Without a doubt, voice actor Fred Tatasciore is one of the most consummate talents in the industry. If you were to take a look at his past voiceover projects on his IMDB for the past year alone, it’s incredulous that one single person could find both the time and the skill to pull off such a variety of characters. While there’s truly no limit to what characters Tatasciore is able to voice, it goes without saying that playing villains is bread and butter.
Most notable, Fred Tatasciore voiced the DC Comics zombie Solomon Grundy, a role he played previously in other animated projects, in the Batman: The Long Halloween animated adaptation as well as the brutal tyrant Shao Kahn in the Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms animated film. The Beat had the chance to chat with Tatasciore about not only voicing these titanic tyrants but also perrenial Bugs Bunny antagonist Yosemite Sam.
Taimur Dar: Solomon Grundy is a DC Comics character you’ve voiced in the past. But what distinguishes this version of Grundy from your past performances is that he only speaks one line, “Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday.” It’s definitely something we’ve seen with other characters like Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy or Hodor in Game of Thrones. As a performer, how do you bring nuance to one repeated line?
Fred Tatasciore: What you try to do like Groot is put in place in your mind exactly what he would say. Oftentimes I would say the line to myself like say, [Solomon Grundy voice] “I want a piece of pizza!” So that’s, [Grundy voice] “Solomon Grundy! Born on a Monday! It informs how something is said. You have to have subtext in your head every time. And you have to be exact with what you’re thinking as you’re saying these lines. It’s a strange affectation he has since he didn’t know his own name, Cyrus Gold. And now he’s only latched onto this poem when he was with the hobos traveling around! Do people say hobos anymore?
Dar: I’ve always liked it! Reminds me of the classic ‘30s Great Depression era.
Tatasciore: Yeah! Like in the train yard. [Laughs]
Dar: Switching to Mortal Kombat, you voice Shao Kahn the big bad of the film which is obviously your forte. As the filmmakers discussed because the film has such a large ensemble they can’t explore the backstory of every character. It had me thinking of villains like Darth Vader specifically in the very first original Star Wars film. As a viewer at the time you don’t know anything yet about his transformation from Anakin Skywalker into the Sith Lord but Vader is still a compelling villain. What informed your performance for Shao Kahn despite not having that in-depth backstory you would typically want?
Tatasciore: I would say you sometimes go in knowing the project. For me it was just reading the script and having great directors who informed me what they wanted out of this. And just thinking of him as something otherworldly. You mentioned Darth Vader, I keep equating him with Megatron in many ways. He has a thing that he really desires to do. He was really born and bred for one thing. He sees himself as the most powerful in the room and realm and he wants to own those realms. There is that element of not displaying power right away necessarily. But I think you have to embrace that bravado and swagger.
What informed me on this film is when he licks the blood. [Shao Kahn voice] “Fatality!” I realized that’s where he lives. That’s the barbaric world he inhabits. In that barbaric world there are rules of his own making of course but this is what makes sense to him. There is no other way. There is no, [Shao Kahn voice] “Maybe I’ll write a book about it!” None of that. “We are going to be proactive on every level and I have to deal with these very annoying people. I would rather find a decent way once I’m get granted the permission to fight. Even unfairly I will fight and win” That’s the crux of not only the movie but him. He has to still adhere to certain rules. Again how it was described to me is that this probably the biggest baddest dude I’ve played in a certain sense next to Cthulhu or something. [Laughs]. It’s all about battle for him, not even honor really. It’s winning and subjugation. He likes that. He’s most alive in that. Those are the themes you play with.
Dar: Sticking with Warner Bros. villains you’ve played but something less intense, I know you’ve been voicing Yosemite Sam for the last few years including the recent Looney Tunes Cartoons. I grew up obviously hearing Mel Blanc’s voice and then eventually Maurice LaMarche who been voiced Yosemite Sam for over two decades before you. When I heard your performance I didn’t realize it was your voice until I saw your name in the credits, so it’s a real testament how you’ve captured his essence. How did the opportunity to voice Yosemite Sam come up and what’s been the experience voicing an iconic Looney Tunes character?
Tatasciore: Again, a shocker. It’s a real throat ripper. So I think [Maurice] didn’t want to destroy his voice. He’s always been just so gracious and amazing. [Yosemite Sam voice] “It’s again the humanity. One of the things that I love about Yosemite Sam is he always tries to do something even if he has to rob a bank [and] it never works out. And it’s just like, ‘Dagnabbit!’”
Even in his case there’s a humanity behind it. We talked about Shao Kahn and his desires and he’s got a humanity. Sam’s got humanity too. He just keeps getting let down and the humor of it. Like how he just is an opportunistic but he’s got this instant karma that just keeps firing back at him in every way. Part of me always feels sad for him, even my wife [does]! And yes, you have to pinch yourself and say, “I can’t believe we’re working on these iconic characters.” It’s crazy!
Dar: Fred, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you but most especially getting to hear those crazy talented voices from you!