James Arnold Taylor considers himself lucky and he can tell you that in hundreds of different voices. Often, when a video game or cartoon is made into a feature film, a celebrity’s cast to take over the voice role.
So far, that hasn’t been the case with Taylor. The voice actor reprised his voice work as Obi-Wan Kenobi created for the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” cartoons when a film version was made. Ditto for his work on the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” game and 2007 movie.
His latest chance to take a voice from a video game to the big screen is for “Ratchet & Clank.” The Santa Barbara native reprises the voice of the fuzzy video game hero, Ratchet, in the big-screen adventure.
Taylor knows the character well having voiced Ratchet in 13 of the 14 video games in the franchise. He took over the character from fellow voice actor Mikey Kelley with the same game.
“When they realized they were going to go different places with the whole franchise they decided they wanted to change a little tone and texture of the voice. I happened to fit the mark,” Taylor says.
Taylor had already been doing voice work for years before taking on Ratchet. His career as one of the most versatile voice actors working in Hollywood is a big and broad as voice talent legends like Mel Blanc and Daws Butler.
His first voice work was in the video game “Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge” and since then has voiced the video game versions of such characters as Willy Wonka, Fred Flintstone and Emmett Brown and done voice work on the animated offerings “Johnny Test,” “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Johnny Bravo.”
He has a special connection to Ratchet because of all the character voices he does, Ratchet is the closest to his own voice.
He also has another connection.
“I found out for years ago that the man I thought was my father was not my father. That was one of those kind of earth shattering moments,” Taylor says. “Ratchet is a character I’ve always related to because he’s an orphan. I felt like that as a kid, too, not having that father figure to relate to. Then finding out the person I thought was wasn’t really shook up my world. That gave me a lot more to relate to in this film.”
Taylor likes that the new “Ratchet & Clank” film features some touching moments. He’s been told that Ratchet comes across like Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars: A New Hope.”
“I feel there is that and that goes toward me wanting to be the hero and wanting to please everybody,” Taylor says.
Unlike a lot of TV comedies that deal with safe issues like teaching a child how to drive, dealing with a wacky next door neighbor or planning an anniversary party, NBC’s “The Carmichael Show” takes on tough topics: police protests, religion, guns, depression.
The fact the hot-button issues are handled in such a smart and funny way gives the show an edge over the more mundane comedies. It also opens it up to potential kickback from viewers.
Loretta Devine, who plays the matriarch of the family, has only heard positive reaction.
“They really, really enjoy the show. I was so happy about that because the show deals with things that people are talking about in their house, and we live in such a politically correct society where you can lose everything by saying the wrong thing at the right time,” Devine says. “So I was very happy to see that they loved it.
“This is serious and people are very serious about what they think you are and what you stand for regarding what you’re doing on television a lot of times. They believe that you are the character.”
The reality is Devine is just playing a character in a TV comedy based on the life of comedian Jerrod Carmichael. It’s the latest in a long string of acting work for Devine that dates back to her playing Lorrell in the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls.”
Since then, she’s worked in films like “Waiting To Exhale” and “Jumping the Broom” and such TV shows as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Boston Public.”
It’s easy for her to get feedback because “The Carmichael Show” is produced in front of a studio audience.
“I come from theater, and having an audience is a great experience. It’s not easy. It’s very hard. Our writers work very hard to get the joke across perfectly, and so there’s a lot of quick, quick, quick changes,” Devine says. “The theme may be the same in an episode, but there’s a million ways to tell it, and we experiment with a lot of things before we make a final commitment to a script. So what we start with at the table read, by the time we get to the actual shooting of the show five days later may be parts of the same thing but totally different in the context of the way it’s put together.”
Making last minute changes don’t bother Levine because she has trust that both the writers and cast are working to tell the best stories through the best jokes.
“So we are going to say this and pray the NAACP don’t come get us,” Devine says.
Now arriving: The new Travel Channel series, “Hello Goodbye,” looks at everyday people arriving and departing from some of America’s largest airports, including Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare. It debuts with back-to-back episodes at 11 and 11:30 p.m. Monday, May 9.
Welcome: Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Savannah Guthrie have been selected to host NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the XXXI Olympiad, on Friday, Aug. 5, in Rio de Janeiro.
Really full house: The new Nickelodeon show, “The Loud House,” looks at what happens when 10 sisters and one brother live under one roof. The cable channel’s newest animated comedy launches at 5 p.m. Monday, May 2. It was inspired by creator Chris Savino’s life growing up in a family of 10 kids.