In Which We Talk About Dogs With ‘Lady And The Tramp’ Voice Stars Tessa Thompson And Justin Theroux

Dogs are pretty great. Unless you’re a cartoon villain or prone to either punishing allergies or crippling fear, you likely agree. Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux? Also pretty great. So when we got the chance to talk about dogs with the voices of Lady and Tramp in the Disney + live-action remake of the 1955 animated classic, Lady And The Tramp (which debuts November 12 on the new streaming service) it was a hard yes. And dear reader, I interrupt this intro blurb to inform you that I also got to meet the dog stars of the movie as well, including Monte, a rescue from New Orleans who plays Tramp and who has his own heartwarming origin story (one of the key tenets of the production was the effort to promote rescue pets and work them into the production when possible). The read: Tramp plays it cool, but was totally friendly and gave me a little nuzzle on the back of my hand. Lady? Kinda Lady-esque. Happy to be there and happy to be admired.

We spoke with Thompson and Theroux about the cuteness of these dogs, the cuteness (and gotcha stories) of their dogs, the Trampyness of my dog, and then also a couple of things about the movie before an impromptu Little Mermaid singalong. As you’ll glean from reading below, the two have no shortage of charm or chemistry — something that absolutely pairs well with their very good dog co-stars in a remake that manages to respect the original and stand on its own two (or four) legs.

Damn, those dogs are cute.

Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux [In unison]: Aren’t they?

I don’t get starstruck usually, but I don’t mind telling you guys, you see those dogs walking through the hallway and they’re just like royalty.

Theroux: I know!

It’s amazing. So, tell me a little bit about why you each wanted to sign on for this film?

Theroux: Well, I mean, it’s Lady And The Tramp. It’s sort of like being asked to read a classic book on tape. That was the first sort of thing that perked my ears up. And then, obviously, the fact that they used a bunch of shelter dogs in this was another cool thing. That there was going to be some updating of it, some needed updating, it just was a cool part. Then Tessa came on, so that’s obviously a very cool thing and I love Charlie Bean.

Thompson: Yeah, I second all those reasons and I’ve never done… You’ve done this voice work before a bit right?

Theroux: Yeah, a little bit.

Thompson: I’ve never done any of this, I was always curious to try [it].

Did you get a chance to record together or is it all in separate sessions?

Theroux: We were very lucky. We’ve recorded almost exclusively together.

I’ve spoken with other voice actors and that is a very rare thing. That enhances the experience I, assume?

Thompson: I think it does. I think it also translates to an audience. Obviously there’s scheduling issues and projects where you can’t do it, but I swear I’ve watched certain movies and I can just tell when two people are not in the same room.

Theroux: Animation you can do this, you can overlap. [But] there’s something that just feels more tangible in the room when you can sort of sit there and… like if there’s a scene where they’re being awkward with each other or laughing, it’s hard to stitch that together if you’re doing it in two different cities.

Thompson: Yeah.

Was Lady And The Tramp your favorite Disney movie growing up? If not, what’s your favorite?

Thompson: I was massively, massively obsessed with Little Mermaid. I was a super fan. I knew everything. All the words and stuff.

Theroux: What was the lobster’s name?


Theroux: I also love that song.

Thompson: You liked this, [Singing] “Under the sea…?” I liked, you know the one everyone likes… [Sings] “Look at this stuff…

Theroux: [Joins in] “Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think…”

Thompson: You know some of the words?

Theroux: I know some of the words, yeah.

Thompson: You were a Lion King guy?

Theroux: I love Lion King.

Thompson: Bambi?

Theroux: Bambi, but I mean Bambi and Dumbo were the first times I was properly traumatized in the best way because obviously they have happy endings, but the thing I like about Disney movies is they aren’t afraid to give you sort of the unvarnished truth about things. They put a lot of honey around whatever pill you have to swallow. But you know, people or animals die in these movies, and the stakes are very high and true to life. Maybe less so now. But you know, even in this movie, I was choking up. There’s a whole sort of thing about the “door of no return.”

Yeah, that was hard. I was thinking about that. You’re right, though.

Theroux: That’s a brutal thing. They’re not explicit about what happens on the other side of that door, but you pretty much know what happens. There’s real jeopardy involved.

So, you’re obviously both dog people.

Theroux: Totes.

Tell me your dog stories. Let’s just talk about dogs.

Thompson: I just adopted a dog. I was fostering him and I fell in love. I met him at a cafe. True.

Theroux: [Laughs] My God, It’s like Lady And The Tramp!

Thompson: I was just getting a coffee. He was having bolognese. No, I went to this place in LA, really fantastic place called Dog Cafe LA, and they take dogs from kill shelters and you could just go… you don’t pay any money, you can just hang out with the dogs. All the dogs can be fostered and can be adopted and they encourage people to do that. But it’s a nice way to be around them, and I just went because I love dogs and I want to, like, hang out with them. So I went one day with a friend where I was like, “Lets go hang out with dogs.” Thinking I’m not ready to have a dog, I travel too much, and I don’t know how to do it. And then that week I happened to have the week off. Because you can foster, I convinced them to let me take him the next day. And I had him for four days and then I just kept going back every week to foster him until I realized I had given him a name, Coltrane. I had, like, bought him another leash. I was looking at beds. I realized he was my dog and I was his, so he just came to New York for the first time.

Theroux: Traveling together now. This is getting very serious!

Thompson: [Laughs] Yes, we’re traveling together. He’s met every member of my family.

Theroux: How long have you been together? I mean, a month?

Thompson: A month.

Theroux: Whoa!

A little quick.

Theroux: It’s very quick.

Thompson: We went public as soon as I posted on Instagram.

It’s official now.

Theroux: It’s offish.

What kind of dog is he?

Thompson: He’s a Border Collie mix or something. He’s a mutt. He’s sweet. He’s my screen saver too.

Theroux: That’s how you know it’s official.

What’s your dog story, Justin?

Theroux: My dog is named Kuma. I was in Austin, Texas looking for a dog. I did some work with the shelter there, and then I saw a picture on Petfinder of this dog that was a short two and a half hours away in Houston. Because obviously from Harvey, they had all these dogs that were abandoned or were already abandoned regardless of whether there was a hurricane. And I fell in love with her. And so I went and met her because you know I want to make sure… I had kind of been prowling around other shelters and I had gone to Austin Pets Alive and you know…

Thompson: So you were looking for a dog?

Theroux: I was looking for a dog.

Thompson: You were looking for your soul mate?

Theroux: I was looking for, I mean, but I’ve had many souls mates.

Thompson: Dog soul mates?

Theroux: Oh yeah, this is like my fifth dog. I’ve had many, many dogs. Always, for the most part, exclusively pitbulls. My last one is still my screensaver. Puma, who was a little white bull. She died like 10 years ago. And I met this dog. I was having a renovation done, so I wasn’t quite ready. So I ran back to New York, got everything dialed in and had her flown up. And it’s been literally… I mean she is in the running to be, maybe, my favorite dog.

Pits get such a bad rap.

Theroux: Of course they do.

It’s such an unfortunate thing.

Theroux: They’re just the best. I am so deeply in love with her that even now being separated by, I don’t know, a few floors, I’m wondering what she’s up to and missing her.

‘Lady And The Tramp’ debuts on Disney + Tuesday November 12.