Cecily Strong Talks Animated Movie Debut, Singing & Influencing Her Character


  • Adam Sandler assembles a talented cast of SNL veterans for the heartwarming and funny animated comedy musical, Leo.
  • Cecily Strong talks about her experience voicing her character in Leo and how the writing helped shape her arc.
  • The process of bringing the animated character to life through voice acting and collaborating with the animators was an interesting and fun experience for Strong.

Adam Sandler has once again assembled some Saturday Night Live veterans for Leo. The animated comedy musical centers on an elderly tuatara who attempts to escape his classroom home upon learning he’s dying and wants to see the world. However, when he starts getting assigned to go home with some of the students on the weekends, he realizes his life experiences can help some of them with their problems.

Alongside Sandler, who also co-wrote the movie, the ensemble Leo cast includes Bill Burr, Cecily Strong, Jason Alexander, Rob Schneider, Allison Strong, Jo Koy, Sadie and Sunny Sandler, Coulter Ibanez, Bryant Tardy, Corey J., Ethan Smigel, Tienya Safko and Roey Smigel. Taking a more subdued approach to its comedy while tapping into its co-writer and star’s biggest strengths, the movie is one of Sandler’s best.

Related: Leo Ending Explained

In anticipation of the movie’s release, Screen Rant interviewed star Cecily Strong to discuss Leo, making her animated movie debut, showing off her singing skills, and influencing the creation of her character.

Cecily Strong Talks Leo

Leo Ms Malkin Note

Screen Rant: I’m very excited to talk about this movie. It is such a sweet, heartwarming film from start to finish. Now, of course, you have your own ties to SNL, as a lot of people behind the camera did on this one. You have Schmigadoon!, where you got to explore some of your musical expertise. Did they just hand this movie to you?

Cecily Strong: You know, sure, I’d like to think so! I felt I was very lucky, I thought I was just kind of doing the reading, and it was exciting for me to get to do anything with Sandler and Smigel. So then, luckily, somehow they liked what I did at that table reading, and I got to do the project. I’ve learned about how an animated movie is made during this couple of years with them. And I agree, I just thought it was so sweet, and so funny, and just had such a big heart. So, of course, I immediately wanted to be part of it.

Now, what is it like getting to the heart of an animated character, especially one like this, where pretty much of the movie we have a hard time connecting with her, but then we start to learn more about her and try and sympathize with her. What is that like from your perspective?

Cecily Strong: Definitely, well, I think a lot of that was writing. They did that with the writing, sort of letting her have a bit more of an arc. I think she went through a couple iterations, and we kind of landed on this, so she had more of a story. And you can see she’s this way, because she’s not who she necessarily wants to be, she wants to be a good teacher, and she just sort of only knows this one way of doing things. So I thought it was nice. They said, “There’s no bad guys in this movie. Maybe the alligators, but they’re just alligators, they’re just doing what they do.”

They’re just living their lives, it’s okay! What was it like finding her voice, then, knowing the arc that she was going to have and knowing that she was going to go from the strict substitute to this very kind, thoughtful person?

Cecily Strong: Yeah, so I think we definitely started with she’s much harsher and sort of like a 1950s [vibe]. She’s old school, really, is I guess the easiest way to say that. And then, as we went along, we just tried to soften her up on a couple lines, and in rewrites and things, they wrote a couple softer lines, and even in the song, she gets to croon a little.

Leo Ms Malkin Shoulder

I love that. What was it like, in the recording process, seeing some of the drawings or the animatics as you’re putting in the voice in comparison to being live-action, embodying these characters?

Cecily Strong: It’s funny, because some things you’re informing by the voiceover that you’ve done, and then the second time you go in, the drawing is informing what you’re doing. So, it’s a really interesting process in that way, like, “Oh, okay, that’s what she looks like.” Especially when it just comes to the making of sounds, you know, “How does she sound running? How does she sound giggling?” That was all really fun to figure out with them.

About Leo

Actor and comedian Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania, The Wedding Singer) delivers signature laughs in this coming-of-age animated musical comedy about the last year of elementary school – as seen through the eyes of a class pet. Jaded 74-year-old lizard Leo (Sandler) has been stuck in the same Florida classroom for decades with his terrarium-mate turtle (Bill Burr). When he learns he only has one year left to live, he plans to escape to experience life on the outside but instead gets caught up in the problems of his anxious students — including an impossibly mean substitute teacher. It ends up being the strangest but most rewarding bucket list ever…

Check out our other Leo interviews here:

Leo is now streaming on Netflix.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

  • Leo Netflix 2023 Movie Poster


    Release Date:

    Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, David Wachtenheim

    Adam Sandler, Bill Burr, Cecily Strong, Jason Alexander, Sunny Sandler, Sadie Sandler, Rob Schneider, Jackie Sandler, Stephanie Hsu, Jo Koy


    102 Minutes

    Animation, Comedy

    Robert Smigel, Adam Sandler, Paul Sado

    Netflix Animation, Happy Madison Productions



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