Chatting with voice of Nintendo’s Mario
Charles Martinet doesn’t need any coaxing to do the voice.
In fact, he begins conversations as Super Mario.
“Hello Super Eric, itsa me, Mario!” is the first thing he says on the line from California.
A versatile voice actor, Martinet has provided the voice for a number of cartoon and video games. But it’s Mario — the gregarious, moustachioed Italian plumber of the Nintendo franchise — that gets the most requests. Since 1995, Martinet has been the voice of the character, initially at trade shows. Eventually, he was brought on board for the many video games as well.
The California native will be appearing at Calgary Expo on Saturday. He took some time to chat with the Calgary Herald.
Q I have to admit, it’s a little surreal talking to you. Mario was a part of my childhood.
A For me it’s been 25 years of doing the voice of Mario. I get to meet people of all different ages and it’s like WOW! There’s multiple generations now.
Q You’re a classically trained actor, how did you get into voice acting?
A I went to Drama Studio of London. I trained there, did Berkeley Rep, Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, different repertory theatres. Then I started doing other things like radio and television commercials and a few films and then started doing trade shows. Then one day I’m sitting there doing what actors do: lying on the beach, reading a book and waiting for the phone to ring. A friend called and said, ‘Hey, you should come and do these auditions for a trade show in Las Vegas.” I said ‘Dude, there’s no way I’m going to crash an audition. I’m a professional actor, I can’t just walk in the door. Where is it?” And for some reason, I have no idea why, I went to this audition and it was the miracle of how you don’t know what will happen in life. I’m walking in the door, the producer and the cameraman are walking out the door and I said ‘Hi, can I read for this?’ It was literally that moment of him looking at his watch and deciding whether he was done or not. He said ‘Alright, alright, we’ll set the camera up. You’re an Italian plumber from Brooklyn.’
Q How did you find his voice?
A I had never heard of Nintendo, I have never heard of Mario, but I knew I didn’t want to do something like (with heavy Brooklyn accent) ‘Hey get outta my face, I’m working here. I’m a plumber.’ I thought I’d do something more fun, more joyful. If I talk to people all day long, I don’t want them to walk away saying ‘Well, that was scary.’ What popped into my brain was that I had done Grumio in Taming of the Shrew a few years before. (With Italian accent) ‘A nice Italian guy, talka lika this. Ah, Buongiorno!’ I thought ‘I’ll make that younger and more fun.’
Q How often do family and friends ask you to do the voice?
A Quite often. It’s always when a family member or friend introduces me to someone. It’s so sweet. It’s such a tribute to Nintendo. They have a character that has lasted now for 30 years.
Q There is a certain sweetness to Mario. Do you think that’s what endears him to people?
A I think so. I think it’s the joy, the happiness, the fun and reminding us all that life is about having a great time and fun and joy.
Q Did you use Mario as a jumping off point for all the other characters — Baby Mario, Luigi, Wario — you voice now from that franchise?
A I sure did. We were going around the country, with had a little mobile dog-and-pony show that I would do, going around to different stores and being in parking lots and talking to kids. Kids would say ‘Mario, may I please speak to your brother Luigi?” Of course, we didn’t have a Luigi created, all we had was this floating head. So I would say (as Mario) ‘Well, sure, hang on I will ask him. But, you know, he’s pretty shy and I think he is in the kitchen making spaghetti meatballs. Hey Luigi, do