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Chris Meloni Talks GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT
Meloni Answers Questions on playing title character in GL: First Flight.
By Jarrod Sarafin
July 28, 2009
Green Lantern summons the strength of his power ring to battle villainous forces in Green Lantern: First Flight, an all-new DC Universe animated original movie set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video. Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU)
© Warner Home Video
With breakouts performances on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and HBO’s OZ, Christopher Meloni has effectively played both side of the law. But he’s taking his next legal procedure in an altogether new direction.
Meloni provides the voice of Hal Jordan, the alter ego of the title character in Green Lantern: First Flight, the next DC Universe animated original PG-13 movie coming to DVD on July 28, 2009.
In his first-ever voiceover for animation, Meloni leads a stellar cast that includes Victor Garber, Trifica Helfer and Michael Madsen. Green Lantern: First Flight filled to capacity it 4,250-seat World Premiere at Comic-Con International on Thursday, July 23, forcing an encore presentation for an additional 900 fans on Sunday, July 26.
Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation are set to release the all-new Green Lantern: First Flight this Tuesday in a Blu-Ray™ Hi-Def edition, a special edition 2-disc DVD, and a single disc DVD. Warner Home Video will distribute the action-packed movie, which will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download day and date, July 28, 2009.
Meloni began his career in sitcoms, playing the ex-con quarterback Johnny Gunn in HBO’s 1st & Ten and then as a member of NBC’s The Fanelli Boys. He also supplied the voice of Spike in Dinosaurs. Meloni’s film credits include roles in Clean Slate with Dana Carvey, Junior with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Twelve Monkeys with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. It was seemingly a recurring role on NYPD Blue that finally steered him down the dramatic TV path.
Still, Meloni frequently dips into the lighter fair, stealing the spotlight as Freakshow in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle and as the go-get-‘em football coach/prospective groom in Garry Marshall’s Runaway Bride.
Green Lantern: First Flight takes the best of Meloni’s prior performances – dramatic and comedic – and allows the actor to play to his strengths. In this Q&A with the actor, Meloni discusses Victor Garber’s acting, Alan Burnett’s writing, Clark Gable’s philosophy, and his personal pride in bringing Green Lantern into the spotlight. Read on …
QUESTION: How did you approach this the role of Hal Jordan?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite certain about Green Lantern. I just didn’t know what his shtick was. But I was onboard just to play a super hero. The script was so great, I had to do it. I didn’t really want to play him too heroic, because he’s a human caught in a different world. They gave me a lot of great snappy lines to play off, so I thought it was just kind of easy and normal, then every once in a while they gave me that kind of heroic line that you had to summon up from your belly. But for the most part, I just kind of kept it real. (he laughs) Yeah, I kept the Green Lantern “real.”
QUESTION: You’ve played a very wide range of characters. How does Hal compare to any of the characters that you’ve played previously?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: I think he’s having a whole lot more fun than any character I’ve ever played, zipping around wherever he needs to go, having all these powers. It’s a different universe, different challenges, so how could you compare Hal to my other characters? Can I put Freakshow in an intergalactic battle for policing the universe? I don’t think so. Maybe Hal is the intergalactic Elliot Stabler. Are there sex crimes in outer space? Tune in.
I think the only hero I’ve ever played is kind of Elliot Stabler and Elliot is flawed in a different way. Hal has his flaws – he’s more fun-loving and cocksure of himself and those qualities, you’ll find, are what makes him all too human.
QUESTION: What attracted you to this character and why did you want to accept this role?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: I enjoy exploring my own prejudices and one of the benign ones is that I’m not familiar with (Green Lantern), he’s kind of a next-tier guy. Green Lantern isn’t Superman or Batman, but he’s cool, and that intrigued me. I wanted to help elevate him, I wanted this guy to have his own movie. I’m sure you’ve got enough of Batman, Spider-Man and Superman – now it’s Green Lantern’s turn in the spotlight. He’s gotten a little dissed. He hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves. I’m going to change that.
QUESTION: Once you got the role, did you get feedback from anyone that might have influenced your approach to the role?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: Actually, this was pretty great – I had a rock and roll friend and his wife staying with me. He’s a pretty hardcore, heavy metal guy. They were there when I got the news that I’d gotten the gig of the Green Lantern and I was really pumped. They’re both Green Lantern fans, so they were double pumped – and so that got me even more excited. They gave me a crash course education on Green Lanternism, and it became kind of a general enthusiasm feedfest.
QUESTION: So you wowed your friends. What about your children?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: Any opportunity I get to impress my children is always huge. They’re a little young but, I did bring the illustration back home and it already has “Daddy” written on it, so they’re making the connection. Having a four- and seven-year-old and being a super hero, that’s pretty impressive. They were a big part of the decision on why I took the job.
QUESTION: What appealed to you most about Alan Burnett’s script?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: What most impressed me was how quickly the script moved, how far it delved, the quickness with which it got into the story and didn’t get bogged down with the (back story). There was a clear thread in the story of a human, how he got the ring, is introduced to the characters, and brought into the universe; how he’s not accepted, then taken deeper into his new role in life, and the challenges that arise, the betrayals, etc. It just kept moving and it was very adult in that it didn’t pander, it didn’t try and explain stuff, it just kept pushing the story forward. That’s what a page-turner is supposed to do – to keep you going, keep you engaged, so you don’t want to stop or slow down. That was the most impressive thing to me – the economy with which they told the story.
QUESTION: Did you stick to the script or was there leeway for improvising in your interpretation of the character?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: There was a certain amount of freedom and I hope I did him justice. Mostly, though, I just relied on the writers’ interpretation, because it was a great script. They gave me a lot of smart-alecky retorts and Hal didn’t have to go through a real long journey of self-doubt, so that was cool. So everything was kind of on the page for me.
This is rare, but I was pleasantly surprised that I felt as though the writer really had an affinity for this guy, he had a love for this guy and really wanted to tell this guy’s story. As an actor, you hook into that spirit and so that made it very easy and a lot of fun.
QUESTION: This is a relatively new form of acting for you. Did you encounter any difficulties in the process?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: The most difficult part of the voice over process was that they actually had Sinestro in the booth with me – he’s played by Victor Garber, and he’s not a very good actor (he laughs), so that was tough for me to work off of (laughs harder). But I did the best I could. No, really, I love Victor, and he is amazing.
Really, the most difficult thing was when the director was reading all the actions, where this happens and that happens, and then there’s an explosion and you’re hurtling through the air and then you grab onto someone and you save them, and you’re line is “I gotcha.” That’s 45 seconds of action all I got was “I gotcha!”?
I’ll admit it – while I was performing the lines, I did have a tendency to stand with my chest out, hand-on-hip, heroic-style. You know, the way they used to draw the super heroes all the time. I assumed the stance.
But it is fun. And it’s a great exercise for your instrument – your emotional instrument, your vocal instrument, and your imagination, I mean, it’s like you’re a child – you get to have your imaginary play-friends all over again. I know it opened up for me certain things creatively. So just to be involved with anything creative that I’m not usually exposed to is always good.
QUESTION: Green Lantern is your first voiceover for animation, but you did supply the voice of Spike in Dinosaurs. How did the two experiences differ?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: For the “Dinosaurs” role, they would shoot the show and there were actors in costumes, so it was more like looping a scene. I had to loop my lips to what the puppeteer was doing with the dinosaur. For Green Lantern, the animators have to follow my lead. It’s so exciting and so rare that you’re the leader of the parade as an actor. I had my little baton (laughs) and I’m sitting there going like that (waves arms, conductor style), everyone has to follow my rhythm, my beat. It’s not usually that way.
QUESTION: As heroic as you played Hal Jordan, how villainous was Victor Garber’s Sinestro?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: Victor met the perception of Sinestro with aplomb. Victor has a velvety, baritone voice in projecting evil – I really enjoyed it. I thought he came to play and I tried to match up as superhero-y as I could.
Victor has these long monologues and he really pulled it off. What can you say? He’s a longwinded bad guy and he did it great. I was a little jealous, because I wanted to be the longwinded good guy. But instead I’m kind of the short, snappy, one-liner good guy.
