Doing Cartoon Voices For Years Prepared Ben Schwartz For His Drugged-Out Renfield Role

Animation, in general, still doesn't get the respect it deserves, although things are changing for the better on that front thanks to folks like Guillermo del Toro (whose mantra that animation is an artistic medium and not a genre for kids has become a rallying cry among us animation lovers). But it's not just animation itself that's regarded as being inferior to live-action. Voice acting is a form of creative expression that requires just as much specialized skill and practice as live-action acting, if not more so. As we've seen time and time again, big-name stars and A-listers who are relative novices to the animation game are rarely a satisfying substitute for veteran voice actors — and certain roles simply demand the sort of expertise you can only really gain from years of voice-only performances.

Despite this, the biggest actors in Hollywood are steadily invited to try their hand at playing animated characters, yet prolific voice actors are much less likely to be extended a similar courtesy. That's not to go to the opposite extreme and suggest that live-action acting doesn't require a specialized skill set all its own. Still, there's arguably more overlap between the art of voice acting and live-action acting than vice versa. It's why Ben Schwartz is able to go from playing outlandish characters like Jean-Ralphio "Because technically I'm hooooomelesssss!" Saperstein on "Parks and Recreation" or the giddily self-involved wannabe music pop star Yasper in "The Afterparty," then seamlessly transition back to voicing cartoon characters on "DuckTales," "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "M.O.D.O.K.," and far too many other animated series to list here.

In fact, as the "Sonic the Hedgehog" movie star sees it, his years of voicing cartoon characters made him uniquely equipped to tackle his role in Universal's "Renfield."

A heightened version of real-life

While Chris McKay's Dracula horror/comedy "Renfield" has garnered a fairly lukewarm response from critics, numerous reviews have singled out Ben Schwartz's turn as foul-mouthed mobster Tedward "Teddy" Lobo as one of the movie's strongest elements. Chris Evangelista praised the actor's performance for being "particularly funny" in his review for /Film, and our own Jeremy Mathai (who interviewed the actor for "Renfield") wrote that Schwartz "shines" as a bad guy who delights in dropping F-bombs like there's no tomorrow. Screen Rant's Joe Deckelmeier similarly praised the actor's "over-the-top and cartoonish" turn during his interview with Schwartz, asking if his work in animation helped with his approach. Schwartz said it absolutely did, explaining:

"I think the idea of getting yourself to a crazy level, this guy is on drugs a lot and is supposed to be very heightened. The whole idea is he's a heightened version of what a criminal is supposed to be. It absolutely helps. Doing cartoons for so long makes me feel like I can go a little bit more bananas and I can find my levels if they want me to push a little bit higher. So I think, yeah, it does."

It's a testament to the artistry and talent demanded by voice acting that Schwartz was able to depict a flesh-and-blood individual like Teddy in "Renfield" with the same breathless exuberance that he has when voicing Sonic the Hedgehog or so many other animated characters (though, obviously, with a distinctly nasty, vicious streak). Consider that today's reminder that animation is, in no way, a lesser artistic medium to work in than live-action, whether it's being used to tell stories about high-jumping plumbers battling turtle-like creatures from another dimension or a much darker and decidedly not-kid-friendly tale.

"Renfield" is currently playing in theaters.