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On the set of 'Muppets Most Wanted'
Chatting with Miss Piggy and Kermit about their latest Muppet adventure

By Danny Miller

Having grown up loving Jim Henson's Muppets in all their incarnations, from the Sesame Street characters to the original run of "The Muppet Show" to the six theatrical films released between 1979 and 1999, I was excited when Disney "rebooted" the characters in 2011 for the hilarious "The Muppets" that featured all of my favorite characters along with humans Jason Segal and Amy Adams. Imagine my glee, then, when I got to visit the set of the upcoming sequel to that film, Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted," and actually talk to Miss Piggy and Kermit and take some photos with them. Can you say BUCKET LIST?

I met up with the Muppets in downtown L.A. at Union Station, the beautiful Mission Revival/Streamline Moderne building that has appeared in countless films and TV shows over the years, from "The Hustler" with Paul Newman to a memorable appearance as Bane's courtroom in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises." On this day, the large cast and crew were gathered on one of the outside platforms where the Muppets were preparing to board a train that would take them from Los Angeles to Europe. Yep, you heard me!

Bing: More about Miss Piggy | More on 'Muppets Most Wanted'

The new film begins right where the last one left off, on Hollywood Boulevard, but events soon conspire to send the cast off on a global tour for a series of sold-out performances in some of Europe's most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid, Dublin and London. But being the Muppets, they get into serious trouble pretty quickly, finding themselves entangled in an international crime caper spearheaded by Constantine, the World's Number One Criminal who bears a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog. The Muppets encounter Constantine's evil sidekick, Dominic, also known as Number Two, played by Ricky Gervais. Along the way they also meet up with Tina Fey as Nadya, a feisty prison guard, and Ty Burrell as Interpol agent Jean-Pierre Napoleon. "It's an old-style caper movie," says returning director James Bobin. "Muppet movies often have very classic movie tropes, and the evil doppelganger -- a bad-guy Kermit-the-Frog look-alike -- seemed like such a fun premise for the Muppets' next film." The new film, which opens on March 21, promises plenty of intrigue, thrills, and fun, not to mention more great music from Oscar-winning songwriter Bret McKenzie.

It was a crazy feeling seeing many of my favorite Muppets there on the set getting ready for the next scene. Fozzie, Animal, Gonzo, Beaker, and so many of the others, including Walter, the superfan from the previous film who's now a bona fide member of the gang. But nothing prepared me for the entrance of Miss Piggy, Diva Extraordinaire, who deigned to give our small group of journalists a few minutes of her precious time.

Walter and Miss Piggy/Disney
Walter and Miss Piggy/Disney

""I'm very excited to be giving the world more of moi," she told us. "The last movie was so successful so we are of course doing a sequel which will feature even more of moi, I'm happy to say." Miss Piggy talked about her many fabulous costume changes in the film, as well as her musical numbers which she was grateful she didn't have to share with any humans. "I actually get a solo in this movie -- the last time I had to sing with Amy Adams," she said with just a trace of bitterness. Being in Miss Piggy's presence only magnified the intense crush I've had on the porcine star for most of my life.

When asked about co-star Ricky Gervais, Miss Piggy could barely place him. "Oh yes, he's somewhere in the background," she recalled. "He did that show Extras and I thought he'd be perfect to be an extra in my movie. Nobody really cares about the humans, you know!"

When we caught up with Kermit the Frog on set, he was much more generous. "Ricky is wonderful! I think he will probably become an honorary Muppet -- he's kind of our size!" Asked about rumors involving him and co-star Tina Fey, the frog demurred. "I don't want to embarrass Tina. I love her, we had a great time together, but that was only on camera -- she's a married woman! Besides," he added nervously, "Miss Piggy might read this and you never know what might happen." Kermit is very excited about his role in this film. "What's cool about it this time is that I am actually sort of an action hero -- you will see me do things that I haven't done before. I'm a cross between James Bond and Bruce Willis!"

We spent a few hours watching the talented Muppet "handlers" shoot a scene at Union Station of the entire cast boarding the train and I marveled at how the puppeteers were able to manipulate their bodies while their characters acted several feet above ground. It's truly a special kind of performer that can be part of this very special world, and I couldn't help but notice that during each of our interviews, even though we were obviously standing right next to the puppeteer who was speaking to us in the character's voice, we all held our digital recorders up to Miss Piggy's and Kermit's fabric mouths -- that's how strong the illusion was. And the magic.

While we were there, regularly scheduled trains kept arriving at the other platforms at Union Station, and it was fun to see the startled reactions from the passengers as they disembarked and saw the large group of Muppets filming their scene. Cell phone cameras zoomed out of pockets and many people literally jumped up and down in excitement -- it's not everyday you come across such beloved icons!  One of the producers of the film told us about shooting a scene a few weeks earlier in the famous Tower of London. "This was a location that hasn't ever allowed a major film crew inside the walls to shoot," he said, "so shooting inside the Tower of London with the Muppets and then watching the tourists as they go by saying, 'What is going on here?!' was really, really special."

Before we left, we also got a chance to chat with Walter, the new kid on the block. "Being embraced by the Muppets is a dream come true," he told us. "I keep pinching myself! I'm covered with bruises which is why I wear long sleeves!" Walter also had plenty of good things about the human co-stars. "Ricky is a great guy -- he's really funny, kind of like a human Walter. Tina, oh my gosh, is there no end to that woman's talents? Her singing and dancing in this film is really something. And Ty Burrell? I love him in "Modern Family" and he plays a very different character in our movie. He's very versatile -- and very tall. I got crick in my neck looking up at him. He's a giant in the industry!" But when we asked him about Miss Piggy, Walter sighed. "She still thinks I'm the coffee boy."

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"Muppets Most Wanted" is out in theaters March 21.


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