Inspired by the worldwide video game sensation now celebrating its 30th anniversary, Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind finds vicious, power-mad Kano determined to take over Earthrealm, one soul at a time. Assisted by a trio of cold Black Dragon mercenaries, he embarks on a brutal assault from town to defenceless town. The choice is simple: Kneel or be annihilated.
But when the cocky and talented but undisciplined Kenshi doesn’t take a knee, Kano and his clan destroy the young warrior, taking his eyesight and his confidence. Under the tutelage of reluctant, retired Kuai Liang, the only one powerful enough to challenge the malevolent Kano, Kenshi finds renewed hope and a clear path to redemption. But will it be enough to stop Kano from decimating all of Earthrealm?
We recently had the opportunity to talk with some of Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind's cast, including the latest actor to bring Tremor to life, Imari Williams (Transformers: Rescue Bots, Spider-Man).
As the formidable and downright terrifying villain, Imari had to pull out all the stops to make this badass behemoth sound as threatening as he looks. In this interview, the actor takes us through his approach to playing Tremor, sharing fascinating insights into his creative process, his love of the Mortal Kombat franchise's violence, and what it meant to him to join this world.
We also hear from Williams on some of his dream roles, so to find out more about that and how he went about breathing life into Tremor, check out our conversation in full below!
Tremor is such a fun character in this movie; you must have had a blast playing him in this movie?
You know, I think every actor loves to play a villain. Something where you can get nice and gritty and add a little gravel to something. A lot of times, you get characters where you’re the good guy, the nurturer, or the father figure. You do things where you have to raise your voice up, so I love getting the chance to lower it down and get nasty. This movie is nasty [Laughs]. Tremor is able to get really nasty and I just love it. I love the character.
What did it mean to you, at this point in your career, to get to join this iconic Mortal Kombat franchise?
It’s so funny because my first booking was for Transformers: Rescue Bots, and that was 2012. After I did that, I was saying, ‘I’m going to do another TV show!’ You don’t really realise the amount of work you have to put in to keep auditioning or keep doing the roles you envision yourself doing. I’ve been in the game since 2007, and just now I’m starting to do the roles I really envisioned for myself. When I got called for this by Wes Gleason, who I love, it was a dream come true. I grew up with this franchise and I’d always see my friends announcing they’re part of it thinking, ‘Man, I just want to get in on this. I want to have fun and get nasty with something.’ It was a blessing, honestly. Then, I’ve got to do it justice and deliver a character who has good depth and gristle.
Tremor is a creature of few words, so is finding those guttural noises an even more tiring and challenging process than a typical voiceover role?
One of the things you learn when you’re doing voiceover…there will be certain things you put into a character to bring it to life. You read what they want for them and then you interpret that in your own way. When I read that, I knew what I wanted to do, but also that I’d have to sustain that. There are multiple sessions and you have to replicate what you do on your audition. He was a challenge because sometimes, you want to get really low and rough and guttural when you talk. Certainly, you want to enunciate, and there are certain things you want to say that takes a lot of depth from your diaphragm and throat. I really enjoy that and finding sounds from the area that wears down a little bit as I can sustain it better. The trick I learned from my friend, David Bloom, who is a veteran and a freaking beast. I love him so much and he’s like a big brother to me, but he taught me how to use my diaphragm and get off my vocal cords. So, something like this, I love it. I have some sustainability for it in the sessions.
Tremor is this massive, fiery creature - how do you go about inhabiting a larger-than-life monster like this in the recording booth?
Whenever I do action, it’s always fun. However, when you’re on mic, you can hear stuff. The way I was taught is that you take everything out of your pockets! When I’m doing fight scenes, I’ll swing so I can feel where the direction is going and throw my voice with that feeling. You do get physical, especially when you’re doing the ADR sessions where you put in the grunts and punches. You chase a sequence and have to match that intensity. It’s fun. It’s a fun challenge to ADR chase scenes I’ve done. You just want to make it feel real and dynamic, particularly because, in the Mortal Kombat franchise, you want to make sure the efforts and punches sound good. The yells and screams too. It does get physical, you do move around, but everyone has their own process. I love to stand up and get physical whenever I do this stuff.
The character does look awesome in this movie, and arguably even more formidable than in the games, but did you get any sneak peeks before recording to give you a better idea of who this character is?
