Jacob Tremblay’s Early Work In Heavy Dramas Helped His My Father’s Dragon Performance

For a relatively young actor, Jacob Tremblay has done quite a bit of heavy dramatic acting in his career. Room and Doctor Sleep are just two of the credits the young man has racked up, with quite a bit of emotional heavy lifting required in both. Lately, Tremblay has been heard in family animated films like the new movie release My Father’s Dragon.

Believe it or not, those earlier, weightier performances helped out when it came time for Jacob Tremblay to voice the character of Elmer Elevator. Serving as the lead of the Netflix original adaptation of author Ruth Stiles Gannett’s classic children’s tale, the young actor was able to put the skills he’d learned on those previous films to rather good use. 

I learned this firsthand, as I was invited to speak with Tremblay, along with My Father’s Dragon director Nora Twomey, on behalf of the Netflix (opens in new tab) press day supporting its release. Comparing his previous work to the more recent animated output he’s been involved in, Jacob Tremblay revealed to CinemaBlend these advantages of a young career built on heavy drama:

I typically, even at that young age, I think I tended to honestly, without noticing it, get a bit method in a way. For example, on Room I was able to jump around the room during pre-production, because they had the whole set. That was just eight year old Jacob who was able to jump around the room a little bit. For something like animation, it’s a learning curve at first, because obviously you’re in a room with a microphone and chair, or not. I think … something so amazing about having been in such serious roles is that typically you’ll have an actor to work off of. In some of those scenes, it’s really when you’re making eye contact with the other actor, and just seeing their eyes tear up. Whatever the scene’s about, you just go with it. No take is really the same.

Those skills were certainly put to work when it came to recording My Father’s Dragon, which has debuted as part of Netflix’s November 2022 new release slate. Voicing the role of Elmer, and portraying his quest to help save an island in danger, while also trying to win over the company of young dragon Boris (Gaten Matarazzo), the voyage has its own twists and turns. 

Though it doesn’t get anywhere near as dour as Jacob Tremblay’s previous works, especially that traumatic Doctor Sleep performance director Nora Twomey reinforced in our interview that the film doesn’t sugarcoat the issues in Elmer’s life before his big trip. As he continued to discuss his experience on this beautiful children’s saga, Tremblay also complimented his work with Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo.

Since the two were fortunate enough to record their lines together during the 2019 production, the experience making My Father’s Dragon led to some pretty method happenings in its own right. Jacob Tremblay said as much, as he shared this special memory of the process:

The thing about working with Gaten on this one is we were able to really connect. Gaten’s such an amazing actor … there were more emotional scenes,and Gaten’s so fantastic, he just went for it. He would start crying, and that really rubbed off on me, and I started crying myself. Watching that in the movie, I was like, ‘That’s the scene I was looking forward to seeing the whole movie.’ And then I watched it, and it was really amazing. And Nora was there, so she could kind of guide our emotions to where they needed to be on the page.

Some actors use method acting as an excuse to sometimes do really extreme things. Whether it’s Christian Bale’s old habit of changing his body or a variety of weird and off-putting behaviors from Jared Leto, everyone has their way of getting into the zone. For Jacob Tremblay, all he needs is some time to get acquainted with the space, and in this case a good crying partner, to land the takes that make the beating heart of My Father’s Dragon.

You can see the end result for yourself, as My Father’s Dragon is currently showing in selected theatrical release, as well as streaming. If you’re interested in enjoying this film in the comfort of your own home, you’ll need a Netflix subscription to make the trip.

Also, a box of tissues might be a good idea, as you will shed some tears during this heartfelt adventure about a boy and his dragon. While you’re at it, you should probably take a look at the 2022 Netflix movie schedule, to see what other original films you may have missed from this streaming giant.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.