Will Arnett On ‘Twisted Metal,’ Not Getting Swole For The Show, And Almost Firing Himself

Will Arnett didn’t set out to play a pivotal on-screen role with the adaptation of the Sony Playstation classic Twisted Metal that he’s exec producing, it just worked out that way with him lending his instantly recognizable voice to a demented clown with a passion for the stage. The body? That belongs to AEW wrestler Samoa Joe, but don’t let on that you could tell it wasn’t a swole Arnett on the screen for the post-apocalyptic action-comedy from Deadpool and Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (this really feels as though it’s cut from the same cloth as Zombieland). Little bit of a sore spot.

Uproxx had a chance to catch up and goof off with the somewhat unserious Arnett a few weeks ago (pre-strike) where we had some fun with his decision to “Mandalorian” the role of Sweet Tooth, how he almost fired himself, and the scene that allowed him to find his way into the character. Arnett also gives praise for Anthony Mackie (the star of the show, who seems like he’s having the time of his life as a smart-ass courier in the badlands of a collapsed US), what he really thinks about his SmartLess podcast partners (Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes), and whether or not he knew the words to Sisqó’s “Thong Song” (a key moment from the show, which just dropped on Peacock with all episodes available).

But first, we begin with Arnett gushing about the kick-ass sight of the tricked-out and gunned-up throwback ice cream truck (also named Sweet Tooth) that his character tools around in on the show while wreaking havoc.

Hey, Will.

What do you think of my backdrop, man?

That’s pretty good. I like the ice cream truck. Did you get to drive the truck actually? I know it’s not your body, obviously, but you’re a producer, you have certain rights.

First of all, don’t say obviously not my body. It could be! Come on, man.

Maybe a little more time in at the buffets. Maybe a little more time in the weight room. Where’s your commitment? Actually, that’s a great lead-in. Thank you. Why did you have a lack of commitment to not get fully swole for this role? What happened there, Hollywood?

(Laughs) This is starting off terribly.

Oh, it’s only going to go downhill from here.

It’s only going downhill. By the way, you’re not wrong. If I was more committed, I would’ve spent… Let’s be honest, it would’ve taken me three years to get that big. Can you imagine if I showed up, but I was like The Rock big, and I just disappeared for a couple of years? I’d still do my podcast, but I basically disappear and then I reemerge just massive.

Remember the media cycle around Kumail (Nanjiani) got when he got ripped for The Eternals? That could’ve been you, but instead, they were like, “Oh, we can Mandalorian this shit.”

Oh, he really milked that too.

There’s always season two.

Yeah, there is season two. You’re right, you’re right. By the way, (Samoa) Joe did such an awesome job. I was saying to somebody earlier, he did so much work. He just did the bulk of the work and I likened it to he ran 99 yards with the ball and then lateraled it to me with a yard left. Like, “Don’t mess it up, dude.” You know what I mean?

I was watching the dailies and stuff and he was just so in it physically. He was just doing so much awesome stuff. And he’s doing the scenes with Anthony (Mackie). And he’s doing such an awesome job. And so I legit just didn’t want to mess it up.

I don’t think you did. Was the plan always for you to voice this character? Was there a thought for you as John Doe (the Anthony Mackie character)? Or was it mostly just about getting the show on the air and then you’d figure out where you fit in on-screen afterward?

We weren’t sure that I would do anything in the show. We wanted to get this made and we wanted to do the best version of it. And pretty immediately we were like, “Oh, Anthony Mackie.” I think he’s so awesome. He’s such a good actor. He’s kind of cool. He’s got a coolness to him. We were like, “Yeah, we got to maybe get him.”

There was never any thought or discussion of me playing John. And it was one of those things later in the process, everybody was like, “Maybe you voice Sweet Tooth?” And I forget exactly how that went down… By the way, people will be like, “Oh yeah, I’m sure. The moment where the guy goes, ‘I forget how that went down’ is the moment where he was like, “I should do it!” That’s not how it went down.

