Interview: Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario
Last Thursday we were fortunate enough to attend an exclusive Nintendo preview event before EB Expo started. While there, we were able to meet and interview Charles Martinet, the official voice of Mario himself! Let’s a go!
The interview begins with a special message from Charles as the voice of Mario – “Hello to all my friends at Stevivor.com! It’s a me, Mario! You guys are #1!”.
Stevivor: You’ve voiced a host of different Nintendo characters (Mario, Luigi, Wario & Waluigi, to name a few) over the years. What’s the process behind giving each of these characters their own unique sound and voice?
Charles: First of all, it’s a tremendous joy, honour and fun for me to do a character. I’ve been given a wonderful gift by Nintendo and Mr Miyamoto each time to come up with a new character, to have more fun and play. As an actor, when I see something, I look at the character traits emotionally of that person and the physical traits and I try to add a voice to it. It’s very interesting because with Nintendo characters, it’s just so natural and beautifully done and so full that the voice just naturally comes out of me – it just pops out! *Charles does a quick impersonation of Waluigi*, because Waluigi is full of self-pity, it just feels right. I work with so many wonderful people who will say, “that part is great – let’s try a little bit more like this or like that” and we play the character around together until it refines and becomes more of what is right for the game. It’s a wonderful process and its really fun.
Stevivor: Of all the games in the Mario franchise, which stands as your favourite and why?
Charles: Wow. Every Mario game I’ve recorded brings so much joy to me and I have so many great memories of each and every session, of every script, of every producer and director that I’ve worked with through the years, so that’s a really tough question. I remember though, it seemed interesting, the recording session for [Super] Mario 64. It was so incredibly unique because everything was brand new, so ideas were bursting out and working the voice, that has a stand-out place for me and I loved that game. I can tell you though, when I first saw [Super] Mario Galaxy, I had goose-bumps all over, it was amazing and beautiful to see. Then, when I played New Super Mario Brothers Wii for the first time, I laughed and had so much fun, and with New Super Mario Brothers U, I’ve been playing that with the Wii U and now that is my new favourite. It’s so exciting and so fun – I love the group play, I love the single play and I think I’m getting a little bit better, little by little!
Stevivor: When you’re not recording voices for a new Nintendo title, what else do you get up to?
Charles: I love coming to events like this, the EB Expo. Next week I’ll be at the Armageddon Expo in Melbourne and then the week after that, in Auckland. The opportunity of meeting Mario fans is one of the greatest joys of my life. People love these games and it’s such a tribute to Nintendo’s dedication to making fun games. You know, that’s all Nintendo does is make fun, wonderful, joyful adventures and I get to do that. When you play New Super Mario Brothers U, you get to see Mario like never before but always there’s a consistency and integrity to every single character and every single adventure which is what makes it such a joy for me to see.
Stevivor: Have you ever been involved in the development of the game further than just providing the voices and if so, what was your role?
Charles: You know, I never have. I love what I do and it is such a joy for me to do that and I so admire the creativity of Mr Miyamoto and the teams at Nintendo that come up with things – the people there, they love it so much that they keep doing it. When Super Mario Galaxy was launched, people in the development of the game kept creating new pieces of new galaxies and Mr Miyamoto said, “Well, let’s do another one!”, which is incredible because all the people love doing the game so much. For me, just to do the voices is so great. I don’t have the mind and the tremendous amount of skills and integrity and work that it takes to do something [like that]. It takes years for the development of a video game, so when you turn left or turn right, or when you go up and you go down, everything you do has a realness to it and a feel to it that continues the integrity of the adventure, I don’t know how they do it!
Stevivor: Of all the characters you’ve done the voices for, which is your favourite and why?
Charles: *in Mario’s voice* “Mama Mia! Yeah, let me think about this one – it’s a me, Mario! He he!” You know, I wake up in the morning and when I’m happy I hear, *as Mario* “Let’s a go!” and when I’m not, when I wake up grumpy I go, *as Wario* “I’m a rotten egg”. Mario for me, represents such a wonderful character full of joy, [he] faces adversity in life with adventure and a “Whoo-hoo!” and I aspire to be more and more like that in my life too.
Stevivor: How did you land the job of being the voice of Mario in the first place?
Charles: I crashed an audition twenty-two years ago. A friend of mine called me up and said, “You’ve got to come down here and read for this. It’s a trade show in Las Vegas, you’ve got to come.” and I said “There’s no way, I never crash auditions – this is ridiculous … what’s the address?”. I don’t know why I went but I went. I arrived late, the producer was walking out the door with his camera under his arm, the cameraman was walking out and I said, “can I read for this?”. He [the producer] looked as his watch and said, “oh alright, come on in”. They set-up the camera, told me to think about my character – an Italian plumber from Brooklyn – “think of a voice, think of a video game, we’re going to have these things glued to your face so when you move your face the character will also move his face too at the same time. We have no idea that it’s going to work or not, so even if it doesn’t work you’ll still need to talk to people all day. We’ll start the camera, you start talking and when you run out of things to say, that’s your audition”.
I thought, Italian plumber? Brooklyn? *in a rough accent* “Hey get out of my face! I’m working here!” and I thought that I didn’t like to do rough things in-case there were kids out, so I made it a nice, lighter voice. Sure-enough, I was thinking about working with the actions, but I thought, “I don’t know anything about video games except Pong and Space Invaders and “waka waka waka” and all of a sudden I hear “action”! I turn to the camera and say, *in the Mario voice we know today* “Hello, it’s a me, Mario! Okie-dokie, let’s make a pizza pie together!” and I started just doing activities as though we were having fun making pizza and then chasing each other with it and whoever got caught had to eat it and you know, it was funny because he was very specific, “make up a character, make up a video game and just talk about things and when you run out of things to say, that’s your audition”, and I never ran out of things to say. I was just having a great time, being playful and joyful for about half an hour, just going and going and going until I heard, “Cut, stop, stop talking. There’s no more video tape. Thank you, we’ll be in touch”. Of course, to me I thought that was the end of it, you know “get out of here”, so I left. He called on James and said, “I found our Mario”. That was the only take they sent to Seattle and from there, twenty-two years of absolute joy.
Stevivor: What would you consider the greatest aspect of your job?
Charles: Every aspect of my job is so full of joy and happiness. Recording the games is an absolutely magic time for me, meeting Mario fans at events like this absolute magic – an absolute joy and a tremendous honour to just do what you love in life and to know that it brings people joy. Absolutely every aspect of that to me is just full of happiness.
We’d like to think Charles Martinet for his time to discuss the passion he has for his work and for giving us an insight into what it’s like to be the voice of the most popular gaming character of all time! Many thanks also to Nintendo Australia for hosting the event as well!
We’ll also have this interview up on a future episode of the Podcast; personally, I think listing to Charles brings a whole other dimension to what he’s saying. When you guys get a chance to hear him, you’ll understand just how friendly and genuinely grateful he really is.