‘Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H.’ Week 6: ‘The Incredible Shrinking Hulks’ [Interview]
"The Incredible Shrinking Hulks," the latest episode of Marvel's Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H., had everything you could possibly want: life or death situations, heavy drama, crushing betrayal, humor, redemption, and a very healthy dose of mini golf. It also features the team going up against the Leader after they've been shrunk down to very tiny status, and a huge plot point in the series comes to a head, as Skaar is forced to choose between his past and his present.
Once again we're joined by supervising producer Cort Lane to discuss the latest episode, and this time we have a special guest, as Ben Diskin, who voices Skaar, joins the call to discuss his character's role in the series, and the relationship between Skaar and the Leader going forward.
ComicsAlliance: Ben, I will get to your role of Skaar in a second. But first I just want to ask about the plot of this episode. There’s a lot going on in it, and it’s about loyalty and trust and choices, and the big reveal at the end of the first episode comes to a head here. So now with Skaar choosing the Hulks over the Leader, is that part of the story officially closed, or is this something that will come up again soon?
Ben Diskin: Well, you know I can’t reveal too much about the plot. But, I will say that there’s always more to it when the Leader is involved. There’s not one step to his plan and then it’s over. So, this is one of those things I think we’re going to see again. I think that’s a given. You always got to be careful whenever the Leader's involved.
Cort Lane: The important thing to remember is, and the Leader says even in episode two, that he holds all the secrets to Skaar's past, and he still holds those secrets. And he’s still going to use those against Skaar and the Hulk in the future, even though Skaar has sided with the angels, so to speak.
BD: Yeah, absolutely. You know, Skaar is, he’s not exactly the brainiest character on the team. So it’s pretty easy for the Leader to screw around with his head and make him think things that he shouldn’t think. So, that’s always going to be a factor as long as the Leader is involved in any of these story lines.
CA: Ben, the first time I spoke to Cort we talked about the voice cast, and he said something I thought was really interesting. He mentioned that they pretty much had an idea for who they wanted to voice almost every character, except for Skaar. And you were the only one who was just a straightforward audition process, and they were just really impressed with you. So I was just curious, is Skaar like any other character that you’ve voiced in the past, was there something that you were going for there?
BD: Skaar was one of the only characters I auditioned for that I actually felt I stood a chance for. And you know we auditioned every character; even like the Hulk. And I remember showing up there going they should really hire Fred Tatasciore for this, that’s really the right guy for this role. And then we also did, actually after Red Hulk I was like, you know, “I really wish they would get Clancy Brown for this.” So I wound up being really, really happy with the choices that were made for this show. But, Skaar was just; he’s just this guy who's never had a character before. He’s really just a bizarre character from Hulk's past; in the comics he’s Hulk's son. But that involves this entire huge storyline that we probably won’t do in the show, I don’t think. So, getting to voice him is really sort of like an opportunity to create for me. So really not like any character I’ve played before.
CL: And I think we went into it knowing that it would have to be just the right addition as opposed to somebody that we knew we wanted. Simply because it’s an extremely hard role to play. He’s savage and he’s brutal in that sort of typical Hulk way, but he’s a little dumb. But he’s also really funny and sweet. And so there are a lot of dimensions, and on top of that we wanted him to sound young. Which for, you know all the screaming and the grunting that the Hulks have to do, is challenging on top of it. So, we got all of that out of Ben [laughter], it’s the audition that had all those elements.
BD: Cool. Well thank you!
CA: On the surface Skaar seems like a pretty simple character, but he’s really not. Like you said, there’s sense of humor to him, there’s youthfulness to him, and there’s this kind of wistfulness to him as well. But you have to combine all of that into a character that doesn’t really speak that much, so when he does speak, especially on an episode like this, it can be significant. How do you go about combining all of that into a character that doesn’t talk very often?
BD: Oh, well honestly the writing is pretty much there for me. The writings really quite sharp on this show so I really never feel like I have to, you know, improvise or come up with something that just makes sense to me, or for the character to make sense. Because, Skaar's simplicity is just simply the fact that, you know he is what he is. He’s not particularly complicated and doesn’t allow himself to be anything particularly complicated. So to approach somebody like this you need to maybe take each line for what it is. So if the character has to get really angry, you’re angry, just for that line; if the character has to get really sad, you’re sad for that line. He lives in the moment; he’s always just experiencing whatever’s happening right at that minute. So as long as you keep that in mind, playing it is not too complicated, as long as you just, you know; know how to treat that kind of character.
CA: All right, I would be completely dropping the ball if I didn’t ask about this: So, why did you guys go with the mini golf course?
CL: That’s something that the writing team just broke in the room. We started with knowing that it was A-Bomb's birthday, and we did want to touch that big moment, but touch on the fact that Skaar doesn’t know when his birthday is. Which links into the fact that he doesn’t know his past and the Leader is the reason that he doesn’t know anything about his past. So there’s this whole connection and set-up there reminding everybody that Skaar is sort of lost in this world, and doesn’t hold the keys to his own history. And so, I don’t know, mini golf just felt really fun, and we want kids to have interesting, exciting set pieces. But on top of that we knew that when we made them tiny we wanted cool obstacles and crazy things for them to have to deal with, and a mini golf course just felt like a really cool environment instead of just like, somewhere out in a desert, or on somebody’s lawn. It just felt like from an action standpoint and bringing humor in it to, there’s just a lot that we can do. And my nephews love having their birthday parties at mini golf courses sometimes [laughs].
CA: I feel like it really works. I was trying to think of another setting that would have worked as well, and the only thing I could really come up with that may have was bowling.
CL: And there’s a little in joke in there about mini golf and scale and being shrunk down, and it’s a mini version of golf. And, I don’t know if people notice while watching the show, but there’s a lot of commentary on scale in the show. We actually direct it in such a way that the Hulks often feel too big for the frame, so that they feel physically large. And then the threat that they have to deal with is so often even larger than they are, like Ego, and I can’t mention some of the one’s coming up in the picture. But we play with scale a lot in the show, it’s a consistent element, and so the mini golf and the shrinking is just leveraging that element that I think makes the show special.
CA: The Leader is really the only villain that they’ve fought who has direct connections to the Hulk in the comics. Will you go into the Leader’s origins or his connections with the Hulk at any point in the first season, or will it just kind of be played straightforward the way you’re playing it now?
CL: We don’t spend a lot of time in extensive flashbacks in this show. Because I do think it could really slow things down, because that is a pretty complicated story as it’s told in the comic. We will learn more about the Leader and his motives and where he’s been and what he’s been doing. That rolls out over the course of the season, particularly in episode 13, and then at the very end of the season. You guys will be seeing some more Hulk villains throughout the season. A lot of the elements you’ve seen so far and throughout the season are connected to the Leader in ways that we haven’t even shown you yet.
CA: All right, my last question is about the next episode, because we always give a little teaser. What can we expect from the next one coming up?
CL: “Hulks on Ice." Thor, Frost Giants, and even bigger threats than that. I don’t want to give it away, but what can be a much bigger threat than “Frost Giant”?
CA: And we talked previously about Skaar, having connections to Thor, so this will be another interesting episode for him.
CL: It will be. And there will be consequences for that later on. Thor and Skaar are sort of more compatible than he is naturally with the Hulk. So we’re going to see what happens when Thor takes him under his wing a little bit, not in this next episode, but you’ll see the beginnings of that. And you’ll see the Hulk in a later episode try and adjust Skaar's behavior, and that goes horrible awry.