ETERNALS Video Interview: David Kaye On Why Joining The MCU As Arishem Was A Dream Come True (Exclusive)

ETERNALS Video Interview: David Kaye On Why Joining The MCU As Arishem Was A Dream Come True (Exclusive)

Eternals star David Kaye talks to us about taking on the role of Arishem in the MCU, revealing the work that went into creating the character and why his Marvel Studios experience was a dream come true...

By JoshWilding - Nov 19, 2021 12:11 PM EST
Filed Under: Eternals

David Kaye is one of the most prolific actors working today when it comes to voiceover work, and we could fill this entire article listing his most memorable credits. Perhaps best known for lending his voice to Clank in Insomniac's hit Ratchet & Clank series, we're sure you'll also remember Kaye from the likes of Avengers Assemble, X-Men: Evolution, and Megatron in the animated Transformers franchise.

His latest role, however, may also be his biggest (literally). Marvel Studios and Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao tapped the actor to play Arishem the Celestial in Eternals, and by the time the credits roll, the stage is set for that God-like being to be a key player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In this interview - be warned that there are SPOILERS for Eternals - the actor talks to us about the sheer amount of work that went into bringing Arishem to life, his experience working with Marvel Studios, and the endless possibilities for the all-powerful Celestial down the line. He also discusses finding the right voice for the character, the level of secrecy surrounding the project, and more. 

David even shares some amazing stories about his career, including the time he crossed paths with Stan Lee while voicing Baron Zemo. He also talks about Ratchet & Clank and a whole lot more besides!

You can visit David's website here. He's also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Cameo.

I’m a big comic book fan, but like a lot of people, Arishem isn’t a character I’m overly familiar with, so it’s interesting to see him in the MCU now. How aware were you of the Eternals, Celestials, and Arishem before you boarded the project? 

That’s a great question. I was aware only because of my childhood. I posted something about my childhood [on Facebook] as I wanted to give a shout out to my past and to my best friend since grade school David Hayes who is still my good friend to this day. We used to collect comics and we were into Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and Marvel Comics and DC. Everything. I got into G.I. Joe a little bit, but most of my favourite stuff were these dark vampire comics. I discovered the Marvel Universe because my friend David had a part-time job on Saturdays in the comic book section. It was in Sandy’s Bookstore in my hometown of Peterborough in Ontario, Canada. Down these creaky wooden stairs, it was packed with comics. I can’t imagine what was there. They were probably worth a fortune. Dave was responsible for organising the comics and putting them on sale. There would be stacks we’d go through when we’d hang out on a Saturday for hours reading comics and I was introduced to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and other artists at 12 or 13. He introduced me to characters and stories and I remember the Eternals vaguely like a lot of people. I remember them being in the background because I was into a lot of Avengers, Fantastic Four, and things like that, but I was aware of the Eternals and was certainly well aware of Jack Kirby. So, I posted ‘Thank you, Jack Kirby wherever you are…and my friend David Hayes’ because to think I’m sitting in a movie theater in Camarillo, California of all places [Laughs] and hearing this voice on the screen and being like, ‘Wow, that’s wild.’ There have been a couple of movies I’ve been in like Ratchet & Clank, but because this is the MCU and my childhood and I was roughly familiar that these characters have been around a long time and created by these gentlemen, it lands a bit more.

Talk about a comic book fan’s dream come true getting to join the MCU. Something I was curious about after hearing your performance - because you are such a prolific voice actor and I think it’s great Marvel Studios brought in a voice actor specifically for this character - was where you found the voice for Arishem? And what was that collaboration like with Marvel Studios and Chloé Zhao?

