This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Speaking to college reporters from across the country, Jupiter’s Legacy’s Matt Lanter opened up about the filming process, his acting history, and the exciting (and daunting) role of portraying a superhero.
The Academy of Art in San Francisco: I was curious about how you related to the film’s themes of justice and equality, especially right now in our history.
Matt Lanter: I think it sort of parallels this idea right now that as a society, there are maybe some things that we need to change, and some things that aren’t working. It’s interesting how Sheldon (Josh Duhamel) is struggling with thinking, “there’s a black and there’s a white, and I’m going with white—that this is the truth, this is the way, this is the justice,” and—it’s just not always like that. Life isn’t like that. There’s shades of gray everywhere, and I think that’s what Sheldon is failing to see, which sort of parallels what’s going on. It’s a very human story of growth and discovering new ways to get along.
The Fordham Observer: After voicing roles such as Anakin in Clone Wars or Aquaman in the Justice League movies, were these characters an inspiration while playing George?
ML: Yeah, absolutely. Anakin, again, is a human story. At its core, it’s good versus evil, it’s dark and it’s light, and of course good versus evil is a biblical story. It goes back to human history. So there’s a lot of similarities, George and Anakin. I don’t know if you guys have had the chance to see any of the comics or even see the whole season that we’ve shot, but [George] has a big fall from grace [like Anakin]; and they both always think they’re doing the right thing, the just thing. It’s funny because I find myself seeing Anakin in a lot of characters that I read today. Vader is one of the most notorious and hated villains in all of storytelling, but he’s always justified, right? I think any good villain is justified in what they’re doing and I think if they believe they’re justified and doing the right thing, I think the audience is going to buy into that as well and have some sort of empathy for that character, so, yes. There are certainly parallels and I certainly have noticed that along the way.
The Chicago Maroon: Your character deals with a lot of these mortality issues that are also sort of tied up in money. I would love to know how you went about preparing for that role and what similarities you see in yourself or what was more difficult to get into his head with.
ML: It's my thought that George doesn't necessarily have an unhealthy relationship with money. I think he just has it, so he uses it and spends it to enjoy life. I think that George has a lot of holes in his heart as far as matters of the heart, which are relationships. I'm specifically referring to his parents, his family that isn't there. Sheldon (Josh Duhamel) and Walt (Ben Daniels) are his family at this point. But I think George on the outside has it all, [so] he uses his money sometimes to cover up pain on the inside. He goes on his trips to St. Tropez, he goes on trips and has nights out with multiple women. In some ways I think it's a bit of a coverup, covering up some of the pain that's there, but then I also think that he enjoys it. I think he's one of those guys that if he's got it, he enjoys it. He enjoys life and makes the most out of every moment. And I think that plays into his future where we don't see him following the strict code, and what is a rule is a rule…I think George is a rule breaker, and I think he enjoys breaking the rules. And hopefully that's what makes him entertaining and interesting to watch as we hopefully move forward into more seasons.
The Daily Bruin: It is to my knowledge that COVID-19 hit during production. So how did you specifically make the necessary adjustments to make the show and how was it adapting to it?
ML: We actually had finished production by the time COVID hit, we finished photography in December of 2019. So we didn't have to deal with the production principal photography issue with COVID. Truthfully, I don't really know exactly what was going on on the back end as far as postproduction, and how that affected it. But I do have to assume that it slowed postproduction down; obviously we're a very virtual effects-heavy show, and I have to assume it slowed that down. People weren't able to go in and give notes to one another right next to each other and all that. But as far as principal photography and my job, we were done. It did affect some of the post, like looping and things like that. We did have to work through that. I had to go to a sound booth in the Nashville area. This was six, eight months ago when things were still very, very locked down. So you know, all the protocol with the masks and all that kind of stuff. I was in the booth by myself, the guy in the control room was on the other side of the building and all that. But, we finished up principal before we had to deal with that.
The Michigan Daily: The friendship between George and Sheldon is very significant and you guys have a very nice dynamic. What was that like filming behind scenes?
