Interview by uInterview Founder Erik Meers

Phyllis Smith was one of the many talented comedic actors who lent their talents to Disney Pixar’s acclaimed animated picture Inside Out. As Sadness, Smith was the emotional foil of Amy Poehler‘s Joy – but that wasn’t always the case.

Phyllis Smith On ‘Inside Out’

Pete Docter, the filmmaker behind such animated classics as Monster’s Inc and Up, originally had Sadness as more of a background player in Inside Out, a film which explores the emotions of 11-year-old Riley. After the film was completed, however, Docter realized that Sadness needed to be more central to the story if he wanted his film to work.

“Pete knew something wasn’t quite right, wasn’t quite the right mix, and he thought he was gonna be fired,” Smith told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “He got very sad about it and he was thinking long and hard, and all of a sudden it dawned on him that Sadness was the pairing for Joy and not Fear. So, I just got blessed all the way around didn’t I?”

Smith was also blessed with having Poehler as a costar and primary scene-mate. The Office actress, who says she aspires “to be Amy Poehler” when she grows up, revealed that the Parks and Recreation star was incredibly helpful in the studio.

“There was one scene that we were doing that I was just having trouble getting the validity of this line, and she said, ‘Phil why don’t we just change this?’” Smith revealed. “And, she changed like a couple of words and it just worked perfectly.”

In addition to getting the lines right, Smith had to find her voice as Sadness. Wary of being grating with a whiny tone, Smith opted to tap into the broader idea of fears and insecurities.

“Pete Docter [and I] both agreed that whining and crying would have a short life and it wouldn’t last for 90 minutes. So we knew that there had to be more to Sadness than to be a complaining whiner,” said Smith. “So, we ended up going into her insecurities, which was very cathartic for me as well because I was able to use my fear and insecurities over not having done much voice-over before. So, Sadness and I kind of grew together through this film.”

Inside Out is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as on multiple digital platforms.