Detroit News Television Writer
Two Metro Detroiters are making Cartoon Network a basic-cable destination this week.
There's Jon Glaser, a son of Southfield, whose new live-action Adult Swim show "Delocated" debuts Thursday.
Adult Swim is of course Cartoon Network's late-night block of programming.
Glaser is an alumnus of the University of Michigan, NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on Comedy Central.
Never one to be overlooked, Detroit native Roz Ryan is the voice of Bubbie the whale on "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack."
While the off-beat animated series doesn't return for a second season until late spring, Ryan and friends put together a nifty love episode just in time for Valentine's Day. Look for that installment on Thursday, as well.
If Ryan's name sounds familiar, you are either a Broadway fan who saw her in a number of musicals, including "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Dreamgirls," or you watched the 1980s sitcom "Amen" on NBC. Ryan played Amelia, one half of the meddlesome-but-loving Hetebrink sister duo.
Read on to learn more about Ryan and Glaser before the big day.
The part of Bubbie was written for a man originally. But that all changed when one of the producers of "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack" heard Roz Ryan audition.
"Something about my voice made him feel all warm and fuzzy," says Ryan, 57, with a giggle. During a recent phone interview, Ryan peppers the conversation with terms of endearment such as "baby," making the interaction feel like a chat with an aunt instead of a one-on-one to promote her show. That's the Detroit in her. Her friendly nature makes her seem like family to a lot of people.
Ryan is doing the interview from Denver on her way to Bangkok. It is there that she'll be co-starring in the traveling production of "Chicago" for two weeks.
"They work with me," says the Mackenzie High School grad of her producers. "I'm in the studio doing voice work for Bubbie for a few hours when I'm in L.A. and then I go and do some work and come back and work in the studio again."
The actress, born Rosalyn Bowen, is best known for the five seasons she played Amelia on NBC's funny church sitcom "Amen." She got her start locally singing in nightclubs such as Watts Mozambique at the tender age of 16. It was a 13-year singing career that eventually led to Broadway.
Detroit radio legend Jay Butler remembers Ryan in those days. The two are still friends, and when Ryan visits family in Detroit about fours times a year, they often hang out.
"Roz is so very talented," says Butler, who can now be heard hosting "Jay's Place," a blues show that broadcasts on WDET-FM (101.9) on Saturday nights. Butler is also the host of "FaithTalk Afternoons" on the Christian station WLQV-AM (1500).
"I wish more people could hear her sing," Butler says. "She has such a wonderful voice, but she's found something special in acting, and now she's doing more of that. If she could get an album deal, it would be over. People would want her to sing everything."
As for Ryan's humble beginnings in Detroit, Butler couldn't be more proud.
"Back in the day, she did a lot of singing with rock bands," Butler says. "Now look at her. That's talent."
Ryan continues to make her mark. In addition to the voice work she does for "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack," she'll be appearing in two films, including the Ricky Gervais comedy "Invention of Lying," which is due in theaters later this year.
"Ricky is a hoot. I can't say enough about him," says Ryan of Gervais, who wrote and directed the flick.
But for now, Ryan, a mother and grandmother, is all about Bubbie, the maternal whale who raises a little boy named Flapjack.
"I love doing voice work," she says. "The freedom it gives me is wonderful, and I have two granddaughters, 8 and 5, two mini-mes, who love the show. Who can resist that?"
As the brains and the body behind the lead character in "Delocated," Jon Glaser is the first to tell you that this is not an autobiographical tale.
Not so coincidentally, the live-action comedy follows a guy named Jon, who after testifying against the Russian Mafia, is relocated by the government along with his wife and child. Instead of enjoying life in anonymity, Jon decides to subject his family to a reality show in which they live in a posh New York loft and hide their identities with ski masks.
"I've been thinking about this character for a long time," says the Southfield-Lathrup High School alumnus in a phone chat from New York last week. He and his wife and kids all live in the Big Apple.
"I did a similar character on 'Conan,' except that guy was an impersonator who was in the witness protection program, and no matter who he impersonated, they all sounded digitally disguised."
Glaser, whose parents and siblings still live in Metro Detroit, has an equally funny explanation about sharing the name Jon with his character.
"It's an homage to Tony Danza, who often plays characters named Tony," Glaser, 40, half-jokingly says. "I wanted this character to be a total jerk, so I did everything I could to make him that way.
"Like for me, it's too late to go back to Jonathan even though I want to, because people would think I'm a jerk. But this guy, he would go back to being called Jonathan in a heartbeat."