There’s genuine charm in the stories that we can all relate to…
In Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic navigates the complexities of life on Earth with his newfound – human – best friend Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). Sonic and Tom join forces to try and stop the villainous Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) from capturing Sonic and using his immense powers for world domination.
Don’t let the package fool you, this isn’t a soulless video game movie with no heart; in fact it’s the exact opposite.
We got the unique pleasure to talk with Actor Lee Majdoub who plays Agent Stone; the right hand man to Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik and we talked about his experiences on set, working with Jim Carrey and why this movie works on so many more levels then just as a video game kind of story.
Dave Voigt: Obviously congratulations, now can you walk me through your experience of getting the job as Agent Stone because when you really look at the role you are playing; you are basically lobbing softballs and setting up jokes for one of the greatest comedic actors of our time in Jim Carrey and I’ve got to imagine that you may have had a moment or two where it all felt a little daunting?
Lee Majdoub: It really wasn’t, but I’ll admit that on my first day I was a little bit on edge because I basically grew up on Jim Carrey’s movies and he really did (and still does) mean a lot to me. Then when I was older and he was saying these things about how the “Universe will ultimately provide” and how you have to think in terms of not “If something will happen for you but when” and finding out that I got the job was just a surreal moment not only because I actually used to play the game but that I’d be opposite Jim Carrey who is playing Dr. Robotnik as his right hand man. It ended up with me doing a lot of heavy breathing and meditation just to stay as grounded as I possibly could because if I wasn’t grounded then I knew that I wouldn’t be doing a good job.
I put a lot of pressure on myself in those first couple of days but then getting really comfortable with the team and seeing how nice everyone was, especially seeing how warm Jim was it really took a lot of weight off my shoulders and we just ended up being able to play. It all turned into so much fun, especially working with someone who I respect so profoundly and getting to see how they are just another guy on set who wants to talk out a scene and get it all fleshed out because they care about making the movie turn out the best as humanly possible. It was really amazing.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when walking into this movie because it really isn’t a movie that relies on needing to have an audience that is familiar with the game. Can you walk me through sort of the collaborative tone on set, trying to find a balance that would satisfy the gamer fans but also tell a really great story which I think Sonic really does well.
I think for me and the work that I had to do was to make sure that my main focus was being there for the team and really being there for Jim and Stone as a character really does the same thing so it was easy for me to be in that supportive headspace. I think we would try to find these little moments, mainly through Robotnik as Stone wasn’t an established character through the games or cartoons so I felt like I had a little bit more freedom to really just feed off of everything that Jim was doing and what Jeff Fowler our director was throwing at me.
I think that really only came into the story points that had to do with Sonic himself which really came down to Jeff, the writers and the producers who are all truly fans of the game themselves to find these little moments. If it’s Sonic rolling up into a ball and hitting that big truck during the chase scene and I’m not sure how many people noticed this in the movie but when Sonic repeatedly hits Robotnik’s egg pod at the end of the movie, it’s very reminiscent to what you have to do in the game which is hit it like 7 or 8 times before you beat him, which I’m pretty sure they matched up for the movie.
You’ve been working pretty consistently over the past few years but this is arguably the biggest movie you’ve ever been on. When you’re going on to a big production like this do you have to give yourself a moment to sort of get grounded, appreciate the moment and take it all in?
Oh yeah for sure, but it all comes in stages. First I get the call from my agent that I booked Sonic, so there’s appreciating that moment and letting it sink in, I actually made her repeat it and we had a good laugh about it. Then of course we find out that Jim is involved which just takes it all to the next level and then going to my wardrobe fittings at the studio and seeing everything that they have laid out for me and Robotnik along with the designs for Sonic which was so cool and that made everything even more real.
Then getting to set because my first day on set was the “Major Bennington” scene at the baseball field with the whole set up where you just have to soak all that in and there was this one moment during rehearsals where I basically had all those realizations at the same going “OMG, I’m on this big budget production from Paramount Pictures about a video game that I used to play that I was a huge fan with Jim Carrey who is returning to his comedic styling roots that I grew up loving as a kid” and you’re trying to get overwhelmed by it all. I was having that moment and I flubbed a line, which no one cared about because we were all working it through, even though I felt terrible about it in the moment, it was all such a fun experience that I occasionally even have to double check that I was in the movie! (Laughs)
What would you say you’ve learned from a big budget experience like this that you can take to other jobs?
The big thing on these big budget shoots; be it film or TV is that you are granted time. Time to work it all out and rehearse and do multiple takes and we were shooting maybe 3 or 4 pages of the script per day but when I was on something like The 100 you are shooting 9 to 12 pages a day so you are trying to get everything that you need out of 3-4 takes. I think it all really comes down to being able to adapt to any given situation. If you’re honest with yourself and your gut and need that extra take to get something right, don’t be afraid to go for it, as long as you have a good reason.
When I was a newer actor there would be situations where I knew I could use one more take to make it better, but I didn’t speak up but now after this I’m not afraid to put that out there if need be. I really think that just comes with time and knowing what you bring to any given table.
Now that the masses get to see Sonic The Hedgehog how would you ultimately sell it to people who may not necessarily be big fans of Jim Carrey or familiar with the video game?
It’s just such a fun, positive film that works not only with humor for the kids but some more adult humor as well and it’s this story about love, friendship and trying to find a place in this world which is something we can all identify with in some way shape or form. We all grow up going on a similar journey to Sonic and figuring out our place in the world. Even with the character of Tom and realizing he can fulfill his life by staying where he is and doing good. It’s just such a lovely movie and that’s something we could all certainly use right now.
Sonic The Hedgehog is on all digital platforms and is on DVD/Blu-Ray/4K on May 19th at all major retailers.