Colin O’Donoghue on Playing Heroes and Villains in ‘Wizards,’ ‘The Right Stuff,’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’

     August 11, 2020

wizards-douxie-01-sliceFrom the creative mind of Guillermo del Toro and executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Chad Hammes, the final chapter in the Tales of Arcadia saga sees its characters go on an epic time-travel adventure in Camelot. Wizards follows Douxie (voiced by Colin O’Donoghue), a 900-year-old wizard-in-training who, along with Jim (voiced by Emile Hirsch), Claire (voiced by Lexi Medrano) and Steve (voiced by Steven Yeun), must ensure that good prevails over evil, in the escalating conflict between the human and magical worlds.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Colin O’Donoghue talked about being a part of the Tales of Arcadia world, why he was so delighted to get to voice an animated character, what he loved about his character’s journey, getting to revisit Camelot, and what the voice recording process was like. He also talked about why the upcoming Disney+ TV series The Right Stuff appealed to him, whether he was personally satisfied with the ending of Once Upon A Time, and the great time he had playing Captain Hook.

Collider: When this whole project originally came your way, did you know that Trollhunters would only be one part of this whole Tales from Arcadia world, and that there would be also be 3Below and Wizards?

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Image via Netflix

COLIN O’DONOGHUE: I did. I understood that would be the case. I came in, in the second season of Trollhunters, and I knew the character would also be in 3Below. I was in the background, and a character that made people go, “Who is this guy? Why is he there?” I think it’s really good that was teased. It’s worked pretty well, and he was a lot of fun to play. Especially in Wizards, it was really great fun.

How did you get involved with this project? Was this something that you had to go through an audition process for?

O’DONOGHUE: What happened was that they reached out to my agents about it. It was a few years ago, so I can’t remember if I had to do a quick voice recording, just so that they could hear it. But I think that they’d seen Once Upon A Time and had heard my voice. I was stoked. I was delighted to get the offer. I couldn’t wait to do it. I was gonna go study animation in college, so I’ve always been fascinated with the whole process and I’ve always wanted to do an animated film.

This character definitely goes on a big journey in Wizards. What was it that you most responded to, with his story? What did you love about the journey that you got to take with him, now that he’s at the center of the story?

O’DONOGHUE: I loved the relationship with Merlin, and with Archie, as well. I thought it was fun to see him try to be this apprentice wizard, who so desperately wants to become a master wizard and prove himself to Merlin, and getting to see how he progresses, or if he’s even able to do it or not. That was something that I was really happy to explore.

What was it like to find and establish Douxie, in the beginning, in just these little bits, and then really get to dive into him and get to know him so much more, over this season? Did you always know who he would be, at the end, or were there things that you really got to learn about him, along the way?

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Image via Netflix

O’DONOGHUE: I knew that he was a wizard, and I knew that he was quite a powerful wizard. It was just so much fun, having these tiny little things with him that made an impact with people. And then, to really get to do everything that I did on Wizards was fantastic because he really is a great character to play, and a lot of fun. And also, the writing on this show is just so great to get to live with for awhile and really explore.

It definitely seems a bit tricky to explore the origins of the entire mythology of the trilogy while also taking these characters on their own new adventure. How did you feel about the way that it all tied together and the way the story ends? What was your reaction to finding out how things would all play out, by the end of it?

O’DONOGHUE: I was amazing. Whether it was on this or on Once Upon A Time, I’m always amazed at how writers, especially in fantasy, keep track of everything, let alone tie it all together. I’m always amazed that they’re able to do that. And in Wizards, they’ve really done an incredible job of blending the three series together into this one final thing. I just think it’s so smart and so clever, the way they do it. I couldn’t do it. That’s why I’m an actor, and someone else is writing the show.

I was very impressed with how we get to see some of the past characters and we get to see the mythology of Camelot. Pulling all of that together was really impressive.

O’DONOGHUE: I was excited to get to go to Camelot again. We did a season of Once Upon A Time in Camelot, so it was fun to see the version of Camelot that they did in Wizards.

What was the recording process like on this? Were you always in a booth alone?

