The voice of Sonic in the upcoming Netflix series Sonic Prime wants to see more traditional voice actors get starring roles in big-budget game adaptations.
Canadian voice actor Deven Mack spoke to VGC ahead of Sonic Prime’s release on December 15, and we asked him where he stood on the current debate about Hollywood stars poaching the main roles in big-budget video game movies.
Video game movies have gained increasing relevance in Hollywood, with Pokemon, Sonic enjoying box-office success in recent years, and the Super Mario Movie planned for early next year.
Ryan Reynolds was cast as the voice of Pikachu in Detective Pikachu, while debate continues to rage over the casting of Chris Pratt as Mario in The Super Mario Bros movie, a role that has been played in the games by Charles Martinet for more than 25 years.
The first Sonic the Hedgehog movie cast Parks & Recreation star Ben Schwarz as Sonic, and its sequel cast Idris Elba as Knuckles. However, in a rare exception, the role of Tails was played by Colleen Ann O’Shaughnesse, who has been voicing Tails in games since 2014.
Sonic Prime’s Mack told VGC he’d like to see similar examples of specialist voice actors getting these roles instead.
“I would absolutely love to see more of that,” he said. “At the end of the day, I do understand why certain things go certain ways, for marketing purposes.
“But at the same time, there are some actors who are phenomenal, just great actors. Voice acting is still acting, and there are people on the live-action side of this who can just jump right in and can just go, and it’s really, really cool to see.
“But it still is a very specialised skill to be able to do voiceover. There’s crossover for sure: there’s really, really talented people across the industry. At the end of the day, I just like to see good people do good work.”
Mack is the seventh voice actor to play the English language version of Sonic, and the third in just the last year across Sonic the Hedgehog 2 movie, Sonic Frontiers and now Prime.
We asked if playing a role that had already been portrayed by many others meant he was limited in how far he could make the role his own.
“I would say there’s definitely a challenge there to an extent, because people do have their expectations of who this character needs to be,” Mack replied.
“I have my own as well, being somebody who grew up watching the character throughout different iterations of him.
“But there’s still that consistent trait that he’s had, of being this larger than life personality, who’s always really, really positive and always has that confidence and that swagger. That’s been a consistent thing no matter who performed the character.
“And I’m definitely drawing influence and inspiration from everyone, all of the amazing talents who have helped bring this character to life.”
Mack added: “I’ve gotten some freedom as well to kind of put my own unique spin on things but again, knowing the character and having grown up with him, there’s always been that sense of ‘this is who Sonic needs to be, this is who people expect Sonic to be’, and for me it just feels like Sonic, at the end of the day.”
Prolific voice actor Tara Strong (Harley Quinn, Timmy Turner in Fairly Odd Parents, and Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony) posted several tweets in support of Martinet following the release of the first trailer for The Super Mario Bros movie.
“It should be Charles,” tweeted Strong, posting a picture of the two actors together holding an image of a Mario-themed My Little Pony.
In another tweet, Strong more directly criticised Nintendo and Illumination, saying: “Voice actors: I’m gonna put my heart & soul in this for at least 20 years, help sell billions in merch, make the studios millions of dollars & make generations around the world happy. Hollywood: We don’t care.”
Sonic Prime will be released in its entirety on Netflix on December 15.