TV Shows
Published August 11, 2022

‘I Am Groot’: Brad Winderbaum and Kirsten Lepore on Bringing The Troublemaker Sapling to Life

Five new shorts are now streaming on Disney+!

Groot

Ever wondered what Groot is up to when he’s not helping save the galaxy with the rest of his friends? One word: trouble.

But, trouble in the sense that he’s a mischievous little sentient alien tree with a huge sense of wonder who just wants to see it all, and do it all. Marvel Studios’ I Am Groot focuses on the titular character while he’s still a little baby, fresh out of his pot, and ready to explore the great, big galaxy at his disposal. What could possibly go wrong? Three words: Lots of stuff.

Things might go sideways, but they do so in the most adorable sense — this is Groot, after all!

With five brand new original shorts now streaming on Disney+, Marvel.com talked to Brad Winderbaum, Executive Producer and Executive Television/Streaming/Animation for Marvel Studios, and Kirsten Lepore, Executive Producer, Writer, Director of the shorts, about all things Groot. As Groot himself would say about the series, “I am Groot!”

Groot

MARVEL.COM: There are hundreds of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why is Groot the best one to receive his own collection of original shorts?

BRAD WINDERBAUM: At the Studio, we have been talking for quite some time about bringing Groot back to the screen. You fall in love with him in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and then by the mid-credits, he's already a teenager.

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, it felt like time would just be endless, and there were infinite adventures you could have as a child. So there was a whole universe of possibilities in Baby Groot and stories to tell, and we knew that Kirsten would be the best person to tell those stories.

KIRSTEN LEPORE: He is just so much fun to watch. He's been so much fun to write for. All we had to do was just come up with these really commonplace childhood scenarios, and then as soon as you drop Groot into them, they're suddenly like so much more interesting and funnier and endlessly entertaining. I'm excited for audiences, who I know already have a soft spot for Baby Groot. I'm excited for them to learn more about this character through these shorts.

MARVEL.COM: Kirsten, you're pulling triple duty on this. When you started envisioning these stories, was there a certain point you started at? Was it a scenario or a thing or even something like the ending of one of these stories?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: We made a huge running list with our story editor and storyboard artist for things from childhood that we all went through and could relate to that would be these universal themes. I think we came up with about like 30 log lines or something for this first batch and then presented them to Brad and [Marvel Studios President] Kevin [Feige], who just picked their favorites. Then we just took that and ran and totally flesh them out into the stories that you see on screen.

MARVEL.COM: Was there anything you pitched that was like, ooh, this is too much for Baby Groot to do?

BRAD WINDERBAUM: I mean, honestly, no. Kirsten was from the beginning in line with what we wanted out of the character, what [Guardians of the Galaxy director] James [Gunn] wanted out of the character, and honed in on that childlike mischievousness that I think everyone appreciates in Baby Groot.

KIRSTEN LEPORE: To be honest, there were some things that we definitely would throw on that list of log lines, where we were like, OK, we'll put this in there, but it's too weird. They're never going to go for this, and then those were the ones that you guys picked. And I was like, this is such a wonderful testament to these fantastic people that I'm getting to work with, where they really supported us in our creativity and strangeness at times.

MARVEL.COM: I was at Comic-Con and I was in the animation panel, and Kirsten you mentioned that you have a toddler. So a lot of the things Groot does mirror a real life toddler. Can you talk about pulling inspiration from your real life and how Groot just is a troublesome toddler himself?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: Sometimes, people — especially people that don't have kids — are just like, oh, so cute, whatever. And it's like, no, when you're living with a toddler, you get the whole spectrum. You get the whole gamut of like what a human can be. Like sometimes, they're really sweet and they make the right choices, and sometimes they make some really misguided decisions.

But like you know an even more specific example, there are things all the time that pop up. Like the other day, literally my son crawled [into the sink] — he's too big to be taking a bath in this thing. But he like crawled up on the sink, put his feet in it, and I was like, oh my god, you are Groot taking a bath right now. Like this is literally what I just wrote on screen, and now you're doing it. And he's like making potions and doing the whole thing.

