Exclusive Interview: Seth Green discusses Camp WWE and directing Mr. McMahon
For all the risks involved in producing Camp WWE, WWE Network’s first adult-oriented animated series, perhaps the biggest challenge revolved around finding the right type of mad genius to make it happen.
Enter Seth Green. As a star of “Family Guy” and co-founder of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the production company behind “Robot Chicken,” Green knows the intricacies of 21st century animation better than anyone. Add his WWE experiences both in and out of the ring and you have a creative mind who is uniquely qualified to add authenticity and humor to an animated series based in sports-entertainment.
WWE.com recently caught up with Green to discuss his approach for Camp WWE, his experiences working with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and his all-time favorite Superstar.
WWE.COM: Where did the idea for Camp WWE come from?
SETH GREEN: My understanding is that it was Vince McMahon's idea. This has been something that he has wanted to make for a while. After I hosted the  Slammy Awards, somebody put together that we had an animation studio and that we can develop this kind of content. So, WWE came to us with this concept of Vince as the summer camp director with all of the Superstars as the campers and WWE Legends as activities directors.
WWE.COM: When it came to casting, how receptive was Mr. McMahon to the idea of portraying himself in the role?
GREEN: Originally, we had just assumed that we'd have all actors and hadn't thought that anybody would want to play themselves. But when they proposed the idea of Vince playing Vince, that just gave us a completely different opportunity for the kind of content that we would write. He's an expert performer for over 30 years and we had no doubt that we could enhance his existing characteristics into absurdity and that he would be an expert at performing it.
And we were right. I don't think people are ready, man.
WWE.COM: Did Mr. McMahon’s credentials as a veteran performer make recreating him a more intimidating prospect?
GREEN: Once I knew that he'd signed off on the content, I was fearless about directing him. We've worked with all kinds of notable performers and everybody needs something similar in their experience. If we've done our work well, then everybody will have the appropriate environment to do their best work.
WWE.COM: Did you and The Chairman ever butt heads?
GREEN: You know, he's easy, man. You don't have to give Vince McMahon a ton of direction. He's got natural inclination. Sometimes, I needed to say, “Vince, step on this word a little harder,” or “Hold that beat just a little bit” or tone that down or big that up, but, you know, I'm not teaching him anything.
WWE.COM: Watching Camp WWE, it certainly seemed like Mr. McMahon and also WWE Legends like Sgt. Slaughter, Ric Flair and others were game for this project. What about the series made them so willing to participate?
You don't have to give Vince McMahon a ton of direction. He's got natural inclination.
GREEN: There’s a freedom to animation that you don't get in actually being visible. People don't really connect it to the performer or to the personality in the same way as doing something that's on camera. Using these personas in this way is liberating for the performers themselves. They get to be funny, be silly, be weird, be dirty, be mean, whatever it is.
It's a new opportunity and, especially in the safe confines of the record booth, they can go as far as they want. We'll push because that's where the best comedy is, and the extremes of that. We've been just delighted that everybody's so game, but I wouldn't have expected anything else.
WWE.COM: How did you go about reimagining WWE Superstars as 8- and 9-year-old campers?
GREEN: We just stayed true to the characters. We just tried to find the things that are specific about them and then make them applicable.
John Cena's the best example of it because he's such a huge persona, like a champion for so long and so awesome and a good dude. And somehow, over time, with him just being so awesome, it made the audience conflicted: "Do we love this guy? Or, do we hate him for always being so predictably awesome?" Making that into a kid that's not going to quit is just hilarious for us. He's real and never quits, but nobody likes him at the same time.
WWE.COM: One of Camp WWE’s unique attributes is the show’s TV-MA rating. Were there any boundaries?
GREEN: I've made TV-MA network content and this stays right in those parameters. This is on par with “Archer” or “South Park.” We applied that level of intellectual observation to this universe.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper's my guy. That was like the time for me when everything made sense.
We're trying to write stories that are deeply emotionally textured and also madcap silly because these characters are so much larger than life in reality. Once you start to extrapolate, you can get into amazing territory.
WWE.COM: Do you have a favorite Superstar?
GREEN: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper's my guy. That was like the time for me when everything made sense. In the world of all these outrageous good guys and bad guys, Piper was the ultimate undecided. He was weird and awkward and like everybody was constantly telling him to shut up and behave. And he couldn't. He just couldn't, and I really related to that.
WWE.COM: Any ideas bubbling for a season two of Camp WWE?
GREEN: Oh yeah, man. We could run this 10 seasons.
The first season of Camp WWE is available for streaming now on WWE Network.