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SYFY WIRE Features

Exploring Sweet Tooth's Demented Twisted Metal Origin Story: "We Had to Sonically Murder a Golden Retriever"

And we thought the Gordy flashback in Jordan Peele's Nope was brutal!

By Josh Weiss
Joe Seanoa as Sweet Tooth in Twisted Metal 107

Peacock's Twisted Metal series (all 10 episodes are now streaming) took one look at the Gordy flashback in Nope and said "Hold my beer!" Episode 7 of the video game adaptation provides a backstory for the ice cream truck-driving villain Sweet Tooth, revealing that the demented clown we know and love was once a troubled child actor by the name of Marcus Kane.

(It's worth noting that in the PlayStation games, the character goes by both "Marcus Kane" and "Needles Kane" and, perhaps more importantly, the ice cream truck bears the name "Sweet Tooth" — not the clown himself).

Young Marcus finally snapped one fateful day in 1989 when a golden retriever named Billy upstaged him on the set of his own sitcom, 2 Scoops. Unable to cope with sharing the spotlight with a canine, the boy brutally murdered Billy with a pair of knitting front of a live studio audience. Kane was, of course, found guilty (though his trial scored lower ratings than the dog's funeral) and committed to a psychiatric institution until society collapsed in 2002.

RELATED: Who Plays the Evil Clown Sweet Tooth in Twisted Metal?

Samoa Joe on giving Sweet Tooth an origin story

"I was super excited and happy about it," Samoa Joe — who physically played Sweet Tooth as an adult — told SYFY WIRE over Zoom before the SAG-AFTRA strike took effect this month. "I think Sweet Tooth is an interesting character. Though he has a lot of mythology, he doesn’t have a lot of origin mythology. I think in MJ’s [showrunner Michael Jonathan Smith] quest to build out the world of Twisted Metal, giving Sweet Tooth a bit of substance was definitely called for."

(l-r) Joe Seanoa as Sweet Tooth, Mike Mitchell as Stu in Twisted Metal 107

Twisted Metal Sound Editor Talks Bringing Sweet Tooth To Life

Chatting with us on a separate occasion, Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer James Parnell explained that the overall goal with the '80s flashback was to underscore Kane's steep break from reality.

"It was one of those things where you, as a viewer, can slowly see Marcus losing it and everyone around him not understanding what's going on. Every little interaction is a tiny drip more into this pot that’s about to overflow," he said.

Parnell continued: "We needed to sonically murder a Golden Retriever, which was really hard because I'm a dog lover. Knitting needles themselves are [made of] plastic or fiberglass, so they don't make much sound. But yeah, we sweetened it with a sword shing and whooshes when he pulls them up and big gasps from the crowd."

The fully-grown Sweet Tooth is voiced by series executive producer Will Arnett, who "brought so much to the table," Parnell said. "Everyone who knows Will Arnett knows he can go from being funny to being super serious in a split second. He’s got that range. His voice is super baritone, but it can go up in register — almost to like an alto or something. He can go very high up and very low down ... He can change his performance schizophrenically like Sweet Tooth."

RELATED: Before Twisted Metal Peels Out, Here's the Best Video-Game-to-TV-Series Adaptations

Parnell generated four different versions of Sweet Tooth's voice before settling on the one featured in the locked cuts now streaming. "It was a process," he admitted. "I was doing this thing [of] dual processing his voice. So I had his regular voice going into a processing chain, which pitched him down."

He utilized several plug-ins (like Soundtoys' Little Alter Boy, for instance) to add further depth to Arnett's dialogue, which also had to sound as though it were muffled through a mask. While there were some early discussions about having Arnett actually wear the mask during the voiceover process, the idea was quickly scrapped.

"We want to record something super clean in order to dirty it up," Parnell noted. "I think if we committed to the mask and then it didn't end up producing results, then we would have a wasted a session with Will. And he's super busy, as you can imagine."

Instead, he relied on FutzBox, "a plugin that we can use and it makes you sound like you're talking through a phone," he said. "But if you bend it and break the plugin to produce some weird effects, you can make it sound like it’s a filtered mask effect."

Parnell likens the ultimate effect to that of those old toy microphones fitted with coiled springs you used to see a lot in the '90s. That child-like inspiration felt appropriate "because Sweet Tooth’s a clown and he’s got that innocent clown appearance, but he’s also crazy and demented and his mask looks psychotic."

Once a final version was in place, Parnell could slightly tweak it here and there based on the character's ever-shifting mood. "When Sweet Tooth went into his funny bits, where he's more relaxed and just chill, I rolled off some of the pitching," he finished. "And then when he went down and was super serious, I had to add some of that pitching back on."

Check out the *ahem* twisted origin of Sweet Tooth for yourself. All 10 episodes of Twisted Metal's debut season are now streaming on Peacock.

Want more original Peacock content? Be sure to check out Bel-AirKilling ItA Friend of the FamilyPoker FaceJoe vs. CaroleMrs. DavisMacGruber, and Based on a True Story.

**The interview with Samoa Joe was conducted before the actors' strike.**