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Interview: 'Monsters University' star Charlie Day

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It's only appropriate that an "always sunny" actor is the one who shines as a bright and furry purple rainbow in the new Disney-Pixar animated movie "Monsters" University."

The actor with that sunny disposition, of course, is none other than Charlie Day, one of the energetic stars of the FX comedy series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." In a recent interview, Day told me that he has a strong suspicion that his role of Charlie on the show helped land him his role in "Monsters University."

"It had everything to do with getting this part," Day enthused. "They're big 'Sunny' fans here at Pixar. The show has led to everything I've done outside of it."

Opening in 2D and 3D theaters nationwide on Friday, "Monsters University" is a prequel to the 2001 classic "Monsters, Inc.," which tracks the beginnings of "Scarers" Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman). Beginning with Mike's aspiration to become a Scarer as a little Monster, the new film mostly takes place at "Monsters University" where only the top students are chosen to advance in the prestigious Scare Program.

The ultimate goal for the students is to move on to Monstropolis, where Monsters in a scare factory frighten children in the dark of the night in an effort to capture their screams, which in turn are used to power the city.

While "Monsters, Inc." chronicles Mike and Sulley's friendship, we learn in "Monster's University" that their early days were anything but chummy. Sulley, a legacy student at the University, is immediately courted by hip fraternity, while Mike, much as he has his whole life, finds himself an outcast, leading to an instant rivalry.

But the two suddenly must learn to get along when by happenstance they become a part of the Oozma Kappa fraternity -- a band of misfits including Art (Day), a party monster with a mysterious past.

See the trailer for "Monsters University" below.

Day, 37, described "Monsters University" as a sort of a "Revenge of the Nerds" set in the Pixar world, and he's proud to be a part of a movie that affects people's emotions on different levels. Sure, you can laugh at the monsters in the Oozma Kappa fraternity, but you root for them, too.

"That movie touched a lot of people when it came out because at least 90 percent of the people at some point in their life feel like an underdog or an outcast, and related to their struggle," Day observed. "Even our best-looking most athletic people go through some phase at some point. 'Monsters University' is also like that. It's a human story of wanting to be accepted."

Day has been blessed with a distinct voice that commands your attention every time you hear it. He was willing to do a different voice for "Monsters University," but after some contemplation, director Dan Scanlon decided to let the acclaimed actor literally do all the talking.

"Dan had some ideas about Art based on the way he was drawn and also the way he was written," Day explained. "The character was written sort of spacey and a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy. So we definitely dabbled with different ways of speaking on the first day of recording. We did some surfer-dude kind of takes and things like that, but ultimately, we went back to my natural speaking voice and inflections, because I think that's the reason I got hired."

With a background in stage, Day says he brings his theatrical sensibilities to everything he does. But when it came to doing a character voice in the sound booth, he had to temper his methods a bit -- a challenge, since Art is a character who is definitely larger than life.

"I've been accused of shouting in almost everything I do," Day said, laughing. "So, I didn't necessarily go back to my theater roots to do this part. Being in a booth is a little more intimate. You're not playing to a back row, and there's a high-tech microphone five inches from your mouth, so you can't go too crazy because you're going to hurt the sound guy's ears."

Rest assured, those who want to see Day in all of his live-action shouting glory will get another chance this summer when he stars in Guillermo del Toro's sci-fi action adventure "Pacific Rim" -- another opportunity that arose because of the actor's "Always Sunny" fame.

This time, however, the role involved a little give-and-take with the filmmakers.

"When I sat down to meet with Guillermo for the very first time, he said to me, if you do this movie, I want to be on 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,'" Day recalled. "So on Season 8, he did a cameo in a special Halloween episode -- it was great."

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed more than 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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