Danny Pudi voices a Smurf, in a film his young twins can see

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Chicago native Danny Pudi and his “alter ego” — Brainy Smurf — who he voices in “Smurfs: The Lost Village.” | Sony Pictures Animation

As the father of young children, actor and comedian Danny Pudi made a realization a couple of years ago, while he was in the process of voicing the Brainy Smurf character in the new “Smurfs: The Lost Village” animated film (opening Friday).

“My twins are now 5 years old, but when I started working on this, my kids were only 3 at the time. We were just finishing up [his NBC sitcom] ‘Community’ then, and I was thinking, my son and daughter won’t see that for a while! Previously, I always had envisioned I’d be taking my kids to some film that would require a lot of explanation afterward.

“But I realized, this ‘Smurfs’ film would be the first thing I would be able to watch with my children. I was so excited about that, and sure enough, we’re all going together to the premiere [which occurred last Saturday in Los Angeles].”

In addition, the actor couldn’t help joking “making this ‘Smurfs’ film has made my entire family very happy with the decision I didn’t pursue a career in academics. Of course, by voicing Brainy Smurf, I’ve come fairly close!”

A reference to his family sparked Pudi to reflect on the importance his Chicago roots have meant to him — both personally and as an entertainer. “My entire family still lives there … as do a lot of my closest friends. My wife and I moved from Lake View in 2005, but we return frequently for holidays and other things. My wife’s family lives just outside the city. We consider Chicago essentially our second home, even though we’re now based in L.A.”

The Cubs came up in conversation, as is the case with almost any local native — especially since last year’s World Series.

“Sports-wise, I am trying to pass on my loyalties to my children, but as stealthily as possible now.”

Pudi’s point? “It’s tricky, because I’m a White Sox fan. My wife is a big Cubs fan. Now my kids are into the Cubs because of the World Series win, which I’m OK with. … At age 5, my twins only know the Cubs as World Series champions. It will be interesting to see how that affects them growing up. Will they be for the underdogs — as lifelong Cubs fans have been until recently? Or will they simply expect them to win every time?”

As for Pudi’s beloved Sox, he joked about their most recent World Series title. “Of course they won the year I moved to L.A., so definitely I think it was because I was leaving town! OK, I’ll stay away! I get it!”

Regarding his professional life, Pudi credits his hometown with providing the foundation for his success. “I’m a child of the city — a child of immigrants,” said Pudi, who loves the symbolism of his parents meeting in class teaching new American residents English as a second language.

Growing up with his Indian father and Polish mother — first in Brighton Park, and then in the Norwood Park-Jefferson Park areas of the city — Pudi recalled “all my earliest memories of comedy, sports, role models were all about Chicago. I worked at the United Center as an Andy Frain usher watching Michael Jordan play. I loved going to Taste of Chicago every summer with my buddies — riding the Blue Line.

“I saw my first play in Chicago. My first concert was Janet Jackson and my first movie was ‘E.T.,’ all seen in Chicago. … I often think about the first play I did at Holy Martyrs school on the South Side — it was ‘Sound of Music.’ ”

Because his parents came from such different cultures — Indian and Polish — Pudi said “as a kid, I grew up wondering, ‘What is going on here?’ I was a question mark walking around the city and going to school, because no one could really connect with my experience. But I’m so thankful for it. As I grew up I realized it was a beautiful gift. I believe it helped me view the world in a wider way, and gave me an ability to connect with all kinds of people.”

In addition to “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” Pudi has recently wrapped the initial season of the NBC series “Powerless,” which has its season finale Thursday night. While there’s no word on the series’ future, Pudi admitted, “I had a lot of fun. As the season unfolded I got to play a lot on the show with [co-stars] Ron Funches and Jennie Pierson. We became like the techie ‘Three Stooges.’ It was really fun.”

Another pet project is the film, “The Tiger Hunter,” which recently was screened during the Asian American Showcase at the Gene Siskel Film Center. “We shot it in Mumbai, India, and in Los Angeles — which stood in for Chicago. Another buddy and I were the on-set, location accuracy consultants,” quipped Pudi. “We had to make sure everything looked believable for Chicago.”

The film touched a nerve with the actor. “It is set in the 1970s and is about an Indian immigrant coming to America. In many ways, it parallels my father’s journey to Chicago. Shooting it felt very personal for me. We’re hoping for a theatrical release this fall.

“It’s a fun story. I got to wear a lot of bell-bottoms. Who doesn’t want that?!”

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