MORTAL KOMBAT: BATTLE OF THE REALMS Interview: Grey Griffin Explains Her Bold New Take On Kitana (Exclusive)
Legendary voice actress Grey Griffin talks to us about bringing Kitana to life in Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, and the surprising places she gets to take the character in this latest movie.
Picking up shortly after the explosive finale of Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms follows a team of heroes who are besieged by the enemy forces of Shao Kahn. Raiden and his group of warriors are forced into a deal to compete in a final Mortal Kombat that will determine the fate of the realms; Scorpion, meanwhile, must find the ancient Kamidogu before it's used to resurrect the One Being to avert the destruction of all things.
Even if you don't immediately recognise Grey Griffin's name, we're confident that you'll have heard her voice somewhere. The legendary actress has spent the past two decades bringing Daphne to life in the Scooby-Doo franchise, but there are literally hundreds of TV, movie, and video game credits to her name. Her latest role, however, seen Grey bring new life to the iconic warrior Kitana.
The character only had a minor role in Scorpion's Revenge, but with considerably more to do in this sequel, the actress was given the opportunity to explore the character in a more meaningful way.
We talk about that, her approach to acting gigs like this, and much more in this interview. However, you can find Grey's thoughts on potentially returning as the original version of Asajj Ventress by clicking here, while she also opened up on that memorable Scooby-Doo/Supernatural crossover right here.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms is available now on 4K/Blu-ray & Digital!
You’ve played a lot of badass female characters over the course of your career, from Catwoman to Captain Marvel to Daphne, but what is it about Kitana that most excited you as an actor?
Well, I felt like I missed out on playing her in the video game because I actually did play her in her entirety with all the lines, grunts, efforts, and fight scenes, but I was pregnant at the time. I had some pregnancy complications and ended up in the hospital on bed rest (my son is fine now; this was seven years ago). They said, ‘Grey, can you come in? We’ve changed the plot of it and we need you to redo a handful of lines.’ I said, ‘I can’t. I’m sick. I’m in the hospital.’ They asked if there was any way I could come in and, knowing what I do now, I probably could have with Zoom from the hospital room [Laughs] but I couldn’t at the time and it was just heartbreaking. They told me they had to replace me, so they brought in Karen Strassman who I love. She’s such a great actress who had played Kitana before, but they did say, ‘Grey, you know what: a silver lining - we’ve left in all your fighting grunts, so you are sort of Kitana in this game.’ [Laughs] All the acting I didn’t get to do, so I was really heartbroken. When the films came up, I was so excited and Wes [Gleason] helped me out. In the first film I only had a handful of lines and I was really disappointed because I thought I had a bigger part, and he said, ‘Just hold your horses, Grey. In the next one, you’ll have a much bigger arc and it’s a meatier role.’ He definitely delivered on that promises because in Battle of the Realms, I definitely got a good meaty storyline and I was glad to get another chance. I got my Mulligan [Laughs].
Kitana makes a big decision in this movie that shakes up her status quo in a big way; what do you think leads the character to that moment?
Well, I love how you can tell she’s a smart woman. She’s been looking out for her own interests for so long in the first film and I feel like doing the right thing wins out and we see her morality. I feel like truly great warriors and leaders throughout history, morality was at the forefront. They weren’t all about themselves, it was about the greater good. It was really satisfying to see her make the right decision in this film and help the little guy [Laughs] and others.
As a voice actor, what would you say are some of the biggest differences between voicing Kitana in the games compared to an animated feature like this one?
It was different. I definitely changed it because in the video game...with video games, I try to find something a little bit softer that’s easier on the ears because people are listening to that voice for so long. If it’s something that’s too strident or hits the ear in a bad way, people are not going to want to play that character because they’re not fun to listen to. So, [adopts Kitana’s video game voice] the Kitana in the game was a little smoother sounding, and so when the films came, she’s evolved a little bit and this time is a general I [adopts Kitana’s movie voice] deepened her down to be a little bit more of a leader and authoritative. The voice did change a little bit.
In terms of finding the right voice for a character like this one, you said you changed it from the games to the films, but is that something you do on your own or are you working closely with someone like Wes Gleason to find the right voice for this iteration?
I feel that people want...part of casting an actor who is bringing a lot to the table is that they have to bring more than just the voice. I try to make some decisions and think a lot about the character and come in with some strong choices. A lot of the time, they don’t know what they want, and it’s up to you to show them [Laughs]. I’ll do a lot of thinking about the character first and have a lot of reasons for why I’ve chosen a certain timbre or accent or what have you. 99.9% of the time the director is grateful and the team will say, ‘That’s great! We love that!’ There’s hardly ever a time where they’ll say, ‘We don’t like that. We’re going in a different direction’ [Laughs] because I do put so much time and thought into it that I think people appreciate that it’s less they’ve got to think about. Making a good project is so much about bringing in people who are good at what they do and who put a lot of heart into what they do and then just letting us do it. That’s what Wes does. He always goes, ‘Grey, what are you thinking for this?’ and I’ll throw out something, he checks with everybody, and most of the time says, ‘Perfect! We love it! Go with that.’ I’m always open to suggestions [Laughs] but do try to do their homework for them.
With over 600 credits to your name, do you still get a sense of nervousness and feel the pressure when you’re asked to be part of a franchise as iconic as Mortal Kombat?
[Laughs] You would think that I would be more confident, but I always am afraid this is my last job! I’m always ready for that because it seems like it’s a job that’s too good to be true where I get to play all these different characters. I’m a single mom. I have three children and I’m always amazed I’m able to keep a roof over our heads and send them to school [Laughs] doing this fun job I used to get in trouble for in school. I used to always get in trouble for doing voices and being a weirdo, and now I get paid for it [Laughs]. No matter how much I’ve done in my career, I still have a little bit of that imposter syndrome when I first start, but luckily, I soon relax into it because everyone is happy with the choices I’ve made or it just starts going well. I think, ‘Okay, Grey. You can worry about the next job now. This one you’ve settled into.’ Also, taking on a character people have loved for decades is always a little daunting because you’re making sure you keep the fans happy. That’s really #1 for me. I can’t go on message boards because I’ll be like, ‘What if somebody is not happy with me? It’ll haunt me!’ [Laughs] I don’t look at it because I’m always afraid someone will say, ‘What was she thinking? She ruined my childhood!’
A role like this one requires a lot of physicality in the recording booth, but what about those do you most enjoy and also find the most challenging?
I really do get into it. Sometimes I hit my microphone [Laughs] and sometimes it can be hazardous! I’m not the most physical person in real life. I guess I’m not very sporty and kind of a girly girl so as sporty as I get is when I’m making sounds for video games. It’s nice to get a little taste of what it would be like if I actually moved around in real-life [Laughs].
Looking ahead to the future, a third movie hasn’t been announced yet, but do you have any thoughts on where you’d like to see Kitana’s story go next?
I would like to see where that romance with Liu Kang goes. It’s always sort of alluded to, but then again, I might be in the minority there because I know, having boys, that they get kind of grossed out about that kind of stuff [Laughs]. They might lose some fans with too much romance...
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