Voice actor Dave B. Mitchell is no stranger to the Mortal Kombat property having played the villains Geras and Sektor in the Mortal Kombat 11 video game. For the new Mortal Kombat animated films, Mitchell is fighting on the side of the angels as Raiden, the franchise’s iconic god of thunder and protector of Earthrealm.
Mitchell returns to channel the lightning once again in Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, the sequel to last year’s smash-hit Scorpion’s Revenge. The Beat had the chance to speak with Mitchell about how he came to voice Raiden, the different experiences between voiceover work in animation and video games, and much more!
Taimur Dar: This isn’t your first foray into the Mortal Kombat franchise having played Geras and Sektor in the Mortal Kombat 11 video game. How did voicing Raiden in Battle of the Realms come about?
Dave B. Mitchell: Much like most of the things we end up doing, they sent out a set of auditions for Scorpion’s Revenge for all of the characters. I think they were looking to establish their own voice of the characters. I don’t mean just from a vocal stance. I think they wanted to explore some different angles on these characters and wanted to do something different to stand apart from the games. All the people who have played the characters in the games over the years are phenomenal and amazing. It was never a thing about anyone trying to replace anyone. It was to explore a different side of things.
I loved where they were going with Raiden. Obviously, he’s an Elder God and immortal. We’ve always felt his strength. But I like in these films, especially this one, not only do we feel Raiden’s strength but I think we feel his weariness as well. The fact that he’s been carrying this weight for so long and it’s such a huge responsibility and one that consumes his entire existence. I like that we get to hear the world-weary quality of Raiden and some of the time he’s been carrying on his back. I don’t feel we’ve necessarily seen [it] before because it’s always been about his strength. In this, we get to see some of his vulnerability which was really cool to play.
Dar: Continuing on that, as an Elder God Raiden obviously comports himself very seriously. But I like that in the films we see a more human side of Raiden emerge like how he gets amused by Johnny Cage. How important was connecting to Raiden’s humanity to you as a performer?
Mitchell: It’s there in the script. The writer [Jeremy Adams] did a magnificent job with these films and these characters even before any of us opened our mouths. When you read the script, they jump off the page. You connect with them and know who they are.
Despite the fact that we didn’t record this stuff together, we recorded separately. Side thing here with Johnny Cage. Joel [McHale] brought it! I loved his take on Johnny. I thought he absolutely killed it. Obviously, Joel is a very funny guy and he’s a fine actor. He really brought that out in Johnny. With this, knowing where had gone with Johnny in the first movie when I had the bits where Raiden does find the moments of amusement with Johnny it’s cool. Because you know Raiden sits up there above it all. But as you said, he’s not immune to it. When something’s amusing, it gets through to him. He’ll give you that little smile or chuckle or acknowledgment of, “OK, you got me with that one. I’ll give you that.” As heavy as the emotional stuff [gets] it’s nice to have those little moments of relating to the humanity or humor that get fleshed out in this movie.
Dar: From what I’ve heard, voiceover in video games is definitely not for the faint of heart and involves a lot of physicality. How does working in voiceover for a Mortal Kombat animated feature compare to the video games?
Mitchell: They differ in some ways but for the most part they’re still drawing on the same skills and techniques particularly on something like Mortal Kombat. Obviously, in the animated films, they’re going to be much more dialogue-heavy with what we end up doing with the characters. Whereas in the games though they do have their fair share of dialogue, ultimately those games are about fighting. They tend more towards that with the games but utilizing the same set of skills. In these films, there’s a lot of fighting and the fights are so well done. They’re well directed, conceived, rendered, and drawn. You get involved in the fights and they’re bloody and violent. You have to bring that physicality especially for something like Mortal Kombat because it is so brutal and violent and bloody. You have to reflect that in the performance. It has to have that visceral quality or it’s not going to translate to the audience. So a lot of the stuff that we’re doing is the same particularly when it comes to the fighting and a game franchise. There’s a lot of crossover. [I] definitely was using the video game background for some of the physical stuff for sure.
Dar: In the film, Raiden relinquishes his godhood in order to participate in the tournament. Did you adjust your performance in any way when performing Raiden as a mortal?
Mitchell: To a degree. Ultimately he’s still Raiden. There wasn’t a giant shift. Certainly, the fact that after he does that you could feel some vulnerability because for the first time ever in Raiden’s history you see him being genuinely vulnerable. There’s maybe an emotional vulnerability that was hiding in there because he was physically invulnerable that was never really an issue. In this case, he’s got both. Because he is now mortal, he can not only be hurt physically but he can be hurt emotionally. The writer did a marvelous job of being able to straddle that line. He’s still Raiden and carries with him everything about who he is. I tried to tap into that he’s not as armored as he was physically or emotionally.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms is available now on Digital, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD