411mania.com Interviews: Voice-Over Actor Roger Craig Smith
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 06.11.2014
411mania speaks with voice-over actor Roger Craig Smith, the voice of Captain America in Avengers Assemble, Ezio in the Assassin's Creed franchise, Batman in Batman: Arkham Origins, and so much more. Smith speaks about getting to play the living legend Captain America, what we can expect from the new animated show Sonic Boom, working on Regular Show, and so much more.
Recently, I got the chance to interview one of my favorite working voice-over stars today Roger Craig Smith. You might have heard Roger recently on such hit shows as Avengers Assemble or Ultimate Spider-Man voicing the iconic Marvel character known as Captain America. For many years Roger Craig Smith has also worked on some classic video game characters, giving voice to such characters as Chris Redfield of the Resident Evil franchise or Sonic the Hedgehog, who he also voiced in Disney's Wreck-It Ralph. Smith also voiced Ripslinger in Disney's Planes and the Dark Knight himself, Batman, in Batman: Arkham Origins. He also plays recurring character Thomas the intern on the hit series Regular Show, as well as many other supporting actors. Roger Craig Smith spoke with us about his career and playing such dynamic and iconic characters:
Jeffrey Harris: So there is so much going with you right now, it must be good to be Roger Craig Smith, right?
Roger Craig Smith: I need you to call me every morning and give me a wakeup call because that's a very generous and a very kind introduction. I tell ya, go big or go home, right? No. Things are good. I definitely have no complaints in life, Jeffrey. Things are phenomenal.
Jeffrey Harris: You voice Captain America in Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man, and other games and media. I realize that Iron Man is the big superstar character because of Robert Downey Jr. getting the whole ball rolling on the Marvel Cinematic Universe for us. But if you look at the numbers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the biggest movie in the world right now. And it stars Captain America. Do you think now that Captain America's popularity has really taken off, do you think he will take his rightful place as the leader of the Avengers? I mean Tony Stark's Iron Man is not a very good leader. He let Red Skull get the Cosmic Cube in Avengers Assemble. So let's get you in there as the leader, and let's get Captain America his own show.
Roger Craig Smith: *Laughs* I love it. Make it happen, Jeffrey. If you could, just make that happen. While we're at it, let's just do a whole animated feature with nothing but Captain America, right? I mean, Iron Man Schmiron Man. *Laughs* No. One of the greatest things about the Avengers is that you got so many different characters and you have so many different ways of doing things. And yet at the end of the day, they are all trying to fight for the same goal. How we go about doing that is very different, and obviously Captain America – Steve Rogers – has a different approach than Tony Stark. But it's not to say that one is necessarily right over the other because in the end, good triumphs over evil.
Jeffrey Harris: Captain America is right over the other. And Captain America is traditionally the leader of the team and he has been for decades. We all know the only reason this is happening is because of the Iron Man movies and Robert Downey Jr. Everyone knows it. You know it. It's OK. You don't have to say it.
Roger Craig Smith: You know, I actually think it keeps it more dramatic. I mean – who knows – between, I mean Marvel's approach to these things, and they've got so many awesome ideas for this. I think eventually you got to mix it up just a little bit. Otherwise, you don't want to see the same stuff turned out over and over and over again. Thankfully, Marvel is not doing that. They're refreshing everything and keeping it viable and keeping it fun and interesting. And like us having this discussion over the fact that, look, "I thought Captain America—I thought he was always the natural leader for the Avengers." But apparently he's not. And yet, now we see the live action films doing exceptionally well, and it kind of makes you wonder where are they going to go with this. That's the beauty of that whole Marvel Universe. They can kind of keep expanding upon things and growing and keeping us fans interested in where they are going to take all this stuff, and that's what we're seeing right now.
Jeffrey Harris: Now Hulk has his own animated show now in addition to appearing in Avengers Assemble. Would you ever like to do Captain America in his own animated show?
