Arguably doing a far better job of depicting Anakin’s fall from grace and transformation into the villainous Darth Vader than a thousand Order 66 youngling slaughters, voice artist Matt Lanter had the intimidating task of rescuing Hayden Christensen’s wooden Prequel delivery and transforming it into a fitting central character for the superb Star Wars: The Clone Wars. We catch up with the man who would be Vader to recall the early days, and how he manages to keep Skywalker’s fate far from his mind.
Your work background was primarily in live action performance. What made you decide to go for voice acting?
“Voice acting is something that I’ve had experience with in Star Wars, and continued to, I’ve got some other projects coming up. It’s a different game, the main reason for me and why I do a lot of what I do, is because I have fun doing it. It’s a whole different realm, you get to be, as an actor, completely free so to speak. You don’t have to worry about lighting, and hitting marks, hair and make-up, wardrobe, blocking and stuff. It’s just completely free. With that there are some challenges though, you don’t have sets and props to work with, so you have to completely imagine this whole set during your performance. But all of the above, the people are great, the guys that I work with on Star Wars… it really feels like a family. We’re all really close, we all love and have a passion for Star Wars and the show, and the work that we’re doing. Those are just some of the reasons.”
Why do you think The Clone Was has been such a success?
“I don’t think there’s anything else like it on TV. I think it being Star Wars, number one, people love it and there’s such a huge and broad fanbase for Star Wars, people are hungry for it. It’s like a little mini-film every week. Star Wars in general has all of the elements of a great story – it’s got the love story, it’s got the action, it’s got the charm, it’s got the wit. It appeals to everyone.”
Does what comes later in Anakin’s story affect your performance at all?
“To be honest I kind of blind myself a little bit to knowing that I kill a bunch of kids. That’s really detrimental. But having said that, I know that Anakin goes down this dark spiral, and that’s one of the goals of the show, as the series goes on we’re gonna show a little bit more. We’re gonna show the Dark Side coming out a little bit more in his personality, and it’s gonna make more sense that he eventually goes to the dark side. But at the same time I feel like we’ve done a good job of establishing Anakin as a hero. George wants to tell that story, and we’ve done a good job doing it. It kind of makes it much more sad for the character.”
How much of Hayden Christensen do you incorporate into the voice of Anakin?
“When I went in there and didn’t actually know that I was auditioning for Anakin. I went in there to do some voiceover, kind of a regular voiceover session, you know? I got the call from my agent, I knew it was a Star Wars something, and that’s literally all I knew. So I get in the recording booth, and Dave Filoni, our supervising director, was in there, and Catherine Winter our executive producer at the time, and they just said ‘Hey, how’s it going? Give me your best combination of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo,’ and that’s all they said. A couple of days later my agent called and she was like ‘Hey, you got the job, and by the way, get this, you’re Anakin Skywalker and he’s one of the leads in the series’. And I’m like, ‘…what?’ But it’s cool, they’re kind of looking for a new sound for this Anakin. And I guess they took the sample back to George, everyone okayed it, and that was that. I’ve just been able to do my own thing – it’s been really cool, because James Arnold Taylor plays Obi-Wan, so he’s got a tough job. He’s playing Obi-Wan who’s playing someone else, who’s playing someone else. You know, it’s Ewan McGregor, Sir Alec Guinness, but me, I’m just kind of doing my own thing. People seem to like it. Of course I watched the films and researched, and it comes up a lot as far as correlating some of my inflections and things like that actually, to Anakin and even Darth Vader’s, trying to throw little things in there for the fans.”
George Lucas has said before that he envisages this show running for five seasons, about 100 episodes. Do you know if this is still the plan?
“I don’t know if that’s the plan, I really don’t. George and Dave, they have all kinds of plans for the length of the series, and how the stories are going to end – you know, where does Ahsoka go, because she’s not in Revenge Of The Sith? They’ve got all of these ideas and they don’t really share them with us. We’d totally end up blabbing it to somebody, but I don’t know. I heard that too, one time I know that the show was doing really well and there was talk of it going longer, but no one really knows. I’m hoping so, it’s fun, just to be associated with the Star Wars saga is an incredible feeling. And we’re right in the middle of it, making this cool stuff for everyone, and I hope it continues.”
You also voiced the character in the games, how different was that experience to working on the TV show?
“The games are sometimes a little hard on your voice, because you’re not with a group of people, it’s just you by yourself. And in Star Wars games there’s a lot of yelling, a lot of screaming or shouting orders, a lot of shouting at Ahsoka, a lot of yelling at your troops or something, so sometimes it’s actually a little gruelling on your voice after a couple of hours. But it’s fun, it’s really cool when the final product comes out, and you can see it and play your character along and you hear your Anakin, your Obi-Wan, your Ahsoka moving through the levels.”
If you could play any other character in the show, who would it be?
“I like Han Solo. I know he’s not in our series, but I really like Han Solo. So I think if he were ever to be a part of our series… yeah. Although I do also voice a lot of the auxiliary characters, there’s really a core group of voice actors that they use and a lot of our guys do a lot of the voices. I mean, every episode Dee Bradley Baker’s one of them. Not just the clones, he does all the creature voices, all kinds of stuff. James too, they do a lot of different voices, it’s pretty cool to watch those guys work. But I like doing little auxiliary voices, whether it be like a drunken pirate in a bar or something, or a little hopped up monkey.”
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Complete Season Three is out October 17 on DVD and Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, priced £27.99 and £36.49. SciFiNow’s collector’s edition Star Wars issue is available now from all good newsagents and online from the Imagineshop