Napoleon returns

A conversation with Jon Heder, star of the film and now FOX cartoon “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Griffin Fillipitch

Show: “Napoleon Dynamite”

Time: 7:30 p.m. Sundays

Network: Fox

Jon Heder is now eight years removed from the debut of his most popular role as the courageous, moonboot-wearing Napoleon Dynamite. He has an impressive list of roles and appearances in movies and TV since then, capped by the inclusion of his voice in what may have been last year’s biggest song (“N****s in Paris”). This week he talked to A&E about that, his history with animation and returning to his first role for the recently premiered “Napoleon Dynamite” cartoon.

AE: How did the idea for a TV show come about?

JH: I think it was Fox’s initiation. They came to Jared and Jerusha (Hess, husband-wife duo who were the writer-directors of the film). I think everybody knew from the get-go if we were ever going to do anything like a sequel or a TV show that the only way anyone would do it or like it was if everyone from the original was involved. So it was cool that they wanted to bring “Napoleon Dynamite” back into the world. And it seemed like a nice match. We had never really seriously discussed it, only talked about the possibility of a TV show years ago. But it was Fox that got things going and said, “What do you think about going back to the original people?” And we were definitely on board.

AE: Are you worried about being too closely associated with that character?

JH: I guess I think about it a little bit but not too much. What I know is that I really enjoyed playing that part, what we did with that film and the kind of audience we got. I was completely happy to do it again. It was what started my career. I hadn’t acted for a paycheck before. It wasn’t just another job that launched my career; it was the job. It was the first role in a film for me, ever. So it’s always just been like, “Yeah, I know that I’m associated with Napoleon. He’s awesome.”

AE: You studied animation in college. Did that draw you to the show at all?

JH: It wasn’t a huge part of it, no. I studied computer animation, and television animation is a whole different ballgame. But I have always loved it. I grew up watching “The Simpsons.” When they approached us about it, I just thought it would be so awesome. To be a part of the Fox animation lineup is really cool.

AE: Are you worried about starting the show eight years after the movie came out?

JH: No, not really. I don’t think people have forgotten about it. Maybe that’s why it is good time for it, actually. Part of me thought it was good timing because people who used to love it but have started to lose interest will think, “Oh sweet, now we have more stuff that we can love.” That’s what our hope is, to find a new audience as well. And I’ve heard that so far. I’ve had people tell me, “Our kids watched the cartoon, so I think it’s time we start showing them the movie.” That’s cool to hear. I think it would be kind of a trip to see the cartoon first, then see the movie after that. Usually I think it’ll be the other way around, but I like that it can be either way. I’m not too worried. The great thing about Napoleon and that franchise is that it’s timeless, and it can speak to almost any generation. No matter what time period it is, I think people will always get it.

AE: Your voice was sampled on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s song “N****s in Paris”. When did you first hear about that?\

JH: I heard about it after the fact. It’s kind of funny. A bunch of my friends have kids in high school, and they’re like, “That’s all they talk about at school is that song you guys are in.” I had no idea until after it had come out. But it’s cool, connects me to the youth even longer.

AE: Have you talked to them about it?

JH: No I haven’t, but I assume they are fans of “Blades of Glory,” so that’s cool. If I ever do, I’ll be like, “Hey, if you ever want to use me in a video, let me know. I can dance.” There’s always future opportunities.