She is a sweetheart. I watched Nomadland and didn’t know who Chloé was and was then, of course, saying, ‘Who is she?’ I became familiar with what she’s doing and it was bizarre because when I found out who was directing [Eternals], I actually got to congratulate her the day after she won the Oscar because we had a recording session. I was able to say, ‘By the way, congratulations [Laughs] You’re an Oscar-winning director.’ It’s different pacing for a Marvel movie. If you’ve seen the movie Nomadland which is an amazing take on America and where we are and why. She lets things breathe. Things are very expansive and large and sweeping with the director of photography and the way it’s shot. She doesn’t rush anything and lets the story unfold. Some people in our 10-second attention span these days [don’t get that], but it’s like a novel. She has this style. Time went by…it’s a two and a half hour movie, right? I didn’t realise. My parents, senior citizens went to see it and they didn’t realise and weren’t in a hurry to get out. It’s hitting a mark and some people might not like it because it isn’t quick enough, but she just has this wonderful way of telling these stories and has a vision. When she directs, at least with me in my experience, she poses questions. ‘How? What if?’ I don’t know, it’s just a style she has and with my limited experience with Oscar-winning directors, it was really kind of amazing. You have to walk a real fine line with a character like this. When he’s angry, there’s no shouting. With [Arishem], you had to be really careful. You keep him keen, but every so slightly, adjust when there’s possible anger or feeling. There’s little adjustments in there and she and the team really helped me find those. Pacing was very important, but it was just such a great experience all around. I just kept thinking, ‘Are you sure you want me? You’re positive? I’m the guy? Okay, okay!’ [Laughs]

It is an incredible role and that fantastic scene you get right in the middle of the film with Arishem and Sersi where you’re dropping a lot of information about the history of the MCU…it’s really fascinating for fans. What was that like? It’s very dialogue-heavy and you’re imparting a lot of information in a short space of time. 

Yeah, that was the thing. Doctor Exposition, here we go! You have to explain, though, and it’s pacing and storytelling. There’s a fine line. I have to say, if I was asked to do this when I was younger, there’s no way. Honestly, having some time on the planet and being older, there are certain things you can bring from your humanity that you couldn’t call upon when you’re 18 or 19 because you don’t have a reference. That colours your performance. You have to be careful because it’s about pacing and you’re telling a story. There’s some history here and you have to keep the character…the director and the people on the line means it’s a collaborative effort. They kept me on the straight and narrow as it were. 

We don’t spend a huge amount of time with Arishem but he is such an interesting character and we see the ramifications at the end of the movie when we see the Eternals have that conflict about Earth being destroyed and whether the Celestial is right or wrong. Now you’ve got to know the character, how do you feel about him? Do you view him as a villain or a hero who is helping create these new worlds?

Well, that’s the thing: even Gods make mistakes [Laughs]. Nobody is perfect. If you boil it all down, even the creator of worlds can be like, ‘Oops, maybe shouldn’t have done that.’ There are so many parallels and read between the lines things going on and I love that stuff. It gets you thinking because if you leave the movie theater going, ‘Okay, so, why?’ then it’s done its job. If you’re still thinking about it, that’s what a movie is supposed to do. It leaves you with thoughts and in the big scheme of things, we need to take care of the planet, but so many people just don’t give a sh*t. It’s mind-blowing to me. We have the technology and capability. The movie is very cognizant of how precious and precarious this planet is. Hate him or love him, but Shatner goes up with Bezos and looks down and goes, ‘Oh my God.’ What he said when they interviewed him after his flight into space was, ‘There’s basically life. Death. That’s it. There’s a thin layer.’ A movie like this makes you think, ‘My God, we live on a thin line.’ Chloé and the team and the writers have captured all these things and it makes you think. When you talk about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and particularly Stan, he was always a champion of those who were different. He was always that way and will continue to bring that feeling to stories of championing the cause of those folks that are a little different. It’s everything Stan hopes for and that continues. I think we have a lot of great people looking after that Marvel Universe to make sure that thought and throughline of what Jack and Stan were trying to do continues. It’s very important because we are an interesting bunch, humanity, and films like this make you think, ‘Boy, we are not doing so good. We have the capability, but we do need somebody to come down and save us for ourselves…wearing a cape or whatever!’ We’re all flawed and, back to your question, humans and even the Gods are flawed. It’s amazing storytelling. They’ve done a good job. 


