Jake Johnson wasn’t a comic book fan as a young boy, but when he received the script for the Oscar-nominated Spider-man Into The Spider-Verse as he came to understand more about this character that legend Stan Lee has created he learned to like Spidey’s alter-ego.
The animated feature is on track to win Best Animated feature at the Oscars, having already won a bevvy of awards and critical acclaim. The Animated feature struck a chord with fans too who have enjoyed the introduction of Miles into film history. I caught up with Johnson to talk about the story about family love, sacrifice, and the notion that we can all be heroes.
We also do a fun one-word association. Read on to see what comes to mind when we bring up 21 Jump Street.
How did your voiceover work for Spiderman compare to your previous animated voiceovers?
The biggest difference was the time spent. I recorded my part over 2 1/2 years. We did each scene multiple times and countless different ways. They wrote new lines while I was in the booth, I improvised, and was even allowed to act with other cast. It was a very collaborative experience and I felt as if the directors didn’t stop a take until they were a 100% satisfied, which is a relief for an actor because I was able to fully trust in their vision.
How did Spiderman play into your childhood?
I wasn’t a big comic book fan as a kid. I really learned more about Peter Parker after I got the part, but the more I learn about Stan Lee’s original idea of an ordinary guy with supernatural powers, the more I liked the character. I also learned a lot about Peter while doing press and hearing from critics and fans what they love about this character.
How did you craft and build your character alongside Shameik’s Spiderman?
Shameik brings a very natural confidence that is equally mixed with vulnerability. When I first started crafting my version of Peter I think he was a bit harsh. After I recorded with Shameik I think that their friendship, their chemistry, started to soften how I viewed Peter. Peter can’t help but like Miles, and I couldn’t help but like Shameik. I think when actors have a natural chemistry it can sometimes bleed into performance in our case I think it did and was helpful.
The fan reaction to this has been wild as has the critical acclaim. How does all that feel?
I have never been part of something so positive before. It has really made this experience such a joy. It’s lucky for me to part of something that is bringing joy to people. I hope I can continue to do that with my career.
The message that brings me to tears is that anyone can be a hero. What was your reaction when you first read the script?
The message of the movie is my favorite part of it. There is no specific look or gender to a hero. I love that this movie tackles that and I love to be the mentor character to the new Spider-Man. If Miles is the Karate Kid, I like that Peter is his Mr Miyagi.
How much fun was it to play Peter?
Playing Peter was a blast. The directors were incredible to work with. Apart from their talent,’ they were open and fun, and I truly felt free while recording to try things with the material. I am honored to be part of this, honored that it’s my voice with their groundbreaking animation. Peter B Parker is a dream character because he is funny, sad, and full of depth. There’s a lot to this version of Peter. It was fun to start his exploration. I hope his story, in this version, isn’t finished. I want to know what happens next.
Do you have a favorite Easter egg in the film?
I’m not sure it’s an Easter egg, but I love Stan Lee’s cameo. I think it’s so sweet and sad. But I am so glad it’s in this movie.
OK, let’s play our one-word association game. What comes to mind when we say the following movies?
21 Jump Street
Improvising with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Partying with Riggle and meeting his alter ego Hot Glove
The Lego Movie
Everything is awesome.
Harold & Kumar
Neil Patrick Harris was really nice and professional while I was dressed like Jesus surrounded by strippers. I appreciated it.