How to Train Your Dragon star swaps Hollywood for Canadian horror

Jay Baruchel has voiced the much-loved animation for nine years, but he's leaving The Hidden World for something very different.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
5 min read
Universal Pictures

What do you do next when you've spent the best part of a decade playing one of the most-loved characters in animation history? If you're How To Train Your Dragon star Jay Baruchel, you turn your focus to Canada, pop art horror and maybe even a Canadian superhero. 

Baruchel has lent his voice to young viking hero Hiccup since 2010's How to Train Your Dragon. He's been training dragons pretty much continuously since then in two sequels and a TV show, but Hiccup's story comes to an end in the third and final film, the joyous How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World, which opened in the US Friday. 

I caught up with the ebullient Baruchel on the phone from his native Toronto to find out about the future of the Dragons franchise, sneaking Canadianisms into the series and why he's swapped Hollywood for a Canuck superhero.

"How To Train Your Dragon 2" Photo Call

Jay Baruchel with his How to Train Your Dragon co-star Toothless.

Monica Schipper

Q: There are some fairly Canadian elements to the Dragons movies, right? Is that something you and director Dean DeBlois always intended?
Baruchel: They hired me and they hired Dean, we're both Canadian, and I don't know if it's just inevitable our sensibility or sense of humour weaves itself in there. It's been a secret mission of mine throughout these three films to weave in as much hoser as I can get away with. I worry when I say this the studios will hear and go, 'What the f---!' But they don't seem to have an issue with it. F--- it, the thing's out now! 

When you first started, in 2010, did you have any idea it would be this enduring?
Baruchel: Absolutely not. I was raised to be a 'don't count your chickens before they're hatched' type of person, and every movie seems to be something of a crapshoot. I was very proud of the film but I had no idea it would become a phenomenon. I like to say I was shocked but not surprised. 

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Hiccup and Toothless reach the end of their journey in the heartwarming third movie, The Hidden World.

Universal Pictures

How has your relationship with the character Hiccup changed over the years?
Baruchel: Even though when we started he was 14 and I was 24, 25, he has grown up alongside me. Sometimes it's harder to see where I stopped and he began. There has never been a time in my life since I started playing this where I haven't had to play him at some point -- this is the first time. So yeah, it's inherently melancholy for sure.

This is the end of the trilogy, but do you see a future for the Dragons series?
Baruchel: That's above my pay grade. All I know is I've loved every minute of playing Hiccup and the adventure of bringing him to the world, seeing people take him and our characters into their hearts. And if this is it, then goddamn it's been fun and I'm super, super proud. 

What about coming back to the role, maybe seeing a much older Hiccup one day?
Baruchel: I for sure would like that, if for no other reason than getting the chance to do an old man voice.

If there was a reboot, you could be the dad...
Baruchel: I suspect my parents would have a thing or two to say about that!

"How To Train Your Dragon 2" Photo Call

Some of the many fans of the much-loved How to Train Your Dragon movies and TV shows.

Monica Schipper

So you've directed a new movie, Random Acts of Violence, which seems like a change of tone from the Dragons movies.
Baruchel: Yeah [laughs]. If we've done our jobs right, it's a searing bit of pop art horror. We tried to make something legitimately scary that also has a lot to say. I'm real proud of it. We've got two great stars in Jesse Williams and Jordana Brewster, and it's a hell of a movie. I'm convinced if nothing else, people will be floored that they haven't seen this movie before. 

Having made movies like Random Acts of Violence and the Goon films in Canada, do you actually spend much time in Hollywood?
Baruchel: Less and less. I didn't go down at all last year. Which is I think the first time since I started that I went a whole year without being there. My life is increasingly up here. That's by design. I'm very proud of the work I've done in the States, but so long as people want me to make stuff, it behooves me to make it up here. Ours is a baby country with a cultural tapestry that's there to be added to, especially in cinema. And every generation our best and brightest go elsewhere, and by hook or by crook I'm trying to prove them wrong.

America Ferrera And Jay Baruchel Appear Live On "The Morning Show"

Fellow Canadians Dean DeBlois and Jay Baruchel, director and star of the Dragons series.

George Pimentel

Is your goal to create stories in Canada to take to a wider, international audience?
Baruchel: 100 percent. I wanna bring us to the world. I love it here. I'm a patriot and I'm proud to be from where I'm from and to live here. My mom's family served her country, her dad was a career soldier, and two of my uncles. I grew up for better or worse with a true belief in this county and what it means and I want to do what I can to help.

Are there any stories from that history you want to tell?
Baruchel: There's a whole bunch. The worst thing one can be in Canada is a show-off, right? In my family, a failure who's humble is much more palatable than a show-off who's proud and successful. We're very anti-big displays of flag-waving -- outside of the Olympics -- so we haven't been as good at branding and lionizing our history as other countries have. And so, god help me, it's a goal of mine to reach people here and elsewhere with important, interesting, compelling stuff that happened here. There's some crazy s--- that's happened up here, and I wanna tell the world about it.

On that note, you're involved with Chapterhouse Comics, which publishes the superhero Captain Canuck. In this era of superhero movies could we see a Captain Canuck movie?
Baruchel: That's our dream and our ambition to make Canuck flesh, whether it's on a TV screen or movie screen. He's a special character that means a lot to a lot of people. And I think the fact the rest of the world hasn't fallen in love with him is just down to the fact they haven't had the chance to meet him yet!

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