At the end of the film, Arishem does come down to Earth, he takes Sersi, Kingo, and Phastos for a big cliffhanger setting the stage for future stories. I know you probably can’t tell me when and where you’re coming back, but do you have any thoughts on where you’d like to see his story go? 

I have no idea. I’m still enjoying my 15 minutes of fame here! [Laughs] You never know. I have no idea. It’s so secretive, so I couldn’t say anything anyway! It certainly leaves it all open and there are all kinds of little Easter Eggs and mentions. They talk about some of the other hero groups [Laughs] which was neat. And the humour. I grew up with the original Spider-Man, Paul Soles, who we lost this year and even in the writing and Spider-Man comics, there’s this dry sense of humour Peter Parker and Spider-Man had and I’d ‘LOL’ back in the day when I was reading them. That humour is still there and Chloé threw that in, as you know, with some of the characters as there are very human elements there. Even when they’re up against the end of the world, what helps? Comedy. We’re human and we’ve got to diffuse the situation and they make that little sly remark and you say, ‘Okay, they’re human’ [Laughs]. It’s great. That’s also continued through the Marvel [Cinematic] Universe. The humour is still there. 

I can only imagine for you as an actor to play the God of the MCU, the stage has been set for Arishem to be the next Thanos as a big bad of these films, and you could be facing off against Harry Styles down the line. What a trifecta of possibilities [Laughs].

[Laughs]. I know! There were six people in the theater and as soon as Harry appeared, ‘[Squeals].’ Disney is an incredible company because the opportunity, the stories, and the worlds…this could go on forever. It’s so deep and so amazing. There are so many ways this could go. It’s an endless pit of stories and ideas and characters. They could mine this forever [Laughs]. There’s tonnes. Wherever they want to take it, there’s no shortage of material, that’s for sure. 

Recently in interviews, some of the cast has talked about a different post-credits scene where the Eternals were communicating with Arishem. Do you recall recording any additional dialogue for scenes like that or were you brought in at a point where it was quite specific?

Yeah, it was specific. We worked on it a few times to find the voice but by that time, it had been sussed out. And still, they can change things up until the last minute with the dialogue because the film was mostly in the can by that point I was brought in. It was daunting, to tell you the truth. You’re working with that calibre of people and you want to make sure you come in and you’re at that high level. I love that pressure. That’s the kind of stress I love. It’s not bad stress at all. It’s, ‘Let’s go, let’s play, let’s do this.’ That’s how I felt. I was a bit nervous, but once you start collaborating, Chloé makes it so easy and it just felt comfortable. 

With Arishem, I know I mentioned finding his voice, but when you have voiced so many iconic characters, was it a lengthy process to find that voice and tone for him? Or was it, as you said, all about keeping that anger under control, making him a very calm, centred being? 

I didn’t want to go too particular. The size of the character, first of all, you don’t want to go to type. I used my normal voice and then we played around a bit. I gave him a bit of my British heritage. What they do with the sound is pretty amazing. We took a minute to dial it in and find the correct tone and placement. I knew they were going to futz with it a little bit, so it couldn’t be too low because the character is already so large anyway. It’s round about my own voice and very calm. [Adopts Arishem’s Voice] ‘We found it here and they took it and ran with it essentially.’ When I heard it, I could hear that the elements of my own voice were there, but what they did just sounded so good. [Laughs] It’s very cool. When you know there’s going to be some processing on it, you have to be very careful with the performance because you don’t want to do anything…knowing technically what they’re going to do, you keep the voice placement a little higher and still have the emotion in there without getting too emotive. It’s walking a tightrope. That’s how it felt. 

