Don’t let appearances fool you: Will Friedle remains a television fixture. The former Boy Meets World star hasn’t made an on-camera appearance since the early 2000s, but he’s enjoyed a prolific voice-acting career on Kim Possible, Ultimate Spider-Man and beyond — like, really beyond.
Tonight on The Hub and on Blu-ray/DVD on October 8, Friedle adds yet another animated project to his resume as he provides the voice of Bumblebee in the full-length movie Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising, the culmination of three seasons of Autobot action. Friedle debuted as Bumblebee in the final episode of Transformers Prime, once the brave bot’s voice-box was restored in an 11th-hour twist. Now Bumblebee is ready to speak his mind — but is he ready for the return of a deadly foe?
Friedle spoke with Spinoff Online all about his work on Predacons Rising, his history as a Transformers fan, and why it’s very possible he won’t appear in a live-action project ever again — even when it comes to the anticipated Girl Meets World.
Spinoff Online: You’re taking on an iconic character with Bumblebee. There are lots of expectations around this character, especially throughout Transformers: Prime; he was voiceless until you stepped in at the 11th hour. Did you feel pressure going into this role, more so than usual?
Will Friedle: I knew what I wanted to do with the character, but there’s always pressure, especially with something like Transformers. Forget just Transformers, it’s Bumblebee. So there is pressure. This is one of the shows that I grew up watching, that I was a huge fan of. Going in was a little nerve-racking. Not just because it’s Bumblebee and not just because it’s Transformers, but from an acting standpoint, this, I think, is one of the best ensemble casts of the last 10 or 15 years. These guys are just great. The last thing I wanted to do was go in and be the weak link of that cast. So there was definitely some pressure. But my fanboy-ness took over and I just wanted to go in there and play Bumblebee. It was a blast all around.
What do you like about Bumblebee? How do you relate with the character?
I think the thing that I relate to with Bumblebee is he wants to be more than he is. He’s been Optimus’ scout for a very long time. He wants to slip into the role of warrior. There’s a sense of wanting to grow as a person — as an Autobot, as it were. But there’s also the idea of not having spoken for so long, that when you do finally get the chance to speak … you have to imagine what that would be like. Imagine having tape over your mouth for 10 or 12 years, and then they rip it off. “Now I can say whatever I want!” From an acting standpoint, there’s an enthusiasm in being able to speak again. Now he has a lot to say.
There were a lot of little things to hit with Bumblebee. Hopefully I did it some justice and didn’t ruin the amazing thing that is Beast Hunters.
Let’s talk about Bumblebee’s role in Predacons Rising. He was crucial to the end game of Beast Hunters; he kills Megatron. Now, it appears that Megatron is back. That’s going to be a shock for everyone, but I have to imagine it’s especially shocking for Bumblebee.
I don’t want to give too much away. But it’s a good time for Bumblebee to assert himself a bit more within the ranks of the Autobots. Like anybody trying to become a leader, there are some things that work, and some things that don’t. I think we get to see a lot more growth in the character. And yeah, of course, when you think Megatron is gone, and maybe he’s not? But that’s just the way it is with Megatron. How many times have they thought he was gone? In my opinion, that makes him one of the coolest bad guys ever.
Bumblebee will definitely be going on a journey. It’s a fun one to watch. I know you guys are huge animation fans, and the animation for this film is just so unbelievable. You sit there and you watch it with your mouth open. “How can they do this?” They knock it out of the park. It’s just incredible.
It must be great to not only be involved on the acting side, but to be an old-school Transformers fan getting a front-row look at how far the technology has come since Generation 1.
Talk about the perfect franchise to show technological growth, too. It’s exactly what it should be. I was a Gen-1 fan. It came out in 1984 and I was eight. I was watching the show every single day. But it’s one of those things where still to this day, you’re hearing Peter Cullen as Optimus and Frank Welker as Megatron. There’s still that connection to the old-school Transformers. But to bring it full circle, doing it the way that they have, and with this film? For Transformers fans, it’s just insane. It answers a lot of questions. For animation fans, they’ll love it. It’s gorgeous. And for sci-fi and fantasy storytelling fans, the script is just incredible. It’s really a project that hits on all cylinders. This is one that’s going to have a wide appeal. There’s something in there for everybody. There really is.
I’ve interviewed a lot of voice-actors, and they all say the same thing: it’s the best job in the business. You get to play an infinite range of characters, but you can still go to the coffee shop without getting mobbed. I have to imagine you have a unique perspective on this, though. I have to imagine Eric Matthews gets mobbed at the coffee shop.
I do have a unique perspective, but I don’t get mobbed. [Laughs] Which is nice! Boy Meets World has the most loyal and respectful fans, from the day that we started. We weren’t a huge show when we were on the air. It’s when the show ended and we were syndicated that the show became really big. The fans have always been very nice and very respectful. But it’s funny; more often now, I’m getting recognized for my voice. I’m in line and I’ll order something, and someone behind me says, “Hey! You’re Ron Stoppable!” Or, “You were Batman!” Things like that. It’s always interesting to hear.
But I can tell you, between the two, when I started Batman Beyond, it was, like, 1997, and I was still doing both. I was still doing on-camera and I started doing more and more voiceover. I had such a love for it that by the time I was 30, I stopped doing on-camera entirely. I stopped auditioning. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was having too much fun doing the voiceover gig. The actors who talk to you aren’t lying when they say it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest jobs in Hollywood. You’re working with incredible people, it’s a very relaxed environment, but it’s just about pure acting. How you look, what you’re wearing, going to wardrobe, going to makeup — none of that matters. You’re just sitting there with a microphone, and it’s just straight-up acting. So I love it. The second I stopped doing on-camera and started concentrating on VO, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I never looked back.
Well, I was going to ask when the next time we’ll see you on camera is … and the answer is, maybe never?
I’m having too much fun. But I’m one of those people who never wants to discount the possibility of doing anything. If an amazing on-camera project comes up, or if a friend of mine is doing something, I would never say never. But right now especially, it’s all VO all the time. I’m just having so much fun that I can’t imagine doing anything else.
So don’t bet on seeing Eric Matthews again, but don’t give up hope on a Girl Meets World cameo either?
I can say right now that I have no plans whatsoever for being on Girl Meets World. That does not mean that in the future, something might come up where I go on the show. Possibly. I don’t know. I’ll never say never. Right now, I’m only involved in the show as a fan.
Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising premieres on The Hub tonight at 8 ET/PT, and arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday.