- “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” star Khary Payton defends Chris Pratt’s Mario voice, saying it’s a fun take on the character.
- Payton voices the adorable and formidable Penguin King in next summer’s movie.
- He recorded lines in his closet during the pandemic and wasn’t sure if he’d be in the final film.
Fans were baffled by Chris Pratt’s Mario voice earlier this month when the first trailer for next year’s Universal Pictures and Nintendo’s “The Super Mario Bros.” animated movie debuted online, but star Khary Payton thinks the reactions are a little over-the-top.
“People always overreact online,” Payton told Insider on Thursday via Zoom while speaking about the final episodes of “The Walking Dead,” which are currently airing on AMC.
The internet outcry came from two small lines of dialogue at the end of a trailer in which we get a tease of Pratt’s Mario voice.
“I actually think that he’s doing kind of like this New York, Italian guy — like a cousin of ‘The Sopranos’ or something, which, I think, is kind of a fun take on it rather than being, ‘It’s a me, a Mario,” Payton said while doing an impersonation of the video-game character.
Payton added that Pratt’s take might be “more interesting and updated” than the traditional cartoon voice we’ve come to know from the games.
But the veteran voice actor isn’t too worried about fans’ thoughts on Pratt’s Mario voice. Payton said fans will be too busy focusing on his character, an adorable, but formidable Penguin King. (Payton officially confirmed the character will be referred to as Penguin King in the movie.)
So far, he isn’t wrong.
Fans have already started making fan art, videos, and a meme dedicated to Payton’s character, remarking on how the Penguin King’s design is a vast upgrade from the 2D game version of the flightless bird.
—Khary Payton (@kharypayton) October 14, 2022
His character has become a breakout fan-favorite from the trailer, so it was a bit of a surprise when the actor told Insider he wasn’t even sure if he would wind up in the final film.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” codirectors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic — who Payton has worked with for two decades on DC’s animated series “Teen Titans Go!” voicing Cyborg and 2018’s “Teen Titans Go! to the Movies” — asked him to join the project.
The actor said that, after the “Teen Titans” film release, the writing and directing duo told the crew they were heading to France to work on the Nintendo adaptation.
“It was like a month or so after that that literally they were like, ‘Guys, we gotta go. They backed up a truckload of money and whisked them off to Paris,” Payton said of the pair heading to Illumination Studios Paris where production occurred.
“I’m so proud of those guys and excited for their success. I was just excited that they called me up to do it,” Payton said of voicing King Penguin from home. “It was the pandemic. I did it in my little converted closet in Georgia. Next thing you know, I was like, ‘Well, I hope it works out.’ We just kind of riffed for an hour or two and I was like, ‘I hope it comes out. Let me know guys.'”
More of King Penguin will be seen in “The Super Mario Bros.” movie when it hits theaters on April 7, 2023.