GamingMarvel's Spider-Man 2

“Villains Are More Fun” – Yuri Lowenthal On Bringing Out Peter Parker’s Dark Side


  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 brings dual protagonists Peter Parker and Miles Morales to face new villains like Venom and Kraven.
  • Yuri Lowenthal, the voice actor for Peter Parker, discusses the challenge of portraying a symbiote-infected Spider-Man and the depth of the character’s transformation.
  • Insomniac’s reimagining of the Spider-Man story keeps fans engaged by including beloved elements while introducing fresh twists and surprises.

The long-anticipated Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 finally arrives this week, pitting dual protagonists Peter Parker and Miles Morales against a rich roster of new villains like Venom and Kraven. The Insomniac title has greatly expanded upon the world seen in the original Marvel’s Spider-Man and Miles Morales, letting players swing all over Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Actors like Naruto‘s Yuri Lowenthal and Nadji Jeter of The Last of Us reprise their roles of Parker and Morales alongside new cast members like Candyman‘s Tony Todd as Venom.

Yuri Lowenthal has been voice acting for over two decades, performing a slew of iconic roles across video games, television, and film. He’s voiced Naruto‘s Sasuke Uchiha, the protagonist of both Persona 3 and Persona 4, Dainsleif in Genshin Impact, and many more well-known characters, but a standout from the list is Lowenthal’s continued work as Peter Parker in the Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise. The critical reception for Spider-Man 2 has been incredibly positive, with many praising the depth of its characters and what Lowenthal brings to his starring role.

Related: “Something Never Experienced Before”: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Review

Screen Rant sat down with Yuri Lowenthal to discuss how he approached the role of a symbiote-infected Peter Parker, his relationship with his fellow cast members, and what he’s most excited to see players react to in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

Screen Rant: So first, I’m really curious, just if you approached playing Peter Parker any differently the second time around?

Yuri Lowenthal: Yeah. Obviously, it comes five years later in my real life, as well as a little bit later in Pete’s life. So inevitably, there’ll be differences, but I think the biggest difference that we’re all aware of, and that played a huge part in this is the symbiote. The symbiote fundamentally turns Peter into a different Peter, and Spider-Man into a different Spider-Man. And that was the big challenge for this one because I had settled into a very comfortable place with Pete.

I mean, we’re basically the same. But to get your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, to not be friendly, to be mean and selfish instead and violent is so – while I looked forward to getting to play as an actor, getting to change that; and any actor will tell you that villains are more fun. And so while I was excited to do that, I was not aware of how difficult that would be, how big a challenge that would be, because turning Peter into something that is so antithetical to who he is at his core is harder than I thought it would be.

I was like, “Oh, we’ll find ways to make it more that.” But I found myself exhausted at the end of those days in a way, psychologically exhausted in a way that I was not expecting, and physically, to be honest. I think we always look at Peter as someone who puts everyone else first – his friends first, his family first, the entire population of New York City before his own needs. And the symbiote takes all that away. It arguably makes him more powerful than he is without it and takes away the famed responsibility that we’re used to seeing him have to exhibit to keep his powers in check. And it makes him very selfish.

And what was important to us in this game is tracking the effect of the symbiote, from when he gets it right away, he doesn’t immediately flip a switch and turn into the most evil person in the world. He doesn’t turn into a supervillain. And I think, for Insomniac, tracking the progression of Pete and the effect of the symbiote on Pete was really important. So we spent a lot of time finding those checkpoints along the way, and then of course tracking them. Because when you’re making a game like this, it’s like shooting a movie – you’re nearly never doing it in order. So we would always have to check in and go, “Well, where is he on that journey?” And sometimes, Kris Zimmerman, the performance director, would have to reign me in, or push me further. She’s like, “Okay, now you’re playing him at the end of his experience with the symbiote, but he’s only just had it, so he’s still actually excited about it.

We looked at it in a way like drugs: the first time you do those drugs, everything is awesome, and there’s no downside. But the longer you stay with that, the harder it is to keep that same perspective on it. And it begins to take you over as opposed to you having fun with it and it making you a better you. The right drug will make you a better you for an instant and then – so finding that and sticking with that and making sure we tracked that was the big challenge with this and was fun to do, but was definitely hard.