MARVEL.COM: How much collaboration did you have with James Gunn? Because he's the one who'd really like shepherded Baby Groot, and now you're taking him over for a bit. How much back and forth was there?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: We had a really fantastic meeting at the beginning, where we talked about who this character is, because he created Baby Groot. So I wanted to make sure I did this character justice. There were a lot of discussions in the beginning. He gave me a couple of really wonderful tidbits to think about, to meditate on this character. One of them was that he's kind of a bad baby, and then the other one was that he's an emoji guy, which I thought was such a cool phrase to think about when you think of Groot.

Because like, first of all, he kind of looks like an emoji. He just has like two eyes in a mouth. He doesn't even have a nose. But when you really think about the character, he'll just like shoot you a face or like strike a pose, and you're just like, oh my gosh, I completely understand just with that one expression what this emotion is and what you're going for.

MARVEL.COM:  Do you remember very early conversations with Vin Diesel, telling him that Baby Groot is back, and this is what he's going to do. Do you remember initially bringing this up to him?

BRAD WINDERBAUM: He's always been enthusiastic about the character. He wants to play the character in every iteration, and he really puts himself into the role completely, like he would any role. Kirsten, you could talk about working with him, but it's amazing how much he really studies every single scene, so he can get the perfect inflection out of each line of dialogue.

KIRSTEN LEPORE: In our record session, that's when he watched the episodes for the first time, and I was just astounded. Like he was able to watch it, completely absorb it, and then just nail the performance like the first time through. Like he just ran through the whole thing, did all the efforts and grunts and breaths, as well as the “I am Groots”, and just gave us this incredible wealth of stuff to play with in the edit.

MARVEL.COM: I would love to know what is both of your favorite episodes from this first batch of shorts and why it's your favorite?

BRAD WINDERBAUM: Impossible question to answer!

KIRSTEN LEPORE: I know.

BRAD WINDERBAUM: They're all so different and good for different reasons. It's like it's really hard to choose. I don't know about you, Kirsten. Do you have a favorite?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: Am I allowed to pick a favorite? I don't know.

MARVEL.COM: It is like picking a favorite kid.

KIRSTEN LEPORE: I've been giving a really diplomatic answer for this. I have my favorite moments for each of them. I love the leaf fart moment. That's one of my favorite moments.

I love the dance battle. That's one of my favorite moments. Everything has something that was my visual ah spark that I'm really excited that we made it in there.

MARVEL.COM: When Groot accidentally sets the ship on fire and Rocket realizes, that got a laugh out loud moment from me, because it's just like the reaction to everything.

BRAD WINDERBAUM: That is like being a parent in a nutshell.

KIRSTEN LEPORE: Yeah. I think that was your suggestion, Brad, where you're just like, he really needs to like get payback for blowing a hole in the ship. Like what's going to happen? And I feel like it's a perfect ending to the series.

MARVEL.COM: I know there are some more shorts coming too. Is there anything you can tease about the future of Baby Groot and what he might be up to next?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: I can't tease too much, but I'll say that, if you enjoy these misadventures of Groot, you're definitely going to enjoy the second season. Yeah. I think we're in a groove, and I think we're getting pretty good at showcasing Groot in these really funny scenarios. So excited for people to see the next batch.

I Am Groot is now streaming on Disney+! 

Related

TV Shows

Shop Marvel Must Haves: 'She-Hulk' Episode 6

Celebrate Lulu's big day!

TV Shows

Exhibit A — New ‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ Posters

Court is in session every Thursday.

TV Shows

‘She-Hulk’: Star Jameela Jamil and Director Anu Valia on Creating The Scariest Villain with Titania

"If someone wants to humiliate me and dress me down? There's truly nothing worse.”

TV Shows

‘She-Hulk’ Episode 6: Jennifer Walters Vs. Lulu’s Wedding

Yes, it's a self-contained wedding episode!