The soul of Gorilla Grodd – Interview to actor David Sobolov (The Flash)

Here is an exclusive interview with David Sobolov, the actor who gave his voice to Gorilla Grodd in The Flash episode broadcast on May 5th 2015 on the American network The CW. David was involved in many projects: a lot of animated series such as Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and Ultimate Spider-Man, TV-series, movies, and, last but not least, the varied world of videogames.

How did you get involved in “The Flash” e which was your reaction knowing you had to dub a classic villain as Gorilla Grodd?
I was asked to audition and after hearing what I sent them, the producers decided I’d be right for the role.  I auditioned from my sound booth at home.  It’s quite an honor to play a part of Grodd that so many of my friends and colleagues have voiced before me. I didn’t realize quite how iconic Gorilla Grodd was until after the first episode of The Flash I worked (Fallout) aired.  The reaction from the fan community was strong and I could tell people really wanted to see more of him.

Your character is created with digital effects, nonetheless how your trained to play him and make him more real?
The most important thing for me to do when acting any part is to live truthfully under the given imaginary circumstances I’m presented with.  My acting teacher years ago in New York, Sanford Meisner, taught me that. Grodd’s look and power gave us an indication of the type of voice I had to use to make the character believable, but that’s just icing on the cake…  I’m trying to make him a real being (I can’t say person, can I?) – not cheezy or cartoony, but as if he really exists and can interact honestly with the live actors in the show, yet he’s bigger than life and you can’t ignore that aspect of Grodd.  I mainly concentrated on what he might be feeling at that moment… his anger and frustration and the fact his intelligence was evolving and his rage would be set off by certain things.  He’s an extremely complex character.

Did you get specific instructions from the episode’s director o from the production?
I work closely with Geoff Garrett, a Co-Producer on The Flash.  We tried many different moods for Grodd… many different temperaments.  I was quite happy with the choice of takes Geoff and our Supervising Sound Editor, Michael Mullane decided to use for Grodd Lives.

Did you have to meet other cast’s members in order to play your charcater?
I haven’t met any of the cast members in person yet, except Clancy Brown. We worked on a film together a couple years ago called Sparks.  In that film, my character bites off his finger, and we’ve run into each other in the voice acting world, so I think we’d have been quite comfortable working together if I’d been there.  My dialogue for Grodd was recorded in Los Angeles the week the episode was shooting scenes on location in Vancouver so they’d have my performance to play for the actors working on-camera.

Which aspect of Grodd does impressed you most?
I was impressed by Grodd’s quiet menace, the slight hint of sadness, and the options an actor has to express rage when you’re playing a character so physically powerful that you don’t have to ‘show’ the power in him unless you want to really be scary in a specific moment.  I just tried to tell the story and let the seething rage of Grodd bubble to the surface when appropriate.

Grodd is an impending presence since the season’s start, we can say he was reserved for the “gran finale”, giving more attention to other villains. Can you say if he will became a more important character in the next season without spoiling the plot?
I have that hope, but my lips were officially sealed by Greg Berlanti, sorry!

Grodd is a gorilla. Except from the obvious Planet of the Apes’ reference and from the great vocal work done by the past actors both in the old and the new franchise, which were your personal references to create your version of something unreal?
If I played Grodd as ‘unreal’ there wouldn’t have been anything compelling about the performance.  The only way to make Grodd come alive and mesh with the great VFX (visual special effects) work, is for me to accept him as 100% real and play him like a very powerful person… not in a way people might expect a gorilla to act, except to color the voice so he sounds somewhat animalistic underneath it all.  When Joe offered him a banana he was offended.  When he toyed with Joe, forcing him to point the gun at himself until Grodd made him toss it away, he was showing him his almost omnipotent power and expressing the view he had about guns he inherited from the person he considers his maker.  He’s a ‘being’ like humans are beings, with the added abilities and powers he has at his disposal.

The particular aspect of your job is to create emotions with your voice staying behind the scene. Which was the main challenge about Gorilla Grodd?
With any luck, I’m just beginning to work on this character.  In our story, he’s just evolving… just being born.  The big challenge was finding a jumping off point because (and this is totally up to the writers and producers), his evolution may have a long way to go.

What are you working on? You will dub Drax again in the animated series of Guardian of the Galaxy. May you tell us something about this project without violating the famous Marvel’s secrecy?
I should clarify the word ‘dub’ you’ve been using.  The work I’ve been doing for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is called ‘prelay’ – we record the dialogue first and animation happens afterwards.  Dubbing usually refers to replacing previously recorded dialogue or localizing (changing languages).  Regarding the plot of our show… Since it’s Marvel, this time Stan Lee stuffed socks in my mouth so I can’t say a word.  Let’s check in again later this year when the series debuts!

Drax

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