You delved into this a little in your last question, but if there’s any scenes that really stand out to you in terms of recording, whether it’s because they were especially difficult or really rewarding to get right or anything like that.

Yuri Lowenthal: Right, because I’m always so careful to talk about those pivotal moments in the new game because I don’t want to spoil anything for people. And I know this is embargoed and everything. If people are just getting the game that day, I want them to get to the things. Here’s the thing: it was super fun because we got to advance the relationships between all these characters. I had scenes that I loved doing with MJ and that I loved doing with Miles.

We’ve introduced these other characters; Harry is somebody we’ve referred to in the earlier game, but I really got to spend time with Harry to the extent where we – and I think this was smart, this didn’t even occur to me until very recently, how important the flashback scenes with Harry and Pete were, to high school, in this game. Because while we’ve talked about Harry, we haven’t gotten a chance to see their relationship. We haven’t experienced their relationship and why their relationship is important. So getting to build that in this game was super fun.

Also, with Harry in the beginning versus Harry at the end of the story, there were just great, great scenes. Getting to work with Graham [Phillips] who plays Harry, and to learn him both as an actor and to find out more about Harry and Pete’s relationship was super great for me. But then you get new villains in here, and he’s got relationships with the villains. I mean, it’s not the relationship that Pete had, obviously, with Otto in the first game. But his relationship with Kraven, his relationship with Dr. Connors, his relationship with Norman Osborn, and his growing relationship with the characters that we do know really well. And I probably have forgotten about some moments that when I finally play the game, or – let’s be honest – watch YouTube playthroughs of the game, I will be reintroduced to them. Like, “Oh, right, that whole thing came together really well,” or, “I’d forgotten that we had done that.”

I know it’s like hedging, and I didn’t nail down a specific scene and go into it in detail. But I love that we had the opportunity to have those intense scenes. It’s something that Insomniac is always – and it’s not always an intense scene. I know we go to the final Otto and Pete fight at the end of the first game, but one of the things that Insomniac does really well, and I think helps their storytelling, is they include very human moments throughout. They’re not always either epic or just gameplay; it doesn’t just bounce back and forth. There’s a lot of connective tissue in the story that really gets you involved in the story and the characters. And I love sometimes the small moments in this game.

And speaking a little bit about Insomniac, I know you are also a longtime Marvel Comics fan, and I would love to hear you talk just a little bit about the ways that Insomniac has reimagined and reinvented some of these stories from the comics for the game.

Yuri Lowenthal: Well, I think that’s the challenge, isn’t it? And I think it’s something, again – God, this is just going to sound like I’m sucking up to Insomniac the whole time, but they’re great. I think the challenge always with stuff like this is to bring in the things that people already love about that character and those stories, but not just keep telling the same story over and over again.

I think that was probably behind their decision in the first game to not show the origin story for Pete, for it to be Pete eight years down the road from that. And they do it again with this one. People want to see Venom. They want to see the symbiote suit. And I don’t know, Deven, do you have one of those codes? Have you been playing the game?

No, I haven’t. I’m so jealous of our reviewer who got the code.

Yuri Lowenthal: Right? I know. Same, I’m like, “Hey, shouldn’t I have one of those codes?” [Laughs] They’re working on it. But one of the things they do really well is including all those things that made you fall in love with the character in the first place and those stories in the first place, but give them turns here and there that always keep you on your toes and keep you from thinking, “Oh, well, but I’ve already seen this before, but I already know this.”

And I think they did it great the first game, and I think they did it great with the second game too. Again, I don’t want to land on any of those turns in particular for fear of spoiling somebody’s love in the surprises in the game. But these are characters that – arguably, Spider-Man has the greatest villain rogues’ gallery, second maybe to Batman, but probably on par with Batman at this point. And the villains are what makes it so fun. And so it’s not like we haven’t seen Kraven before, it’s not like we haven’t seen The Lizard before, it’s not like we haven’t seen Venom before, but everybody’s so excited to get back in there with them. And partially, I think it’s because we want to fight Kraven, we want to fight Venom, but I would hope that it’s also in part because they want to see what Insomniac is going to do different.

Venom grinning with rows of sharp fangs while holding Norman Osborn by the throat.

