Comic-Con 2014: Freddie Prinze, Jr. On ‘Star Wars Rebels,’ Hulk Hogan and Thundarr the Barbarian
The first thing you notice about Freddie Prinze Jr. is his almost manic ability to make analogies between almost any subject and professional wrestling. (And considering that Prinze has worked on and off for WWE over the last few years, this wasn’t necessarily surprising.) Prinze is at San Diego Comic-Con in support of ‘Star Wars Rebels,’ the new animated series that takes place between ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and the original ‘Star Wars.’ Prinze plays Kanan, a Jedi who survived ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and who hides his Jedi powers so as to not draw attention to himself.
Here, a jovial Freddie Prinze Jr. explains how he wound up in a new ‘Star Wars’ project — he thought he was auditioning for something called ‘The Wolf Pack,’ which he thought was a ‘Thundarr the Barbarian’ ripoff — and how the Prequel Trilogy is just like Hulk Hogan. (He actually makes a convincing argument.)
You’ve been doing voicework, who comes to who in this situation? Did Lucasfilm contact you?
I haven’t been doing it as long as you think.
But you have experience.
Because of the ‘Mass Effect 3′ thing, people think I’ve done a lot more than I have. I really haven’t done that many. I’ve only done two video games and I did a couple of animated films when I was in my 20s, but I didn’t know shit back then.
Oh, come on.
I didn’t! I didn’t know what I was doing! It’s a whole different skill set. I didn’t know what I was doing and it didn’t always work. I’ve seen them. I don’t mind saying that. I would have loved to have done better. And if I could do it now at 38 instead of 22, sure.
To defend you…
You don’t need to.
From 1997 to 2004, it was the Freddie Prinze Jr. era.
You did pretty well for yourself.
I try to stay as under the radar as you can when you’re having success because I get kind of uncomfortable with a lot of that stuff. Like, yesterday was pretty intense.
But you kind of had to know that would happen when you signed up for a ‘Star Wars’ project.
I did. For sure, man. For sure. As far as the amount of time spent, this has been– like, ‘Mass Effect 3′ was sort of the learning process. Like, I figured it out. Because it was a video game and I play video games every single day of my life — I’m 38-years-old and I still play all the time — I knew exactly what to do for some reason. Because I just know what I hate in video games.
So how did ‘Star Wars Rebels’ come about?
This was not an offer. This was like some secret thing called ‘The Wolf Pack.’ And I’m reading the dialogue and some kid stole my character’s sun sword. I’m like, “That’s from ‘Thundarr the Barbarian,’ man! Why are they ripping that shit off?” ‘Thundarr’ ripped off ‘Star Wars’! They had their own Wookiee! His name was Ookla.
We are about the same age, I watched ‘Thundarr the Barbarian’ every Saturday morning.
You know Thundarr?
You know who Ookla and Princess Ariel — it was a Wookiee, man!
I understand everything you just said.
OK, so I’m reading this going, “That’s kind of weird, man.” So, I drove all the way to Burbank…
To chew them out? “How dare you.”
[Laughs} Just to chew them out. No, to go and read. So, I got there and I went into the lobby and I saw character art on the wall — and it was not Thundarr. It was ‘Star Wars.’ So, they’re either about to get sued enormously, or this is ‘Star Wars.’ I went in the room … and as it’s starting, I’m like, “Is this fucking ‘Star Wars’?”
What was your relationship with ‘Star Wars’ before this?
I grew up on the first three. The first one I saw in theaters was ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’
Same, that was my first movie ever.
Yeah! I think it was actually my first movie, too. But I was young, too, for it, but I still loved it. I didn’t see ‘Star Wars’ in theaters until George Lucas re-tweaked it.
You didn’t see the 1981 rerelease?
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was no re-release there. We had the San Mateo Three, it had three theaters. I think we were lucky to get ‘Batman’ with Michael Keaton. So it’s the middle of the desert, whatever. But ‘Empire’ was my first sort of full theatrical exposure to it. And I love ‘Jedi,’ man. But the second three weren’t for my generation. I know people have a beef with it.
My friends who have kids, their kids love the Prequels.
Love it. Exactly. When I was a kid, everybody loved Hulk Hogan, right? Eat your vitamins. Eat your vegetables. Everybody over 25 hated him because he was corny, right?
We had the ‘Rock ‘N’ Wrestling’ cartoon and ‘Saturday Night’s Main Event.’
Exactly! The ’80s were all about ‘Saturday Night’s Main Event.’
Some people don’t realize that when ‘Saturday Night Live’ had an off week, they played WWF wrestling instead.
They had Mr. T on there! They brought everybody there. To contemporize it, John Cena is Hogan. Everyone over 20 hates him; everyone under 20 loves him. That’s how you have to look at the second trilogy.
I feel people our age will relate with ‘Rebels’ more than ‘Clone Wars.’
Because there’s not a lens or a shot or an angle that they use in the program that’s not in the Original Trilogy. So, everything you’re seeing is from the Original Trilogy. The sound design is pulled from the original.
And Ralph McQuarrie.
His art! Some of it that didn’t even make the movie, so people who aren’t even familiar with it, they’re feeling some kind of old school vibe and that’s what it is. [The publicist says our time is up.] Y’all ain’t throwing me out yet. [The publicist explains that ‘Bates Motel’ needs the room.] They’re fine. When they try to throw me out, I’ll laugh.
There was some nervousness when Disney bought Lucasfilm, but between this show with Simon Kinberg, J.J. Abrams on ‘Episode VII’ and Rian Johnson directing ‘Episode VIII,’ they’ve hired people who care.
I’ll finish with this. I have a four-and-a-half-year-old daughter. We were watching the Disney parade. It was hard for me to see Darth Vader walking in front of Jasmine from Aladdin. But, you have to accept that. My daughter’s awesome, by the way. She’s like, “Who’s that?” I said, “That’s Darth Vader, baby girl.” She says, “Is he a bad guy?” I said, “Yeah, he’s a bad guy.” She goes, “Does he get to do whatever he wants?” And I literally had this parenting moment where I’m like, Oh my God, I’m looking at me, because I always rooted for the bad guy when I was a kid. I said, “No, he has a boss.” She asked, “Who is his boss?” I said, “The Emperor.” She said, “Who’s The Emperor?” I said, “I am! Now be quiet and watch the parade.”
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.