O’DONOGHUE: I was always alone. I live in Ireland, so most of what I did was done in a recording studio in Dublin. Sometimes, if I was in L.A., I’d go in, but it was always on my own. It’s interesting. It takes a little bit of getting used to because nobody is really feeding you lines. You just say each line, and take a stab at what you think the other character would be saying or reacting to. But I really enjoyed it. Once you get used to that, then it’s really a lot of fun. You get to really ham it up. Maybe a lot of people would say that I’m a ham, but you try to be a little bit more subtle, so it’s fun just to be able to go for it, in animation, because they animate it over the top lines.

Do you know what the time span of work was that you did on this?

O’DONOGHUE: No. It’s been a while. I can’t remember when we recorded the first recording for the first episode of this. It must be a year and a half ago, maybe. I’m not entirely sure. I was in Florida shooting The Right Stuff for five months last year, so it might even be two years. I’m not entirely sure.

Were there ever any major changes, along the way? Did anything change, while you were doing the recording of it, or did everything stay pretty close to the scripts?

O’DONOGHUE: I think everything stayed pretty close to the scripts, if I remember rightly. I don’t think there were any major changes. I might be wrong in this, but when the script was locked, it had gone through so many iterations, at that point. Because they’re creating everything, and every blade of grass, once the script is locked, that’s it. There can be an additional line sometimes, or you might have to do an alternative line, but in general, the script is pretty much locked.

When The Right Stuff came your way, what was it that most interested and excited you about that project?

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Image via Nat Geo

O’DONOGHUE: I knew the book. I’d read the book, and I’d seen the movie. I’d actually had a meeting at Appian Way, a couple of years ago, and randomly, they gave me the book before there was ever a script, just to have a read of it. And it was one that I really wanted to do, but I was doing Once Upon A Time, at the time, so I didn’t know if I’d be free for anything. Getting to play Gordo Cooper, one of the Mercury Seven, was just amazing. Also, that time period in American history, and the style of it, being from Ireland, that’s America to me, with a ’59 Corvette, Coca Cola bottles, and that kind of style of buildings. And the pilot script was just absolutely fantastic. It was incredible. It was an amazing opportunity to get to play somebody who’s a real-life hero.

Is that the kind of project, as an actor, where it’s hard to get out of your own head? Especially when you’ve read the book and seen the movie and you connect to the project before you even go do it, is it hard to then deal with the pressure you put on yourself?

O’DONOGHUE: I didn’t have a huge amount of time to think about it because somebody else had been cast in the role and they fell out of it. I had a day and a half to figure out what I was going to do before I was on a plane to Florida. It was good ‘cause then I didn’t have time to put pressure on myself. I didn’t have time to panic about what my Oklahoma accent was gonna be. It was actually good, in that respect. So, I wasn’t really nervous about it. I knew the cast was amazing, and I knew the quality of the script and that Appian Way was involved. I was just really excited. And because I played Captain Hook for so long on a show and became so recognizable as that character, it was great to go do something completely different, in a completely different genre and style. I had to shave my beard and look completely different. And then, I got to play an astronaut and test pilot. Who doesn’t wanna do that?

After being on Once Upon A Time for so many seasons, and now having had some time and distance from the show, how do you ultimately feel about the ending and the send-off that your character got? Is it something that you feel personally satisfied and happy with?

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Image via ABC

O’DONOGHUE: Yeah. The end of Season 6 did exactly what I thought they should do to close off the story of all those characters in Storybrooke. And then, it was fun in Season 7 to get to explore a completely different version of Hook and such a different character. At the end of it all, it was important for Regina to get some sort of redemption. That was always the way that the show should finish. I’m also glad that Eddy [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] had the opportunity to actually finish the show the way they wanted to finish it, and the way that they had seen it. The show wasn’t canceled before they had a chance to finish it.

Captain Hook must have been such a fun character to get to put your own stamp on.

O’DONOGHUE: Yeah, my version of Hook was the first time that he wasn’t an older, villainous, mustache-twirling kind of guy. As soon as I put on the black leather trousers, the coat, and the eyeliner, that was it. You become Captain Hook. It was fun to do that, and getting to play so many different variations of the character, over the year. That was the good thing about Once Upon A Time. There were so many different realms and time periods that they were in and out of, so it was great. He was a great character to get to play.

Wizards is available to stream at Netflix.

Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV, and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.

Television