When you’re the voice of several iconic video game characters from a list of impressive franchises like “Assassin’s Creed,” “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Resident Evil,” it’s safe to say you’ve got a pretty enviable and successful career. But video game voice actor and former stand-up comedian Roger Craig Smith is just thankful to be working -- and the 39 year-old California native says he never stops hustling.
“I’ve never met another actor or performer, even at a successful level, who says, oh yeah, I’ve arrived,” Smith told Internal Business Times during Sega’s Sonic Boom fan event in New York City Saturday. “I’m constantly thinking of where to steer my career.”
Besides portraying popular “Assassin’s Creed” protagonist Ezio Auditore da Firenze in four games from the series, Smith also voiced Chris Redfield from the “Resident Evil” franchise and Batman in “Batman: Arkham Origins.”
“It’s hard to say if I have a favorite,” Smith says. “It’s unreal to think of the iconic nature of so many of these projects. Every single one of them has been an honor to get to do. It’s a cliché answer, but my favorite role is the next one.”
Smith’s latest role is Sega character Sonic the Hedgehog, a blue, anthropomorphic mammal with the ability to run really fast. The character first appeared in the 1991 video game “Sonic the Hedgehog” for the Sega Genesis.
Smith will represent Sonic in the upcoming CGI-animated television series “Sonic Boom,” the first franchise show to be rendered in computer-generated animation. “Sonic Boom” will be broadcast by Cartoon Network in North America Nov. 8.
“Talk about having an absolute blast,” he continued. “The writing has been so phenomenal, and we’ve had so much fun doing it. To have another element, to expose ourselves to a new audience, to have fun with our existing audience, and pay homage to this wonderful character and the universe in which he lives, but to do it in a new way.”
The actor says it’s an honor to play such a well-known and beloved character. “When I landed this, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, really, Sonic the Hedgehog? A character I grew up seeing and hearing and playing?”
Smith says of all the characters he’s voiced, he’s probably most like Sonic, and the two share a similar sense of humor. Despite his role as the star of the franchise, he insists he only plays a small aspect in the world of “Sonic.”
“I’m a very, very small part of this franchise. I didn’t make these characters,” he says. “The people that are involved in the production of these games, those are the ones that make this stuff. I didn’t write the lines, I’m a small part of what goes into this. It’s just a massive collaborative effort.”
The actor says it important to take creative liberties with each role while remaining careful not to alienate core fans.
“With this game and this series, we’re having more fun with the universe of Sonic the Hedgehog, but you still have to live within the parameters of what fans know,” Smith explains. “So, we’ll have a little bit of creative freedom, but if you take too much, you’ll start to step away from what everybody knows as the character.”
This can be challenging for Smith, but he says he’s just grateful for the career he has, along with the many opportunities he’s had to connect with lifelong fans and those just learning about Sonic.
“It’s a dream come true. I can’t believe I’ve been cast in a video game role or any other project,” he says. “Every single time, you’re so focused on getting the job done, I don’t think you’re really absorbing what it means to be the character, then you get to do something like this, and you think, 'Oh, that’s right, there’s fans of this. It’s not just a job to them.'”
As for future projects, Smith says he auditions every day, and no roles have been handed to him, including his role as Ripslinger in 2013 Disney animated film "Planes."
“I know of no voice actor who’s just sitting back waiting for the phone to ring. Everybody hustles. Actors are some of the hardest-working people you’ll ever meet. You’re constantly feeding the machine.”
Smith has worked with brands like Disney, Microsoft Game Studios and Wal-Mart. He says actors have an incredibly strong work ethic and even has advice for hopefuls who want to break into voice acting.
“Go study the craft of acting, have perseverance. Get comfortable knowing your job is to audition. Love the audition process as much as you can. Develop a thick skin. There’s a lot of variables that enter into the decisions that are made in this industry.”