INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
Mike Tyson came to San Diego Comic-Con International 2014 to give a first look at his new animated series, Mike Tyson Mysteries, premiering this Fall on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, along for the ride are his co-stars Rachel Ramras (MAD), Jim Rash (Community), and producer Hugh Davidson (The Looney Tunes Show).
The new half hour animated series features Mike Tyson solving mysteries sent to him from people all around the world through the use of carrier pigeons. Assisting him are his adoptive Korean daughter Yung Hee, played by Rachel Ramras, the ghost of the Marquess of Queensbury played by Jim Rash, and a talking pigeon who was once a man played by Norm McDonald. Its Scooby Doo meets The A-Team meets Iron Mike Tyson.
Norm McDonald was unable to attend, with the panelists joking how Comic-Con “isn’t his thing,” but they shared a quote from the comedian that sums the show up as, “It’s like Hanna without the annoying Barbera!”
“I’ve never been a cartoon character!” Tyson said, clearly excited to be part of the new show. Producer Hugh Davidson added, “My whole life I wanted to turn you (Tyson) into a cartoon character!”
Asked if the show is based on his life, Tyson joked, “Well, I never adopted a Chinese girl,” followed by an inappropriate impression of what a Chinese person sounds like. The star was clearly excited and a little overzealous with his choice of words and impressions, but there was no denying his enthusiasm.
Davidson elaborated on the theme of the show as being Tyson just trying to help people in any way he can, as anyone who needs help can simply attach their plea to a carrier pigeon and somehow that pigeon gets the message to Tyson. The delivery system stems from Tyson’s real life love and respect for the birds.
The messages for help vary from the mundane to the extreme, and they are not always real mysteries — it’s just that Tyson calls them all mysteries. In the first episode, famed novelist Cormac McCarthy asks Tyson to help him with his writer’s block on his new novel, but things quickly devolve when a Chupacabra pops up and begins killing people. A later episode will feature Tyson helping someone buy a house, while another brings the mystery team to IBM to help find someone who may or may not be trapped inside a computer.
Mike has his own plans for storylines, “I want to get Bishop Magic Don Juan,” adding, “Then we’ll have pimps! And PI’s!” Davidson shared that 30 minutes before the panel started Tyson had handed him the phone, and it was the Bishop. The producer was at a loss for words at that moment, but chances seemed high that the infamous pimp will guest star in an episode.
Rash, Ramras, and Davidson all have a history together from working in the comedy improv troupe The Groundlings. Davidson has written many of the episodes, and Ramras has written four. The animated series is scripted for eleven minutes, and Davidson said, “We overwrote at first.”
At this point, an attendee with a skateboard got up from his seat to leave, but Tyson noticed and jokingly yelled, “Hey skateboard dude! Sit the fuck down!” Immediately the fan went back to his seat, promising he was only going to get water.
Mike Tyson’s jokes and extreme enthusiasm kept the rest of his panel in stitches, and Davidson shared through laughs that it was just simply “a lot of fun to see Mike Tyson animated.”
“I thought I was going to be all slow!” Tyson said, thinking the animators were going to portray him as slow and lumbering. Davidson added, “Mike was surprised by how fast he was.”
Asked by a fan what his favorite Adult Swim show was, Tyson was unsure and confused by the question, “What’s Adult Swim?” Once it was explained, he quickly answered Boondocks. Davidson joked, “He’s familiar with the product,” followed by Tyson exclaiming, “Black Samurai!” referring to another animated series called Afro Samurai that aired on Spike TV years ago.
Tyson had another exchange with a fan in the audience, exclaiming loudly, “It’s Jerry Garcia!” By now, his panel mates were completely losing it, with Davidson almost teary eyed from laughter.
Asked about other guest stars, one fan asked if the show would ever cross over with The Venture Bros, Tyson responded, “No way, dude!” Davidson and the panel all agreed that it would be great to see a Harlem Globetrotters crossover.
The final question from the panel came from a young fan who started off telling Tyson that he was a lifelong fan, “You’re only 12 years old, how the fuck are you a lifelong fan!?!” Tyson joked. Laughing, the fan then asked if the former boxer would ever take part in the writers’ room, the question received cheers from the audience. The panelists all loved the idea, even Tyson, but they admitted, “Spelling will be a problem.”
The panelists then moved on to a quick roundtable discussion with reporters where they were each able to talk more about their characters.
For Rachel Ramras, the voice of Yung Hee, the day of the panel was the most time she has ever spent with Tyson and she considered him, “Very sweet,” in person. She explained that her character’s role on the show is a lot like Velma in Scooby Doo, “She’s like Velma. If there’s a lot of exposition, she’s a part of it.” She broke down the rest of the characters as the ghost of the Marquees is the voice of reason, the pigeon is a degenerate, and that Tyson is a gentle giant who acts without thinking.
For the actress, joining the series was easy once she learned of the cast. At first, “I thought it would be like the Mr. T show,” she said, but once the cast was figured out, “it was too good to be true.”
Hugh Davidson explained the show will not have a full story arc connecting every episode, but there will be a balance between done in one episodes and some that continue into others. When asked how the show came about and if Tyson wrote a formal pitch to WB, Davidson said, “I doubt it,” as a guy like Mike Tyson has lots of meetings with people about whatever he is passionate about, and if he shows interest in wanting to do something, it’s enough.
Tyson’s acting ability surprised Davidson, “He is committed as an actor,” and if he asked him to be sad in reading a line, Tyson is really going to feel sad, “He’s very vulnerable as an actor.”
The mysteries on the show are not complex or even mysteries in most cases, and Davidson said, “It was named that before I was ever involved.”
Davidson’s favorite mystery is when Tyson helps someone in buying a house, and says, “I’m concerned they went outside of their budget.” Tyson delivered a line so earnestly and serious that it becomes one of the funniest parts of the episode.
Jim Rash was asked how and why he ended up joining the series, and his two answers were simple, Hugh Davidson is a friend and, “Why not?” The title alone was almost enough to entice him.
Rash’s character is the ghost of the Marquees of Queensbury, historically known as the man who popularized the rules of boxing (i.e. Queensbury rules). Everyone can see the ghost, and that Tyson actually calls the character “Marcus” because he cannot properly pronounce Marquees.
Mike Tyson did not have a lot of time by the end, but he shared his enthusiasm for the project and why he wanted to do an animated series, “I just want to try everything. I want to do a musical!”
The writers have Tyson’s voice down, and Mike has no qualms about what they may put him through, sharing, “I’m very comfortable being uncomfortable.” And asked about the vulnerability that Davidson mentioned before, he admitted, “I’m very emotional!”
The last question for the former champion was if he had a favorite episode or mystery so far, and after thinking for a moment, he replied, “Yes! — But I can’t tell you!”