It’s been a full decade since the world was introduced to the awkward awesomeness that is Napoleon Dynamite and his sweet dance moves. Few low-budget indie comedies rise as quickly to cult status as Napoleon Dynamite did in 2004. I was well out of high school at the time of the movie’s release, but remember it was near impossible to be within earshot of a teenager for more than 15 seconds without hearing a Napoleon Dynamite quote. (“Your mom goes to college” loses its luster long before the 50th time you hear it.)
Earlier this week, several members of the cast gathered together at Fox studios in Los Angeles to unveil a commemorative bronze statue of Napoleon Dynamite — wearing a “VOTE FOR PEDRO” shirt of course. Uncle Rico was also on hand to narrate a panel with the cast where we learned things like the fact that Efren Ramirez (Pedro) has a bulk supply of “VOTE FOR PEDRO” shirts in his garage that he plans on passing down to his children.
All the Napoleon nostalgia had me wondering what the cast had been up to since Pedro won the student election that gripped a community. Did Kip and LaFawnduh make it? Did Uncle Rico ever move out of his van? Is Tina still a fat lard? I need answers… to the internet!
Napoleon (Jon Heder)
Back in 2003, Jon Heder was just an aspiring actor who put together the short film Peluca with filmmakers Jared and Jerusha Hess. Since his permed hair-fame, Heder has worked steadily in Hollywood, landing some pretty nice comedy gigs in the early 2000s like School for Scoundrels and Blades of Glory. He’s also made a few runs on cancelled TV series — that oddly enough both involve death — you’ve probably never heard of like Dead Grandma and Woke Up Dead.
After the the short-lived Napoleon Dynamite animated series a couple years ago, Heder shifted his sights back towards film work with the occasional TV cameo (How I Met Your Mother). Later this year he’ll be in the comedy Killing Winston James with Richard Dreyfuss and Danny Glover
Kip (Aaron Ruell)
Since running off with LaFawnduh, Aaron Ruell has grown his sweet mustache into a full-on hipster beard. As far as acting goes, Ruell has kept a rather minimal schedule, doing a few low-budget comedies like Think Tank and reuniting for the Napoleon animated series — just to get it out of the way, EVERYONE reunited for the animated series. Ruell’s profession these days is as a photographer, and a rather accomplished one as well. He shot all the promotional photography for Napoleon Dynamite and in 2008 was awarded “Best Advertising” for his work with Citibank by Photo District News magazine.
Uncle Rico (Jon Gries)
Actor Jon Gries already had a very solid career as a character actor under his belt before signing on as douchetastic Uncle Rico. Before Napoleon Gries worked on everything from The Jeffersons to Monster Squad, Seinfeld, and Get Shorty. Since hitting on Napoleon’s classmates, Gries has continued on with steady character work on acclaimed shows like Lost, Sons of Anarchy, and The Bridge. Currently, he has six projects in various states of development one of them being next year’s Taken 3.
Pedro (Efren Ramirez)
Napoleon helped Pedro not only win the school election, but launch a film career. Efren Ramirez had worked for decade before Napoleon Dynamite came along with small roles on shows like Boston Public and Judging Amy, but the indie success pushed him into bigger — if only slightly — roles.
Since 2004, Ramirez has worked steadily in movies like Employee of the Month, Casa de mi Padre, and, a personal favorite, as Catuey on Eastbound & Down. When not shooting film projects, Ramirez tours as a DJ, helping to coordinate Austin’s annual rave, the Nocturnal Festival. He’ll also appear in the animated series Bordertown with Hank Azaria next year.
Deb (Tina Majorino)
Pedro’s prom date Deb embarked on a successful TV career after the school year ended. Actress Tina Mojorino hasn’t done much film work since wrapping Napoleon Dynamite, but she’s been all over the small screen as a regular cast member and frequent guest star on Grey’s Anatomy, Big Love, True Blood, Bones, and probably her most well-known show, Veronica Mars. Earlier this year, Majorino revisited her Mars’ character Cindy ‘Mac’ Mackenzie for the Veronica Mars movie.
Rex (Diedrich Bader)
Before introducing the world to the ancient martial art of Rex Kwon Do, Diedrich Bader was helping to launch caffeinated craft beer, Buzz Beer with Drew Carey, obviously. We haven’t seen a lot of Bader much since schooling Kip on wrist-bruising defense tactics, but if you’ve watched a cartoon show for more than five minutes, you’ve probably heard his voice. Bader’s voiceover work resume stretches a mile long with everything from King of the Hill to the popular Phineas and Ferb and Monsters vs. Aliens. In terms of live action stuff, Bader showed up in Netflix’s relaunch of Arrested Development and earlier this year made two appearances on Veep.
Summer Wheatly (Haylie Duff)
So whatever happened to the b*tchy popular girl from Napoleon’s high school? Duff went on to record a few pop records with her younger sister, Hillary, and has worked steadily in both film, Broadway, and television since 2004. Granted, many of those movie and TV roles I’ve never heard of, but Duff did secure a regular spot on WB sap-fest, 7th Heaven. Later this year she’ll appear in the horror film Desecrated and the probably-not-at-all-a-horror-film, Muffin Top: A Love Story
Grandma (Sandy Martin)
Much like Jon Gries, actress Sandy Martin was a regularly working character actor before signing-on to chastise Napoleon to just fix “a dang quesadilla.” Martin has been working in the NYC theater scene since she was 15 years old and has served as producer on several of TNT’s film productions, including the theatrical release, Gettysburg.
In terms of acting, Martin has worked on the films The Great Buck Howard and Seven Psychopaths. Really though, I think we can all agree that Martin’s greatest work as a thespian is her portrayal of chain-smoking Mac’s mom on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
LaFawnduh (Shondrella Avery)
Before finding true love via internet chat rooms with Kip, actress Shondrella Avery worked as a stand-up comic, eventually landing a small part on The Jamie Foxx Show. Since 2004 Avery hasn’t done a lot of film work, but the films she has been in aren’t too shabby: Domino, Deja Vu, and 2012’s End of Watch. Avery is advocate for the positive mentoring of children in South Central L.A. working with both WGA Writer’s Program for teens and athletic charity Coach Art.
Currently, she and her husband are developing a documentary-style comedy series that examines African-American culture and as Avery describes, is a cross between Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office.
Tina the Llama
I can’t say if Tina’s acting career has taken off since Napoleon Dynamite, but I can confirm that she made an appearance at the 10 year reunion.
The reunion was obviously a huge success.