Think about this for a second: Over the last decade, what properties have been hotter than The Matrix, Lost, and Marvel Comics? Not many. And any actor who's played a role in those franchises has been met with a lifetime of recognition from the general public, as well as hardcore genre fans. After playing Michael Dawson on ABC's head-twisting Lost, Link in The Matrix movies, and now having a chance to voice Blade in the upcoming G4 anime based on the famous vampire hunter, Harold Perrineau has the distinction of being a part of all three of those legendary franchises, which is like hitting pay dirt for any actor.
Blending a western character with a distinctly eastern flavor, this latest interpretation of Blade takes its inspiration from both the comics and the Wesley Snipes movies, but it also brings enough originality to the table to stand as its own entity. And a large part of what makes it so successful is Perrineau's understated, intimidating voice work. Blade isn’t a man of many words, so when he speaks he makes it count, and Perrineau brings the same monosyllabic intensity that helped turn Michael Keaton’s Batman and Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry into pop-culture mainstays.
Blade debuts this Friday night at 11pm ET on G4, and we guarantee that fans of the movies and comics won’t be disappointed. We recently caught up with Perrineau to get scoop on his process for voicing one of the fiction world's toughest undead warriors.
Interview by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Were you a fan of Blade or any other comic books growing up?
I was a big fan of comic books when I was growing up, but I don’t know if the Blade comic books were around when I was a kid; they may or may not have been. But yeah, definitely I was into Avengers, Spider Man, The Hulk, all of those kinds of things. I used to draw muscle men and crazy characters back in the day, so, yeah, I really liked it a lot.
But Blade, I have only been a fan of since the movies. The first time I was aware of him was the Wesley Snipes movies, so I was just a fan of all of those movies when they came out.
Did you watch the movies in preparation for the role and pattern the voice off of that, or is this your own creation?
I did watch the movies again and just sort of listened to the tambour. I did want to see where Wesley Snipes was; how deep or not deep, or how much swagger Wesley had or didn’t have. I was just trying to stay in the vein, because if you were a fan of the movies like I was, I didn’t want to be too far out like that. Then I went and put my own spin on it because this Blade actually looks a little different than the other one. That one was very early ‘90s, or whenever it came out.
Did it take a while to find the character's voice?
It took a minute for me to get used to it, but after the third episode I felt like that was the voice, and it was pretty easy to recall after a while because the character started looking like the voice that I was feeling, if that makes any sense. But this is the first time I’m doing this much [voice acting]. I’ve done tiny things before, but never actually done an entire character before.
But after around the third episode it all started to feel like it made sense to me, and the voice that I had been working on seemed like the right voice. And sometimes I would have to re-listen to stuff if I was away from it for a while. I was kind of getting in there and doing it when I sort of had time because I’ve been doing a couple of things this year. I’ve been doing it when I had time, so sometimes I would have to go back and re-listen to what I had done before and be like, “OK, right, I’m still in the right vein.”
What are the physical demands of voice-acting? A lot of people might assume that it’s not too stressful, but there has to be a lot of physical exertion that goes with it.
Yeah, because you want the voice to really match what’s going on on the screen, and there is a lot of action and a lot of movement. Blade is always in some sort of desperate situation, and there aren’t very many soft, calm moments. He’s always grabbing some bad buys, or fighting with a sword fighter, or getting his ass kicked. Something is always happening. So, yeah, there is a lot of jumping around to make yourself have the energy so if feels like your energy is in sync with what’s happening.
You grew up in New York, but the show is based in Japan. Would you like to see Blade visit the Big Apple?
Absolutely, in a few seasons, or something like that. The whole thing isn’t based in Japan as much as it’s set on that side of the world. So it’s set in a bunch of different islands over there, like Madripoor, and they go to Vietnam. And each place has their own sort of mythology about vampires and stuff like that, so all of the vampires are a little different than what we’re used to in this country.
So I think it’s really exciting what they’re doing; what this first season has done. And I think it would be really cool when he starts coming back over to America, and if he goes Brooklyn—hell yes! I would love to do that; it would be really cool.
Have you found that comic book fans are just as rabid as those of Lost and The Matrix?
I would imagine that Comic-Con is Comic-Con anywhere. [Laughs.] So if you like comics stuff, or television stuff, or the movies, I would imagine that all of those fans are as into the comic book as they are in the movies, and very specific about it. I imagine it’s very specific. Everybody who knows their comics, they know their comics. They know the background, they know the history, they know where it’s going, where it’s been.