And in terms of personal spoilers for you, I’m curious, when you were making the original Spider-Man, did you know anything that would be coming in a sequel? Did you know Venom and Miles were on the horizon when you were recording the first game at all?

Yuri Lowenthal: No. I mean, I knew that they were building Miles into that first game so that we could set up Miles becoming arguably today’s Spider-Man. But there was never any discussion of, “Here’s what we want to do for the future of the franchise,” or, “Here’s what we want to do for the next game.” I imagine probably right near the end some of those discussions started. So it’s all a big Spider-Man blur for me right now in the best possible way. This still feels like a dream that I could be playing Spider-Man at all.

But there was never really any talk; if they had a plan or if they have a plan for this massive franchise going forward, it’s not something that they laid out for us in the beginning. So it’s been fun learning it as it goes. And if I’m remembering correctly, things changed too. They said, “This is the script for the first game,” and when we got to the second game, “This is the script,” and both of those changed as we went through. And kudos to them for being able to be flexible enough to – if they saw that something wasn’t working, or if they wanted to pivot to something else that became more important to them that they changed the story.

Are there any really big changes from the first game that stand out to you still?

Yuri Lowenthal: Not having played it hardcore, I don’t know. I know a lot of people are like, “How is the game better from the last game?” And from a technical standpoint, I won’t be able to comment. But I will say, it’s interesting because I feel like the second game is way bigger than the first game. And yet Insomniac has publicly commented that it’s about the same size as the first game. And every time I hear that, I’m like, “That’s impossible.” When I look at what we did and when I look at what the story is and all the things you can do in this game, that sounds impossible to me. I do not even remember what the question was at this point.

Oh, just the changes also in the script, I’m curious if there were any in terms of that in the first one where there was a big cut or a big addition or anything like that.

Yuri Lowenthal: I don’t want to delve too much into some things that they had talked about originally doing that then we didn’t end up getting to do, because who knows? Maybe they’ll find a place for them in future story-wise in future games. But there’s always the game you want to make, there’s always the movie you want to make, there’s always the book you want to write, and then the book you end up having to write, or the game you end up having to make just in terms of time and money and blood and sweat. So there were changes throughout. I remember, from the first game, sometimes things change and then they change back. Originally, part of the story was – and I know it’s a spoiler, but the game’s been out for five years.

It’s been out for a while, yeah.

Yuri Lowenthal: So the death of Aunt May, that was something that we shot and then we were told, “You know what, we’re not allowed to do that, we’re going to have to cut that.” And then we somehow earned it back, so it came back. So you never know what changes are going to stick and which ones aren’t. And you always start off with these grand designs – we’re going to do all this and all that, and then you realize you’ve only got enough time and money for some of it. But this game still seems so epic to me that if there’s anything that they cut from when we were originally talking about it, I don’t even think I can remember it at this point.

Related: Insomniac Reveals How Long To Beat Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (Compared To The First Game)

I saw in another interview that you did, you talked about how ideally in this new game, there would be a tourist mode where people could just walk around and explore the super interactive environments. And I’m curious – whether it’s you watching other people play it after it comes out or you’re playing it yourself – the areas in the game that you’re most excited to explore or see other people explore.

Yuri Lowenthal: Just because it’s so fun to swing around the city, I’d always hoped they would just do where you turn off all missions, all combat, all anything, just to swing around and be a tourist. I’ve heard stories of people who said, “I’d never been to New York before, and I played Spider-Man 10 times, and I got a chance to travel to New York, and it was fun realizing that I actually did know New York a little bit just based on playing the game because the environments are so true.”

But I love that they include Queens and Brooklyn in this one. I can’t wait for people to spend some time there. I can’t wait for people to pick up on Easter eggs of places that may exist in New York, sure, but also exist in Marvel’s New York. When I finally started really playing into the first game, there were a lot of surprises for me despite the fact that I’d worked on the game because they don’t consult me. Posters, like cool deep Marvel cut posters on the wall or graffiti or whatever, and finding those things were exciting for me when I was actually playing the game. So I look forward to being surprised as well in this game. Again, I just can’t wait for people to start playing it.

Miles Morales, crouched on the edge of a roof in his black and red suit, overlooking a corner of Central Park and the New York skyline near sunset.

Behind the scenes, I’m sure that there was a lot of work that you did with the actor who plays Morales, Nadji Jeter. I’m curious if there’s any specific behind the scenes moments in regards to those scenes that stand out to you, and I’d love to hear also just a little bit about what your real-life relationship with him is like.

Yuri Lowenthal: We really lucked out in the circumstances and the people that we are, because I’ve loved working with Nadji and our relationship in the game very much just because of the nature of those characters and the nature of the situation we were in mirror each other quite a bit. In that first game – and even heading into the second game, just because I’m not getting any younger – I’m the older actor with more experience and he’s the younger actor with less experience. And in the game, I’m the older superhero with more experience and he’s the younger superhero with less experience.

And while it wasn’t something we intended, it felt like our relationship in the game was feeding off our relationship in real life, just because I’ve loved working with him, and I felt a stake in him having more fun and becoming even better. I mean, that kid’s already surpassed me, and he was super talented right off the bat, but watching him grow into the character and into a man has been exciting and bittersweet for me.

It’s that little tear in the corner of my eye when I see him do certain things both in the game, because you’ll see the Miles and Pete relationship. While in the first game – and even, arguably, in the Miles Morales game – Miles is finding his groove, learning a lot and trying to live up to what he sees Pete having done. And at a certain point in this game, you realize that Miles arguably surpassed Pete. And Pete is, on one hand, sad to see that kid grow up, but on the other hand, there’s a relief to it, like maybe I don’t have to do it all myself. Maybe Miles could do this. So just back to what you’d asked, it’s just been this interesting confluence of the situation that we are in real life and the situation we are in the game actually mirroring each other.

That’s really sweet. And for my last question, I saw a video of you doing the Venom dance at San Diego Comic-Con, and-

Yuri Lowenthal: The Bully McGuire dance, yeah.

And I am just so curious, was there a lot of rehearsal behind that? Did you go back to the movie to check out all the moves or was it a real off the cuff, comes naturally situation?

Yuri Lowenthal: All right, I’m going to lay it all out for you.

Thank you.

Yuri Lowenthal: I’m going to finally show you – well, I’m not going to show you, because we’ve all seen it. Here’s how it all came together: I did go back and watch the dance before bringing it to Comic-Con, because I wanted to get it mostly right. Now, of course, I watched it, I’m like, “Oh, you forgot to – you didn’t pay attention to this and that, you could have done better.” But I’m also the kind of actor who looks at his work and is like, “Oh, I could have done that better.” So I did rehearse it in front of a mirror. It was not off the cuff. I wanted to make sure, because it is so iconic what Tobey Maguire did in that movie that I had to get it right.

And I felt that the fans deserved it. Now, that being said, I did not tell any of the other folks on the panel or at Insomniac or Sony that I was going to do that, because I was afraid that they were going to say, “Don’t do that.” It was one of those situations where I much would’ve rather begged for forgiveness after I had done it than to have asked for permission and be told no, and then done it anyway and been the bad guy. Although I can write off all sorts of things as, “It was the symbiote, I didn’t know what was going on.” I felt the fans deserved that and I really have no ego when it comes to that stuff. The one thing that I’m grateful for is that I did not fall off the table when I stood up on it, because I never got to practice that part, and that could have gone horribly sideways.

A close-up of Kraven the Hunter, snarling as he holds another man buy the neck.

I think it really served the fans well.

Yuri Lowenthal: Good, good, because here’s the thing: we won’t be able to fulfill all of your meme dreams in this next game. I know there are so many things you want to see, and we can’t fulfill them all, but at least we got to do that at Comic-Con.

And that’s what really matters, I think.

Yuri Lowenthal: Right, right. Deven, I’ve got to know: do you reserve that corner on your wall and back for – do you put up something different there depending on the interview?

I do, yes.

Yuri Lowenthal: I love that idea.

It’s a little pixel art frame thing. Took a while to find the right Spider-Man. There were some animated ones; I was like, “I don’t know, it’s a little distracting.” I think this is the Platonic ideal of Spider-Man.

Yuri Lowenthal: It is great, it is great.

Source: PlayStation/YouTube, Screen Rant Plus/YouTube

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 releases for PlayStation 5 on October 20, 2023.


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