You have done so many Marvel characters in the past, like Professor X, J.A.R.V.I.S. - 

That was when I was on Avengers Assemble and Stan Lee was a guest star that day. Mark Hamill too. I was playing Baron Von Zemo and [Adopts Baron Zemo’s Voice] ‘It was wonderful to play a character who died such an incredible death!’ Stan was in and was meeting everybody and said, ‘David Kaye, who are you in this?’ I told him Vision and pointed out that I’d also played J.A.R.V.I.S., and when I mentioned Zemo, he goes, ‘Oh, Zemo! Give me a big of Zemo!’ so I responded, ‘Ah, Mr. Stan Lee, this is David Kaye playing Zemo!’ He said, ‘Very good, very good,’ [Laughs] which was pretty cool. Stan Lee’s font on his script was that big and I think Roger Craig Smith made a comment about that when he’d gone and Mark Hamill said, ‘We should all be so lucky to have a font that big one day.’ [Laughs] There’s been a tonne. I had a chance to play Iron Man many years ago. He was in one of the first comics I’d ever purchased, Iron Man #3. I don’t know what happened to it…I probably sold it to go to college. Idiot! I had a chance to play a bunch of other characters - like Wolverine - in video games back in the day, so it’s been literally a dream come true. I didn’t go to school for this! I was in radio and that’s where it started.

I can only imagine, and while those characters are better known than Arishem, they’re in animated projects. Those do have tonnes of fans, of course, but the MCU is a billion dollar franchise on another level. It must feel incredible to be part of this Marvel Studios family with these amazing actors and it certainly looks like you have a future as the character. That’s all got to be mind-blowing, right? 

It is! It’s surreal. It’s funny [Laughs] because you really don’t know where it’s going to go when you get an audition. You think you’re going to nail it, and then nothing. Then, you get a little paragraph that says, ‘He’s a robot, but we don’t want him to sound too robotic and he has to have a personality and then [Clank] happens and we’re still doing it nearly 20 years later. You just don’t know where it’s going to go and when things come through for projects that are very secretive like Eternals where the character is not even named or is completely different, you have no idea. It’s tough because you’ll get things sometimes where you know that’s not the name and you can only guess what it’s for and even my agents don’t know. All they’ll say is that, ‘This is a big deal and they’re only bringing in so many people.’ All the training and experience you’ve had, like improv skills and being on the planet for a while, you have an idea what it might be so you attack the script and have fun with it. Again, my younger me wouldn’t really know how to navigate that. There’s no way. It just comes from experience, so now you have an idea of where the parameters are, how big you can go with a character, who he might be, and what the scene is. You play what’s going on in the scene and, as an actor, that’s all you can do as you don’t know what else is going on. There are a lot of X-Factors too. A lot of voice actors are coming up, and people say voice actors, but you’re an actor too because you have to be real and the character has to have a living, breathing soul whether they’re cartoony or an Arishem. They have to have a history? Do they have a heart? He is a being who exists, so you have to put yourself into that. You can’t sound like you’re reading something - it’s like you and I talked where we don’t know what we’re going to say from one second to the next. We have a conversation. For every character and take you do, it has to be fresh all the time. It has to be new and something you’ve never said before. That is always in the back of your mind as a performer in bringing these characters to life. When you put yourself into a character, it’s not just doing a voice; you’ve got to think about all that stuff, put it in a blender, and make it work. I love stuff like that. I love the challenge of creating something that has a soul and is something else that isn’t me. I dig that about this business. It’s neat.

You mentioned the secrecy surrounding a project like this with Marvel Studios and the news you were playing Arishem only broke about a week before Eternals came out thanks to the production notes. Did you know you were playing Arishem while you were recording? Did they show you concept art? 

Yeah, by the time you’re cast, they will finally say, ‘Okay, here’s what you’re doing.’ And you’re like, ‘Okay, wow. Okay!’ Then, you’ll get the dialogue and see there’s quite a bit there. They keep you in the dark for a reason because of the internet. I got in trouble once with these guys. There were two phone calls in one day and I tell this lesson as a story to those who forget. I was invited to a convention, I was excited, and I was in my home country of Canada and said that Ratchet & Clank was coming back and that I’d been cast as Commissioner Gordon in [Batman: Arkham City]. I didn’t think anything of it and a few months later, the phone rings and it’s my buddy from Insomniac. He says, ‘Hey, listen, have you got a second? I’ve gotta tell you man, you outed us. We’re not supposed to announce the game as they’re doing a big thing overseas.’ Your heart drops. Somebody shot a video of me saying something and then I called everyone to apologise as it’s a serious thing and you need to be careful. The phone rings an hour later and it’s Warner Bros. [Laughs] A great Friday morning in Southern California became the worst morning in Southern California [Laughs]. From that moment on, I’m saying nothing to nobody about anything! I’m not the only one, but it’s a hard lesson to learn as a lot of people are depending on you to keep your mouth shut. Some concept art was leaked and it happens because of the internet, but it’s a serious deal and you don’t want to piss anyone off. That was the last time, so when someone asks me what I’m working on, my response is ‘Nothin’! I’m not busy at all. I’m just hanging out.’ That’s pretty much my answer.

You mentioned Clank a couple of times and I’ve been playing those Ratchet & Clank games for as long as I remember. Rift Apart was a phenomenal game and I loved it, but are you hoping for more on the horizon?

I’m always hopeful. Insomniac, Ted Price, and everyone all the way down have been amazing to me since the very beginning. I’ve had a good time with them and would work with them again in a heartbeat. I’d work with anyone in a heartbeat! I’m a contract work, so of course, if someone reaches out, I’m in! Personally, I’d love the stories to continue. That’s not up to me, of course, but as far as voicing characters and with Megatron in Transformers, people say, ‘You should be in this or that,’ but I’m just honoured I got the chance to inhabit a character like that. These are iconic characters who are part of major franchises. In the MCU, to voice Arishem…I’m just honoured to be asked to play and to inhabit a character for that time. My good buddy Eric Bauza, who voices Bugs Bunny, is the new Mel Blank and he’s Filipino Canadian. It’s awesome. You just don’t know. You are honoured just to inhabit that character and to be given a chance for that time. That’s the business. Things come and go and you be thankful and grateful you had a moment. With [Clank], it’s rare you create a character like that from nothing and he’s still here years later continuing on. 

I’d love them to make another film. With a movie like Sonic the Hedgehog mixing animation and live-action, there’s so much potential with those Ratchet & Clank characters in a similar setting. 

Yeah, I still have the poster down there. I was more blown away by getting my name on a movie poster. There it is! James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, and Sylvester Stallone [Laughs]. We were not famous enough to sell the tickets, but we got our names on the movie poster and I’m thrilled about that. It’s another thing that’s pretty cool.


I know you’re on Cameo and fans love getting different characters from actors who do a lot of voiceover work, so would you like to tell our readers a little about what they can expect? I’m sure you’ll be getting some Arishem requests…

I have to have a phrase for Arishem. ‘Sersi…’ This has been fun [Points To Transformers Yes Button]. We’ve come up with a few things on our store too on The Cameos are a neat thing. I don’t do much anime, but they asked me to come back as Sesshomaru for Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon, and that’s a popular one. People can also get autographed pictures at my website, but I get a lot of birthday requests as him, Megatron, Optimus Prime, and Clank. It’s fun because before this stupid pandemic, I used to love going to conventions to meet the fans. Without them, the conventions, and yourself, we don’t exist and we don’t have a job. It’s important to meet people and give them a moment of your time. I enjoy that. I’m scheduled for one in March and that will be the first one. Without being in person, Cameo is the next best thing. It’s a thank you, a way to give back and make someone’s day. I’ve had wonderful notes from people, including a nurse on the front line who was feeling shattered and depressed. I gave her a pep talk as a character she loves, made her day, and helped in some way. I didn’t think anyone would want me, but it’s a nice way to be present in people’s lives. It’s been a tough couple of years, so anything that brings a smile. 

