Fan Expo 2016: Interview with Charles Martinet aka MARIO!

Even if you live under a rock you’ve probably heard the sound of the jolly plumber declaring “it’s-a me!” before. Over the past few decades, Mario has become one of the most recognizable characters in not just gaming, but pop culture as a whole. The Japanese Prime Minister even paid tribute to the little guy at the closing of the Rio Olympics by donning the iconic red cap.

So, how did an Italian plumber, created by a Japanese studio and voiced by a French-American actor become the universal face of the gaming industry? It might have something to do with the life and charm breathed into the character by the said voice actor, Charles Martinet. Providing the ubiquitous “yahoos!” and “Imma number ones!” that have defined Mario since he first began to speak, Charles was on hand at FanExpo this year to greet fans of all ages and put smiles on their faces. In addition to his role as everyone’s favorite plumber, he boasts well over a hundred voicework credits for film and video games.

Thanks to the kindness of Fan Expo staff, we landed an exclusive interview with Charles!

GEEKPR0N: The gaming industry is still very young, but since nearly the beginnings, Mario has been a character. A lot of the industry has changed overtime while he’s been a staple. How do you feel that the character has lasted?

CHARLES MARTINET: Y’know, it’s a testament to the creative team, Nintendo, that there’s been a passion of video games, and love and joy and fun. It’s all about the game! And I think carrying that through for the 31 years of Mario, it’s always about how do we make games more fun? So the character has existed through many dimensions and adventures, and the technology is always by the fun, instead of enjoyment being driven by technology. First there was one format, then side-scrolling, then three-dimensional, but the integrity of the character stays the same. It’s the same fun, and happiness that was there from the first Mario game.

GP: Given the precarious place the world is in right now, maybe a character that happy matters now more than ever?

CM: Yeah, yeah! I think that the emotions of joy, and optimism, happiness and love, or sense of adventures are values that we can all share.

GP: Prior to your audition to Mario, you were in theatre.

CM: Yes, I was in Taming of the Shrew as the father and it’s where I based the voice. I crashed the audition and they wanted me to make up a voice, an Italian Plumber from Brooklyn. I thought, “hey get outta my face I’m woirkin’ heyyyr!” – but doing that all day long wouldn’t be fun, and scary to children. So I thought, a nice Italian grandpa, but make it younger, and what came out is what you hear!

GP: Do you figure that having a theatre background helps you with game characters?

CM: Even as a voice-over actor, acting is always the same. You always have to be true to the heart. In films you can think it, subtle, but in cartoons you have to make it very big! But always true, because if I’m thinking about getting a cup of coffee, that “yahoo!” isn’t gonna come out right.

GP: More people have become aware of video games and it’s led to some critique about video games and gender, like Mario being considered regressive because he rescues the princess so much. Do you have any thoughts on that?

CM: That’s something I’ve never heard of before, I don’t know much about it.  What I know is I’m about having fun, and joy, and I create the character from my heart. I think that’s for everyone. Every character has a truth, it’s about an emotional dynamic that should be fun, for everyone, always.

GP: Are there any characters you’d like to see in future Smash Bros. games?

CM: I love Smash Brothers, but unfortunately I’m not very good at them. Within 30 seconds of pushing every button as fast as I can, I see myself floating off the stage in my bubble! But I love watching people play it competitively because I really truly don’t know who’s winning or what’s happening. It’s great.


A big thank you to Charles for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us.  You can meet Charles this weekend at Fan Expo Canada, down at the Metro Toronto Convention Center.

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