Twisted Metal Cast On Delivering the Game’s Killer Clowns and Carnage

Thứ sáu - 17/05/2024 22:05
Stephanie Beatriz, Samoa Joe, and Thomas Haden Church on getting silly and sadistic in a world of cross-county chaos and demotion derby action.
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NOTE: Twisted Metal‘s cast members were interviewed prior to the current SAG-AFTRA strike, on June 28, 2023.

Twisted Metal roars into purposely insane and inane live-action as a new Peacock series this week, bringing to life the crass, crude, and hilarious nature of the long-running Sony Playstation demolition derby game franchise.

Ushered to the screen by showrunner Michael Jonathan Smith (Cobra Kai) – from a story by Zombieland and Deadpool’s Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick – Twisted Metal is out to delight and repulse you and, at the same time, splitting your sides… while also splitting character’s actual sides.

The world of Twisted Metal is a wasteland where cities are walled up and exclusive while the remnants of humanity fight over scraps out on the road, Mad Max-style. Meanwhile, Anthony Mackie’s dystopian courier, John Doe, is given a cross-country mission he can’t refuse by a mysterious woman named Raven (Neve Campbell).

Along the way John teams up with a mute thief, Quiet (Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Encanto’s Stephanie Beatriz), clashes with the psycho clown-lord of Las Vegas, Sweet Tooth (physically played by wrestler Joe Seanoa, AKA Samoa Joe, and voiced by Will Arnett), and dodges the “law” in the form of Thomas Haden Church’s Agent Stone, amongst many other encounters. You won’t have had to play the games to enjoy Twisted Metal but for those who are fans of the franchise there are plenty of characters, references, and Easter eggs to satisfy you.

Fandom spoke to Beatriz, Haden Church, and Samoa Joe about the new bats**t series, that aims to be just as bonkers as the games while also creating an entire expansive world for these characters to inhabit.

Twisted Tone

So how raunchy does Twisted Metal get and was there a line they dared not cross? Breatriz explained that she and Michael Jonathan Smith (who she refers to as MJ), “Really share the same sense of humor and one of the best things about working on Twisted Metal was working jokes on set. If a joke was funny there was always the question of ‘How can we make it funnier? What’s the most deranged, unhinged thing we could say or do in this moment? Let’s try that. Let’s see if it works.’ And there’s a real Bugs Bunny element of comedy in this, which I think is strange but works.”

Tonally, the show is all about warped gallows humor, which is in line with the games but also matching the films Reese and Wernick have worked on. “I think you’ll find a good dose of that same type of vulgarity and crassness sprinkled throughout the series.” said Samoa Joe, who plays the violently physical form of Sweet Tooth. “I think we’re right where we need to be.”

This type of dark humor was right up Beatriz’s alley. “I love it and I think this show nails it. I think part of the reason is because MJ, who wrote the show and was our showrunner, is a fan of the games. He gets it. He just gets that tone and that sensibility. And also to have Brett Reese and Paul Wernick be our executive producers, that’s the tone, right? That Zombieland and Deadpool tone. You cannot believe you’re laughing at this, but you can’t help yourself. I think we nailed it because I found myself laughing a lot on set. So I’m hoping audiences think we nailed it too.”

Haden Church is no stranger to the outrageous games and remarked, “It’s everything that the game hopes to represent, going even from the very first Twisted Metal to Twisted Metal: Black to even further.”

He added, “It’s vulgar, it’s dangerous, it’s murderous. Between Paul Wernick and Rhett [Reese] and [executive producer] Will Arnett and his partner [Marc Forman] and Michael Jonathan Smith, I think a lot of the writers that were that were coming in and and writing episodes, what happened is that a lot of people that were really young and played games like Twisted Metal, now, 25 years later, they’re all content makers, so they have such a grassroots appreciation of what the essence of the game was.”

Killer Clowns from Outer Vegas

Bringing the iconic Sweet Tooth to life took two talented performers, from two very different realms of entertainment. Wrestling veteran, and current Ring of Honor Television Champion, Samoa Joe embodied the crazed clown, acting on set in the iconic mask and performing all the scenes in person while Will Arnett provided the character’s specific voice in post-production.

Explained Joe, “I was doing all the verbiage and all the lines on set with the actors and then afterwards, taking kind of tone notes and inflection notes from Will, we sent it back to the studio and Will dubbed his track over and did his magic. It was surreal for me, hearing it for the first time, because it’s like a rebirth of your own voice, in a different manner. So it took me a good two or three minutes before I was like, ‘Okay, yeah.’ It almost felt like it wasn’t me up there, like it was somebody else, you know? It was a very odd experience for me!”

Joe’s first day on set had him driving Sweet Tooth’s famed ice cream truck of doom, making for an unforgettable experience. “It was the greatest thing ever. Beyond fun. I showed up the first day, I’m in the costume and everybody’s happy with that, and then they pull up the ice cream truck. They looked at me and said ‘Hey, you wanna jump this thing through a billboard?’ And I’m like, ‘Where do I sign up, man?’ So I got in the car and blew up some stuff, jumped a few jumps, and I mean you couldn’t ask for a better first day on set.”

