CAPTAIN AMERICA and a Dream Come True - Roger Craig Smith's Disney Work
Captain America in Avengers Assemble
CREDIT: Marvel Animation
Last week, we started our conversation with voice actor Roger Craig Smith , who is voicing the iconic superhero Batman alongside voice actor Troy Baker, who takes over as The Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins.
In part two of our conversation, we talked to Smith about voicing an iconic superhero alongside Troy Baker, as the pair are also voicing characters in Avengers Assemble. As Captain America, Smith wants to capture the movie audience while also bringing in elements of the character only seen in the comics.
Smith also has some non-superhero work, making a dream come true and doing a voice in a Disney feature film, Planes. Finally, we get the answer to that age-old question: Who would win in a fight, Batman, Captain America, or Ripslinger from Planes?
Newsarama: Roger, with Avengers Assemble and Captain America, you actually started the role on Ultimate Spider-Man, did you know when you were taking it for that show that it would bring you into the team show?
Roger Craig Smith: You know, what’s interesting about that – I’m trying to remember the timeline of things, I honestly don’t recall which came first. It’s like a chicken and egg thing, had I already gotten the role of Cap for Avengers Assemble but we were at a different timeline in the production process? I think we had started work on that, then went into the guest appearance on Spider-Man.
I honestly can’t remember which way it was. It’s funny, you audition so much, that’s the job here – auditioning constantly, and sometimes you can’t remember which way things go.
Nrama: And of course, you voiced Mar-Vell on the previous Avengers show…
Smith: Right! I think I had maybe a three episode run on that show, with Captain Marvel. And that got me sort of introduced to the people at Marvel and Disney. It’s funny, voiceover is such a small world, you see the same people over and over again. It’s a lot of fun in that regard, because we all know each other. Troy Baker and I are always cracking up – we’re on Avengers Assemble playing a couple of superheroes, then we’re working together again on Arkham Origins – it’s a lot of fun, that’s for sure.
As far as Ultimate Spider-Man, I was thrilled just for that level of opportunity, and Avengers Assemble, playing Cap regularly, is just a massive opportunity.
Nrama: This show is meant to be very accessible to the fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – does that influence your take on the character at all, or is your take purely coming out of the scripts and direction you’re given?
Smith: It’s a combination of everything, but we are very aware of the success and pace and timing and stylized performances being done in the on-camera world. For the most part, you have a different medium in which you’re working. You have to pursue some things from a different perspective.
The nice thing about it, is yeah, we’re not going to step so far away from the theatrical versions that people will go “what on Earth is this?” but we’re also working in a different realm that lends itself to us saying “let’s take the characters in this direction,” or make them a little more true to the comic book versions. We never want to step away completely from the massively successful films, we don’t want to alienate that fanbase. It’s a tap dance for sure. We approach most of these things collaboratively. Working with Collette Sunderman, the voice director on Avengers Assemble, and Man of Action, and Marvel and the folks at Disney, we want to make sure we’re paying homage to the characters and not so much to previous performances.
Otherwise, you’d think “he’s just doing an impression of the Cap we see in the films” and this is not that guy, this is not that Cap.
Nrama: So, similar to what I asked you about Batman – what appeals to you personally about Captain America? What is at the heart of Captain America that makes him a character you want to play?
Smith: He is by-the-book. He’s very disciplined. At his core, he wants to do good.
It’s a very interesting dynamic that we play with in Avengers Assemble, and it’s similar to the Batman element – Batman has conviction but he might not really be doing the right thing, at least in certain peoples’ eyes. It’s the same thing with Cap, Cap’s approach to problem solving is different from Tony Stark’s. We play around with that a lot in the performance, in the writing of it.
It’s that element of Cap – at his essence – he wants to do the right thing, and make sure that the plan is executed well. I have to admire that, that militaristic background of, don’t get overly emotional, you have to respond to this, come to the best solution, come up with a plan and if it doesn’t work, you adapt. He’s just a good guy. At his core, he’s that boy scout to a certain degree. Knowing that his character was always there, but physically he wasn’t always able to do much about it, at 5’5”, there’s not much in my real life that I’m able to do that Cap can do, so in real life I’m pre-Super Soldier. I’m Steve Rogers in junior high in real life, and then I get to act Captain America!
That is cool!
Nrama: You’re creepy CGI Chris Evans!
Smith: (laughs) Yes, exactly! I might describe it a little bit differently, but that works! (laughs)
Nrama: You can put that on your résumé, feel free to use that.
Smith: (laughs) Yeah, there you go. I’m Creepy CGI.
Nrama: For people unfamiliar with the process of voice acting, how much do you get to, and what do you do to contribute to the relationships on the show? Obviously, with Captain America being the heart of the Avengers, and the field leader, he has very unique relationships with the other characters. What do you do to bring that out of the script and direction?
Smith: You know, inherently, a lot of it is the writing.