QUESTION: Do you think your personality and Hal Jordan’s mesh well?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: Any time I’m given a role, I always ask, “Why? What did they see in me?” And I still haven’t answered that question, but I think “kind of smart-alecky” might fit the bill. I don’t know if it’s a compliment or not, all I can tell you is it’s a job for me. It goes all the way back to Mrs. Evans, my second grade teacher. She was wrong. Being a smart aleck can get you a living.
In elementary school, I was the kid who always sat in the back of the class, shooting spitballs and doing humorous things. I look at it now as that I was just working my craft, trying to gauge the audience, seeing where I’d lose ‘em if I went too far. You know, measuring the spectrum of funny or acceptable. The teachers didn’t really understand that, but I worked my craft hard, I paid my dues, having to stay after school or having parental visits or being suspended. And look where it’s gotten me.
QUESTION: Did you expect to be so physical during the voiceover performance?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: You kind of have to be physical – you have to use everything because the process is not just words on a paper. You read it and that gets projected out. Literally, this universe you’re constructing comes out of your voice – so you really have to place yourself there and understand this place and be comfortable with this place. You have to make it real and grounded. You have to make sure that your voice is not just disembodied, that the voice is connected to the body – which then is connected to the place that you’ve built for yourself up here (points to head). That’s both kind of exhausting and kind of cool.
The toughest thing about the whole process was anytime we’d take a break, it would take me five minutes to get back into the imagination land. I didn’t realize how deeply in imagination land I was until I broke out for a water or bathroom break, or just to rest my voice. So that was the interesting combination of kung fu cinema and comic books.
QUESTION: What is the big enticement to do voice over work for you?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: I think it was Clark Gable that said “I act for free. I get paid to wait.” That’s how I feel about acting. It’s an awesome job, and waiting stinks. You do voiceover, and it’s like I told Victor: “You and me, we’re the lead Clydesdales pulling this beer wagon.” Just you and the microphone and the great words that they wrote. No waiting, just acting. It’s great.
QUESTION: Are you a fan of the whole comic book genre?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: I love the storytelling. I love the art of the storybook. I think The Matrix was the first time I saw very clearly the influence of comic book storytelling. I literally saw the storyboard, how the shots were set up as a comic book, and that to me was really cool –that
QUESTION: Do you have a preference in the type of role you accept?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: I like to do whatever I’m not doing. I haven’t been a super hero lately, so that was near the top of the list. But ultimately, whatever I’m not doing, that’s where I’d like to be. It’s a very pleasant grass is always greener on the other side thing.
Playing a sweet person is the toughest. I think to play the bad guy is, hands down, a thousand times easier, because the spectrum of acceptable behavior is wide. You can pick from anything you want. But if you’re the hero, your spectrum is here (holds his hands at shoulder width). You can’t be too much of a scumbag or people aren’t going to follow you. You are kind of the emotional tether to the people, but within that spectrum, and it’s tough to make a character like that interesting. How do you make a him a real, flawed, warts-and-all guy? Well, that’s basically what the human is. That’s your acting challenge – to make them interesting in that place.
QUESTION: Did you do anything special to prepare to make Hal Jordan interesting?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: I didn’t wear underwear to the recording, and I thought that would make him interesting. Actually, I’m not wearing underwear now.
QUESTION: Did having an illustration of Green Lantern have any influence on your performance?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: Seeing the picture was a big help. As simple as this may sound, I enjoyed the artist’s vision for who Hal Jordan is. I felt like it was kind of coming into me – the artist’s vibe for who he saw this guy to be, and that made it very cool.
By the way, I really liked the illustrator’s work (Jose Lopez). Hal Jordan was Mac Daddy, ready to roll. Nobody wants a normal super hero – you want a buffed out guy like this. Look at Batman – he’s a normal kind of guy, and then he gets in a suit that the muscles are already carved out for him. Hal Jordan is a test pilot – pop him in a green leotard and he looks good. I’d love to get a hand-drawn illustration of the Green Lantern – signed, of course. And I want my own ring, too.