Jared Harris finds his inner ghostly sailor in Black Freighter

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Jared Harris, most recently seen as the mysterious David Robert Jones on Fox's Fringe, told SCI FI Wire that he also provides the voice of the ghostly character Ridley in the upcoming direct-to-DVD animated film Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter.

Warner Home Video will release Black Freighter—a companion piece to Zack Snyder's Watchmen movie—on DVD and Blu-ray on March 24; also included is the documentary-style special Under the Hood, which features Watchmen actors Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer, Stephen McHattie and Jeffrey Dean Morgan and is an examination of Hollis Mason's (McHattie) path to becoming the first Nite Owl.

Fans of the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons comic book know that Tales of the Black Freighter is Watchmen's story-within-the-story, a comic book read by a young man in the story's alternate-universe New York. In the animated film, a sailor (voiced by Gerard Butler) contends with a pirate attack. Ridley is a fellow sailor who survives only briefly following the attack and then returns to haunt the sailor.

SCI FI Wire recently engaged Harris in an exclusive e-mail interview about Tales of the Black Freighter. Following are edited excerpts from that exchange.

What did you know about Watchmen before hooking up with the project?

Harris: I very clearly remember being turned onto Watchmen by Henry Beck, a journalist and friend, while he was visiting in London when it first came out. I waited with bated breath each week for the new comic. I think I still have the originals in an attic in London.

Give us a sense of the story and how your character fits into the action.

Harris: I voice Ridley, the shipmate who briefly survives the pirate attack with Gerard's character, then dies and is attached to his raft as ballast. As [Butler's character] loses his mind, I start talking and taunting him from beyond the grave, or below the water. Somehow I manage to keep my head while the sharks are gnawing on the rest of my carcass. The Black Freighter runs throughout the action of the main body of [Watchmen] as a counterpoint to the action.

Had you done any voice acting before?

Harris: This was my first. It was fun and very silly, as is all acting.

Were you alone or did you interact at all with Gerard Butler? And what input did you get from Zack Snyder [who co-wrote and executive-produced Black Freighter]?

Harris: I was with Gerard. Zack was very definitely there. He is in great demand, so his time is minutely accounted for. That said, you can see that he was like a kid in a candy shop. I think I am correct in saying that he is pushing very hard for The Black Freighter to be included in the extended version [of Watchmen], as he is very passionate and committed to honoring the original intent of the writer.