By Rick Bentley
Under different circumstances, it would sound a little creepy for 42-year-old actress Pamela Adlons to brag over the telephone, “I’ve always felt a great responsibility to young men all over the world.”
But it’s OK, because Adlon spends most of her professional life giving a voice to one of the best-known young men on television — 12-year-old Bobby Hill on the long-running Fox animated series “King of the Hill.”
The Mike Judge sitcom about a quirky Texas family hits a major milestone tonight (7:30 p.m., Fox) when the 250th episode airs. The story takes place a year after the death of Hank’s father, Cotton Hill, and includes a request to have his ashes flushed down a toilet in an old bar once used by General George S. Patton. Cotton’s widow also gives Hank (Mike Judge) a box full of his father’s possessions.
This is not Adlon’s first voice work. Her credits include “Tinker Bell,” “Teacher’s Pet,” “Recess: School’s Out,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Squirrel Boy,” “Jakers! The Adventure of Piggley Winks,” and “Kid Notorious,” just to name a few.
Out of all that animated diversity, Adlon describes Bobby Hill as her favorite character to play.
“I definitely don’t think of him as just being a paper-thin cartoon character. He’s just got so many levels and so much depth. It’s just hilarious the things that he’s been through. And it’s also very poignant,” Adlon said.
She remembers that the audition for “King of the Hill” was not that different than any of the hundreds of calls she had been to before. She landed the role and, 13 seasons later, she can’t believe her good fortune.
It’s rare for an actor to keep any job for 13 seasons; most television series actors consider themselves lucky to make it to five. The role also has been rare because there are no limitations — Bobby ages at the speed of a glacier and has been put in a wild array of different situations.
“Bobby went from awkward Lothario to player to actor to the next Dalai Lama. It’s just kind of endless. It seems like you don’t think that you can go beyond maybe three to five years on a show. But there are so many more stories that we can tell. They’re so fresh and relatable,” Adlon said.
The storylines that have taken the Hills from rodeos to the National Propane Gas Convention have made the series a hit around the globe.
Adlon said the Hills have broad appeal because everybody can relate to stories about families and neighbors. Her favorite episodes are the ones that deal with Bobby’s school days.
“I really love the stories about stuff that goes on in middle school, because I actually have a daughter who is in middle school now. That is just ripe for the picking because of what an intense time in a kid’s life it is and how many changes you go through and insecurities,” Adlon said.
She also likes those stories in which Bobby tries to do something, fails miserably but still ends up getting support from his father.
“It’s uniquely a great thing about the show, the way Hank and Bobby come together.” Adlon said. “How different Bobby is to Hank and how they end up just accepting each other.”
That appreciation of the father-and-son dichotomy is all part of Adlon’s responsibility to young men everywhere.