One of the great things about the recording process for Avengers Assemble is that we do get to do it all together. At least for principal recording sessions, everyone is in a big semi-circle and since we’re playing up so many character arc dynamics and the relationships between these characters, being able to feed off the timing and pacing and energy, all of that, that’s where we play around with things. There’s only so much you can do, because you have to stay true to the script and the character. Everyone in that room gets along famously, albeit maybe a little dysfunctionally. (laughs)
All of us are a bunch of goofballs, we have way too much fun recording. And yet, so many story elements in this series involve that kind of interaction, that it works really well for us to feed off each other’s energy like that. So we play around, if anything we’re trying to sabotage one another in most of our sessions: trying to get people to trip up on their lines, that sort of thing. That’s why I say dysfunctional – it’s like a big old fraternity, and poor Laura Bailey (Black Widow) has to sit in that room with all us guys and say “Boys, knock it off.” And that’s great, because that’s her character as well!
This is going to be one of those things where when we’re done recording and there’s no more work to do, we’ll all go into a state of depression. If anything I leave most sessions apologizing to Collette Sunderman for us goofing around so much. She’s not so much directing as she is babysitting.
Nrama: You guys can just start a traveling road show, where you do readings out of Avengers comics!
Smith: Oh man, that would be fun! And it would probably end poorly.
Nrama: I have to ask your opinion here – you have Captain America, the super soldier, master tactician, never-give-up, always-stand-up attitude, and you have Batman, master tactician, incredible martial artist, peak human condition – so who wins in a fight?
Smith: Here’s the most political answer: Ripslinger, from Disney’s Planes in theaters August 9th! (laughs) That’s who would win!
You’ve gotta be kidding me! You know I’m not going to answer that question! (laughs) I will just say Ripslinger, from Disney’s Planes. But good on you for trying!
Actually, the Narrator from Say Yes to the Dress on TLC, that’s who would win! [Newsarama Note: that’s also Smith, if you didn’t catch on]
Nrama: So, nice segue, Planes! Something very different, you’re doing all this superhero work, you did that TMNT guest spot, and then this – a Disney spin-off to the Pixar Cars movies. How did that come about for you, and what is it like being in a big-time theatrical Disney movie?
Smith: Yeah, it’s by Disney Toon Studios. I was working on some Tinkerbell stuff in the past, from them as well, and I saw an airplane hanging from the ceiling inside their production offices. I asked about the plane – I knew it was a corsair, I’m a fan of all these things, a big airplane buff as a kid. I found out they were doing this Planes movie, and I said, “I’d kill to be a part of that! If you need scratch VO, help with animatics, let me know!”
So I got involved with doing some of the scratch for animatics in the pre-production process, and next thing I know they say you’re gonna do the table read in front of John Lasseter with a bunch of other actors. We all went in, did that, and long story short, both Carlos Alazraqui who is the voice of El Chupacabra in Disney’s Planes and myself were at that original table read, and we retained our roles all the way through the production process, all the way through final recording, and here we are walking a red carpet for a Disney animated feature!
I am in awe. It’s so surreal; I am beside myself. I’m not supposed to get invited to the big show like this. I’m beyond thrilled. I was a major plane buff as a kid, always been a Disney nerd, annual pass holder, all that stuff. I actually had my tickets to the D23 expo long before any involvement in this! [He’ll now be a guest of the expo for both of these roles] It still doesn’t feel real. I’m having a hard time kind of grasping the reality of all this. Until I’m sitting in the premiere and watching it – I still kind of think I’ll be like, “that’s not me, that’s not my voice.”
(laughs) I’m still convinced I’ll walk the red carpet and someone will tap my shoulder and say can you come with us and bring your things? You’re not in this!
It’s incredible. Clay Hall, Traci Balthazor, Jason Hinkle the casting director, John Lasseter, to have this opportunity has been incredible. I can’t thank those people enough for the chance to be a part of something like this. I cannot imagine anything else up until now and hopefully there’s work ahead of me in this career – I can’t imagine anything as incredible as how this came to be. It’s my little boy dreams come true in every essence of that phrase. I’m so immensely honored to be part of this.
Nrama: As a lifelong Disney fan, was that something that influenced you in wanting to become a voice actor?
Smith: For sure! I’ve always been a fan of all things Disney. There are so many elements to it. Disney was the company that actually carded me into the Union, on Chicken Little: Ace in Action.
When I think of classic animated feature films, I think of Disney. I grew up loving all sorts of early Disney cartoons, Disney characters. I look at this as the holy grail of companies to work for in so many ways, because of the quality that they put into their work, their attention to detail, and the worlds and characters that they create. They always create a film that has something for everybody. Planes is no exception. You have comedy, you have romance, you have action – something for the big kids, something for the little kids, and that is not an easy feat. Disney does it better than most. To think that I went into this career just hoping to earn a living, then to get the opportunity to do things like these two roles that are not only making a living but also immensely rewarding and gratifying for your inner geek, it’s just – I keep using the term "surreal," and it’s surreal.