Cedric Yarbrough Interview: ‘Speechless’ and ‘Paradise PD’

Cedric Yarbrough in Speechless

Mason Cook, Micah Fowler, Kyla Kenedy and Cedric Yarbrough in ‘Speechless’ (ABC/Angus Young)

Speechless returned for a third season on October 5, 2018 as part of the relaunch of ABC’s TGIF Friday Night. With the DiMeos still out of a house, they went to London, so this week will see them come back home to sort it all out.

Cedric Yarbrough was at ABC’s presentation day for the Television Critics Association and Showbiz Junkies was able to talk with him one on one about what’s in store for Kenneth and JJ (Micah Fowler) this season. Speechless airs Fridays at 8:30pm ET/PT on ABC, and you can also hear Yarbrough’s voice on Netflix’s new animated series Paradise PD.

After a few seasons, has Kenneth gotten a better sense of being JJ’s voice?

Cedric Yarbrough: “Yes, especially that first season, it was rocky. Kenneth had never been an aid to anyone before. So, with that, you kind of have to learn your person, as he has to learn me. We’re still doing that. We’re still in the process of learning each other and JJ may be going on to college this year, so we’re also trying to figure out what that’s going to mean with the family and particularly with Kenneth. Will Kenneth still be with the family? Will Kenneth still be with JJ? We’re all figuring that out. And even as an actor, I took a little while to figure out what this show is and how I fit in. Kenneth is more comfortable, but I think we all are learning each episode.”

Which episode in season one do you think was where you got it?

Cedric Yarbrough: “It’s interesting that you ask that because when I do the character of Kenneth, I’m supposed to be reading for JJ. Now Micah’s not actually pointing at anything on the board for me to read. What I have to do is memorize what he’s going to say.”

The laser is added in post?

Cedric Yarbrough: “They add the laser in post. It looks great. It looks fantastic but people don’t really realize, it’s kind of a schizophrenic monologue that I have to process. So, I’m reading for him, pretending to read for him and then responding as Kenneth. So, you would hear the difference between those two characters, at least that’s what I’m trying to do. To be able to give him his voice, his inflection but also pretend like I’m reading. So that was a process for me.

Around the Halloween episode is when I finally started to get what this means and how hard it’s going to be to try to do that each week. It’s still quite difficult but I’m getting more and more used to it. It’s a schizophrenic monologue that I have to do each and every week, but it’s challenging, it’s fun. I’m glad that it looks like I’m actually reading. It looks like he’s pointing.”

Is Kenneth part of the family now?

Cedric Yarbrough: “Oh, Kenneth is definitely part of the family now. Sometimes family isn’t just blood. You choose. Kenneth has definitely chosen to be a part of their family and luckily they’ve also chosen Kenneth to be part of theirs.”

What else is coming up in season three besides impending college?

Cedric Yarbrough: “Well, last year the DiMeos went through a lot of problems, whether it be losing their house, or JJ is now graduating from high school. We ate a lot of our vegetables last year. This year I think we’re going to have a lot more fun. JJ is going to go on to college, I believe. Ray is going to try to meet some more girls. I believe Kenneth might even have a love life this year, so we’re going to have a lot more fun and we’re really excited to be a part of TGIF and carry on that tradition.”

You’re playing two animated cops now?

Cedric Yarbrough: “I am. They keep pulling me back in, as Al Pacino would say. We’re doing Paradise PD on Netflix. It’s probably the dirtiest material I’ve ever done. It’s quite explicit but for those who love animation and love that kind of material, they’re going to eat it up.”

Is it anything like Reno 911 playing an incompetent cop?

Cedric Yarbrough: “Doing an animated cop is very different than the one I did on Reno. Reno was all improvised and flying by the seat of our pants. This is very, very written. Netflix has to approve of everything. But I love animation, I love live-action. Very different, but I love the work.”


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