You may not know Scott Menville by his given name, but there’s a great chance you know his voice. More specifically, you probably know his voice through characters like Robin in both Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go!, the title character in Jonny Quest, and literally hundreds more credits over his career. Currently, Menville provides the voice of both Doctor Otto Octavius on Disney XD’s Marvel’s Spider-Man and as the lead hero of Netflix’s Hasbro hit Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters.
It’s that super-stretchy superhero series that became the focus of my recent chat with Menville. We talked about how earlier roles in his career helped to inform his take on Jake Armstrong, a.k.a. Stretch, his incredible co-stars, and how he manages to keep his characters separate and unique. We also dug into the fact that Stretch Armstrong is a truly unique creation that’s only loosely based on the novelty toy of the same name and how that freedom gave Menville and the creative team lots of room to play around in. And while he couldn’t say much about either the future of Stretch Armstrong or any details on his upcoming animated feature Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Menville did reveal what aspects of his work he’s excited for fans to see in the near future.
How did you come to be involved with the Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters project?
Scott Menville: I auditioned. Then I didn’t hear anything and forgot all about it. A year later my agent called and said, “Do you remember auditioning for something called Stretch Armstrong over a year ago? Well you have a callback to read for the producers.”
At the callbacks (in the same studio where we would ultimately record the entire series) they mixed and matched us with other actors to do chemistry reads—to see how we played off each other. If my memory is correct, I believe it came down to about 8 or 9 final actors for the three main characters (Jake/Stretch Armstrong, Ricardo/Omni-Mass, and Nathan/Wingspan). The producers and our voice director, Collette Sunderman, kept switching up the groups of three, mixing and matching us with the other actors for the other roles. I’d be in the booth and read with one set of actors who were reading for Omni-Mass and Wingspan, and then those guys would go out and wait in the lobby while I read with the next set of actors reading for Omni-Mass and Wingspan. Then I would be sent out to wait in the lobby while another actor would go in to read for Stretch. Then they’d shuffle the order and bring me back in to read again.
What was your honest reaction to hearing that Hasbro was attempting to adapt the Stretch Armstrong toy? Did that perception change once you saw the script?
Menville: Immediately, from the audition scenes and from the character design, it was apparent that this was a completely new and fresh take on Stretch Armstrong. It was obvious right off the bat that this version was going to be a really cool project.
How does Jake/Stretch compare to some of the other main characters you’ve played? How do you keep them separate in your performances?
Menville: I have played the title character, or a lead character, in several animated series over the years. Sometimes it’s easy to keep a character separate from other characters I’ve done, and sometimes I have to get a little more cerebral to figure out what separates them. For instance, in some ways, Jake/Stretch is similar to Robin, who I voiced on the original Teen Titans series. Robin’s parents are dead, which shapes who he is. Jake’s mom is dead, which shapes who he is. Robin is disciplined, and pushes and drives himself to be better. Jake is disciplined and pushes and drives himself to be better.
So I look at the differences between them. Robin intended on being a hero, and has trained and trained for it. Jake is accidentally thrust into the situation of reluctantly becoming a hero and he has to figure out what that means.
In relation to my vocal performances, Robin is headstrong, and skeptical, and has a hard time trusting anyone, so his voice is measured, guarded, and sort of pinched and steely. Jake/Stretch is more wide-eyed and trying to figure out life, so his voice is more open, with more inflection.
How does Jake/Stretch fit into the Flex Fighters team? How do the other members make him stronger, and vice versa?
Menville: The other members make Jake stronger by showing him that it’s OK to lighten up sometimes and to not be so rigid—to be more flexible. He makes them stronger by calming down Ricardo’s pride and helping him see that it’s okay to be a bit more humble and rational, and by helping boost Nathan’s confidence.
One of my favorite elements of the show is when we get to see our three heroes just trying to navigate their way through the everyday pitfalls of being teenagers in high school.