Many of you know Jack Coleman as for his roles in Heroes (as Claire's morally-suspect father, Noah) or more recently in his comic turn as State Senator Rob Lipton on The Office. This week sees Coleman again collaborating with Heroes producer and writer Jeph Loeb on Ultimate Spider-Man, where the actor voices Doctor Stephen Strange, who makes his Ultimate animated debut as Spidey battles the villainous Nightmare. In a recent interview, Coleman talked about his first foray into voice acting, teaming up with Loeb again, and the wonder of being in the booth alongside Mark Hamill.
MTV Geek: So what attracted you to this part?
Jack Coleman: Well, Jeph Loeb, who was a writer and producer on Heroes called me and said "Do you want to come in and play Dr. Strange?" And I said, absolutely—so that's as far as that conversation went.
The whole voiceover world is new and different to me and quite challenging. So when Jeph called I was eager to do it.
Geek: Yeah, looking through your very extensive credits, you've done all kinds of roles but this is your first VO job. What about this particular challenge was appealing to you?
Coleman: Well, it's a completely different style of acting. When we first did it, there was no animation. I just read the scenes [with] of course four people who are A., familiar with doing animated work and B. know their characters well and it's second nature. But it was not at all second nature to me, I had not done a lot of voiceover work.
I had to sort of catch up and learn on the fly. And honestly, when I went in and did ADR, which is additional recording when you do afterwards, I was very glad to have a chance to redo some of it. Because once I saw the animation and could sort of tie the dialog to the action and the look of the character and hear all of the voices coming from [the other actors'] characters, then it became a completely different thing—it was much closer to the acting that I know. So there was a learning curve, I had not done a lot of voiceover work and I had a lot to learn.
Geek: I always love hearing voice actors talk about finding their character in spite of not knowing what they'll look like in motion. For you, what kind of gave you a grasp Dr. Strange's character?
Coleman: Well, they showed me a drawing of him and they said "Think young." And I think I may have taken that to sort of lighten my voice and go higher. And when I went back in to do the additional recording, I felt that I had gone way too far in that direction and not given him enough gumption and enough strength. So I was thrilled to basically get to re-record the performance. And then I felt very happy with it, so the final product I'm very pleased with.
I had to learn, I just wasn't very familiar with it. And the kind of actor I consider myself, I just try to be truthful, moment to moment. And this is kind of like "voice opera:" the actions and the emotions are often very divorced from where you are and what you're doing, so you really have to create it all in your head.
So as I said, it took a little bit of learning. But when I saw it, in the animation with all of the talented voices I felt like I brought it up to where it needed to be.
Geek: Tell me a little about your take on the character. What do you think of him, and how does his role play out in this episode?
Coleman: Well the thing is, Dr. Strange is such a cool character, and "the master of the mystic arts," so that's always fun. So you're calling in sorcery and casting spells, and you sort of understand things on a more metaphysical level. But then, of course, he has his own nightmares and his own weaknesses, and [villain] Nightmare can capitalize on that as well.
You know, that's one of the things that I've loved about Spider-Man and Marvel in general. The characters all have dimension. Peter Parker's always had a lot of angst and always really struck me as a young guy who had to really fight to fit in and connect and all of the things that teenagers have to go through. I think that [Marvel does] that with all of the characters, and I remember that as a kid, that the thing I liked about Spider-Man was that this wasn't the perfect guy, some Man of Steel. This was a guy who was young and confused, conflicted, and had his own issues. And I think that's one of the fun things about Marvel in general.
Geek: Were you primarily a Marvel guy growing up?
Coleman: Yeah, I was. I liked the psychological complexity. I liked that there was more to it than just good guys and bad guys. I don't know that I necessarily could have articulated that at the time, but I think ultimately, that was what I liked about it.
And Dr. Strange is no different: he's got all of these powers and abilities, but then when Nightmare has the ability to suck him into his own nightmares and his own weaknesses and his own vulnerabilities—everybody has to struggle, they don't just prevail because of their super powers.
Geek: You mention Nightmare, who's being voiced by Mark Hamill—
Coleman: Yeah, which was one of the great things when I got to go back and do additional performing and hear Mark's performance, because when I did it the first time, he wasn't there. You know, sometimes when you're voice acting, you're doing it in a vacuum, and it gives me tremendous respect for people who do this all the time for commercials and movies or whatever they're doing. The ability to do a full performance that's physically disembodied is very challenging. I'd always loved the idea of it, but hadn't done much of it, so it was very enlightening to see how challenging it is.
The whole world of it I find really amazing. I was in there when Sam Jackson was doing Nick Fury and then Chi McBride resumed being Nick Fury, and [you see] those guys and go, "Oh my god, I want to do that!"
Ultimate Spider-Man - "Strange Days" premieres July 8th at 11am on Disney XD.