Are there any other Marvel or DC characters you’d love to lend your voice to moving forward? 

Kevin Conroy does such an amazing Batman, I’d never want to do it after him. I’ve always loved Batman because of the darkness and I dig that sort of thing. I’ve always liked Superman. I can never do Spider-Man. I’m too old for that. I’m too old of a soul for Spider-Man. I’ve always liked that DC Universe, but Marvel…gosh, I really enjoyed Professor X when we were doing X-Men: Evolution. I loved that cast and really enjoyed being Professor X in that series. We had some good outtakes and I did my version of Patrick Stewart which was great. I love the X-Men and Avengers, and a shoutout to some of the other voices. Fred Tatasciore is an iconic Hulk. Roger Craig Smith is an iconic Captain America [Laughs]. We had some good times. I think it comes down to being able to work with your peers and people who make you laugh; it’s a gift and a joy. I’ve been fortunate to be in casts that have been just such a thrill and joy to work with, laughing and screwing around. The worst part of the pandemic is being on your own. There’s a series that’s coming out I’m in which is very, very funny, very, very irreverent, I cannot tell you what it was, but it’s going to be dropping early in the New Year. All the table reads were on Zoom, and you can still laugh, but it’s not the same. The worst part of these two years has been not being in a studio with your friends doing these characters. One of the last projects I did in a studio was a Justice League project as Vandal Savage. I had to replace a voice actor who had passed away which was very difficult, but I was fortunate enough to be able to do Vandal as he’s another one who has been around forever like Arishem just existing throughout [time]. The opportunity to play any of these characters is a thrill. 

As Arishem, which other Marvel heroes would you like to see yourself on screen interacting with aside from the Eternals? 

Oh my gosh. Boy [Laughs]. That’s a difficult question. I’m not sure. I keep going to the X-Men or Avengers. One of the Avengers for sure because of my experience and history with Assemble. It would be great to interact with that team. The Hulk, maybe. 

I know I’m keeping my fingers crossed to see him meet Galactus should he ever be introduced. 

There you go! See, you’re thinking big. 

Finally, this film was delayed because of the pandemic and some bits did leak out along the way. As an actor, what was the hardest thing about dealing with the Marvel Studios level of secrecy and having to keep the role under wraps? 

It wasn’t difficult at all because until they tell you officially you’re in the film…I’m David Kaye, there are a lot of stars and celebrities they could easily decide to bring in. I’ve learned to keep my excitement tempered until there’s proof I’ve made it and I’m in there. You can easily be replaced, so I’m grateful they kept me around. There are really no guarantees. Being a voice actor for a large movie is precarious and when I did the movie Up, I couldn’t say anything about that. There were no guarantees I’d be in the film or get a credit, but that’s the way it is for voice actors sometimes. It was easier for me to keep it on the down-low and keep it quiet. Even I couldn’t say anything personally until after the movie came out! You have to be very careful. 

We didn’t even know Arishem was going to have a voice and everyone assumed he’d be silent, so that’s pretty amazing.

I get it. I think it’s very cool what they did and I understand why we couldn’t say anything. It’s pretty neat and actually kind of fun to keep it secret. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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SonOfAGif - 11/19/2021, 12:41 PM
Arishem was more unsettling then Thanos snapping half of humanity.
defenderofthefaith - 11/19/2021, 12:43 PM
In the sequel I imagine we will get new Eternal characters added. Since Eternals don't have to look like the superhero type just about anyone can play one. Makes me wonder who they can get to play them. Maybe someone like Keira Knightly.
JonC - 11/19/2021, 4:03 PM
You would think in the title of this article would be a large *** SPOILERS *** considering they talk at length about the plot.
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