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Purple Alien Lands on DVD

4 Apr, 2006 By: Brendan Howard

In addition to portraying such classic characters as Office Space's sadsack Milton Waddams and “NewsRadio” boss Jimmy James, Stephen Root has lent his voice to characters in Finding Nemo, Ice Age, “American Dad” and “King of the Hill.”

While walking the halls of a recording studio during work on “King of the Hill,” Root was flagged by a pair of animators with a proposition.

“These guys had done five minutes of computer animation,” Root said. Creators Chuck Austen and Chris Moeller showed Root a short version of an irreverent, adult-themed sci-fi spoof.

“I thought it was beautiful,” he said. “They asked, ‘Do you want to play Chode?' I said, ‘What's Chode?' They told me it's the name of the space between your … ‘Oh, that's the name of that!’

And, thus, the great purplish, sexist, sex-hungry blob of a space captain on “Tripping the Rift” was born.

“This was far away from me,” he said. “It was something bizarrely different.”

The show airs on the Sci Fi Channel, and the second season streets April 4 from Anchor Bay Entertainment as a two-DVD set ($29.98).

Other cast members include Carmen Electra as the sex android Six and “Tonight Show” announcer “Stuttering” John Melendez as the voice of the moody spaceship. Root said they seldom get together to record. In contrast, “King of the Hill” is often done in a full recording studio.

“It's a tribute to a good editor,” Root said on how the dialogue sticks together after they record parts separately. “We hear the voices of the other people [in headphones], and you can react to how you think they might say a line.”

The quick timing is important for the nonstop barrage of sci-fi jokes, which Root usually gets.

“I'm a big sci-fi guy,” he said. “And I loved reading Marvel comics in '65 and '66.”Root also has always been a big cartoon guy, and he said his inspiration, like that of other voice actors, comes from the greats.

“All the voices are derivative of Mel Blanc,” Root said, applauding the genius voice behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other “Looney Tunes” favorites. “And all the character actors steal blatantly from each other. You take things from everywhere.”

“Tripping the Rift” fans will be sad to learn that the show isn't in production right now, but Root said they're trying to get a film-length version off the ground.

Root fans can catch his voice on “King of the Hill” and “American Dad” and his face on “The West Wing” and in a six-hour NBC miniseries about the 9/11 Commission report.

He also had a major role in the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, on DVD from Warner Home Video.

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