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Helms, Hart get in touch with younger selves in ‘Captain Underpants’

Ed Helms and Kevin Hart voice characters in "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie." | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Comic actor Ed Helms has never lived in Chicago, but he feels indebted to a lot of friends who did. “I have so many people from Chicago who have been so important to my life and my career,” said the actor during an interview about his new animated film, “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” (opening Friday).

Among them is Matt Walsh, the Chicago native and “Veep” star who that very day was trading texts with Helms. “I don’t have any kids,” he said, “so my wife and I are inviting friends, like Matt — who has three kids — to come to the premiere of ‘Captain Underpants.’ That premiere should be packed with kids!”

Other Chicagoans, or stars who spent important years in Chicago, whom Helms mentioned as playing key roles in his life include his “Captain Underpants” co-star Thomas Middleditch, his “Love the Coopers” grandfather Alan Arkin, his friend Jason Sudeikis and his colleagues on “The Office” Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson.

Joking about the character he voices in this new animated movie, based on the popular series of kids books, Helms quipped, “Yes, to get into my role as Captain Underpants, I often would run around the neighborhood in my tighty whities! I have about 17 restraining orders from my neighbors.”

“Captain Underpants” is based on a popular series of kids books known for their potty humor, which Helms called “a Trojan Horse that draws kids into those really rich, colorful and poignant stories. They really are a celebration of childhood creativity and friendship. There are great values in those books, and I think also in our movie. It stresses the importance of teachers, education and being kind to one another.”

Co-star Kevin Hart, who voices fourth-grader George in the film, agreed. “You say, ‘Poopy!’ to any kid and you immediately get their attention,” said the comedian and actor. “Ha! That grabs them, and then you can get across the messages of friendship and imagination.”

Hart did a shout-out “to all the good people in Chicago! I’ll always be a fan of your city, because Chicago and Chicago audiences have always supported me. I know there’s a dark cloud painted over Chicago now, because of all the attention on the violence and the killings that have happened the past couple of years.

“But I really believe that the good will eventually outweigh the bad and eventually Chicago will work through all that terrible stuff. There’s a positive to every negative, but it can’t get better if you only show the bad. There’s so much good in that city.”