The next time you drop the “I’m too busy” excuse for some undone deed, consider the career of Peter MacNicol.
Over the past year, MacNicol could be found pulling the unheard-of simultaneous double duty as a core cast member in two hit primetime television series â€“ “24” and “Numb3rs” â€“ and was still able to devote an afternoon every other week to creating the voice of Dr. Otto Octavius and his villainous flipside, Doctor Octopus (aka Doc Ock), for the breakout animated series, “The Spectacular Spider-Man.”
Now THAT’S busy.
While Dr. Octavius has had a submissive role in the first seven episodes of the series, Doc Ock makes his explosive debut this Saturday, May 3 in an all-new episode entitled “Reaction.” The episode premieres at 10:00 a.m. ET/PT on Kids’ WB! on The CW.
MacNicol has crafted an extremely diverse and successful career, balancing primetime series starring roles (the aforementioned following the likes of “Ally McBeal” and “Chicago Hope”) with numerous guest performances (“Boston Legal,” “Cheers,” “Tales From The Crypt”), not to mention feature film appearances (“Ghostbusters II,” “Sophie’s Choice”) and, of course, his first starring role as Galen in the fan favorite, “Dragonslayer.”
Despite all the on-camera work, MacNicol maintains a steady flow of voiceover roles in animated television series and movies, as well as being very popular in the books-on-CD arena. MacNicol’s animated voiceovers cover a wide range â€“ from lighter series like “The Wild Thornberrys,” “Olive, the Other Reindeer” and “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” to the super hero-laden “Justice League,” “The Batman” and now, “The Spectacular Spider-Man.”
“Cartoon work is pure recreation for me, pure playtime,” said MacNicol. “But ‘Books-on-CD’ â€“ now that’s work! Keeping even the minor characters straight in my head, giving each bit-part his/her/its own voice, working for days in that airless chamber of the recording booth, with my eyes playing tricks on me as the hours drag by, and the pages I’m narrating, which must be noiselessly turned, and the sheer whiteness of those pages, which begins to create a kind of snow-blindness by mid-afternoon.
“Once for an epic fantasy series, I had to voice literally dozens of elves, fairies, and ogres, all of different ages, sexes, and from many lands â€“ with the hill dwarves needing to sound different from the valley dwarves. Had there been a window I would have jumped out of it.”
Still, there is joy for MacNicol within the world of animation voiceovers. “My favorite moment on the job is that magic instant when you’ve got the voice just right and you can let go of the steering wheel and let the character drive.”
MacNicol has found great pleasure in bringing villains to animated life â€“ Doc Ock follows his previous portrayals of Chronos and Manbat (“I was very proud of the possibly-too-piercing shriek I devised for him”). For Doc Ock, MacNicol opted to channel the persona of a classic actor far outside the reference points for most Spidey fans.
“The voice I chose for Dr. Octopus was something of an homage to Laird Cregar, one of Hollywood’s greatest ‘heavies,’ and I do mean ‘heavies,’ ” MacNicol explained. “Throughout his brief 1940s career, Cregar waged a war to the death against his own obesity, ultimately losing too many pounds too quickly; he was barely 30 when he died. In his two greatest movies, ‘Hangover Square’ and ‘The Lodger,’ he seemed so haunted and hulking, and I loved that soft menacing voice of his. Still, I’m no mimic and it was Cregar’s quality rather than his voice which gave me my model.”
MacNicol admits he enjoys devouring the role of a villain, pointing out the extreme texture the dark side adds to any story â€“ particularly in super hero tales.
“It’s all relative â€“ this business of hero or villain,” MacNicol said. “After all, villains are somebody’s hero â€“ certainly they’ve won the devotion of their cronies, their parents, and perverse fans like myself who actually prefer them over the title characters. Yep, it would be a pretty dull universe if we didn’t have Rhino, Sandman and Doc Ock trying to destroy it.”