'Big Mouth' Writer Brandon Kyle Goodman on Voicing Walter and the Spinoff 'Human Resources'
By Stacy Lambe
In November, Big Mouth returned to Netflix with season 5 as it continues to explore the horrifying yet often hilarious experiences of going through puberty through the eyes of several Westchester County teenage friends. Helping them cope with all their bodily changes are hormone monsters, one of which is voiced by the Emmy-winningMaya Rudolph, and a growing roster of creatures, including Depression Kitty (Jean Smart), Shame Wizard (David Thewlis), Tito the Anxiety Mosquito (Maria Bamford) and this season’s breakout star, a love bug-turned-hate worm named Walter voiced by show writer Brandon Kyle Goodman.
“What I love about the character is how enthusiastic he is about love but also how he could misstep very quickly because of his excitement for work and that his excitement could blind him sometimes and he could go too far,” Goodman (who identifies as gay and nonbinary and uses the pronouns he and they) tells ET about the creature who makes a showy entrance in episode 3, “Lovebugs,” when Nick (Nick Kroll) experiences notions of love and infatuation after his friend, Jessi (Jessi Klein), touches his arm.
Suddenly, Walter is there to help Nick navigate his feelings and even convinces him to make a misguided grand gesture, which results in Jessi revealing she doesn’t like him. Not only that, but Goodman gets to voice the flip side of Walter, who turns into a hate worm after Nick is consumed by rage later in the season.
For the performer, “it was the chance to play a very full character” that he really enjoyed. And by playing “two sides of the same coin,” Goodman gets to explore Walter’s “full range of emotions,” which is a rare opportunity in animation. “Sometimes on shows, I think that certain characters, especially queer characters or queer-voiced characters tend to be very two-dimensional, and Walter is anything but that, which is very exciting,” he adds.
When it comes to voicing Walter’s love and hate personas, Goodman says “it was definitely fun to explore both.” And each side had plenty to offer, with the performer getting to act “a little shady” as the hate worm, while also tapping into Walter’s “joy, which is a little chaotic and a little messy.”
In addition to stealing scenes on Big Mouth, Walter will next be seen on the upcoming spinoff, Human Resources. The new animated series will take place in the supernatural world that was first introduced in the season 5 finale, “Re-New Year’s Eve.” And while teenage humans are at the center of Big Mouth, Walter, the love bug Sonya (Pamela Adlon), the hate worm Rochelle (Keke Palmer), and a host of new characters voiced by Randall Park and Aidy Bryant will be the main protagonists in Human Resources as they guide humans through various stages of life.
“Big Mouth is very much centered on kids and on puberty at a very specific age. And I think that the show has done such a great job at articulating these traumas that we’ve all been through and making it funny and relatable,” Goodman says. “And so, what I’m excited about Human Resources is that we’re actually able to go to other parts of life and other ages in our lives.”
Goodman says Human Resources will “see our characters deal with people who are much older or much younger and see the different life experiences and how they react and respond to those as well.”
In addition to voicing Walter, Goodman first joined Big Mouth’s writers’ room in season 4, co-penning episode 7, “Four Stories About Hand Stuff,” with Mitra Jouhari. This season, he was also responsible for writing episode 5, “Thanksgiving,” which sees Missy (Ayo Edebiri) in trouble for getting high with her cousins and Jessi dealing with her own love bug, Sonya.
“We knew that we wanted to visit all of these houses around Thanksgiving -- which was exciting because, you know, everybody does things a little differently -- and show how these kids are functioning inside of their family dynamics,” Goodman says of the episode, in which he also got to explore Missy’s life by “showing a Black family at Thanksgiving and showing a blended family dealing with her trials and tribulations.”
What excited Goodman most about telling Missy’s story in particular “was putting things out there without having to explain it and just letting it exist,” he says, adding that it’s been so rewarding to be able to help write and create moments in the show, like when Missy learns about code-switching in season 4.
“Race is a part of our puberty. It just was. My queerness was a part of my puberty. And coming into that and understanding what that was and reckoning with that, is such a huge part of puberty for me,” he continues. “So, being able to tell that story of Missy and then watch her growth in season 5 has been a lot of fun.”
When it comes to being able to share authentic queer, Black stories, Goodman credits the creators of Big Mouth for being so open to that storytelling. “[They] are hungry for that authenticity and hungry for that point of view and want to infuse that into the show,” he says, adding that they value those experiences and know that it ultimately makes the show better. “So, it feels incredible to get to bring those parts of you to the table [...] in a way that feels good for everybody watching because people can be seen.”
While Goodman is busy working on Human Resources, he’s hopeful about the future of Big Mouth, which continues to expand its scope of storytelling each season by bringing in more identities and more points of view onscreen and in the writers’ room. Not only that, but “the trauma of puberty is endless... And the ways in which the world is changing, teenagers are having a very different experience than I had,” Goodman says, adding, “I think there is room for plenty of more stories for as long as I think it feels fun to do.”