Review of Interview: Joel McHale on Voicing Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms

Daljit Kalsi

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms is set to arrive on digital and physical storefronts on August 31. The film is the direct sequel to 2020’s Scorpion’s Revenge. In it, Raiden and his band of Earthrealm fighters enter the titular tournament to save the realms from Shao Kahn, who showed up in the movie’s first trailer. Joel McHale (The Soup) stars in the film as Johnny Cage.

RELATED: Interview: Patrick Seitz on Showing Another Side of Scorpion in Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms star Joel McHale about voicing Johnny Cage, if WWE star The Miz could do the role justice, and plenty more.

Tyler Treese: I was really curious about your relationship with the game series and what was the first Mortal Kombat game you played?

Joel McHale: Oh, what’s the first one I ever played. It was the stand-up [arcade cabinet] I played. It was 1992 or 1993 when it came out. I was in college and I had no job or I had kind of a job, but I had no money and I put way too many quarters into that thing. I was in the University of Washington and it was on University Avenue right there right by the school, and on breaks I’d go play Mortal Kombat. Believe me, if you said, “Oh, there’s going to be a universe where you’re playing Johnny Cage.” If you told me that back then? I would’ve went, “Oh shit. I did something right. I can’t believe it. Holy shit. Look at you.” So, I wore my handout on that thing.

What, what character did you use? Were using Johnny Cage way back then?

Ironically, I used Scorpion and Sub-Zero. Just because I think the learning curve for their move was easier than Johnny Cage’s. I think people might argue with that, but for me, Scorpion and Sub-Zero were the ones that I could use. A lot of like 13-year-old kids are walking in there and just kick everyone’s ass. So I had to go with the thing that I had gotten used to and knew. So anyway, those are my characters. I did play Johnny Cage. I played all the characters, but I literally was borrowing money from my parents at that point. I remember my dad going, “How much money do you have?” I’m like, “13 bucks,” and I remember him giving me $300 for the rest of the quarter. I was like, “Now I can play for hours.” Real smart.

Johnny Cage is such a perfect character for you. He’s always got so many great wisecracks. What’s your favorite part of just playing him?

You said it. I just to be kind of the comic relief and that makes me super happy because I love telling jokes and the very nice director and engineers, they got to listen to me improvise endlessly. They were like, yeah, if you can beat the joke, get in on it. So I was always like, let me try this, let me try this, let me try this. So, of course, the recording sessions went into double golden time because I was wasting so much of their time. But knowing that Johnny Cage got to tell a lot of jokes. I, you know, saw that as a green light to try everything. So that made me very happy.

His cockiness is so much fun, and I just love that he’s throwing these grade school insults to sorcerers and murder machines. There’s a line where you call Shao Kahn a shithead, and it just made me laugh so much. It’s just so silly.

I think that was an improvise. I think I was improvising then. I think it was some other insults that they had on him and I’m like, why don’t we just call him a shithead? They’re like, “Great!” So they were great as they weren’t like, “How dare you? These words are precious.” I mean, obviously for Johnny Cage, it’s not as precious, but he’s again the comic relief. So he doesn’t have the burden of the story on his shoulders.

My thing is character-driven jokes are the best kinds of jokes. So if it’s not just me being a dickhead and it’s actually motivated by Johnny’s arrogance and his confidence, then I think it’s a great time. That’s why, and now I’m going to bring up the other thing I used to do, but that’s why I love Community so much because the jokes weren’t just jokes to exist. They were jokes that were driven by the characters.

Speaking of arrogance, The Miz of WWE fame has been very vocal about wanting to play Johnny Cage in the future. How do you think he would do in that role?

Tremendous. I think he’s perfect. I’m not kidding. I think he looks great. He looks the part and I’ve interacted with him a few times and he’s really nice. I think he’s really good. I’ve seen him in a couple of different things and I was like, “Oh, that guy can do it.” Not that I’m casting the thing, but yeah, I think he’d be perfect. He’s definitely out of physical shape and would have to get in shape, but, you know, little things.

You’ve done a lot of voiceover work at this point. What’s the most rewarding thing about that process? Is it the freedom to kind of improvise on some of these projects?

