Archive for August 5, 2011

Newsarama Interview with Will Friedle

Seriously, when do I get to interview him? I certainly wouldn’t be asking these types of questions. ;0)

BATMAN BEYOND’s Friedle Voices Lion-O in New THUNDERCATS

By Albert Ching, Newsarama Staff Writer
posted: 05 August 2011 04:10 pm ET

Cartoon Network’s new Thundercats series debuted with an hour-long premiere this past Friday, introducing updated versions of Lion-O, Cheetara, Mumm-Ra and the rest of the cast to modern audiences.

Will Friedle — you may know him as Terry McGinnis on Batman Beyond or Eric Matthews on Boy Meets World — is the voice of lead character Lion-O, and with a new episode airing tonight, talked with Newsarama about his own past as a Thundercats fan, why the time is right for a new series, and reuniting with legendary voice director Andrea Romano.

Newsarama: Will, first question is one you’ve surely gotten multiple times promoting the show, but just how much of a fan were you of the original Thundercats cartoon?

Will Friedle: I was a huge fan . I was 8 years old when Thundercats came out, so exactly my age demographic. I always say that the original Thundercats was made for me.

I had my plastic Sword of Omens, and I’ve said this to people before and it’s absolutely true, I still know where to put the cushions on my couch in the house I grew up in to make my ThunderTank. Or if I was feeling particularly bad that day, it would be a Cobra H.I.S.S., but that was few and far between.

I was a massive fan of the original show— really all the ’80s cartoons. Thundercats, G.I. Joe., M.A.S.K. and Transformers; what I consider still all the best cartoons.

Nrama: So from your perspective as both a fan and the lead voice actor, why do you think now is the right time to revisit these characters and concepts?

Friedle: I don’t know why now is the right time, it just seems to be. I think it’s been 20, 25 years, the characters are still vibrant, and still iconic, and I think enough time has passed now to where some of the original fans might have accepted a new version a little bit easier than had they done it five years after the show had ended.

I think also the state-of-the-art animation that we have nowadays really lends itself to these characters and to this story. I think people are also maybe a little more able to accept a darker story nowadays than they would have been in the ’80s; something that’s a little more real. I think when Batman: The Animated Series came out, it kind of changed everything when it came to animation and storytelling.
Hopefully, so far, it’s been working. We seem to have gotten some great reviews, and people seem to like the show, so we’re all very excited.

Nrama: Yeah, and unlike a lot of the other ’80s properties, there really hasn’t been any updated Thundercats material until this series.

Friedle: Right. It ended, and that was it. I know that there have been several attempts over the last, say, 10 years, to make the show. Man, am I glad that this is the first one to come out, because I think the scripts are just phenomenal, and if you’re a fan of Thundercats, wait until you see what happens next.

Nrama: Reviving a beloved franchise like this is always a tricky proposition, because the original fans often have very particular ideas of what made them like the shows in the first place. But with one episode aired at this point, the reaction for this has seemed to be pretty positive. Have you monitored that response at all from fans?

Friedle: We were obviously worried, because the last thing we want to do — especially as fans — is go in and ruin these iconic characters. We knew we were taking a risk with the new angle. So we were very excited that the fans seemed to accept it, and really seem to like it, and want to see what happens next.

Nrama: You’re in the lead role here, and the lead role comic book fans know you best from is, of course, Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond. How does your approach to Lion-O compare to Terry?

Friedle: I think Terry had a much darker side to him, whereas Lion-O, especially in the first 35 minutes of the pilot, was really kind of the happy go-lucky kid. If memory serves, the first time we ever meet Terry, he’s in a fist fight in gym class, whereas Lion-O is more of the type of guy who wants to make everything better, and is a prince, but wide-eyed, and still believing in fantasy, and still believing that there’s this mythical tech out there.

I think Lion-O is far more naïve at the start about what real life on Thundera is about than Terry was about Gotham. With some of the stuff that is going to happen to Lion-O, I wouldn’t doubt that there may be a darker turn in his personality in the future.

Nrama: And Thundercats is also reuniting you with legendary voice director Andrea Romano, who you worked with on Batman Beyond.

Friedle: I’ve worked with Andrea for probably the last 15 years, and this is probably the 10th or 11th project we’ve worked together on. She’s incredible. Knows actors, knows animation, knows what is expected, and man, she can really pull it out of us.

