After three feature-length movies, 118 TV episodes and four short films, Jay Baruchel is seemingly finished voicing hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III in “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” which hits U.S. theaters Feb. 22. Known for his comedy roles, the Canadian actor will also show off his dramatic side this year in Lone Scherfig’s “The Kindness of Strangers,” debuted at the Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 7.
Could you relate to Hiccup’s transformation from awkward teen to bona fide hero?
I started recording Hiccup 12 years ago. By virtue of that passage of time, I’m much more of an old fart than when I started. I’ve gone through a bunch of stuff just like he has. I lost my dad when I was 21, a little older than he was. There’s a lot of spots where I think our lives dovetail. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where I end and he begins.
Which do you enjoy most: animation, comedies or dramas?
I enjoy working in animation just because I don’t have to put on makeup and costumes and be in front of a bunch of people. There’s something really fun about crafting a character with only one tool: your voice. In terms of funny or dramatic stuff, I get an equal kick out of both. Whether or not I have to be funny or not funny in it, which I think a lot of people would argue I achieve even when I’m trying to be funny, the gig is the same. I try to be as honest and compelling as I can be.
What was it like working with Lone Scherfig, who’s mostly known for European films?
I’ve been a film nerd most of my life so getting to be directed one of the founding members of the Dogme 95 movement was really cool. The process on set was a fun one and easy enough. Sometimes it was indirect in the best way. We were all afforded a great deal of freedom while still taking specific directions. Being able to do both of those things is a feat unto itself and the mark of a pretty good director.
Has your Canadian identity influenced the types of projects you do?
I suspect so in a subconscious way. I like to think a lot of my values come from growing up where I did. It stands to reason that I’d be connected to movies that espoused the same ideas. One of the cool things about growing up in Canada is we get to see all the American stuff and British stuff. Something in that cocktail of art creates a specific kind of taste.