Roger Craig Smith: I am thrilled beyond belief to be able to voice this character. If it's in an ensemble situation or if it's a standalone situation, it doesn't matter to me. There is no taking away from the significance of getting to voice a character that as an American is the holy grail of characters to play. You're playing Captain America. So it's really cool. I don't know if they are going to do something different with the character. I have no idea. As just a voice actor, we're the last to find out. I think that's by design and for good reason. They don't want us blabbing about it or making a mistake and letting the cat out of the bag. I've not heard anything. We're still hard at work on Avengers Assemble, and I'm thrilled just to be a part of that. I actually like the dynamic of the group setting because it offers a chance for a more interesting dynamic between all the characters as opposed to if it was just by myself or just Iron Man or just Thor. I think you would have fewer opportunities. You would probably find yourself with a lot of guest stars. The regular Avengers team kind of often is never down there to kind of keep things fresh.
Jeffrey Harris: Now on Regular Show you basically get your own character with Thomas. Beforehand you would play supporting or incidental characters that would pop up in the show, but how do you like how Thomas has developed as the park intern?
Roger Craig Smith: I love it. It's so much fun. And that show, working with JG Quintel has been like one of the biggest joys of my career because the guy couldn't be a nicer human being. And to watch him have basically his little baby kind of get birthed out and do so well in the world is awesome. Everyday behind the VO microphone for me is a victory. So getting to go and do incidental characters, I don't care if I'm the taco cart vendor or I'm Thomas the intern. I don't care if I'm Guy in Biker Bar No. 1 or if I'm Ripslinger. I am thrilled to do this job, and every now and then, I have to take a step back and look at the characters I've played and the opportunities I've had. And getting to be a recurring role on Regular Show, it just made me feel like my inner 10 year old kid feel like, "Dude! You're cool!" *Laughs* I didn't believe it when all of the sudden I was reading that episode and when they kind of introduced Thomas and kind of alluded to the fact that he was going to be part of the gang, I looked at JG and said, "Hey. Is he coming around?" And he's just like, "Yeah man. He's going to be like one of the guys here and there." And I'm like, "Oh my god! This is so great!" It's a blast. And being a part of Regular Show, even if it's with Thomas or not with Thomas, is so much fun. It's absurd to me that they pay me to go in and be a part of this stuff, and working on Regular Show has been an absolute dream come true. It's such a funny, cerebrally weird – and yet it's silly and has good social commentary and loves the 1980s. It's just been a blast being a part of that show.
Jeffrey Harris: Now for Batman: Arkham Origins, I saw the panel for the game at San Diego Comic-Con. Was that your first Comic-Con?
Roger Craig Smith: The San Diego one and the New York One were both my first Comic-Cons. And boy oh boy, to sort of show up and promote something like the Batman franchise was just incredible. That room in San Diego was massive. And that was one of those first moments where like, "Wow. They're going to introduce us." And definitely it's not lost on me, the significance of having Kevin Conroy voice that character for so long.
Jeffrey Harris: Were you intimidated by going to Comic-Con with that in mind?
Roger Craig Smith: Any time you're stepping into the shoes of iconic character, it doesn't matter necessarily who has done it before you. You just want to do the absolute best job you can do for that character. But to know that I grew up, and I was in high school listening to Kevin Conroy do Batman. When I'm going and listening to Kevin doing that, it's just unreal to then also be in a situation where you can add your name to the list of actors who have portrayed and who have voiced that character. That's where the intimidation factor comes in because you know that this character is so loved by so many people that to take on that opportunity is both exhilarating and frightening all at the same time.
Jeffrey Harris: I'm very excited that your Sonic the Hedgehog is now crossing over from the games over to TV with Sonic Boom. Do you have any insight on what this show is and what is Sonic at the point we meet him in the show?
Roger Craig Smith: Well it's always the Sonic that we know and love. It's one of those situations where it's a character that is so beloved by so many people that we, obviously, everybody approaches it going like, "Man. We want to do the best that we can for all these characters." And that's exactly what I think you're going to see in Sonic Boom. We are just having so much fun recording for both the game and the series. I cannot wait for the game, and I cannot wait for the TV series. Again, it's one of those gigs where you just feel like, "I can't believe they're paying me to do this" because the writing on Sonic Boom has only gotten better as we've gone along. And we're all cracking up, having a really good time exploring these characters in a little bit different of a light than maybe we've seen in the past. So we're having a lot of fun with the entire world of Sonic the Hedgehog. But it's still going to be that blue blur, that action-packed hero that we know and love. But we're definitely having a lot more fun with the relationships of all these characters and how they are and how they interact. But at the end of the day, it's still about having good fun, good action, and the game is not going to disappoint in that regard at all. I'm so thrilled that we had an opportunity to take the Sonic franchise and kind of reinvigorate—kind of refresh and bring in some new energy to it to try to reach out to a newer fanbase because this is such a great character. I think we'd like to introduce him again to some folks who maybe—I don't want Sonic to ever come across as being like the same old, same old because every time they do a new game with him, they're trying to push it and do different things with it. And that's what we're definitely trying to do with Sonic Boom, both in the TV and the game that's going to be a blast. I cannot wait for the fans to get their hands on these things.
Jeffrey Harris: Is this a completely original story? Or do you see this as a Sonic who has had previous adventures? Or is it starting fresh?
Roger Craig Smith: I think you are going to see elements of a lot of different things. Because we're having a little bit of fun with the relationship of the characters, it's going to be – it's not going to be unfamiliar. That's the best part about it, but I think it's going to be a new approach that's going to have everybody excited for it.
Jeffrey Harris: How much did you like getting to play Ezio in the Assassin's Creed game franchise and play this Italian nobleman getting to see him develop over the course of several games? And when you signed up, did they tell you, "OK, he's not just the main character of this game, but we want to do a whole spin-off series of games around Ezio?"
Roger Craig Smith: No, not at all. That's what's kind of interesting. It's not lip service when we say as voice actors we're usually the last to find out because we don't own these characters. If anything, my job is to go in and have a director and a producer and the creatives tell me what they want for that character. But as far as what they want to do with that as a franchise and all that, there are a lot more talented and very smart and very crafty people who are in charge of that in its entirety. And they know where they want it to go. I don't think I had any clue that Ezio was going to go into three games. I was happy with just having Ezio be a part of Assassin's Creed 2, and I never thought there was going to be a sequel. You never go in assuming it's going to be more than one season's worth of work or one day's worth of work because I can be replaced at any given time. So you're just happy to be behind the VO microphone working for that day. With Ezio, that's no different. I was given opportunities to voice a character. I had no clue how it was going to be received because there were like three years between Assassin's Creed 1 and Assassin's Creed 2. The first game was well received by critics but a lot of fans were like, "Eh. It's too repetitive. The fighting mechanics aren't good enough." They did such a great job revamping that whole franchise, that whole series, and sure enough, it introduced this new character as Ezio. And I didn't know. I mean you never know if you are creating something new and whether or not it's going to resonate, and thank goodness it did. And next thing you know, they took the ball and ran with it and gave me the opportunity to portray from a very early point in life to essentially the end of his life, which was incredible. What an honor and what a rare opportunity for a voice-actor to get to do in a video game because nine times out of 10, you're not really exploring a character that in depth.
Jeffrey Harris: Where did you find that great, dripping Italian and romantic voice for Ezio?
Roger Craig Smith: *Laughs* That's your opinion. I hear it and it's like nails on a chalkboard to me sometimes because I just go, "Ugh! I could've done a much better job with that." Or "Ugh! I could've done that accent so much better." I have to give credit to Peter Arpesella, who was my dialect coach about halfway through Brotherhood all the way through Revelations, and Ida Darvish, who was my dialect coach on ACII. That was where we really kind of developed the character and working with Ida, she helped me so much with the accent and the lines of dialogue that were done in Italian. Really, it was more just kind of working more with the creative director and the director, Amanda Wyatt, who coincidentally also directed me in Arkham Origins. But it was working with a group and having people say, "What would this character sound like?" "What would he be like?" I can't take sole credit for it other than that there's a portion of that character that has my vocal cords, but beyond that, you work collaboratively with the creative director and the writers and the producers and everybody that's kind of involved with this in creating that character. I always laugh because when people go, "You're the character Ezio!" I go, "Nope!" I've done the voice-work for it, but there were a lot of creative and talented people who worked on the design of Ezio to make him look the way he did and to make him the move the way he did. All those things are what make the character, not just the voice. I can almost barely take credit for the voice-work just because I'm obviously not Italian, and I had to work very closely with the dialect coach into sort of conjuring up that accent and making sure we could play around with it and take some certain liberties with it here and there to make it not quite so Italian, but Italian enough so it would make sense. I have to give a lot of credit to both Ida and Peter in helping me craft that along with Amanda Wyatt, the voice director, in creating the character of Ezio.
Jeffrey Harris: Would it ever interest you to do the motion capture work for a character and to perform as the character both physically and vocally?
Roger Craig Smith: I would. I think the only limitation I have is I'm too short. It's kind of the irony of hearing I'm too short for a voice-over role. Unfortunately, I think the technology hasn't really worked in my favor yet to where they can take a 5'5" guy and have the data capture it onto a computer and turn it into a 6'9" badass. That's the way the cookie crumbles at this point. I would love to, but to put it this way, I think the last audition I had for a full-body mocap/performance capture was where I was playing some sort of an elf. That'll let you know – I've had some fans ask, "Would you ever want to mocap as Batman?" And I said, "I don't think you'd want me to because I think Batman would physically look a little bit more like the Penguin than Batman."
Jeffrey Harris: I think what I enjoyed most about your Batman in Arkham Origins was getting a Batman who was much younger, aggressive, and a lot more arrogant. And the way you got to play the relationship with Martin Jarvis as Alfred was phenomenal. It's a Batman who has to get put through his paces and humiliated to a degree in order to pull him back a bit.
Roger Craig Smith: Thank you. That's the ultimate compliment. That was essentially what we wanted to do. It was an origin story. We wanted to kind of playing around with fans knowing full well that fans would be very familiar with the Kevin Conroy version of the performance, especially considering it was still an Arkham game. We wanted to kind of look at it from how would he [Batman] be because obviously, he doesn't just go from a boy to becoming Batman. How does he become Batman by making mistakes? How does he become Batman by learning and working with others, and also that relationship with Alfred that I thought was a lot of fun. Getting to work with Martin was just an honor. And the guy could not be a cooler human being. I had so much fun working with him in the booth. But yes, anytime fans get that is what we were trying to do because I also understand people who go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don't mess with our character!" And, "What are you doing bringing in a different voice other than Kevin Conroy?" You got to understand why they were doing what they were doing and why they were approaching this storyline and where they were approaching these characters from. And to hear people say, "Hey, I love it. It was a little younger and a little more unhinged, kind of arrogant, maybe a little petulant." All those things were what we were trying to go for. So I love when people get that that was our intent.
Jeffrey Harris: It has been great to speak with you, and I can't wait to see what you do next.
Roger Craig Smith: Great speaking with you, Jeffrey. Thank you very much.
Thank you to Roger Craig Smith for taking the time to speak with us. You can check out Roger as Captain America on Avengers Assemble on Disney XD or as Thomas on Regular Show on Cartoon Network. Sonic Boom, starring Roger as Sonic the Hedgehog, premieres on Cartoon Network this fall. The game based on the show will also be released this fall.