. We’ve got Richard Kind, Paula Pell, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Chelsea Peretti, Jordan Peele, Seth Morris, and Jessica Chaffin. They are all such funny, interesting characters. You only get snippets through the run of the show. To really dig into them, their past, who they are now, and how frustrating and hard it can be to raise kids while maintaining a partnership—it all felt like a great way to jump into all that material.
AVC: You voice many characters on Big Mouth, but Lola Ugfuglio Skumpy is a fan favorite. Is that why you also wanted to give her a breakout episode this season?
NK: Lola has always been a character I’ve loved, and audiences have taken to her as the show evolved. I love her slowly revealing the incredibly sad realities of her whole life. Part of why she’s so fun is she says everything out loud. She’s revealing things constantly about herself that then lead to a frankly very upsetting truth. We knew we wanted to do a musical episode, and jumped in and thought it would be fun to do a Mamma Mia one with Lola, and bring in more songs than we would normally have.
AVC: How did you develop her very specific, pronounced diction?
NK: It’s honestly ever-evolving. It’s a credit to our writers who write specifically to the tonality of her voice and give me words that are perfect and fun for her to say. They are so good at finding the vocal ticks that all our performers have found. If you listen to where Andrew Glouberman started to where he ended up, you’ll find they’ve done it for John Mulaney’s vocal skills. It’s cool to see it.
AVC: Do you have any favorites from all the characters you voice?
NK: It’s a cheesy answer, but it really is true. I like whichever character I’m voicing at any given moment; it keeps things fun for me in that I’m like, “Alright, I’m Coach Steve for a few hours, and then I’ll pop over to do Rick.” Okay, but I do think Rick and Lola are my favorites. I weirdly feel comfortable improvising as both of them. Maury is the most physically taxing because he has the most lines. But they’re all my disgusting babies.
AVC: Since you voice various roles, I’m curious how you figure out which ones you’ll take on versus the ones you don’t.
NK: I’ve established so many characters by now in general, so I think that helps. And then I will get a “Oh, okay, we’ve got a British film critic,” and we take it from there. But we’ve got some amazing voice performers who do different roles, whether it’s Maya or Jordan or Fred. Everyone’s talented and versatile. When you look at the women in Andrew’s mom’s Hadassah group, they’re Chelsea and Maya. They are just three or four lines, but the best comedic performers will come in to do them. It’s great.
AVC: Big Mouth’s cast is stacked, but is there someone you haven’t worked with yet or anyone you’d like to bring in for season seven?
NK: The nice thing is people do contact us. Like in this case, Tyler the Creator said he loved our show, so we found a great role for him [as Jesus]. We try to keep that in mind. It’s never bad to hear people like our show because I want them to be excited about being on it. We have some folks for next season that I think will be wild for audiences to hear about. Sometimes it’s also just about finding the right part for a person and going, “Oh, this is better for the other show [Human Resources],” like getting Hugh Jackman to be an Addiction Angel.
AVC: The one thing I’ve often read about Big Mouth is how it fills a specific gap on TV while talking about the harsh truths of growing up. Do you remember watching anything like it when you were a kid that might’ve struck a chord?
NK: There were different versions of it depending on what you are looking for. What’s interesting now is there are so many different versions of this content—not just TV shows or animated stuff. My sister, Vanessa Kroll-Bennett, hosts The Puberty Podcast. It’s not a cartoon, but more just a resource for parents. So there’s more stuff like that out there now. Growing up, I watched ... [laughs]. No, there was nothing. We had illustrated books and such, but there wasn’t much more that was weird and relatable. But I regularly watched The Wonder Years, which was a really important show. It was an early reference point for Mark, Jen, Andrew, and me. It was very different about what it covered, but we used that as a jumping point.
AVC: You touched on this in the beginning about how Big Mouth is meant to change and evolve. With that in mind, how long do you think the show can continue?
NK: We think we still have an incredible amount of stories to tell. There’s so much to say about puberty; it’s not a limited amount of material. You have to find your way into it, and how it will provide us with an element of things that we haven’t previously had access to. For us, it’s trying to find a new way in. It’s ultimately not up to us; it’s up to Netflix.
AVC: It’s been a big year also with your new standup special, plus Bob’s Burgers, Our Flag Means Death, and, of course, Don’t Worry Darling. But you were also in a beloved episode of What We Do In The Shadows season four, “Go Flip Yourself.”
NK: [Laughs] That’s correct.
AVC: What was it like to riff with and be on the receiving end of Matt Berry’s “New York City” line reading?
NK: It was so much fun. I feel lucky to be a small part of WWDITS. I’ve been a fan of Matt Berry, and everyone working on the show, for so long now. In the first season, the way he said New York City, even back then, just stuck with me. The way he pronounced it was so funny. When I returned for the second time, I told him, “Man, how you said New York City the last time cracked me up.” So he said, “Alright, I’ll find a way to say it again.” It continues to tickle me, and this time we thought to have a fun little back-and-forth on it. I’ve been watching him for so many years, so it’s nice to play opposite him. The best part is I get to slide into WWDITS and other shows I get to pop into with people I’ve long admired.
AVC: There might’ve been no way of knowing, but the internet fell in love with that scene between Laszlo and Simon the Devious. It’s taken a life of its own.
NK: I was told by someone who said, you know, “The New York City scene with Matt is blowing up.” You really can’t foresee or control it. I’m discovering all this alongside everyone else because I often don’t remember the specifics of what I filmed so much, and then it’s online. My niece and nephew sometimes say, “Hey, this Big Mouth dialogue is going viral on TikTok.” And I’m a big fan of TikTok, but my feed is not sending me Big Mouth or anything to do with me. My algorithm sends me weird Funyun videos.