Nrama: So given your background on live-action shows like Boy Meets World, did you ever foresee yourself working so heavily in voice acting back then?

Friedle: No. Not at all. Totally out of left field.
I had assumed that if the business would still have me — because it’s a very fickle business — that I would be a sitcom actor for my whole life. And then I hit about 30, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Just really wasn’t feeling the vibe of the on-camera work.

I was very lucky that I was able to continue to work in voiceover. I still feel the same way about going in to recording that I did the first day I went in to record Batman. There’s still the butterflies in the stomach and the wonderful kind of nervousness that you want to grab that I used to get when I went before an audience, which started to fade. As long as the business will have me, I will stay here and happily do my voice work, because it’s so much fun.

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MTV Geek Interview with Will Friedle

I’m starting to feel like the “Go-To” person for Will Friedle news. Maybe I should be privatizing these posts so I don’t sound insane? I’m not insane, I just love him very much. Thanks for the article, Val!

Interview: Will Friedle On Being Lion-O

Posted 54 minutes ago by Charles Webb in Animation, Cartoon Network, Interviews

Being the lead voice actor for an iconic role for one of the most anticipated animated shows on TV can’t be easy. But Will Friedle, who voices Lion-O in the new ThunderCats series on Cartoon Network seems to take it all in stride. It’s probably no sweat for the man who’s lent his voice to cartoon heroes as diverse as future Batman to Blue Beetle. I spoke to Friedle recently about what it was like taking on his latest role, and about capturing the magic of the ThunderCats in the VO booth.

Will Friedle: You guys have done some great coverage of the show from way back and it was all very complimentary. Really cool of you guys.

MTV Geek: Thank you, too. We’ve been really excited about the show—what we’ve seen so far from the first hour has been excellent, and I’m personally really excited about the new season.

WF: Hey, we are too. It’s one of those shows where we’re psyched anytime we get to go in to record.

Geek: Getting into that, what were your feelings when you were offered the role?

WF: Uh, I’m sure that I can say my thoughts out loud. [laughs] I was so unbelievably excited. It was one of those things where I’d been a huge fan of everything ThunderCats from the time I was eight years old, when the show came out. So, an enormous ThunderCats fan, and the chance to be anything in the show—I originally read for Tygra. So to then actually find out that I was playing Lion-O was pretty amazing.

Geek: What was the take that you had in mind for the character? Or was there much guidance from the show runners?

WF: You know what it was? I’m always kind of guided by the material. So the script really—the one you saw for the first hour-long episode—was really the kind of coming-of-age story [and] I knew that’s where we were coming from in this incarnation. So, it was more the young hero, the young unproven hero at this point, which is kind of where I was coming at it from.
And frankly, it was the only thing going through my head other than “Please don’t be the guy to screw this up. Please don’t be the guy to screw this up.” I just don’t think I would have handled it well if I was the guy who ruined Lion-O. It was daunting and I was certainly nervous, but was so excited as a fan that I just wanted to sit down and let it go.
And here all the other voices in the room, I thought they all just worked so well together. Especially that first episode where we’re all coming together and learning each other and learning the energy—we just had such a blast. Very excited at this point. Still excited—I feel like that little kid getting the amazing opportunity.

Geek: Did you have any concerns about somehow matching your portrayal of Lion-O with the work done by Larry Kenney?

WF: You know, there is and there isn’t. It’s definitely a different take on Lion-O, but of course at the same time you don’t want to be the guy who, “Oh my God, after the amazing work Larry Kenney did, I’m now going to come in and screw this up.” So that was certainly a concern of mine.
Again, it’s amazing to say, but this is one of the first shows that I did where my concern wasn’t as an actor, but as a fan. Because I was such a fan of the original that I didn’t want my name associated with ruining ThunderCats. It was nerve-wracking. But hopefully we pulled it off.

Geek: You’re kind of the go-to guy for young characters and these guys going through the coming-of-age experiences. How do you tackle that expectation as an actor? Do you enjoy that perception?

WF: You know, I do. It’s one of those things where I still can’t believe it myself. Because again—and I know it sounds kind of trite but it’s true—but I’m a fan first. So it’s one of those things where I get to go in and I get to play some of these characters—whether it’s Batman or Blue Beetle or Ron Possible, I mean any of these kind of young, fun characters—and I’m just excited to be involved, frankly. It’s so much fun, we have a blast in the room, we have a blast working together, and the final products have been great. I’m feeling very excited and very lucky at this point.

