In “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” a group of animated teenage ninjas led by the issues-plagued Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco) and mentored by the wizened Master Wu (Jackie Chan) fight to stop Lloyd’s dad, the evil Garmadon (Justin Theroux), from destroying their fantastic toy city.
We asked two of the ninja actors, “Broad City” star Abbi Jacobson and “The Big Sick’s” Kumail Nanjiani, and Olivia Munn (“The Newsroom,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”) who voices Lloyd’s supportive mom, what playing little plastic toys means to them personally and to the larger human condition.
Q: We learn a lot about Lloyd and Garmadon in this movie. You guys have less time – and minimal facial expressions – to show us what your characters are like. So each describe them.
JACOBSON: I really love how Nya holds her own – because she has to – within this group of guys. I related to that; as a kid I was a tomboy and always trying to emulate my older brother, and also trying to find my own identity within trying to be like him. And she is just such a badass! She rides a motorcycle, she’s got a leather jacket. She’s confident, but fully so; she’s really good at her powers.
NANJIANI: Jay’s a very emotional guy; by that I mean, he gets scared easily and he falls in love easily. He’s just sensitive and open, and that’s sort of his gift and his flaw. He falls for Nya but also can’t say anything to her because he’s too terrified. He’s always the guy who says, “Let’s not fight right now. Let’s go home and get brunch.”
MUNN: Koko’s got a lot goin’ on; she’s got her own secrets. But first and foremost, Koko is trying to be a great mother to Lloyd. She is just the always positive, always upbeat mother who is going to see the bright side of every situation. I loved that idea.
Q: What makes Legos such a popular toy?
MUNN: I don’t know anyone in any culture that hasn’t played with Legos. I was a military kid, I grew up mostly in Japan, so my American friends played with Legos and my Japanese friends played with Legos. Everybody did. I think it goes to the part of every child’s brain of building and creating and, also, destroying. That’s why Minecraft is so popular. Minecraft is just Legos in virtual reality.
NANJIANI: As a kid, I had a huge sack of Legos. I would just, like, pour them out and make random stuff. I was a huge Lego fan in Pakistan. They were popular there; I think they’re big everywhere.
JACOBSON: I can’t remember a…