#BlackComicsMonth – March 17th – Kevin Michael Richardson Interview

BlackComicsMonthSpotlight

BlackComicsMonth is proud to bring you all an interview with the amazing talented voice actor, Kevin Michael Richardson. Dele Adams was able to talk to Kevin about his role in the upcoming Guardians Galaxy cartoon, his influences, and of course who’s the better Groot!

Kevin with a few of the characters he has voiced over the years. Photo Credit: Leigh Rubin

Kevin with a few of the characters he has voiced over the years. Photo Credit: Leigh Rubin

With a voice as deep as the world is wide and one of the most pleasant personalities in show biz, Kevin Michael Richardson is a vocal giant among men. The Daytime Emmy Award Nominee has recently been cast as the voice of Groot in the upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ animated series from Marvel Studios.

A household name long before that with roles on Young Justice, The Cleveland Show, Lilo & Stitch and MANY others, Kevin’s smooth, rumbling bass has given soul to some of the most endearing characters in film and television. Over 650 vocal credits later, he remains a shining example of awesomeness and humor. He was kind enough to have a little chat with us at Vixen Varsity.

*Street Fighter voice*  Kevin vs. Vin!  Round I: GROOT!

*Street Fighter voice* Kevin vs. Vin! Round I: GROOT!

Dele Adams: You were recently confirmed as the voice of Groot in Marvel’s upcoming animated series, Guardians of the Galaxy. Can you tell us what that process of selection was like? Did you have to voice battle Vin Diesel for the role?

Kevin M. Richardson: Well I got to tell you. The first time I heard Groot was with Michael Clarke Duncan‘s voice and I was very impressed. When I heard Diesel’s version in the movie I was also very impressed, but to me I personally preferred Michael Clarke Duncan’s voice. Don’t get me wrong, I think Vin was fantastic in the movie, but as far as a voice off between Vin Diesel and I? I would say that’s a tough call.

PS: I would win.

DA: I’d put money on that! So, in order to prepare for the role of Groot, did you meet any of the cast of the film to interact with them about the team dynamics?

We know everybody is here for Groot n' Rocket. Admit it.

We know everybody is here for Groot n’ Rocket. Admit it.

KMR: As far as the selection goes with the role, I must tell you I really don’t remember auditioning for this role. I probably did but I really don’t remember, but I definitely did not have to battle Vin for the role.

Unfortunately, I did not get to meet any of the cast for the role, the only reference I had to the role of Groot was when I played him for another Marvel cartoon (Avengers Assemble) that had originally been played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Watching the film helped me get an idea of what this character was all about as far as preparation goes. Not a “reference,” but an idea.

DA: You’ve voiced nearly 650 characters in both TV and film, a massive figure. Which ones were the most memorable for you to play?

KMR: Three of the most memorable roles that I’ve ever played, would be the “Joker” from “The Batman”, “Capt. Gantu” from “Lilo & Stitch”, and “Cleveland Junior” from “The Cleveland Show”.

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins

DA: Recently Milestone Media, the brainchild of the late Dwayne McDuffie, was revived. You’ve voiced two characters from their stable on TV, Icon and Robert Hawkins, father of Static. What’s your take on the impact that McDuffie and others like him have had on how black creators and artists view themselves compared to when you were growing up?

KMR: Dwayne McDuffie was an incredibly talented man, and extremely intelligent. It was an honor to play Robert Hawkins from “Static Shock”.

DA: Speaking of impact, your own work has inspired a generation of up and coming voice actors. In particular, a lot of black performers who prior to you, didn’t think that there was a place for them in the sound-booth. What do you make of this kind of celebrity?

KMR: I never saw any of what I do as a path to becoming a celebrity of any type, I just did it because I knew I could and still know that I can.

DA: Now, you sing extraordinarily well, doing killer covers of Billy Paul, Barry White and others. I noticed that quite a few of your fellow voice actors sing as well. How important is a musical ear for your line of work?

KMR: I think having somewhat of a musical ear definitely helps, because even when we speak there’s a certain flow, a certain rhythm, that each individual possesses. I look at that as a type of music or type of musical rhythm, if you will. Listening to other people’s rhythms, helps you to imitate the person a great deal.

kevin-michael-richardsonDA: I’ve seen some of your table reads for the Cleveland Show. Absolutely hilarious. You have this wonderful natural comic timing and the range of impressions you possess is crazy. You often have the whole room in stitches. Were you like that growing up? Heck, I’m cracking up now!

KMR: (laughs) Thanks man! I was definitely like that as a kid. At the dinner table I would imitate different characters from TV shows and have my family cracking up when I was around five years old.

DA: Who were your influences growing up? Who and what works inspired the man that you are now?

KMR: My mother was a very powerful influence for me growing up and still is. She always believed in me and supported what I wanted to do for a career, alongside with that another major influence for me was Flip Wilson, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, James Earl Jones, Sir Laurence Olivier and Paul Robeson.

DA: A wide and varied mix of artistic individuals indeed. Any closing thoughts for us?

KMR: I am truly and forever will be grateful for this career that God has allowed me to have, I truly believe that for anyone who really wants to do this “Can” if they want to. All you have to do is have Faith, Persistence, and Perseverance. Heck, with those three powerful things you can do anything, maybe even change the world.

mrgusDele Adams: Sage words, man. Kevin, thank you SO much for taking the time out to talk to us. It’s been an absolute pleasure and honor.

Kevin M. Richardson: Stay well Dele. Thank you so much for your support and interest!

You can catch Kevin playing Groot in Marvel Studio’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ later this year on Disney XD! You can also hear him voice Mr. Gus on Cartoon Network’s Uncle Grandpa and Shredder on Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You can also follow Kevin on Twitter.