Yuri Lowenthal on Playing Mon-El
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Legion of Super-Heroes star Yuri Lowenthal about his role as Mon-El and playing different versions of one character. Legion of Super-Heroes arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digital on February 7, 2023.
“Welcome to the 31st century and the Legion Academy, where a new generation hones their powers with hopes of joining the Legion of Super-Heroes,” reads the film’s synopsis. “Devastated by tragedy, Supergirl struggles to adjust to her new life on Earth. Taking her cousin Superman’s advice, Supergirl leaves their space-time to attend the Academy. There, she quickly makes new friends, as well as a new enemy with old ties: Brainiac 5. But a nefarious plot lurks in the shadows — the mysterious group known as the Dark Circle seeks a powerful weapon held in the Academy’s vault.”
Tyler Treese: Back in the animated Legion of Super-Heroes series, you voiced Superman X, who has some similarities with Mon-El. How wild was it, 15 years later, to return to this franchise and play Mon-El?
Yuri Lowenthal: It’s so crazy. I mean, I carry a white-hot torch for that original show. It was what made me fall in love with the Legion at large. It was super fun to come back and I know while Kell-El from that original series was sort of modeled after Mon-El, I think this is a very different Mon-El and I’m glad that there is a definite line between the two. Their attitudes are very different. So at least I didn’t feel like I had to consciously bring any of Kell into this. Although it was nice to add another El to my list, because now I’ve played, I played Kal-El Jor-El, Kell-El, and Mon-El. I’m running out of Els! But I’m happy to keep adding them
Like you mentioned, this version of Mon-El is slightly different. I really enjoyed the aspect of him being this super fan of Superman. How fun was it leaning into that side of the character?
That was the key to unlock the character, for me. From the get-go when he first meets Supergirl, on one hand he’s trying to be big man on campus. “Oh, I’m already at the academy. I’m going to show you around. Also, I have a crush on you.” But also, this dynamic being, “But I’m also a huge super fan and I’m trying not to let you see exactly how fanboy I’m getting.” Finding that was, I think, the key to it. On one hand, he’s this one guy and on the other hand, he’s just a Superman family fan.
This movie has such a fun version of Legion with them being at the academy since they’re all heroes in training and not fully developed.
That’s what I’ve always found that sets the Legion of Super-Heroes apart from any other superhero group. There are a couple things. One, that they’re not fully formed. With the Justice League, you get it. They’re all the best of the best of what they do and that’s why they’re a group. But for the Legion of Super-Heroes, they’re teenagers and they’re dealing with teenager stuff while also trying to become the heroes that they will ultimately — hopefully — become. The other aspect that I’ve always loved about the Legion is that a lot of their powers are weird, you know? A lot of the powers … you don’t get right off the bat. How that could be useful in any type of conflict or in any type of situation?
So much of the fun of Legion stories is A.) Seeing who the lineup’s going to be, because there’s so many different Legionnaires you could go with and each time you pair them up in different ways, you get a different dynamic. And B.) How are those powers going to be brought to bear? What interesting ways are you going to find to use Arms Fall Off Boy? So it was fun to come back also and jump into it and know the Legion stories that I know and see how this one was going to be different, who they were going to pick, how they were going to be different than they’ve been portrayed in the past, who you were going to pair with who. It’s always a good time.
One of the things I really enjoy about the superhero genre is that you can voice the same character multiple times, but go in so many different places with them. You’ve voiced Spider-Man in so many games lately, the Insomniac series, Ultimate Alliance, and Midnight Suns. What’s most rewarding about getting to do these different takes on the same core character and twist it in small but significant ways?
I just feel honored that I have gotten more than one shot in a couple of cases. One of the things I love the most is working in a group with other people. With each iteration that I jump on, it’s a different team of people telling a different story. And so, inevitably, the character will be different. Even if I jump in with the same things that I did on the last one, it’ll shift. It’s a different story. It’s a different bunch of writers, and they end up crafting and they end up changing.
So more than heading into it with, “Oh, this is something I want to try differently,” I love to see what they’re coming to the table with and see how that changes it naturally. It definitely helps ease some of my fear of, “Oh, what am I going to do different this time? How do I separate this from the last one?” In the end, I rarely have to, because it’s not just me. It’s me and a bunch of other people creating that character. Then, of course, it’s fun to go, “Oh, look how he changed.” So it’s been great.
Talking about the team atmosphere of creating these characters, for example, Insomniac changed how Peter looked and in the remastered version of that game. So I was curious, do visuals ever impact your performance? If you had done that first take with that face in mind, would it have been slightly different when you see a different Peter on screen?
Any sort of visual stuff that I get in the beginning — and I don’t always get something. Most projects have done a bunch of sort of R&D trying to figure out what the look of the character is going to be. As often as possible, I love when they share that right off the top because it, of course, influences how my brain fires after seeing a specific image.
So I think that visual part is an important part to creating the character, but it’s only one piece, and one piece that I sometimes don’t get. Sometimes I’m working on video games and they may have concept art for the game, but not necessarily for the character I’m playing. Or it’ll end up changing over the course of the development of the game. So it only has to be one piece. But it’s definitely important to me and I love getting that right at the top.
One thing that amazed me was that you’ve been voicing Sasuke in Naruto for over 17 years and what’s so unique about that series is that time has passed on. You’ve seen him go from a boy to a man, now he’s a father. How rewarding has it been really going on a journey with that character and seeing him change? I can’t think of many roles that have that amount of character progression.
It’s unheard of. It is. It is the best. I can’t compare it to anything else. I haven’t played any other character for 17 years. Most actors don’t get to do that ever, period, end of story. For me to be able to play that character and have his story and his character constantly changing over the years has been this amazing gift that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate with any other character. I’m surprised it’s gone on this long, but I’m thrilled at Sasuke’s journey and being along there with him and seeing the fans follow it as well.
Your big breakout for gaming was definitely the Prince of Persia and I saw you return for the remake. What did that mean for you that they came back for you to be the Prince again? That’s such an iconic role.
Again, I was honored and still feeling a bit of shock and disbelief about the whole thing, that we got to … especially with that game, because it’s sort of like we got to roll back time and do it over again, better. Not that that first game wasn’t lightning in a bottle. I’ll always love that guy … the Prince will always be close to my heart. Getting to come back and actually do performance capture where before it was all just animated … this time we got to play it out like a play or a movie and shoot it that way because technology had advanced. I don’t know what the holdup is — they never tell actors anything — but I’m hoping someday you’ll get to see it, because it was amazing to get to go back to an experience that I could have hardly seen repeating itself.
You’ve done some live-action work in the past and I saw you had a role in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. What stood out about getting to be part of such a huge franchise like that and actually have your face attached to it?
Yeah, I’m a big genre buff and was already a huge fan of the the Terminator franchise. So to get to be a part of something like that, much like getting to be a part of any of these DC movies as a big comic book guy, is always a huge joy for me. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, I love it all. Getting to do that show was super fun.