How T.J. Miller Made Comedy All Alone in the Voiceover Booth for The Emoji Movie

TJ Miller from The Emoji Movie
TJ Miller from The Emoji Movie

Comedians feed off laughter, which is why voicing a character for “The Emoji Movie” proved so challenging for T.J. Miller.

“It’s a strange place, the voiceover booth, because you’re alone,” he tells Made in Hollywood reporter Patrick Stinson. “And although you would rather be doing scenes with the other people, the nature of the game is you’re by yourself and you’re making these jokes in a vacuum. Everyone else is behind the glass. So you’re trying to make them laugh but you don’t hear their laughter.”

The best he could hope for was seeing the crew laugh, like human emojis.

Set inside a smartphone, “The Emoji Movie” tells the story of Gene (Miller), the only emoji that can change expressions. Determined to become “normal” like the other emojis, Gene enlists the help of his best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and a notorious code breaker called Jailbreak (Anna Faris). As they travel through other apps, the three emojis discover a great danger that could threaten their phone’s very existence.

For Miller, the character of Gene was one of two roles written just for him. “It made sense,” he says. “As soon as they told me it’s this guy who tries to be cool but can’t prevent himself from being stupid and embarrassed and excited and afraid, it made perfect sense to me.”

The other role tailored to him was that of i-R0k in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming “Ready Player One.”

“As I was shooting with Steven Spielberg, I was like: Thank you so much,” says Miller. “I think it’s really funny to call him by his whole name all the time. So I’m like: Thank you so much, Steven Spielberg, for having me in your movie. I’m having such a good time, Steven Spielberg.”

And Miller never takes it for granted.

“Not only is that flattering and complimentary and very nice, it kind of makes you look at your own work and who you are as a comedian and go: I better live up to what they expect of me,” he says. “So it’s a very interesting experience.”