ML: Well, Josh is a great guy. He's just a salt of the earth dude, just a very normal guy. He's easy to be friends with. I feel like him and I in a lot of ways are similar. We both have kids and I just got along great with him. So it's easy to play that friendship on-screen. It is an important dynamic. The bond that George feels with Sheldon—I think is everything to him. Like I mentioned before, the loss of George's parents, his real family and his life, leaves a hole in his heart that he tries to fill with Sheldon and Walt as his own family. So when Walt eventually kind of drives the wedge between Sheldon and George, I think it hurts George deeply. I think that's one of the reasons why he kind of falls and turns from the Union. I think it just, it hurts so, so bad, because that relationship was so tight. And I was really conscious of that when we were filming that. I don't know where things are going to go in season two, if we have a season two, but I really wanted to make sure to show a strong bond with Sheldon. George is the most loyal friend. Very early on, Sheldon’s talking crazy, and he wants to travel to this island. And really, George says okay, you know, like I got your back, let's go, let's do it. I'm your buddy. Sheldon at that point is really not making much sense. George is just willing to drop everything for that friendship and that bond that he's got because he believes in his friend.
The Galaxy Radio: You mentioned your previous works as a voice actor and I wanted to ask you what you thought the best part was, or your thoughts in general about transitioning from voice acting to physical acting for screen.
ML: Yeah. Well, I have to point out that that voice acting is still acting. I think a lot of times voice actors don't get the credit for that, but you are still creating a character and sometimes in a more creative way. There's drawbacks to both. I got the job of voicing Anakin Skywalker years ago. I think it was 2006 or 2007, but I had already been acting prior to that onscreen. So it really wasn't a transition per se, because I've kind of been doing both my whole career. There's pluses and minuses to both. I think probably most of us at some point in our life, whether [you’re] in a sandbox playing with army guys or whether you're playing with dolls, you give a voice and a character. I'm just getting paid to do it as a voice actor. So it's like being a kid in the sandbox. I'm just given voices, but in some ways it is more creative because you don't have a set in front of you. You don't have clothes on, you don't have your scene partner right there to work with you. It's all in your head and you have to emote and you have to express. At the same time, it's not as physically demanding because you don't have to hit marks. You don't have to worry about blocking somebody's light on their coverage. Those aren't things you have to worry about. So in some ways it's freeing; in some ways it's more restrictive. But it's really fun. I really, really enjoy both. I've been a part of many voice acting projects, but Clone Wars was really special because we always were in the same [voiceover] booth together, a huge room with a bunch of mics. So we actually read Clone Wars like an old radio drama. We would do scene by scene, we'd flip the page and the person would be over there, and we actually would get to kind of interact with them. We'd still have to be on mic, of course, but we're there, we're feeling their energy, which was awesome. Dave Filoni, our supervising director, always made sure we were all together in the booth. And that really helped with the camaraderie and the feel of the scenes, but that was unique. A lot of the projects I've been a part of for Disney and Tinkerbell and most of the video games, you're by yourself, which can be a challenge. I just mentioned Tinkerbell—I had a love interest in the movie and I've never met her to this day. So, you know, it's got its challenges, but it's really fun. It's a fun, creative, freeing process doing voiceover. And I really love it. I'm still voicing Anakin for projects and never really sat him down. And it's just something I enjoy.
Amp: The show is based on this very large comic series. So I was wondering what inspiration, if any, you took from the comic series when approaching your character and playing it?
ML: I immediately loved George. He's sort of in his own world, like we talked about earlier. He's got his money, his life is a theater production. So I love that he stood out, [that] he's got a lot of witty banter—a lot of witty one-liners in the face of danger. In the face of a stressful situation, you kind of roll something off. I love that about him. When I read George, I actually took a lot of Captain Jack Sparrow and Tony Stark. Those were the vibes I kind of wanted to have. They're both fun. They both have a magnetism about them that you want to watch. But then there's a classic feel about George too, obviously, and I drew a lot from Paul Newman, one of my favorite actors. I think that Paul Newman is so interesting. If you watch his films, he always seems like he's got a secret. He's always got a smirk on his face, like he knows something that you don't, no matter what situation he's in. And I think that makes him really, really interesting. So it was those three characters that kind of meshed together when I did a tape, and I sent it in to (showrunner) Steven DeKnight, and he wanted to see me. And he said, “What was interesting about you is you actually didn't, try to do this cadence [that actors in movies from the 20s and 30s often try to do]. I think a lot of people kind of fell to that, trying to do 1929. And I didn't. I was just the character and who he was, and I didn’t worry about whether it had that cadence or whether it didn't have the cadence. And it didn’t. And I think that's one of the reasons I was unique, is that I wasn't doing that. We really wanted to present a story that felt grounded even in 1929. I don't think you want to watch that and feel like, “Oh, I don't associate with these characters because they don't talk like us. They don't sound like us.” So we want it to be grounded.
The Academy of Art in San Francisco: What was it about this particular project that attracted you and made you really want to be a part of it?
