Veteran voice actor Fred Tatasciore is having a prolific year with several high-profile Warner Animation projects releasing regularly throughout 2021. From bringing a tragic sense of humanity to undead supervillain Solomon Grundy in both slices of Batman: Along Halloween to embrace the brutality of Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat: Battle of the Realms, Tatasciore’s performances launched the emotional and moral challenge.
In an exclusive interview with CBR, Tatasciore discussed the gravity and threat in his portrayal of Shao Kahn, explained the joys of bringing Solomon Grundy to life, and teased his upcoming superhero role as Captain Atom in the animated adaptation of Injustice.
With Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, you play as the franchise’s big bad, Shao Kahn, a warlord who revels in bloody violence. How did he play such an important role in the animated film?
Fred Tatasciore: Playing something iconic just makes no sense. I was shocked and couldn’t believe I had the part – I was so thrilled.
He’s an absolute showman, a warrior, a bloodthirsty man with an agenda. The key was not only to play him as juicy as possible with his meanness, but also what his point of view was and what he’s trying to do, his frustration. I equate him to Megatron in many ways, [saying] “The things that should be done are not done!” It’s really fun to play a demonic fighter from another world. He’s a truly wonderful warrior.
I feel like I’m the first Mortal combat the animated film is probably the bloodiest project you have ever done.
Besides the horror films I have made, absolutely. I would say so.
After seeing the level of violence in the first movie, did it influence your performance coming back for it?
Yes and no, I knew we were going. I kind of already knew how the first one was going to be, so I knew we had to dig deep. It informed me of what the world was going to be like, but I still would have played it the same way, just give the role a little gravity and fear. It was good to go out there and drink blood and be comfortable with this guy and live in his own skin. [laughs] I knew we were heading towards a certain truth.
In addition to Shao Khan, you must be a towering figure different from Solomon Grundy in Along Halloween, which is violent but really more misunderstood. How do you find the Frankenstein in this monster?
I enjoy it and actually prefer it.
I’ve always loved the humanity of monsters: they are called monsters because they don’t have a better name. He was once Cyrus Gold, a dude who wasn’t necessarily a morally fair dude, but he stumbled upon bad guys and ended up being abused and used by all bad guys ever since. He really just wants to be left alone in a sense. I felt like I was connected to this rather than someone pernicious. I identify more with that kind of Frankenstein and I love playing those kinds of characters. They really resonate with me. I don’t know what it is, but there is something sad about Solomon. He’s a really miserable being and that just gives me a license like Of mice and Men or whatever gets me to play as far as I can go. The fact that he actually gets along with Batman is huge and that Batman understands it.
i’m a huge Mass Effect fan and it reminds me of your role as Saren. A lot of people see him just as a final boss, but he’s a guy who didn’t know he was played from the start and there’s a tragedy in that.
I think you are absolutely right. People misunderstood [him] for years. He’s someone whose humanity needs to be seen – I mean he’s an alien – but he’s someone who could have been the right guy. Solomon and especially Saren should have been good guys. Saren has been picked up and he looks more like a Hannibal Lecter who should have been good. He’s smart and the tragedy with Saren is the first video game character I’ve played with that kind of complexity where I couldn’t really call him a villain. He’s a boss and an enemy, but he definitely had a point of view and had to play it in the best possible way and with two ways to do it at the end of the game. On the one hand, he realizes that he realizes that it is too late, with the big sentence: “Isn’t submission better than extinction?” He has a lot to do with forces way above his head.
They can check my math, but I think of all the people I’ve spoken to you’ve worked the most with voice director Wes Gleason.
I love this guy! This guy is so much fun and so good at what he does. We have a shortcut in the way we work together and he’s so good and the way he respects what the writers are trying to do – it’s always the priority. He also knows how to work with us crazy actors. It is really quite exceptional.
You can play a real superhero in Injustice as Captain Atom, another tragic figure in a world that has gone horribly wrong. How did he come to play this role?
I know! I love playing this guy. There are so many different iterations of him that he has to go through but he takes sides and he is very efficient.
Siding with the Pentagon and working with Batman and, without giving too much away, it’s very weird to fight Superman. I understand the story and I understand why but, in my head, I always say to myself “Oh no!” [laughs] If anything, that’s the most important thing to me, trying to rally anything against Superman.
How do you manage to paint in the darker colors as you explore this side of the DC Universe?
It’s great because you know the license – you are just doing movie truth. I can draw from these colors now, like when I am working on a children’s show. I work with primary colors. It’s safe but still fun and getting down to business with different shades. When I work with shady stuff, I can now bring out certain levels of humanity or inhumanity that were previously concealed. It’s great from an acting perspective because it brings in a certain truth that really works – truth cinema in full surrealism. [laughs]
Batman: The Long Halloween, Parts 1 and 2, and Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms are now available on Digital HD and Blu-ray / 4K UHD. Injustice: Gods Among Us will be released on Digital HD and Blu-ray / 4K UHD on October 19.
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