‘The Willoughbys’: Who Plays the Narrating Cat and Why Does His Voice Sound So Familiar?

Netflix’s new movie, The Willoughbys, follows the story of four quirky young siblings who want to get rid of their self-centered parents and start a new life. The film is narrated by the family’s snarky blue tabby cat. And if his voice sounds familiar, that’s because it belongs to actor and comedian, Ricky Gervais.  

The Willoughbys
The Willoughbys | Netflix

Who is Ricky Gervais and what else has he been in?

Gervais is an English writer, actor, producer, director, and comedian. He is most known for creating the popular NBC sitcom, The Office, for which he won an Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards. The 58-year-old performer started his career in 1980, singing for the British band, Seona Dancing. 

He later went on to appear on a number of British TV shows, including The Jim Tavaré Show, The 11 O’Clock Show, and Meet Ricky Gervais. After writing, producing, and starring in both the British and American versions of The Office, Gervais created the BBC sitcom, Extras.

Since then, the actor has appeared in numerous popular films and TV shows, including all three Night at the Museum films, The Invention of Lying, Muppets Most Wanted, After Life, and Derek. Gervais hosted the Golden Globe Awards show for the fifth time in 2020. He has produced a number of stand-up comedy specials, including Ricky Gervais: Humanity.

‘The Willoughbys’ director on casting Gervais 

In an interview with Rotoscopers, director Kris Pearn said he was inspired to make The Willoughbys after producer Luke Carroll asked him to read the Lois Lowry children’s novel it’s based on. “I read it and came back to him interested in the idea of creating a film that made fun of children’s films just as the book made fun of children’s literature,” he said. “The pitch was ‘Grey Gardens meets Arrested Development.'”

When talking about developing the film’s style and characters, Pearn said that he wanted to create a world that wasn’t so dark. The director also said that he chose Gervais to narrate the movie as a cat to set the right tone. 

“When we committed to the idea of the narrator being a cat and being Ricky Gervais, there’s definitely a ‘wander’-iness in that choice that I think created a tone for the film,” he explained. “One of the things that kinda came out of that decision was the idea of the point-of-view of the cat and imagine the cameras being down low. We’re not beholden to it for the whole film. But this idea of ‘Would the world look different if we were a smaller animal or if we were looking at it from the outside in?’ prevailed.”

What is ‘The Willoughbys’ about and who else is in the film?

The Netflix film is based on author Lois Lowry’s children’s book, The Willoughbys. It tells the story of the four Willoughby siblings — Tim, Jane, and the twins Barnaby.

After being neglected and ignored by their self-centered parents, the children make a plan. They scheme to send their parents on a whirlwind vacation so they can restart their lives with a new family. But after a series of wild adventures, the siblings discover the only thing they need in life is each other. 

Along with Gervais, the movie also stars Will Forte as elder brother Tim. Singer Alessia Cara plays the Willoughbys’ daughter, Jane, and Sean Cullen voices the Barnaby Twins.

Saturday Night Live star Maya Rudolph voices the role of the children’s boisterous babysitter. Martin Short and Jane Krakowski play their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby. Terry Crews voices the role of the candy factory owner, Commander Melanoff.

The Willoughbys premieres on Wednesday, April 22 on Netflix.