Hank the octopus may be one of Pixar’s coolest — and, as most of the animators who worked on him might tell you, one of the most difficult — characters in recent studio history, but the voice actor behind the captivating creature took a little more time to get familiar with Hank’s many merits.
Much like director Andrew Stanton was inspired to write Dory from the voice of Ellen DeGeneres, it was the voice of Modern Family star Ed O’Neill that immediately came to mind for Hank, a curmudgeonly old septopus who would help Dory navigate a treacherous aquarium in Pixar’s Finding Nemo sequel, Finding Dory (in theaters June 17).
“We never thought of anyone else,” says Stanton. “I think we’re a product of the TV we were watching at the time, and he’s kind of the Archie Bunker of the day, you know?” Producer Lindsey Collins adds, “You believe, within about 30 seconds, that as gruff as he comes off, he’s hiding something soft and gooey in the middle.”
But O’Neill wasn’t immediately aware that his voiceover role as the “delightful” Hank was more whale- than guppy-sized. The TV icon recounted a story to EW about his journey from never seeing Finding Nemo to discovering he’d been cast as the sequel’s most important new addition — and truly, the story is so charming that it’d be a cephalophodic crime not to let O’Neill tell it: