Shortly before Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie arrived in theaters last August, the cast of the animated “Guardians of the Galaxy” assembled to record their first lines on the series, which premieres September 26 on Disney XD. At the time, none of the actors were prepared for the film or how it would change the profiles of the series.
“It was so wonderful. It was such a great, wild ride and it helped to ground us, I think,” said actress Vanessa Marshall. Marshall and fellow castmates David Sobolov, Kevin Michael Richardson, Will Friedle and co-executive producer Eric Radomski spoke with CBR News about the upcoming animated series, proclaiming their love for cosmic Marvel and how the movie affected their work on the animated series.
According to Radomski, the series was “on the horizon” some eighteen months prior to the release of the film. “No one knew if it was going to work,” he said. “We planned in advance, very intentionally, should the movie be successful, we could roll right in.” When the film indeed turned out to be a hit, the team was ready to go and the cast was ready to record.
Marshall loved the film immediately and said she watched it “a billion times” since its release, but her preparation to take on the role of Gamora took her back to “my comic book history.”
“I love second chances and she’s a character who’s really about getting a second chance,” said Marshall. “That’s for me what the Guardians of the Galaxy is about.”
David Sobolov, who lends his voice to Drax the Destroyer, had the benefit of playing the part in a number of Marvel projects dating back to the “Marvel Heroes” video game in 2013 and went to his first recording cold. “When I play these roles for Marvel, I don’t go back. I purposely don’t go back and start fresh with what the producers wants in whatever cannon we’re doing now and eventually go back and see what people have done before,” he explained. “There haven’t been a lot of Draxes before me, so I try to put my spin on it and they let me know if they’re not happy with the direction.” The actor said he thought of Drax as “a very lonely character” in need of a family.
When he did finally see the film, he was immediately struck by how much larger the Marvel Universe can be.
“It’s a huge universe!” added Kevin Michael Richardson, who takes on Groot in the series. Like Sobolov, Richardson previously brought Groot to life in “Ultimate Spider-Man,” replacing the late Michael Clarke Duncan. “He would always say every time, ‘he’s the one who’s always taking my jobs. He’s always taking my jobs!'” he said of the booming-voiced actor. From Duncan, Richardson had an idea of who Groot was, including the limited vocabulary. He was impressed by Vin Diesel’s performance in the film, but credits his prior experience with the character in helping him avoid a “bad Vin Diesel impression.”
Similarly, Will Friedle, the series’ Star-Lord/Peter Quill, also wanted to steer clear of a Chris Pratt impression. “I’d never do it as well and it was his take on Star-Lord,” he explained. The character seems “a little bit younger and the range is a little different.” Like Sobolov, he also avoided researching the character, preferring to let the scripts guide him.
Unlike many major feature animated films, the group enjoy the luxury of recording together; a practice more common in television animation than in features. “Occasionally, you’ll record alone, depending on what director you work with, but it’s great to be able to sit and play off each other. We really enjoy it,” said Friedle.
“That makes it easier for you to get it automatically because we get to feed off of each other,” added Richardson. “It’s hard for the directors and producers to dissect a particular scene, match it with another actor’s scene when they’re not around. They can do it pretty quickly and direct it pretty quickly when we’re all there together.” It also allows for a fun atmosphere between takes. When CBR News visited the recording studio, a misspoken line snowballed into a group rendition of the “Welcome Back, Kotter,” theme song. “I don’t know where that came from,” Richardson said with a laugh when asked about it.
While recording can be fun, Richardson also takes the time to ensure Groot’s intentions get across despite his vocabulary being limited to the same three words time and again. “They are many more inflections on how to say that line. He can be in serious pain or being in a hurry, or falling, or in a fire. In the scene, I’ve got to make you believe that this is what he’s trying to express without you really understanding,” he explained. Richardson credits the cast, the writing and the directors with helping him find the right approach in any given situation.
Richardson also admitted to being the most voracious comic book reader growing up and loving “The Incredible Hulk,” “ROM: Spaceknight” and the original “Secret Wars” in the mid-1980s. Friedle admitted to being more of a fantasy novel reader and likened Peter Quill to a character out of a Piers Anthony novel. “I could put in him ‘Xanth,'” he added. “That to me is where Peter Quill would be.”
Radomski thought the sci-fi/fantasy premise is part of Quill’s appeal. “The hope is that the audience will want to know if he’s ever going to get back home. Is he ever going to find where he comes from? That drives most of the story as we understand it.”
The first season is also driven by a serialized quest storyline, but the producer added, “We’re not so restricted that if you play them out of order, you wouldn’t be able to follow the storyline.” Turning his thoughts to a possible second season, Radomski suggested the format could switch to something more episodic. “At that point, everyone will be familiar enough with them to play and take them out of their comfort zone and do individual stories,” he said.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” premieres on Disney XD on September 26.
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