Yeah. No, it’s the freedom to show up in a pair of shorts and a tank top, and go ahead and drive almost 10 minutes away from my house to work all day and then drive back. Believe me, I don’t mind being on location and getting all the way out somewhere and shooting. That’s what you gotta do when you’re on camera. But I think voiceover work can be just as rewarding and it’s obviously a lot more collaborative and I love that. I think that’s what is about these things where somebody writes it, somebody directs it, somebody animates it, somebody puts a voice to it, somebody puts the sound together. I think that’s one of the coolest things about Hollywood. When everyone talks about everyone being selfish, which they’re not, some people are, of course, but I think that’s one of the most tremendous things about Hollywood is that it has to be collaborative. If you’re not, you’ll eventually be thrown out of business.

In this film, I really liked the scene with you and Sonya Blade, who is played by Jennifer Carpenter. I’d love to get your thoughts on that relationship between Sonya and Cage.

Well, he’s in love with her obviously. What’s so cool about the script is that he’s not just purely a shit-talking a-hole. He truly is in love, and the scriptwriting was so good because they allowed for like, hey, he’s not just these snappy comebacks. When he’s serious, he’s like, I love you, and then let’s be together forever. So I loved that part of that. He shows real passion for her, and I think it just shows a nice part of his character that you didn’t get to see. I love that part of the story. So it gives it dimension, which is great because other than that, it would just be a lot of jokes and you might not get as much character.

You’ve done quite a few video game-related things over the years. You had a memorable gig hosting the live VGX awards, which became kind of legendary and kind of off the rails in a way. It was just so funny, Odd Future was there. How fun was that show and just kind of breaking Geoff Keighley’s balls a bit?

Yeah, Geoff, he and I were just texting. That was obviously my one and only time that I hosted. A shocker. But that is me and how I talk, and some people hated it and some people loved it. Because those video games things are pretty transparently advertisements, as is every single award show. Like if you don’t do what Conan O’Brien does or Jimmy Kimmel, which is take the piss out of things, then as comedians, we’re probably not doing our jobs. So I just kind of did my thing and I’m going to say I pissed off 50% of the people, but, you know, hey, what are you going to do?

But it’s funny because I am such a huge video game fan and a nerd for video games though. But I can’t change. I’m not going to change my version of how all of my humor for that, but it was really fun. I still talk to a couple of the different game makers. I’m sure I pissed off a lot of them. But I didn’t go in there going, like, I’m going to piss them off. But if you look at someone like Ricky Gervais, who’s one of my heroes, like those Golden Globes monologues were some of my favorite.

Yeah. So good. Personally, I was a huge fan of that. Speaking of video games, you did a voice in Lego Dimensions a few years back. Would you like to be involved in more gaming projects going forward?

Yeah, I am truly a fan of video games and I played them with my kids now. We play a lot of Fortnite, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Hades. My son is very good at Madden and I am terrible at it. But I am just a fan in general. So if you want me to do a voiceover in your video games, and I get to actually play the game, that’s why Lego Dimensions was so fun. I’m like, holy crap, I’m going to be in Lego Dimensions. My kids love Lego Dimensions! So it really works out really well for that project. It was great.

One of the other voice projects you did never actually aired. Star Wars Detours, one episode of that actually leaked last year, but a lot of it is still mysterious. What was it like working on that show? It’s kind of surprising it was canned as so much great talent worked on it behind the scenes and as a voice cast.

To this day, to the life of me, I cannot tell you why it hasn’t aired. I don’t know why. I really don’t. Seth Green headed up that whole thing. He’s one of my favorite people on the planet. He’s one of the most talented people, and I thought it was well written too. It could be a whole other dimension to Star Wars and to this day, it should air. It should get out there. I don’t know why it hasn’t. I really can’t tell you. I never watched, I didn’t see the leaked one, but I would love to see that whole thing. I would love it to.

And being a part of Star Wars, that has to be so frustrating that you were a part of it, but you don’t have much to show for it.

Yeah, fuckin’ A! I made it into the Star Wars universe and it never aired. What the hell?

Community has seen such a resurgence being on Netflix. Especially during the pandemic, it was great that you did that live read. There’s so many more fans and we got the six seasons. Do you think a movie will eventually happen?

Well, I know Dan has said a few things like, “Hey, it’s going along more than it was before,” which is great. I know that everyone on that script read agreed to it. But boy, there is a big difference between everyone going, “Yeah, that sounds great,” to us shooting. So I mean, it’s like going like, “Hey, I’m going to get married in three years.” Okay. Are you planning it? “Yeah, it’s going to come together.” It’s one of those things where a lot of stuff has to happen and so I’m hoping it does. I have no news. I wish I did. Believe me, I’d be there in a New York minute. So we’ll see. We’ll see. Yeah. I wish I could say like, “Yeah, it’s fucking happening, man. Here we go!” But I don’t. I can’t.

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