For my audition, I just had a description. I knew he was a big, hulking man and that they wanted a gravelly texture. They wanted a viciousness to him, so I took those directions and ran with it. When I went to the sessions, then they had dailies of the animation that they were working with. I did two sessions, and the first was a rough outline so I could see the vision. That would help me during my initial recording and, when I came back, they’d finished a little bit more and I could see what he was like. Now, I just watched the movie, and getting to see him in his full glory…he looks great. The animation is so smooth and they added some different elements to him, thinning him down a bit and adding more stuff. He looks fantastic.
How much fun was it for you when you got to sit down and watch this movie and finally saw those brutal fatalities first-hand?
I mean, this is so nasty [Laughs]. It just ups the ante, man. Even without the fatalities, even the raid in the village…this is relentless! When the Black Dragon go to the last outpost in the initial scene in the movie, it sets the tone of what you’re going to see. It’s blatant freaking gore. It’s blatant violence and it’s great. Other times, it’s been there, but this movie moves it up a notch. There’s one scene where one of the characters has a double kitana blade, and she slices a dude’s head off and then strikes it and the head goes flying over to this couple cowering in fear. Then, the knife lands right in the head that’s been dripping blood the whole time. I was just like, ‘Oh man, this is gnarly!’ The fatalities are just nasty and disguting. You see stuff and go, ‘Wow, that is fabulous.’
Do you give the backstory of someone like Tremor a lot of thought before working on a movie like this or is it almost freeing to just inhabit this big, brutish badass villain?
You have your ideas. I borrow certain things going through life, and I’ll hear people’s voices and go, ‘I like that.’ You then keep it in your back pocket and go, ‘I’m going to use this one day. I’m going to use this voice or timber.’ Whenever you get to do baddies, you instinctively go down low and slow. You take your time with them because someone who is badass doesn’t need to speak fast when they talk. I, on the other hand, speak fast naturally and I jibber jabber. The thing for me is having to slow down because you don’t want to rush the delivery. I get more deliberate with a badass character, so I mess with the texture, take things down, and bring it up when you fight. It’s cool! I love that stuff [Laughs]. My compass for Tremor was someone burly, earthy, and nasty. That’s what I tried to do.
You’ve spent a lot of time in the Marvel Universe playing characters like Blade and Molten Man; what did those roles mean to you given how vast and iconic, like Mortal Kombat, that world is?
You know, the cool thing about Marvel…I’m a comic nerd. Marvel and DC are my loves. To be part of Marvel, especially for The Regent which I did for Spider-Man…that was one of my favourite bad guys in the actual comic books, so that was just an honour. Molten Man, I grew up reading about him, so I knew what I wanted to do with him and what I needed to bring to the table. It’s an honour. I’ve been blessed. I’m in Marvel and now DC as Mortal Kombat is part of that universe. I’m in both universes; how fortunate is that? It’s a nerd’s dream [Laughs]. I grew up reading comic books voraciously at a crazy pace, then anime and my morning cartoons, so I’m a straight-up nerd. To be part of that is really, really awesome.
Are you much of a gamer? If so, was the Mortal Kombat franchise one you were already well-versed in?
I was raised on the first few iterations of Mortal Kombat when I was young. I was into Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter…all the greats. I continue to play Tekken, and Soul Caliber, and I try to game as much as I can. Honestly, I’m addicted to Titan Fall 2. I love it. The Spider-Man games and Injustice: Gods Among Us. I had a great time with that and several different roleplaying games. I work pretty much from when I wake up to when I go to bed, so my time for video games is kind of limited. I also have two kids, a fourteen-year-old and a ten-year-old, so they’re taking up a lot of time [Laughs]. In my free time, I always hop on to do stuff.
There are so many characters who make up this Mortal Kombat world, but do you have any dream roles there or back in the Marvel and DC Universes?
Oh my God, you know who I want? I won’t even be shy about it. John Stewart Green Lantern. I would love to play him and have a good idea for it. I would also love to be the VO cartoon voice for Blade. Those two right there, definitely. I really want to get into those franchises. It’s funny, with John, he’s such a freaking awesome, stoic character, and I’ve always had a voice for him. I’ve auditioned for certain projects, but with Blade, I’ve always had a cool idea that I’ve done for other Marvel games that I’d like to continue. I love those two. The Black Panther Universe as well. Justice League too. I do Black Adam. I’m the understudy voice for The Rock in the new movie. I play his ADR voice, doing his efforts and the voices he doesn’t have time to do. I’m excited about that. I’d love to play Black Adam in an actual animated project. That would be great, though I did voice him in a LEGO movie. I have already played him in a way.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind will be released on Digital platforms and Blu-ray on October 11.