In Aardman Animations ‘ The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists,’ Hugh Grant, starring in his first animated role, is the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain – a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas. With a rag-tag crew at his side (Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey, and Ashley Jensen), and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. It’s a quest that takes our heroes from the shores of exotic Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London. Along the way they battle a diabolical queen (Imelda Staunton) and team up with a haplessly smitten young scientist (David Tennant), but never lose sight of what a pirate loves best: adventure! Aardman are the consistently awesome team behind the likes of ‘Wallace and Gromit,’ ‘Chicken Run’ and ‘Arthur Christmas.’ ’ The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists’ is Aardman’s first 3-D stop-motion film, and Peter Lord’s first film as a director since ‘Chicken Run.’ The film is released in cinemas March 28th in the UK and April 27th in the US.

What was it like being a part of an Aardman Animations film?

Martin Freeman: I’ve wanted to work with Aardman for years really. I first buttonholed Nick Park about it at the Comedy Awards about 7 years ago. I said to him, “I’d love to work with you one day.” He said, “Oh, we’d love to have you.” I assumed that would mean nothing (laughs), but now here I am. I believe “national treasure” is a really twee and overused phrase, but if there are such things, then Aardman’s definitely one of them for Britain. It’s one of the things to be proud of, I’m genuinely quite proud of it.

How was it for you with the filming process, voicing Pirate In Scarf?

Martin Freeman: It was very unique, you don’t even know what their physicality is. I had seen minutes here and there of what my character was going to be, I knew what he was going to look like, but he’s not literally me. I was doing the physicality that you normally are in an acting job, but you leave his actual physicality to the team of animators, a team of people you hadn’t met in another city somewhere. There’s a lot of trust, I suppose, that goes on – definitely on both sides. I think from our point of view you feel quite privileged to be on the film anyway, every actor who was in it was, I’m sure, was quite chuffed to be a part of it, having seen all their work previously.

That must have been a very unique way of capturing a performance for you?

Martin Freeman: Yeah. It’s nothing like making a film or being in a play, it’s actually, on the face of it, it’s everything I don’t want acting to be (laughs). I don’t want to be alone, the thing I love about acting is the other people you’re doing it with. Genuinely, it’s only because it’s Aardman that I would stick it out, seriously (laughs). Because I trust it and trust what it’s going to be because their output makes me laugh, and sometimes makes me cry. It was honour to be a part of this knowing that. The process of it is definitely not what I got into acting for to be fair (laughs). I got into it for good stories, which is great, but also hopefully the process is a bit more community based. For the most part you’re alone recording this. There were times when I was with other actors, but not many times. It’s a very prolonged process as well. As an actor you don’t ever really get to do this, you don’t normally get to do 25 different readings of “Captain!” without punching the director. But with this you were really happy to be there, you’re in the zone.

What was the inspiration behind Pirate With Scarf?

Martin Freeman: Pirate With Scarf is the Captain’s right hand man. We kind of agreed on him being a bit like John Le Mesurier in ‘Dad’s Army.’ I don’t think I was doing it anything like that (laughs), but that was the jumping off point, someone who was a bit cleverer that his superior. Certainly not posher, I’m not posher than Hugh Grant….because I’m not Prince William (laughs). But just a bit more level headed, a bit more unflappable I suppose. John Le Mesurier was the jumping off point, because he’s cool under fire, who keeps grounding his superior. He’s like a sort of perfect right hand man, and I think the Pirate Captain knows that as well. He takes him for granted sometimes, but at the end of it he knows that he can rely on him.

He gives the Pirate Captain a much needed booster when he needs it….

Martin Freeman: Yeah. The crew would walk through broken glass and hoops of fire for the Pirate Captain. I think the trouble is that he has a sort of crisis of confidence and doesn’t kind of realise that, or he forgets that, forgets how much esteem they hold him in. So when he gets a bit self-loathing, it’s always up to me as Pirate With Scarf to boost him up again and remind him of his position and his importance and his responsibility to his crew – with nice silly touches added to it (laughs).

He’s a bit out of place in the motley crew of pirates?

Martin Freeman: They are a motley crew. None of them have names, like Pirate With Scarf, Curvaceous Pirate, Pirate With Gout. So they’re sort of like stock characters in a way, bordering on charactertures. They’re sort of like our folk lore or memory of pirates, it’s all that chucked in there. If anything, Pirate With Scarf is definitely not that because he’s not flee-ridden, he’s not grotesque – he’s like a Clarke really. He’s the one who I think is in the wrong job (laughs). The Pirate Captain is not always very good at his job, but he definitely wants to be there, he’s in the right job. He would never be a solicitor, while I think Pirate With A Scarf could be mid-management somewhere. But he’s found himself on this ship full of grotesque types. He does fit in quite well, but he doesn’t seem the same species as the others.