ML: Yeah, they wanted to pay me. [Laughs]. Of course as an actor, you're always scared for your next job, but really, to be a part of this creative team was a dream. Steven DeKnight, and of course, Netflix, who is producing quality, original content. I think you can probably ask any actor right now; everybody kind of knows that the streaming services are making high quality programming. I've been a part of a lot of traditional network television and things just feel very formulaic in a way: network notes, timing of things, exposition of dialogue. Some of that isn't as focused on the streamers. You kind of tell the creative story that you want to tell. For example, our episode lengths are all different. I think one is like 45 minutes. The other one is like, I don't know, 27 minutes or something. I think that's really unique [and cool], to be a part of a process where you're not worried about time. You just tell the story that you want to tell. I love the character George, like I already mentioned. And of course, I'd be lying if I didn't say it: the thought of being a superhero was pretty intriguing. I know we have a lot of superhero shows and movies out there, but in the big scheme of things, as an actor, to be able to be a superhero is pretty rare. So, you know, the thought of that is also pretty cool too. And just to be a part of something that's so, so big and something that seems to have so much potential. I truly think that the show and Millarworld as a whole has a chance to be just massive. I think it's going to be Marvel. It's going to be DC and Millarworld in the next several years here. And I think everyone's going to know it. You guys have probably seen some of the stuff. It looks beautiful. It's amazing. The story is there. The rich complex characters are there. The storytelling is there. The world is vast and deep, and it's got a lot of potential. And then, bringing a character, a superhero character, bringing him to life for the first time on screen that no one else has seen—I mean, I love Batman. I love Wolverine. But we've seen them several times with different characters, different actors. I think it's pretty neat to be bringing something to life for the first, for the first time. I don't know, maybe 25 years from now, maybe three other actors will play at Skyfox, but, you know, [I played] him first. So that's kind of cool.
The Fordham Observer: Would you consider doing other superhero projects in the future?
ML: Absolutely. I think that storytelling and character building in the superhero world has really come a long way since like 20 years ago. And don't get me wrong. I love the old, you know, Michael Keaton, Batman, stuff like that, but I think audiences are smarter now and the characters are more complex now and storytelling is deeper now. If [Jupiter’s Legacy] doesn't continue, then I guess I'm free, but yeah. It’s been a great experience. Wearing the suits makes you look really cool. They don't feel cool. They're extremely uncomfortable, to be honest with you. Like, you look awesome and you sit there and revel in that for about five minutes, and then you're like, “It's very tight.” And then, you know, here comes the anxiety, cause you feel like you can't breathe, but it's all part of it. And it's all part of the fun. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that when you walk on the set for the first time and you're in your superhero suit and you've got all these muscles everywhere and you feel like a bad-ass, and everybody turns and looks because you look awesome. It's a cool, egotistical feeling, you know? And that's the truth. So to answer your question: of course, I'd be interested in doing other stuff. I think the story has got to be there though, right? Like you don't want to just do something just because you're wearing a suit. I mean, you got plenty of opportunity to look stupid in the spandex suit if there's no story.
The Chicago Maroon: Could you tell us a little bit about how you went about building relationships with the rest of the cast?
ML: Sure. That was easy because I think that we all knew we were a part of something that's going to be huge. So, you know, weeks and weeks and weeks in advance, we were all training our bodies in our locations. I was in LA at the time. And then we are doing all these measurements and, you know, measuring my knuckles for the suit, getting body scans. And then we all get shipped to Toronto. And once we get there, we're doing workouts. We're doing two-a-days, we're doing gym workouts in the morning, or fight training in the morning, gym workouts in the afternoon. That process alone sort of bonds you to the rest of your castmates. It's something that no one else is experiencing that you're experiencing. More specifically, as we went on, I don't know if you guys have had the opportunity to see, but later in the series we go through these trials and tribulations on an island. Very similarly to the characters, us as actors, we were being put through the ringer in those moments. We were shooting a lot outside and it was very cold at that point in Toronto. So we were being pelted with massive fans with dust to do this dust storm. We were on a massive ship that was built on a huge gimbal, you know, we had water cannons just pelting us with water. It's freezing cold. We would do a couple of takes. We'd run into a hot tub to try to thaw out. We'd come back out and do a few takes, run into a hot tub. But, you know, the weather was unpredictable in Toronto. We started shooting a sequence one day, the next day it started snowing. So you'll see, there's a portion where we're in a snowy landscape—that's real and unexpected. So it's freezing cold for all these reasons. You’re going through these things with your castmates and it's just something that no one else has experienced, and so it is easy to create that bond. And I do think that's kind of where the first, the original six superheroes, we really got to come together and bond as a cast.