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Friday, October 29, 1999

Daniels hits the mark with Avengers' Hawkeye

By Rob Allstetter

TORONTO -- Tony Daniels seems to have a lot in common with Hawkeye, the character whose voice he performs in The Avengers animated series, which premieres on Fox Kids on Saturday.

We'll let him tell the story. "This is going to freak you out," Daniels says after a recording session last summer in Toronto. "My cousin David is a fine, fine archer. I never shot one in my life, and I always wanted to, so one day about four years ago I went with him.

"We had a bit of land, so he set up a fake target and put it out. He said, 'So, you've never shot one, huh? Here's what you do, draw it back, ta da, ta da, ta da...'

"So I shoot. Ptoo! Right down the middle!

"He goes, 'Yeah, right you've never shot before.'

"I said, 'Never. Really.'

"He said, 'That's impossible. You don't even know what the sight set-up for this thing is. Two in a row, let's go.

"Ptoo! I shot just barely off center.

"He said, 'You're a natural.' And the whole weekend, I kept shooting them right down the center."

Daniels can't help but laugh at his own story. A comedian, Daniels also shares Hawkeye's proclivity for a good, funny wisecrack as well as hitting targets with his arrows. During The Continuum's visit to a recording session of The Avengers, Daniels is often full of zany one-liners with his various voices. He's quite the impressionist, having voiced the likes of Johnny Carson, Patrick Stewart and Jackie Chan on MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch.

But he also takes his character seriously, and, having been a longtime comics reader, tries to be faithful to The Avengers lore.

"Hawkeye is a complex man," Daniels says. "The back story on Hawkeye is he's a kid who went off with the circus. He became 80 percent deaf in both ears. He's had to fight. Life hasn't been easy for Clint Barton, and I think he brings some of those life experiences into The Avengers.

"I lucked out with him. I get to be a little nasty and I get to play off most of the jokes in the show, which, for me as a comedian, works out well." Daniels, who often gets e-mail intended for Star Wars actor Anthony Daniels, already had worked with The Avengers voice director Tony Pastor on Diabolik, a show based on an Italian comic book. He also did one season of X-Men, replacing Chris Potter as the voice of Gambit.

"I lucked out because I had worked on X-Men," Daniels says. "It's a perfect marriage working on this kind of action cartoon and working with these people. They take this sort of realistic approach to the acting and bring it to the kids rather than do silly stuff.

"When I heard The Avengers was coming up to Toronto, I said to myself, 'I've got to be on this show in some capacity.' I was fortunate enough to land this role of Hawkeye, which I adore. Purple tights and all, I adore it."

Daniels gives Hawkeye a tough-guy tone, reminiscent of Wolverine on X-Men. Pastor often encourages him to up the anger during a scene with Ultron; and it's obvious the pair has worked together before.

"To work with him is totally different than the rest," Daniels says after his session, comparing Pastor to other voice directors. "He goes for the gusto when it comes to the performance. He doesn't let you get away with just getting the line done.

"A lot of those lines were good, but he wants the little nuance that sells the line. These end up being radio plays. If you didn't have the animation to go with this, you could play this on the radio when it's finished and mixed."

Having worked on X-Men, Daniels says it's impossible not to see some similarities between the shows, but that they do stand apart from each other.

"We have to face facts. Super-heroes are super-heroes, whether it's Spider-Man, X-Men or Superman or Batman and Robin," Daniels says. "And they all have the same basis. No matter what you do, especially with a group of super-heroes, it's going to be the same. You have all those elements.

"When you have a guy like Hawkeye or Ant-Man, they all have these traits that build a better team. And you're going to find that no matter what action/adventure comic you're bringing to the screen, it's going to have the same feel.

"The Avengers does kind of feel like X-Men. But there was a little more mystery about the X-Men. It wasn't so up front when it first came about. The Avengers have been around a long time. The thing about The Avengers that is different from X-Men is, I think, the personalities are different.

"I can't totally explain because I don't know the full scope yet. As we're doing each show, we're learning more and more. As you read some of the comics and get the back story, you go, 'Oh, wow! What we're doing now makes a lot of sense.'"

In addition to Hawkeye, Daniels also performs as other characters in The Avengers, including the gurgling villain Aquarius, part of the Zodiac Gang which plays a key role late in the first season of the series.

Daniels says he enjoys doing these "incidental" roles.

"It's neat because you can look at The Avengers from another side that way, doing the villains," he says. "I've done voices like a newscaster, and while my focus has to remain on Hawkeye, the other stuff will come up, too."

Stories are being developed for more episodes of The Avengers beyond the original 13 - provided that the first season's ratings are strong enough, which appears likely - and Daniels says he's more than ready to return as Hawkeye.

"The Marvel people," Daniels says, "I feel so blessed that they've taken me under and said, 'This guy's good. We like him. We want to keep him on board.'

"Everything other show I've done, there's teamwork, but it's not like this. This one's really come together. Teamwork and The Avengers - they just go together."

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