When Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants novels were brought to the big screen in 2017, the fourth-grade duo of George and Harry were excellently voiced by comedy stars Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch, respectively. But when the show made the jump to Netflix for The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants TV show, which is now streaming, the producers switched things up by casting the actual child actors Ramone Hamilton and Jay Gragnani for the roles. When I spoke with show developer and executive producer Peter Hastings (Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain) about the casting choice, here's what he told me.
The thing is, rather, we didn't base the series on the movie. We based it on the books. And I just kind of felt like I really wanted to have...so in a feature film, you kind of maybe need to have big names doing your lead roles. We're a little less encumbered by that, and I just felt it was a little more natural and charming having actual kid voices. They just give a really good performance, but are just loaded with authenticity and charm.
All it takes is one episode to understand exactly what he means, since Ramone Hamilton (Summer Camp Island) and Jay Gragnani (Bubble Guppies) are really stellar as George and Harold in The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants. And it's almost entirely because they actually sound like kids, which makes it that much easier to just lose oneself in the completely zany stories that are being told.
That may seem like the most obvious thing in the world, but remember that child actors aren't used all that often in animated TV shows. And while I don't have documented proof, I'm willing to believe it's because most children don't have the combination of timing and jubilance that Hamilton and Gragnani embody.
The transition from film to TV can sometimes take a big hit on a cast ensemble, since bigger celebs aren't usually able to commit to series, but that's not at all the case here. The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants doesn't feature a ton of other child actors, perhaps unfortunately, but it does boast a major former child actor in The Goonies (and Stranger Things) vet Sean Astin, who plays the show's omniscient and playful narrator. And Peter Hastings said Astin was a treat to work with as well.
Yeah, I've worked with Sean before, and I was like, 'I want a narrator who is just so likable and kind of normal.' I thought of Sean, and he luckily said yes, and has been great. Of course, everything that made him a good child actor is still present in him now, in terms of likability and charm, so he's been just a great addition. And is also happy to talk about his years as a child actor, which is also very fun.
Outside of those roles, The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants boasts a lot of voice work from different actors that kids and adults will definitely be familiar with. From Nat Faxon to Tress MacNeille to Stephen Root to Laraine Newman to Mindy Sterling to David Koechner and beyond, the voices are only part of the fun with this show, so be sure to find the time to watch, even if your kids aren't around.