Q: "Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith," in which you play a real-life felon-turned-minister, is grittier than many Hallmark Hall of Fame projects. Did you find it that way when you first read the script?
A: It was something I couldn't really say "No" to, based on the character's journey and the opportunity to work with Hallmark again. It had been 20 years, maybe a little more, since I did "Decoration Day" with them -- and to play with (co-stars) Brad Whitford and Martin Landau was nice.
Q: Did you get to talk to author Albom much about the story?
A: Yeah, Mitch was around every day. He was always on the set, so we got to hang a little bit. Henry (Fishburne's alter ego in the film) was a larger-than-life cat, and he had this incredible life that's a part of this incredible story. I just tried to do my best.
I don't think you could ever do complete justice to who he was in a performance. Never having met the man, but having met his congregation and his family, who were all very kind and generous to me -- and knowing what his friendship with Mitch was like -- I hope I represented him well.
Q: Early in the film, you're seen with a full Afro. Do such things help you performancewise?
A: For me, those kinds of cosmetic changes are important to telling the story and showing the degree to which this guy changed. It also suggests the time period in which all this stuff was going on. The purpose of it was threefold, then.
Q: What is your favorite power tool?
A: I guess cordless drill, which I use almost all the time.
Q: Where did your famous grunt originate?
A: No one was listening (during a performance). It was a Goodyear Tire convention.
Q: Do you feel like the last man standing?
A: Not at all. I am one of many men that probably have roots in guy behavior that is nonthreatening, which means the make-crafts, fixing, repairing boats, motors -- stuff that the women in my life don't find very interesting.
Q: How is it different doing a sitcom now?
A: It's not the same money. The whole landscape of television has changed. Advertising, viewership is down 18 to 20 percent. There are much better cameras; it's almost a combination of movies and TV. The look will be crystal clear, and the lighting guy will win nine Emmy Awards. You have a gigantic set, and (that) adds depth to your visual experience. From "The Santa Clause 1" to "The Santa Clause 2" we were able to correct things. This is not as bold as "Home Improvement" was. "Home Improvement" was so different in many ways. It used all of my act surreptitiously. I was doling out pieces of my act.
Q: Is there a generation of moviegoers who recognize your voice as that of Buzz Lightyear?
A: You bet, probably this generation. Every time I do a Buzz Lightyear voice, they know that. It's between that and "Tool Time" and "Galaxy Quest."
Q: Some of your cakes look like old china, others like lace. How do you do this?
A: I developed new techniques. I developed sets of cutting tools.
Q: What is your favorite thing to bake?
A: Kugelhopf. And I love to make sweet challah; it's a special form where the challah is made with olive oil and semolina flour. That gives it a more fruity taste. Austrians claim kugelhopf as their own. Hungarians claimed it as their own. My mother was from Vienna.
Q: Did she teach you to bake?
A: I learned from my mother, and I always had a sweet tooth. Tel Aviv (where he grew up) has excellent sweet shops, all traditional cakes, and it's a very good baking culture. I think America is a leader in decorating cakes.
Q: Some of those amazing decorations, though, don't always look too delicious. What's your take on form over substance?
A: For too long there has been a separation. There were bakers and decorators and pastry chefs. I would go to regional shows and see these camps, and they would not talk to each other. I had to put everything together.
Q: Before you became a master pastry chef, weren't you a dancer?
A: I was in Bat-Dor, and we worked with Paul Taylor and Alvin Ailey. All these people would come to Israel. I had come to New York on tour. I studied in Canada and France. New York attracted me like Tel Aviv.
Q: Did you serve in the Israel Defense Forces?
A: I was in the army. I was in the first generation marching for peace.