At SacAnime Winter 2016 Jay Snook interviewed the man who has voiced Mario for over 25 years
Anyone who has ever played a Nintendo game should be familiar with the character Mario. He has been starring in all kinds of game for Nintendo for many years and has gone on all kinds of adventures. He is joined on some of these quests by his brother Luigi and depending on the game could even be paired up with his old nemesis Bowser. The man behind the voice is none other than Charles Martinet. He himself is a fan of the character and has loved bringing to life such a fun character for so many years. Our own Jay Snook was able to interview him at Sac Anime Winter 2016 in Sacramento, CA and here is what we learned about this talented voice actor.
So how did you originally get the voice of Mario?
Charles: I honestly crashed an audition 25 years ago. I was sitting on a beach reading a book and a friend of mine called me up and said “Hey there is an audition that you’ve gotta go to it. It is for this trade show in Las Vegas.” I said “There is no way I would ever crash an audition.” But he said “No no you gotta go, you gotta go”. For some reason I got off of the beach, I went there and I did this audition. The direction was start talking and when you run out of things to say that is your audition. You are an Italian plumber from Brooklyn. You are a character in a video game, we have this real time animation system and we have no idea whether it is going to work or not. But you are going to talk all day anyway because I am not going to pay you to just sit around.
I am sitting there thinking of an Italian plumber from Brooklyn saying (Rough and rudely) “Hey get out of my face. I’m working here you know.” But I thought about it and was like no I don’t want to do that. I want to do something more fun and family friendly and joyful. If there are kids there I don’t want to be a negative influence I want it to be a joyful sort of thing. I had played Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew a few years before. I thought I could make that voice a bit younger but of course I knew nothing about video games. I knew “waka waka waka” and Asteroids and things I had played when I was in college.
So I was sitting there thinking I will just make something up so I heard them say action and I just started with ” Hello it’s a me Mario. Let’s make a pizza pie together”. And I started making pizza and lasagnas and if one person made the pizza then the other person got to chase the person. When he caught you with a pizza you had to eat it and then you have to chase me with the pizza when you make a lasagna with it and I just kept going. I was having fun and I kept thinking “he is for sure going to say stop” but he never did. So I kept talking until I heard them ” Stop talking. Cut. There is no more video tape. Thank you, we will be in touch”. I guess that was about thirty minutes and that (laughs) was just a lot of fun. I was having so much fun with the character you know.
What has been your favorite Mario game? Or maybe the better question would be what are your top three favorites?
Charles: Wow that is a really tough one. Well I would say I love all of the Mario Karts from Double Dash to 7 and 8, I love the anti-gravity flying around. I’ve always loved the Super Mario Galaxy games, they were just amazing. I also just loved Super Mario 3D with the (cat noise, meowing). There was something about that to me that was just so joyful and it was just so much fun. And of course Super Mario Bros Wii was one of the games where the first time I saw it with the theme song and the dancing characters I just fell in love with it. Of course I got goosebumps when I saw Super Mario Galaxy. Game after game it has been absolutely amazing fun.
Who would you say has been the hardest character you have ever had to play?
Charles: When you are a voice actor that’s what you do. There are things that are a bit more intricate or challenging but your life is a joyful exploration of the inner being of the characters, the inner being of yourself and every character has to be real. The joy of Mario has to be real, it has to come from a real place. The timidness yet courage of Luigi has to come from a real place. The self pity of Waluigi, that red anger all the time of Wario. But then you also get to choose how you direct that. Real hostility or anger is not a fun thing. Each character has these wonderful dimensions to them that to me is all joyful. All of the characters that I do are just purely, absolutely fun to do. The way the comedy bounces back on Waluigi, bounces back on Wario and you know the anger. My hope in life is that people realize the joy and fun and creativity is the way to go. That you can learn through loving, joyful experience and not just through difficulties or tragedies as humanity can sometimes do.
What was one of your best experiences with a fan meeting you?
Charles: Oh gosh, I love Mario fans. Mario fans are the greatest fans in the world. They say to me now after all of these years I hear things from them like you were the voice of my childhood and things like that. There was this young man in England was the first when he said “Mel Blanc was the voice of my fathers childhood and you’re the voice of mine”. I was so touched by that, I am continuously touched by that. It is the greatest thing in life to do what you love to do. It is what I would wish for everybody. Do what you love to do, follow your heart, your passion, your dreams , your desires. By expressing love and joy and happiness and fun in what you do no matter who you are portraying you will have a positive influence on people. That has been a wonder for me is realizing that by my doing what is truly my sort of destiny and my sort of joy, what gives me happiness and how that has a positive effect on other people. I can’t imagine a better gift than that.
What would be some advice or suggestions you would give to people who want to do voice acting?
Charles: Well you know I would say don’t do it for money, do it for the love of doing it. If you love doing voice overs, you love doing games and you love imitating and things then absolutely take classes in acting. All acting has to be real whether it is video game characters or movie actors or television actors. It is all the same thing, the only difference is the size of the box you are working in. The volume and size of your motion, the voice dynamic and how wide it goes. The movie actor can just think of something but a cartoon actor can’t just think of something and have it portrayed. It has to come out and it has to be larger than life but it has to be true. So study people, I love Stanislavsky you know the method acting. Study humanity, study acting, study communication and study yourself. Every character you play is true and it has got to come from a real place in you. Also have fun, have fun, have fun. Study, work on acting and then when it comes to the job or the audition you can let go of all that studying. You go like the dog chasing the ball on the beach seeking the ball. Not wondering am I running the right way or thinking I hope my master likes the way I am running. I want to make sure I impress the guy, I want to make sure I get the ball the way they want me to. No, you gotta go and get the ball and have fun.
Do you have any final words to say?
Charles: (As Mario) “Thank you very much for playing my games. You number one! Woo hoo!”
Here is a portion from one of his great panels: