Harvey Guillen Talks Positive Inspiration of Apple TV+ Series 'Shape Island,' Finding 'Empathic' Voice for Square Character (Exclusive)

Apple TV+s' new family series Shape Island is a wonderful depiction of friendship overcoming differences, offering positive inspiration for young viewers. The show is a stop-motion animation adaptation of the iconic shapes book series by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Recently, PopCulture.com had a chance to speak with actor Harvey Guillen (What We Do In The Shadows, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish) who voices Square, a kind character who is the unofficial leader of his friend group, which also includes Triangle (Scott Adsit) and Circle (Gideon Adlon). 

During our conversation, Guillen opened up about what went into finding Square's "empathetic" voice, why he strongly recommend the show to his own family, and what initially attracted him to the project in the first place. "I'm such a fan of the books," Guillen told us. "They're just beautifully illustrated... and I always wanted to be part of something with stop motion animation, and so this was kind of the perfect kind of package for that." He continued, "When I read the script I was like, 'Oh, this is great.'"

Elaborating on his first impressions of the story, Guillen shared, "It has great morals at the end of each episode. It's teaching kids things that you wouldn't assume that you could watch from an animated series or a stop motion series where it's just how to tap in to see if something's bothering you or how to communicate with others and how to know that there's different people in this world and we all coexist. Those little things like that that as adults we're like, 'That makes sense.' But as a child, you're a sponge and you're absorbing everything around you and have to remember that positivity and good morals and empathy are taught. They have to be in you, but they have to be brought out of you."

Guillen also noted that Shape Island is a kind of "it takes a village" show, offering children a certain perspective that may otherwise not be present in their life. "I think with Shape Island, you'll be comfortable letting your kids watch this series because they'll walk away entertained. It's beautifully done. The scenes and everything, just it's absolutely stunning."

The actor went on to reveal that he watched the entire first season on a flight back to L.A. from New York, following the show's premiere. "I had to watch them all because it was so beautifully done. And when you read something on a script, you're like, 'This is great. How's this going to work out?'" Ultimately, Guillen found himself so enamored with "the way the artists and the animators and everyone worked together" to craft the show that he immediately began recommending it to his own family.

"I don't personally have kids. I have nieces and I'm a godfather, and... I texted my brother from the plane and I was like, 'You have to make Scarlet watch this. She's going to love this.' And I usually don't do that. I never put my work to be like, 'You have to watch what I'm doing.' So I'm usually like, 'Eh, if you want to watch it, you want to watch it.' But with this time around, I was just like, 'You have to make Scarlet watch this.'" Guillen then joked that his family often "forgets that I'm even in the entertainment industry," which helps "keep me grounded in that where I can never let my ego or anything float away."

After showing their daughter the show, Guillen says his brother came back with high praise: His niece "loves" Shape Island. "She's autistic, and so, for her, it really had to captivate and grab her attention. She loves shapes. She collects these little toys and they're very specific and she has a routine." One episode, in particular, made a huge impact, the actor shared, "The episode where Square has a routine and that's okay. It's okay to have a routine and know that for you that works. Some other people might be not as meticulous or not as precise as you are, and that's okay."

Guillen continued, "Not everyone is like Square and not everyone is like Circle. Not everyone is like Triangle because we're all living in this giant island shaped and it's the perfect message. So I'm just so glad to be a part of it."

When it came to figuring out Square's voice, Guillen explained, "We started with, I think it was the last episode first, and we started finding his voice. We knew that we wanted Square to be very empathetic, very endearing and sweet, and not causing too much trouble, always playing by the rules, but also to show that we could relate to him. We could be on his side. So, even though he goes through challenges, we relate to him as well."

"Finding the voice was like," Guillen added, "it had to be this a little bit of a higher register... and his tone had to be a little bit smooth and almost soothing to the ear. So it was never harsh and never punched out the vowels like someone like Triangle. Triangle is very energetic and full of life and it's always, and every word is shouted." He also praised working with his castmates, which also includes Yvette Nicole Brown (Community, Big Shots), saying that everyone's voices "blend so well" together. 

"To find his voice, it was like it had to complement all the other voices," Guillen went on to day. "And the three of them had to be different from each other that you knew exactly who each character was the second they say a line. And that's kind of, I think, what we achieved with the series." All episodes of Shape Island Season 1 are now streaming on Apple TV+.