For the most devoted fans of “Sonic the Hedgehog,” the new blockbuster film coming this weekend will have the bonus of seeing — or rather hearing — Colleen O’Shaughnessey make her big-screen debut as Miles “Tails” Prower after playing the flying fox for eight years.
“It’s just unbelievable and joyous and beautiful and amazing,” O’Shaughnessey told TheWrap. “All the excitement and love I’ve received from the fans has been so gratifying, with all these tweets telling me they were hoping that I would get to play Tails in this film. They’ve had my back and have been so supportive since the beginning.”
O’Shaughnessey joined the “Sonic” series in 2010 playing the hyperactive bee Charmy, but took over playing Tails in 2014 with the release of the spinoff video game and animated series “Sonic Boom.” Since then, she’s played the iconic Sega character in seven “Sonic” games, and in 2020, she voiced Tails in a surprise post-credits sequence for the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” film.
But it wasn’t until May of last year that O’Shaughnessey got the news that she would play Tails in the sequel, which reimagines the first encounter between him and Sonic as they race to find the location of the powerful Master Emerald before Dr. Eggman (Jim Carrey) can use it for his diabolical plans.
O’Shaughnessey spoke with TheWrap about the techniques she uses when she plays Tails, her hopes for more video game voice actors to get big screen opportunities, and what fans can expect from “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” which hits theaters this Friday. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Though you’ve played Tails for several years, the character isn’t quite the same in this film as he is in the “Sonic” games or TV shows. How does that factor into your performance?
I think the biggest difference is the situations we find Tails in; and with any acting roles, I’m always asking, “How does this character react in these circumstances?” And so that’s where the difference comes in. We’re meeting Tails at the beginning of his relationship with Sonic as opposed to a relationship that’s already been established. It’s also cinematic and maybe a bit more grounded with some funny moments, as opposed to “Sonic Boom,” which was almost all funny moments, you know, and there was action too, but it’s just a very different atmosphere. It’s all about settling into the overlying atmosphere of whatever universe that these characters are in and determining how the character who react in that universe.
And do those differences factor into the work you did recording Sonic and Tails’ interactions with Ben Schwartz as opposed to when you record such scenes for “Sonic Boom” with Roger Craig Smith?
Not so much. First of all, they’re both wonderful actors. They’re hysterically funny. And they’re really, really good humans. When we worked on “Sonic Boom”, Roger, I was always put next to him. And he and [Knuckles voice actor] Travis Willingham were always doing fart jokes and goofing around like little kids while I’m the one that’s gonna pull their hair in the classroom. Ben was sort of the same way, very kid-like when we’re recording and looking to see what else we could get away with. They’re both fantastic. I can’t say enough positive things about both of them and truly a pleasure to work with them.
Voice acting, obviously, isn’t the same as on-screen acting and requires its own set of skills. What are some techniques you use when playing Tails that fans might not know about?
For me, I can’t sit down when I do voice acting. Some people do. I don’t know how they do it. Because I have to be able to be in my body as a character. All I have is my voice to get across whatever emotion I’m trying to portray. So for me, if you if you put it in your body, it comes through your voice that much clearer.
So for Tails, he’s a young boy. So how does a young boy stand? How does a young boy gesture? However he would react in any given situation is how I need to react as him. In live action, you have to be aware of what your hands are doing. You have to be aware of what faces you are doing. Voice actors don’t so we can move our hands around all over the place. When I was working on “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” I was with Fred Tatasciore, who played the Hulk, and every time he yelled “Hulk Smash!”, his arms were flailing and I literally had to duck sometimes because I was always next to him. But to get that Hulk smashing thing, he had to put it in his whole body.
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Do you feel like there is a growing awareness among fans of what professional voice actors like you bring to these films and a desire for them to be recognized?
I think there is, and I think that’s something social media is absolutely helping with. Before I was officially cast for “Sonic 2” I told my agent, “You know, if I, if I get to do this part, it’s a huge win for me, but it’s a really huge win for the voiceover community in general.” These characters in these games, and whatever fandom you love, means something to people, and their voice is part of it. It brings them to life. It tells you who they are, and so when they get replaced, it’s really jarring for fans to not have that thru line.
I hope that some of the studios will see this and go, “Hey, that went really well! Let’s keep hiring these voice actors!” One of the actresses from “Halo” [Jen Taylor] is getting to play her part in the [Paramount+] series, and that’s so great to see because we’ve always been sort of, you know, in the background, easily replaceable, and we’re not.