Geek: Was there a particular moment in the booth with the other actors where you realized, “Hey, this is working—this is what we want it to be?”

WF: You know, you hope, you’re never sure. Especially with something like ThunderCats, which is a reboot of such a popular show. We thought we had something, [and] I thought we had something from before we even recorded when I got my hands on that first script for the hour-long episode.
Being such a fantasy fan, which I am, I felt it really was along the lines of high fantasy, which I love. So to see these characters put in that kind of world, I was all for it. So, yeah, I thought there was the possibility of having something before we even started. And then you’ve got the voices in the room, and then hearing these people say these wonderfully-written lines, it really did work. So, it was just amazing.
It was a little scary when I got to the ThunderCats call for the first time, but other than that I think we handled it well!

Geek: Looking at the tone of your show when compared against the original, what do you think the major difference is?

WF: I look at it this way: ThunderCats in the 80’s—and I shouldn’t even say just ThunderCats in the 80’s—most of the cartoons in the 80’s were incredible cartoons. Very bright, very vibrant, very big acting, very big stories, that kind of thing. Then, in 1989, 1990, Batman: The Animated Series came around and kind of changed the whole ballgame for animation, and for script, and for acting.
So, I can compare the two in that we don’t want to ruin what was done on the show in the 80’s, but at the same time, it’s like that’s the ThunderCats cartoon, and that will forever be the ThunderCats cartoon and stand alone. And this is like, ThunderCats: The Animated Series, which is like a newer, darker kind of take on these original characters. So you can compare them, but even to me as a fan, the original ThunderCats will always be the original ThunderCats. It will always stand alone. And it should, because of what it did in the 80’s.
I don’t think we’ve ruined any of the characters. I feel like we’ve added some dimensions to the characters and added some great backstory, but I don’t think there’s any that we look at and go, “Wow, I don’t recognize that character at all anymore.” So, I think in that sense, we’ve stayed true to the original 80’s cartoon and updated it with a little 2011 feel.

Geek: Who’s the standout character you love interacting with the most?

WF: Mumm-Ra used to scare the hell out of me as a kid. So to actually be in the booth and in the room—I’m usually sitting next to Robin [Atkin Downes] as he’s doing the role. So to sit together, right next to each other is pretty cool. And every time I hear his take on Mumm-Ra, I love it. And it’s still very creepy, but at the same time, I’m looking at him going, “Hopefully, it won’t scare me as much this time because I know the guy and he’s sitting right next to me.” ‘Cos when you’re eight years old, that Mumm-Ra, he can rob some sleep from ya.
So I said to Robin, I think by the third recording, “You’re gonna be the soundtrack of the new generation of kids’ nightmares. So I hope you’re okay with that.” And he just started laughing.

Geek: And obviously, without spoiling anything, did you have any favorite moments from the coming season?

WF: There’ve been so many—it’s one of those things where I think the writing is so good that they try to get some of those moments into every single episode. So there’s at least one moment if not more than one in every episode where there’s that feeling of “Man, this is cool!”
And for me, the last moment of the first season—and I’m not going to give anything away—there were a couple of moments and we finished recording and the room just silent because it was so cool, and so amazing, and well kind of sat back and let it sink in. So, yeah, there’s some pretty neat stuff coming up.

Geek: What do you think it is that keeps fans drawn back to ThunderCats after all these years? What is it for you?

WF: You know, that’s a good question. I don’t know, to be totally honest with you. I think it was very bright, it was a whole new take on a cartoon character—I mean, they’re cats. But it so easily could have been ridiculous and horrible and yet it wasn’t. It was this brilliant, new world that we were learning about with this new, young king. Again, I don’t know what it was, but it just worked, and I think that’s why it’s lasted for 20, 25 years—because there was something about it that appealed to everybody.
And I loved it, I absolutely did. I’d run home and see as much as I could, I’d pick up my plastic Sword of Omens—which, when I go back home, I’m going to look for again. So, yeah, there’s just something that grabs people and we’re hoping to recapture that same sense of wonder and hopefully be able to grab the older fans and the new generation.