Twisted Metal: An Interview With Stephanie Beatriz, Thomas Haden Church, And Samoa Joe
Twisted Metal premieres on Peacock this week, and prior to its reveal, I had an opportunity to chat with three of the primary stars about how they got swept up in this post-apocalyptic world of deranged car combat.
Stephanie Beatriz (Encanto, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) portrays Quiet, the revenge-driven partner of protagonist John Doe. Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man: No Way Home, Divorce) brings a cold ruthlessness to the main antagonist Agent Stone. Lastly, All Elite Wrestling/Ring of Honor's Joe Seanoa, AKA Samoe Joe, dons the iconic mask of Sweet Tooth, bringing an intimidating physical performance to compliment the voice work of Will Arnett. In my conversations, I picked their brains about the elements that drew them to the series, their familiarity with and thoughts on the video games, and how they approached their respective characters.
Game Informer: What’s your history with Twisted Metal, and how did you approach playing Sweet Tooth?
Joe: I played Twisted Metal since I was a kid and have a pretty innate understanding of who Sweet Tooth is and what he represents. And it starts with that, and I think it extends out to just trying to bring this character to actual life and add some substance to the story behind the madness and the craziness. You're never really given that much information about the past of Needles Kane, but with this series, hopefully, we'll get to fill out a bit of that mythology.
Is Sweet Tooth your favorite character, or is it another driver?
When you talk about Twisted Metal, that is the iconic franchise character. Let me put it this way; if I had to describe myself as any other character in the series, it would be difficult. But every time I brought up Twisted Metal, everybody goes, 'Oh, yeah, the ice cream truck, the clown, right?' and there we go, there it is [laughs].
You’re in a unique position of sharing a role with Will Arnett, who voices Sweet Tooth. What was that process like? Does his performance inform yours, or vice versa?
I think more his expectations kind of informed my decision, and then me kind of going out and understanding how he works, definitely listening to other characters that he's done in the past, and trying to get an idea of his inflection, his timing, especially if he hits punchlines, or something like that. And it's a multi-part process, but it's one that came together pretty well between me and Will, and he was helpful in providing whatever he could to make that happen.
Is there any single piece of advice you've gotten from Will that really helped you that you can recall?
I think the biggest thing with him was it's better to give more and toning it back than not give enough. So that's definitely kind of the mantra that I went with.
What games did you revisit to prepare for the role?
I went back, and I played [Twisted Metal]Black again, mainly because, just logistically, it was the easiest thing for me to get fired up and running again without doing a bunch of crazy emulator stuff [laughs]. Yeah, no, I don't have my original PlayStation anywhere but in the back closet. But yeah, I went back and played Black and just kind of refamiliarized with the world and the different characters and what people were used to seeing in the character. That was the biggest thing I did as far as revisiting the games.
The series borrows quite a few elements from Black, the series' darkest entry by far. How did you feel about injecting comedy into that formula?
I loved it, man. It was a lot of fun. You know, the realm of Black, for the most part, the great meta thing about it’s all taking place in Sweet Tooth's mind, so I guess Black as a whole kind of informed me as far as how dark things get in his head. But yeah, to inject the bit of comedy that we do have in the show, and some of the throwback things I think that a lot of people recognize from the early 2000s, it makes the show a lot of fun to watch.
Anthony Mackie said in another interview that you threw him around like a sack of potatoes. How did it feel to beat up Captain America?
Oh, it's great because I'm whipping him right, and then the whole time when I'm at home, my kids are with me, and I’ll say, ‘Do you see what daddy did to Captain America? So can you get that trash out?' [laughs]. So you know, Anthony's helped me keep my home in order, and I appreciate that. He took some lumps for me, and it's a little rough and tumble, but you know, Anthony, he's a giving guy like that, he’s that type of dude. So I appreciate that.
THOMAS HADEN CHURCH
What's your history with Twisted Metal?
Church: I have none with Twisted Metal the game. I was sort of peripherally aware of the title. But both my daughters they're kind of like a generation way beyond when the game was introduced in the ‘90s. My daughters are both teenagers. But whenever I got involved with it last year, I asked my daughter [if] she had ever played it. She said, ‘No, but I know a lot of guys that love it.’ [laughs].
But then I just read the scripts and talked to [Twisted Metal showrunner] Michael Jonathan Smith. And then, I started doing my own research about the various iterations of the game that have come out over the years; Twisted Metal: Black and Twisted Metal this. But really, the pantheon of my knowledge is the scripts and my conversations with all the other creative voices just about who [Agent] Stone is. And I think it's pretty self-evident he considers himself to be the hammer of justice, and the decider of crime and punishment, and the decider of who deserves not only to live but to be protected. And hence a very stark appearance and just how he deals very harshly with lawbreakers.
What attracted you to the series or the Twisted Metal concept in general?
You know, I love the post-apocalyptic setting. I liked that it wasn't in some unknown future like The Last of Us, which I loved. But I like that it's Y2K. It's everything that sort of extremists thought could happen with the power grid, government, tech, communications, all of it was going to crash in the year 2000. And that now we pick it up almost 20 years later almost to now to contemporary America. But everything has just spun out of control over the last 23 years since Y2K. That was very appealing to me, and being a law enforcement officer in that mayhem.
Do you find any unique differences in prepping for a video game adaptation as opposed to more traditional parts?
No, not really. I mean, I play every character like it's a real human being, whether it's Sandman, whether I'm in a Western, I just try to play a real man, whatever his integrity is, his moral center, his sense of character and judgment. I just tried to play every character as a real man, whether it's Agent Stone or anybody else.
What’s your history with Twisted Metal?
Beatriz: I don't really have one, honestly. I had never really heard of the game until I started reading the series. And then I started looking it up and going online, and there's a lot of fans of this game, like passionate, passionate fans. I have multiple friends from high school that, when I told them I'd booked this job, lost their s**t. They were like, ‘No way! Show me pictures, tell me everything, send me the scripts.’ I was like, ‘No, no, and no. But I'm excited for you to watch it on Peacock when it drops.’ But it truly felt really exciting because people love these games, so I'm pumped for people to see it.
Have you played the games since landing the role?
I've watched a ton of the interstitial stories online. There's so much stuff online you can look at. I've watched a ton of stuff on YouTube, and I've watched people playing it. I've definitely watched the interstitial story stuff. But I haven't played it.
How would you describe Quiet?
She's like a very ferocious, badass car thief. In this world, you got to have a car, and she doesn't, so she's got to get one. And she essentially is out for revenge and needs that car; it's like life and death. And so she tries to steal John Doe's car, and when she does, they both sort of get accosted by Sweet Tooth, and therein forms an unlikely, very antagonistic bond between the two of them. They butt heads a lot, which is really fun to watch, I think.
What about the Twisted Metal premise attracted you to the series?
Honestly, it's the same thing that was in the games, which is the Gallows Humor. It’s a dark, dark humor. It's the stuff that I really love. If you do it right, it's so funny, and it makes you laugh in places where you know you should not be laughing at that, but you cannot help yourself. That's my favorite stuff. Yeah, it's that dark comedy. I think I just love that stuff. And to do it in the way that we've done it on the show, to balance like the sort of comedy and action and the sort of, I don't want to say heart because that sounds dumb, but the humaneness of it, the humaneness of these characters, the real human moments that they all have. I think [Michael Jonathan Smith] and our writers did a really, really good job crafting it. And we were very lucky to have such an amazing crew to help us move that story along in those 10 episodes. I'm really like excited, for people to see what we did.
Twisted Metal premieres on July 27 on Peacock.
Note: interviews with the cast were completed prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike