By Marc Strom
As the days crawl by leading up to the March 8 premiere of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" on Kids WB!, we here at Marvel.com continue to bring you the latest updates and interviews with the people behind the camera. This week we spoke with Spider-Man himself, the spectacular Josh Keaton, about what it's like bringing an icon to life.
And if you're in the San Francisco Bay-area this weekend, be sure to check out the world premiere of the first episode at WonderCon on Saturday, Feb. 23, from 3:00-4:00 PM. The panel will be attended by Josh Keaton, producers Vic Cook and Greg Weisman, as well as many more responsible for the most recent animated incarnation of your friendly-neighborhood wall crawler!
Marvel.com: Were you a fan of Spider-Man before you got the role?
Oh man, I think every kid was a fan of Spider-Man. I definitely was a fan. I was not as avid of a reader as some of my other friends, but I did have a pretty good history with Spider-Man and the Spider-Man universe going into the part.
Marvel.com: What years were you reading?
I really was a fan of the original stuff. But as I got the part I really started picking up the Essentials, buying up the big volumes and reading those for research and what not.
Marvel.com: Obviously you're a big fan of the character, so what was it like bringing an icon like Spider-Man to life?
In the beginning it's really kind of daunting because you know how many people are fans of this character and of this whole world that's been created, and you don't want to let any of them down. You want to do the part justice so that everyone can have something that they can look at and say "That's Spider-Man, that's it." But honestly, at the same time, it's probably the coolest thing that's ever happened to me in my life. I get to be Spider-Man! You really can't ask for anything cooler than that.
Marvel.com: And when you're portraying him, is there any one era that you draw from?
Not necessarily. I kind of have all of that in my head but I really try to make this a fresh portrayal. I'm an on-camera actor as well, and I basically approach it the same way I would approach an on-camera piece of work. I still make character choices. I try to make it make sense for myself. But I keep all that other stuff in mind, so that if there's something where I'm kind of confused as to how [Pete] would really feel at this point, I can always think of other stuff in the history and make it make sense that way.
Marvel.com: What, in your eyes then, is Peter's defining characteristic?
He kind of wants to have a normal high-school life. I identify with him so much because when I was a kid, and when I was in high school, I was such a dork. I pretty much was Peter Parker. I sat in the computer lab, I did computer stuff, I loved video games, I was always into science. That's how I lived my life. And I'd see all these popular kids, and on some level [Peter] wants that. He still loves what he has, and I don't think he would ever in a million years give up his intelligence to just be a football star like Flash Thompson but on some level he wants some of what that is, and he wants to have some of that cool life. I wouldn't say that's his defining characteristic, but… let me think about it a little more, can we come back to that?
Marvel.com: Sure thing! In your mind, is there any difference between Peter when he's in his civilian identity as opposed to being Spider-Man?
Slightly. He can't really be too different because he's still the same guy. I would say that any kind of difference there is between the two is more of an attitude difference. Because when he is Spider-Man he has a lot more confidence, he can say all the things that he could never say as Pete. He's an intelligent guy, [and] he's got this witty, glib way about him when he's Spider-Man. And that's really one of the things that works for him in his fights is that he's so quick-witted that he can frustrate the villains just with some of the banter. He can drive them nuts.
Marvel.com: So then how do you differentiate Peter's voice from Spider-Man's?
It would more be the other way around. Spider-Man's voice is a little bit different because then he is more confident and more sure of himself—I mean, I wouldn't say that Peter stammers or stumbles, but there is a little more trepidation when he speaks. He's definitely a lot more nervous around girls he thinks are pretty. There still is some [of that] even when he's Spider-Man because, y'know, pretty girl, he's still the same guy. I would say that [as Spidey] his voice might be a little bit deeper, but really it's more an attitude thing, it's not necessarily a specific vocal change.
Marvel.com: We spoke with the supervising producer and director of the show, Vic Cook, and he mentioned that there were going to be a lot of vibrant, Hong Kong-style action sequences in the show. How do you act through those scenes and convey what's going on?
A lot of it is physical. If there's going to be a straining effort where I'm actually trying to pull something, I'll try to recreate that so you have a real sound. If [Spider-Man] just caught something with some webbing and/or is trying to pull a big crate I'll basically do something like clasp my hands together and try my hardest to pull them apart, but at the same time hold them together so you really have a good strain. There's a lot of physicality that you can do to really recreate those sounds.
Marvel.com: Any thoughts on Spider-Man's defining characteristic before we go?
Yeah, Spidey's defining characteristic is inner conflict. He has two sides of him that are competing. They're both him, and at the same time they're competing against each other. The more time he spends as Spider-Man, it's almost like a drug. He needs Spider-Man to cope with his daily life, but at the same time he can't really reveal that that's who he is. So he's forced to end up spending more and more time as Spider-Man. So it's that whole inner turmoil that really kind of guides his life. There's so much conflict in his life and that's something I think everybody can relate to, everybody can pull a piece of that out and say yeah, I understand that.
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