I will say this, I said this earlier too, but when we were first doing it and trying to find the voice of Sweet Tooth, the first couple of sessions, I was a little unsure. Again, I just wanted to get it right and I felt like what Samoa Joe had done on-screen was so good. I was kind of like, “I don’t feel like I’m delivering in a way that’s really satisfying.” And I came really close to firing myself. I actually sent out an email to everybody saying, “Maybe I should not do this. Maybe somebody else should do this.” And Michael Jonathan Smith (the showrunner), to his credit, was like, “No, no, no. Look, let’s work on it and let’s find the right thing and find the right tone.” Because I wanted him to be scary and I wanted him to be menacing and I wanted him to be insane. I wanted to feel like he’s going to shoot you or cut your head off or cut your feet off or do whatever, but also be funny. Yeah, it was a process.

What I hear you saying is that your voice doesn’t sound enough like a demented clown, and I disagree.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. (Laughs) Was there a specific kind of twist, turn, or pivot that helped you get to where you wanted the character’s voice to be? Because it is fantastic. It’s also a deeper voice. Which is amazing. I don’t know how your throat survived.

I think if I look back, going and doing the scene in episode two, Sweet Tooth delivers this monologue, this one-man show in Vegas. I think that moment helped me understand because it’s so absurd, kind of who he is. I mean, there’s a whole story there about his parents and people lying to him, et cetera, blah, blah. That helped me understand who he is. So it’s that, coupled with probably doing “The Thong Song,” that helped me understand how this character can live up here and live down here simultaneously. He’s just unhinged.

Did you know the lyrics to “The Thong Song” before this, or was that new to you? Be honest.

I did not. I’m being honest.

Okay. That’s really disappointing.

For what it’s worth, it sounds like you immediately thought I was going to lie to you, but that’s okay. (Laughs)

I mean, it’s a judgment, but it might be a question for you to ask yourself why that is.


This may be self-explanatory, but what is the difference between voicing a character for this where again, there’s another actor, but it’s live-action, versus something like Lego Batman where it’s an animated thing?

The Lego movies — and I include Lego Batman in that — weren’t so much reading a script. You go in and you meet and you discuss and you’re looking at art. And they’re walking you through. The script, often in those films, changes a lot because they know that they have this two to three year runway to land this thing. And so there’s a lot of trial and error. There’s a lot of going in and working on a script that might change. Literally, they’ll change the second act and the third act. And as you’re recording, you’ll record something that doesn’t work. And two weeks later or two months later, you go back and you rerecord the whole second act. But then after you lay that track down, they animate to what you’ve done.

This is the process I’m watching Samoa Joe do these live-action scenes with. I’m actually seeing him doing it and I’m hearing him act these scenes out with Anthony. And then I’ve got to sort of, afterward, as we start cutting the show, start laying in my voice to what he’s done. It’s much more of a collaboration in that way, on a level with another actor, another performer, in a way that you’re not accustomed to doing with animated stuff. Because I’m sort of driving it in animation. Now somebody else has kind of got the wheel and I’ve got to adjust based on what he’s already done physically. It was more challenging than I thought it was going to be.

With the SmartLess podcast (and MAX series), a colleague of mine asked me to ask whether you guys (Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes) actually like each other. Is this a frenemy situation or is it a full-on enemy situation?

(Laughs) I can’t speak for Jason and Sean, but if I did speak for either of them, it would be, “Uhhhhhh.” That’s what they sound like to me. No, I love those guys so much. We were just recording earlier today. We’re recording an episode and we were talking about the fact that especially in the doc series, I give Jason so much crap about what he eats or what he doesn’t eat and blah blah blah, and people are coming up to him like, “Hey man, are you okay?” What they have to understand is so much of it is like, we’re just friends giving each other crap, and that’s what we do. And we talked about it I think in the special, but certainly we’ve talked about it on the podcast before. It’s our love language. We’re hitting out at each other because we love each other.

All episodes of ‘Twisted Metal’ are streaming on Peacock