“I’ve said this before, if you got a PlayStation, you had Twisted Metal,” Joe continued. “I’ve told people ‘if you get sick of playing Warhawk and you needed something else to kind of take the edge off, you play Twisted Metal.’ I played every game, up through Black and beyond. I’ve always been a fan of the games. Obviously a lot of my friends growing up spent many Saturday evenings on my couch playing Twisted Metal. So when the offer came down, it was a no-brainer for me.”

The first look fans got at Twisted Metal was a casino floor brawl between Sweet Tooth and John Doe, all set to Sisqo’s “Thong Song” – ‘90s music is a big deal on the show since the world collapsed in 20 years back – and as soon as Joe read the scene he knew he had to do the show. “It was wild, because I’m thinking about all this, I’m thinking about just the more unpredictable side of Sweet Tooth and how we were going to make ‘Thong Song’ work in that context, and I laughed. I read it to my wife and she laughed hysterically and then I was all gung ho to make it happen.”

“You need to have a good rapport with another man before you go into a killing scene with ‘Thong Song’ blasting in the background,” Joe said, with a laugh. “You need to have that moment to understand that both of you are in on the joke, because you don’t want to be too serious come that scene.”

Since the Twisted Metal games aren’t exactly known for their layered lore, the live-action series created a vast warped sandbox for all these characters to exist in, including backstories for scrambled individuals like Sweet Tooth. “We kind of had a good understanding – especially MJ – to flesh out the world of Twisted Metal and part of that was definitely giving some substance to Needles Kane and his journey. To find out what makes a person into a psychopathic clown that takes over Las Vegas. A very chaotic individual who has these massive emotional swings.”

The Wrong Arm of the Law

Out roaming the highways and byways of what was once America is Thomas Haden Church’s Agent Stone, a former Topeka police officer (a nod to Zombieland’s “Wichita” played by Emma Stone?) who’s now made it his personal mission to eliminate outlaws, rather brutally. All while recruiting new “officers” into his cause. But was he always demented or did the broken world ruin him?

“When the crash occurs on the heels of Y2K, he is a good, honest, hardworking peace officer,” Church shared. “But then he has this catastrophic event occur around him and he’s still trying to be the voice of reason, the voice of law and order, and he just gets overwhelmed by it.”

“I don’t think it breaks him,” he added. “What I think it does is that he realizes in order for society to survive, including his own survival, that he’s going to have to implement savagery and use it in the way that it’s being used against society. He absolutely goes after lawbreakers with very little concern for the laws of humanity. If you’re a lawbreaker, you’re going to get harshly punished.”

Church, embracing the menacing role, likes to use phrases like “hammer of justice” and “homicidal judge” to tap into Stone, loving the outrageous nature of the show. “I had a long talk with Michael Jonathan Smith and it took no convincing. Michael is a great guy, great imagination, hilarious sense of humor and a very good writer and so it just was a perfect part for me.”

Church added that he felt Stone was “A heavy-handed, very hardened law enforcement guy in this wasteland of what America is and he’s trying to pull it back to some moral centerline of justice and the rule of law and pretty much everything that went out the window.”

Loud Quiet Loud

The yin to Anthony Mackie’s yang is Stephanie Beatriz’ enigmatic “Quiet,” who’s a terse, tricky car thief he runs across while trying to complete a dangerous quest for Raven. With both of them suffering from individual traumas, their destinies and priorities momentarily align and John and Quiet embark on an epic road trip across the badlands while getting on each others’ last nerves the entire time.

As Beatriz explained, “Quiet starts out the series not having a car and she tries to steal John Doe’s car. That’s how they come to team up because in the middle of that, suddenly there’s somebody else on the scene who is a bigger threat to both of them and they’ll probably be stronger if they team up. But the problem is they’re horrifyingly antagonistic and butt heads at every turn.”

“Also, each one of them has their own desires and needs and so they’re not a real team. It’s just a team by happenstance and circumstance. And there’s a lot of good, funny stuff that comes out of being trapped in a space and having to team up with someone you don’t like.”

This even extended behind-the-scenes, too, in a silly way. As Beatriz put it, “One of my favorite things to do is to make Anthony Mackie laugh because he’s so mad when he breaks. But when I get him to laugh, and it’s usually by doing something that’s so dumb and goofy and stupid, it’s really a treat for me. And there’s a lot of physical comedy stuff in the show that did that.”

As her name infers, Quiet doesn’t say much. Or speak at all, for a while at least, which is definitely a different turn for Mirabel Madrigal herself. “There’s no pressure of having to memorize anything, which frees up a lot of your brain,” Beatriz revealed about her time as a relatively silent character. “You’re not going to make a mistake that way. And also it frees you up to react to what’s happening around you.”

She added, “So much of film and television is you as a viewer are watching people on screen telling a story, but you’re also picking up clues about who they are, how they feel, what they’re doing there, what they want, what they’re up against. You’re picking that up from what people are doing on screen, you know? That’s why I think audiences love reality TV so much, because you’re just grabbing little clues from  how people are behaving. And that’s essentially what I’m doing in those episodes where I don’t have language. I’m reacting to what’s around me.”

All 10 episodes of Twisted Metal premiere Thursday, July 27 on Peacock.

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