Meet Lane Toran—or, as you probably know him, Arnold. The 35-year-old actor, director, and musician voiced Hey, Arnold!'s titular character (plus its neighborhood bully, Wolfgang) during the show's on-air heyday, from 1996-2001. Today, he returns to the Hillwood universe in Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie, this time not as Arnold but as an entirely new character named Che.
The television film, which airs tonight at 7 p.m. ET on Nickelodeon, brings the old gang back together for an epic school trip by ship to San Lorenzo, the Central American country where (gasp!) Arnold's parents were last spotted. It promises to answer some major cliffhangers that the series left behind: Does Helga still have a shrine to Arnold? Will she find love? Where are Arnold's parents? The '90s nostalgia is real.
Here, Toran—who looks nothing like his memorable character, you'll notice—spills about what to expect from the new Hey, Arnold! movie, a possible series reboot, and where he's been all these years.
What can you tell us about the character you'll be playing in the Hey, Arnold! movie?
The only thing I can share is that I’m playing a character named Che, and he works on the boat in San Lorenzo. That’s something not a lot of people know, because I think some people get confused that I’m not coming back as Arnold. I can’t do that voice anymore because I’m a man now. So my new character is Che, and he’s Olga’s love interest. So that’s something else that’s new.
Do you think the new voice of Arnold sounds like you?
Mason Vale Cotton sounds so much like me it’s weird. When I first heard it, I was shocked. It’s really cool. He’s such a great kid and a great actor. Everyone is really going to love him.
Have most of the other voice actors been replaced as well?
No, all the girls are still the same. Francesca Smith, the voice of Helga, and Olivia Hack, the voice of Rhonda, they’re all voicing the same characters. But Jamil Walker Smith’s character (Gerald) has changed too. He’ll be coming back but as a [different] character on the ship as well.
Your last episode as Arnold was more than 20 years ago. How ya been since then?
Twenty years is hard to sum up, but in the last two years I've moved to North Carolina with my wife, directed my first full-length feature film called Getaway Girls, started acting again in Atlanta, but most importantly I've helped my mother recover from a brain tumor, which I'm happy to say she's overcome and is now doing amazing.
That's wonderful. How have Arnold and his friends transformed?
From what I’ve seen—because I haven’t seen the whole film yet—it doesn’t seem like they’ve changed that much, except they’re a year older. I mean, some characters you can tell that they’ve matured a little bit. They got some new designs, and outfits, but they’re basically still the same.
Were you surprised that they decided to make a movie?
It’s really been in the works this whole time. [Creator] Craig Bartlett has always wanted to do this movie. I think all of us, the cast, had an idea that this might happen at some point. So of course everyone was super excited to find out that this idea was actually going through.
Is this revival going to be more than just a movie—maybe more movies or episodes in the future?
Yeah, I hope so! That would be so awesome. I don’t really know for sure yet. I think everyone is going to see how this film does and see the response and go from there. But from what I hear, I think a lot of people would love a new series or something.
Do you think the fan base for Hey Arnold! has changed, since it aired in the late '90s to early '00s?
Well, I think that’s the cool thing. Everyone has evolved. It’s all the same fans, so they haven’t changed too much, they’re still the same people. But, times are definitely changed, that’s for sure. I don’t even have cable, which is really funny. I need to find out where I can watch this on TV.
Does Helga still have a shrine to Arnold?
You know what, I think she does. But I can’t confirm that. But I’m pretty sure she does. Did you see the shrine they made at ComicCon? It was pretty awesome.
Is Arnold going to find his parents?
That’s the biggest one. A lot of those open questions are going to be answered in this film.
—Additional reporting by Romy Oltuski.