In his first starring role, Calgary high school student Finn Lee-Epp plays “Ryder,” a boy who leads a team of courageous pups, in the highly-anticipated PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie.
Lee-Epp says his parents broke the news that he got the part a few weeks after his audition.
“I was at school, and my dad texted me, ‘Come outside right now,'” said Lee-Epp, adding that the message made him panic, thinking the worst.
“I ran outside, got in their car… The first thing my mom said to me was ‘Hello, Ryder…’ I instantly knew I was [cast as] Ryder.”
The 14-year-old voiced the animated film in a Calgary audio studio over the course of about eight months, often joined by the film’s Canadian director, Cal Brunker, coaching Lee-Epp through the process.
Lee-Epp says learning how to be a voice actor has been a fun and exciting experience.
“I just tried to be really animated when I did the audition,” he said during an interview on CBC Radio’s The Homestretch.
“I think, in animated movies, you have to be five times more animated than in a normal live action movie because [people] can’t see your face. You have to be able to hear all that emotion in your voice.”
Lee-Epp says he remembers watching the show with his younger brother, something he believes helped him familiarize himself with Ryder and prepare for the audition.
But Lee-Epp says he didn’t get to see the character designs for the feature film until his last voicing session.
“It was really surreal seeing my voice with these animated characters,” he said.
The PAW Patrol franchise — originally a Canadian-made TV series debuting on Nickelodeon around 10 years ago — follows the story of a young boy named Ryder and his team of heroic dogs as they keep the town of Adventure Bay safe, learning lessons along the way.
“It’s a really unique show. There’s not a lot of shows like that with dogs with all these special machines, special powers… It’s quite different from anything else, and it’s actually quite exciting to watch, too.”
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PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie features stars like Taraji P. Henson, James Marsden, Serena Williams, Chris Rock, Kim Kardashian, and others. The Paramount Pictures film hits theatres on Sept. 29.
A future in film
While Lee-Epp’s leading role in the new PAW Patrol film is his first time voice acting, it’s certainly not his first movie. He also played Kevin Costner and Diane Lane’s son in the 2020 dramatic thriller, Let Him Go.
Currently in Grade 10, Lee-Epp says he’s passionate about pursuing an acting career — he says that being an actor was something he’s wanted since he was only about eight years old.
“I would love for this to be my career,” he said.
“It’s so cool to me, I love making little videos and acting. It’s all so much fun.”