Josh Keaton's voice acting career has seen him playing both hero (in the form of Spider-Man) and villain (in the form of Green Goblin). But this Wednesday night in Cartoon Network's original movie Firebreather, the multifaceted actor gets to try on a different hat.
"I'm kind of an unapologetic jerkwad to use a word that was bantered about in the movie," Keaton said, describing his character of Troy, "but, yeah, he's kind of an ass. He's a football player. He's pretty much the self-proclaimed king of the school. Everybody loves him but at the same time everybody also kind of hates him.
"He really makes Duncan's life a living hell," Keaton continued.
Duncan is the heroic lead character of the movie, the new kid in school and a social outcast to boot, due to his weird orange skin – a side effect of his father being the King of the Kaiju. Not the kind of guy that the class bully is likely to take under his wing.
Keaton told us that playing such a character was a fun change of pace for him. "In school I was usually the guy that that guy picked on. So I had no shortage of experience to pull from when playing that guy," the actor told us. "By no means am I going to say I don't enjoy playing the heroic type. I love it. But it's always fun to poll the other side of the spectrum."
The movie is directed by Peter Chung, who has done such things as The Animatrix and the animated Chronicles of Riddick tie-in film, but is best known for creating Aeon Flux for MTV.
"This was first experience with Peter and he was great," Keaton enthused. "I had no idea that he did the character designs and all that for the show as well, until I started working on it."
The result is a spectacular CGI movie that looks much more impressive than your typical small-screen fare.
"I was blown away by the animation in the movie. I was not expecting something of that quality for a TV budget. I was really, really impressed," Keaton said, adding that he'd seen the movie screened in a theater on the Warner Bros lot. "It looked amazing. If it looks that good blown up on a massive screen it's gonna look great on a small screen. Usually when you blow it up like that you see any flaws and imperfections magnified a ton. I couldn't see em!"
Early in the movie, Duncan attracts Troy's rage by comically pummeling his goon squad in a dodge ball match. The following scene in which Troy seeks his revenge is one of Keaton's favorites.
"There is a really, really cool parkour-esque scene that was amazing," Keaton said, although, predictably, the scene doesn't end well for his character. "Honestly, even though I play Troy, I do like Troy having humility shown to him. As somebody that grew up a geek you never lose interest in wanting to see the bully get his comeuppance."
It should come as no surprise that the movie, which is based on the comic book series by Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn, is being eyed as a Cartoon Network franchise. Keaton said that Firebreather does continue past the first film, he'd like to explore some of the complexity of his character.
"I don't want to give any spoilers for the movie, but he's definitely more three dimensional than somebody that had no other purpose than to torment. You kind of see the reason why he is that way and he does somewhat prove himself to not be all terrible," Keaton said. "I think he's a really well-written character. Hopefully he'll come back if more stuff is done with Firebreather."
Of course, that all depends on how many fans tune in to Firebreather when it begins airing on November 24th at 7pm on Cartoon Network. Encore presentations air Friday, November 26th at 8pm and Saturday, November 27th at 4:30pm. Visit the official website for details and downloads.