We chat with actor Peter Serafinowicz about 'The Tick,' dubbing over Donald Trump videos, and codpieces.
Credit: David Giesbrecht/Amazon Prime Video
Between the first and second episode of Amazon's The Tick, the titular superhero's costume gets an upgrade—more musculature, and a deeper shade. This wasn't to make the actor playing the big blue guy any more comfortable. Peter Serafinowicz explained in a phone conversation last week that the suit in all incarnations took a physical and psychological toll. "Both versions were incredibly uncomfortable and had a myriad of problems," he said. "Both of them were absolute fucking pigs to wear."
The good natured-if-loopy Tick probably wouldn't approve of such language. This crime fighter of mysterious origin has had adventures in comics, an animated series, and an earlier TV show starring Patrick Warburton. The new series, debuting August 25 and guided by The Tick's creator Ben Edlund, presents the big guy's tale through the eyes of his sidekick Arthur (Griffin Newman), an accountant still reeling from his own encounter with evil as a child.
You probably recognize Serafinowicz from supporting turns in Spy, John Wick: Chapter 2, and Guardians Of The Galaxy, but now he'll be inexorably linked with that form-fitting blue exoskeleton—even if it caused him grief.
VICE: How did you settle on how you wanted your Tick to sound?
Peter Serafinowicz: I hadn't seen any of the previous versions. When I spoke to Ben about the voice—which is typically how I get into character, vocally—he told me to think of a 1960s-70s American radio announcer. I thought, "Wow, that's great." That's something that resonated with me as a kid growing up in Liverpool, watching Sesame Street and being in love with this Sesame Street version of America. It seemed so exotic and sunny and happy. I thought that announcer voice was the coolest voice ever, and that was my first take on the character. Ben really liked it—I think he'd seen something where I'd done an American voice, so he knew what I was going to do. We were on the same page.
Do you know what sketch of yours Ben had seen?
I did this sketch that was called 50 impressions in 2 minutes where the joke was, I was doing impressions of [famous] people and their catchphrases—but I'd invented all of them. I imagine he saw I was a tall guy, too.
Did you think anything changed about the character when they switched costumes? The one for the series is a little bit more bombastic—the codpiece is very significant.
It's quite a codpiece, isn't it? Both versions of the costume felt the same to me, so I'm not really aware of how I look. I prefer the aesthetic design of the costume in the series. It's so suffocating, and it removes you. It's hard to do things in between takes—you know how much waiting around there is on sets, usually you're joking around and having conversations with people like normal human beings would do. This costume didn't allow you to do that, because you felt so cut off from everyone and everything else. I hope that, if we do it again, they're going to CG the costume on to me.
It's interesting that you said you feel removed from everyone, because it's who The Tick is. A couple episodes into the series, Arthur learns that The Tick has no idea where's he's from or who he is and it's profound and sad.
I guess that's right. He starts off as this two-dimensional cartoon character in this very real and realized world where superheroes happen to exist, and once he runs into questions of who he is and why he's doing the things that he's doing, it becomes something different. As that storyline develops, it's how I felt in the costume. What the fuck am I doing, what is my life, who am I? Somebody would call up IMDb on the computer, and say, look, there you are. Peter Serafinowicz. What? I'm English? I'm an actor? I was in a Star Wars movie? It was sort of alienating and just crazy.
But even though it wasn't always pleasant to shoot because of this costume, I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. I really think it's something special, and I think I can say that hopefully without sounding like I'm being immodest. It's such an ensemble, and the real star is Griffin.
You've been making a series of videos called "Sassy Trump," where you dub the president. How did those come from?
The first one I did was called "Sophisticated Trump." He was desperate to sound like somebody of stature and intellect—it was like a 6-year-old pretending to be that person. I thought it would be a fun, funny idea to give [him] the voice that was going on in his head—he sounded like this statesman. He wanted to be seen as this. I did him as a cockney gangster.
Then I did him as this queeny, bitchy, very dainty man. Even the most vehement anti-Trump person would admit, I think, he still has this kind of hard man, hard businessman, no nonsense, he still manages to project this image. And that's what I wanted to do when I realized how vindictive and catty he was being. He's like the meanest girl in school. I thought, wow, people can't see this. It was then I realized that's his true voice.
It was a weird thing of overlaying a voice onto him, adding this layer onto someone that reveals something rather than obscuring it. It made you pay more attention to the words. He actually said all of these things. He actually is saying these things. By pointing that out, by using the ridiculous voice, but certainly one that seems to fit more. It makes you kind of double take, like shit he's actually saying these words what the hell is going on.
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