Actor Greg Grunberg is well known to TV fans from his roles on Heroes and Felicity, but this weekend he'll be adding an even more iconic role to his resume: Uncle Ben, on Disney XD's Ultimate Spider-Man. In the episode, Spidey has to team up with Dr. Strange to take on a Nightmarish new opponent... But not before he gets a little advice from Mr. Great Power, Great Responsibility himself:
MTV Geek: How’d you get the gig? How’d you end up voicing Uncle Ben for the episode?
Greg Grunberg: Jeph Loeb is kind of the boos over there, and he and I worked together on Heroes. He’s a really good friend, and a great, great guy... And has been threatening me for a long time, saying, “I can’t wait to get you in here, I’m going to have you voice something special...” Uncle Ben is a character everybody knows in the Spider-Man world, and so I was honored - it’s cool to be able to do it.
Geek: We’ve seen pictures of Uncle Ben in the series so far, but haven’t actually met him... How does he end up in the mix, and what’s your take on the role?
GG: In this episode, everybody in Manhattan has gone to sleep, and you see their dreams, you see flashbacks... For Peter Parker, you see different stages where he’s interacting with Uncle Ben. I voiced it so long ago, but I remember how much fun it was to hang out with Jeph again... He creates such an atmosphere; he’s relaxed, there is no failure, let’s just try a bunch of things. For me, I’ve done a bunch of voice stuff before for games - Halo, and L.A. Noir - but voice acting is something I’ve been trying to break into, with moderate success. So when a friend calls, and says, you want to do this, of course I jumped at the chance.
Geek: What was your approach? Did you do anything differently from your real voice? Talking to you know, it sounds kind of like you’ve already got the gruff, Uncle Ben thing going on.
GG: [Laughs] It’s funny you say that, because I came in and I did have a little bit more of a charactery take on it, and Jeph and the Director said, “You know what, we love your voice.” It’s really tough for an actor to trust who they are... You always feel like you should be playing somebody, you should put on an air, or more characteristics than you actually have. But sure enough, they immediately let me know: “No, we love your voice, we love how it is... Just do it how you are, as real as possible.” Which for me has always been the best. It worked out where it ended up being easier than I anticipated, and a lot more natural.
Geek: Other than it being you, what do you think the core of Uncle Ben is from an emotional perspective? Is his core being this parental figure for Spider-Man, or is there more going on?
GG: With Spider-Man, there’s always a little more going on, but with the stuff I got to play it was that paternal figure, and guidance that he needs throughout his life - those were the memories being brought up in this episode. It was very much that... It’s a calm confident character.
Geek: I know every animated show is different, but did you get to be in the booth with anyone but Jeph Loeb?
GG: I didn’t get to work with any other actors... It’s so weird, you’re reacting at nothing. You’re just saying your lines, and someone is yelling at you, and you have to react even though you don’t know what level they’re at. You do kind of do an A, B, C, and D version of what you’re supposed to do, and then they’ll match it up later.
Geek: I realize it’s not you - it’s the animated character - but do you get to do any action in the episode? Any chance of an Ultimate Uncle Ben spin-off?
GG: [Laughs] That is a dream! That would be fantastic, are you kidding me? I’d love that. No, there was no action... It’s exciting stuff, emotional stuff, which is always really cool. But no, no action.
Geek: Amazing Spider-Man is opening this week, with Martin Sheen in the role... You think now you’ll go into the movie and say, “Hey! Uncle Ben! That’s MY role!”
GG: [Laughs] Always! Are you kidding me? As an actor, I look at every commercial, and go, “Why am I not that... Woman... On that commercial?” I always look at things with jealous eyes, especially a role I just played but, I can’t wait to see what another actor does. But hey, what I did was so different, just a small part of this great show.
The "Strange" episode of Ultimate Spider-Man premieres July 8th at 11am on Disney XD!