Like all big superheroes, Spider-Man has been played and voiced by a variety of different people over the decades. There’s a certain art to the wallcrawler that a number of voice actors have managed to perfect in recent years, and among those is longtime performer Yuri Lowenthal. Known for a number of roles during the 2000s and 2010s—like Ben 10 and the Prince of Persia in Ubisoft’s Sands of Time trilogy—Lowenthal has voiced the hero starting with Insomniac Games’ Marvel’s Spider-Man.
This week’s Spider-Man 2 sees him voice the hero once again, and while talking to io9, Lowenthal was quite candid about getting to play a Spider-Man who’s been around the block, but still has room to grow as both a hero and a man. Unlike most Spider-Man media, Insomniac’s version of the character moves forward in his life, and Spider-Man 2 sees Peter truly coming into adulthood. Set two years after the first game, it finds him still dealing with the death of Aunt May and figuring out what it means to be a superhero in his mid-20s. Even when the game doesn’t explicitly call attention to it, players and longtime Spider-Man fans can feel the passage of time weigh on this Peter in a way they may not with other incarnations.
Lowenthal described playing this Peter as “a beast unto itself,” largely due to how Insomniac has worked to bind Peter’s superheroic life with his everyday normal life. And by skipping past the origin story to showing a more experienced Spider-Man, Insomniac has been allowed more narrative freedom they previously might not otherwise have. “You get all the stuff you love about this iconic character, and yet the story makes it different enough for you to perk up your ears,” he said of the games’ stories. “This story creates this Peter. By [Insomniac] starting Peter when they did, we still get all the Spider-Man stuff we love—he’s an older Spider-Man, but there’s still something new about it.”
Spider-Man 2 introduces the Symbiote suit and Spidey’s nemesis Venom into this universe, after both were previously teased in the post-credits of the first two games. Upon hearing Insomniac’s pitch for the sequel and how the alien would factor into Peter’s arc, Lowenthal was excited to steer his character into what he called a “difficult direction.” Having voiced so many heroic and well-meaning guys for so long, he admitted to having some difficulty in going against type in this kind of way. What helped was going back to one of his most famous roles: Sasuke Uchiha in Naruto, that series’ deuteragonist who took on an antagonist role for much of its original run.
“Before Sasuke, I hadn’t been asked to access an evil side much in the characters I played,” he said. “Going into this, I knew I’d be able to access some Sasuke. He taught me to dig deeper [into myself], so I knew I could bring that out. With him, you kind of expect that villainous turn. But forcing Peter into that mold was the hard part.”
Earlier Spider-Man games with the Symbiote had their versions of Peter change his voice, and Spider-Man 2 required the same of Lowenthal. The first game notably saw him change his voice depending on whether or not Peter was exerting himself by swinging around the city. (Ditto for Nadji Jeter when he headlined 2020’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.) That method has returned for this game, but there were other variables to consider, such as the wingsuits that allow Peter and Miles to fly around New York.
Lowenthal also confirmed he had to do “Symbiote takes” for Peter’s lines after acquiring the suit. Further complicating matters was that lines were recorded out of order, which made charting the Symbiote’s hold on Peter important. “We were always on top of, ‘How far is he in his Symbiote journey?’” the actor recalled. “‘Has he just gotten it, or is it much later when the suit’s starting to fully take over?’” For those line reads, he added, he was really pushed by voice director Kris Zimmerman to either dial back or amp up the Symbiote influence. And like playing a meaner Peter in general, it was a little tough for him to fully get in that mindset.
After voicing a supporting character in 2011’s Resistance 3, Lowenthal voiced the male player character in its 2014 game Sunset Overdrive. (Which, he admitted, he thought at the time would be a bigger game than it ultimately ended up being.) Having worked with the studio on (currently) three Marvel games, he has complete faith in the writers—during our interview, he was very deferential to the narrative team, specifically naming Ben Arfmann, Nick Folkman, Lauren Mee, and Jon Paquette. To him, these Spider-Man games stand out because of “great writing and stories told. I trust in the writing and try to be as truthful to that as possible.”
Since that first Spider-Man game in 2018, Lowenthal has gone on to voice the hero in non-Insomniac titles. Much as he liked playing a “goofier, more inexperienced” Peter for Firaxis’ 2022 game Midnight Suns, and the Peter of 2019’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, he did confess that it was hard to not go back to the source. He has an open affection for Insomniac’s Peter, and made it clear that this particular Spider-Man is a role that’ll always resonate with him. When he first took the role, he and the rest of Insomniac weren’t fully sure more sequels were guaranteed—and having played the wallcrawler for five years and counting, it feels as surreal as anything either Spider-Man is able to do.
“It’s just such a delight to get to do this role. It still feels like a dream that I’ve yet to wake up from.”
Spider-Man 2 swings onto the PlayStation 5 this Friday, October 20.
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