‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’ Tails Actor Nearly Cried Meeting Jim Carrey

  • Colleen O’Shaughnessey has voiced Tails since 2014 and reprises the role in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”
  • Insider recently spoke with the voice actor about the film, and what it meant to be cast in it.
  • Warning: Light spoilers for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” below.

At the end of the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie in 2020, the reveal of Miles “Tails” Prower blew open fans’ expectations for the future of the film series. 

Known in the greater “Sonic” universe as a gadget whiz and the titular hedgehog’s best friend, Tails first debuted in the 1992 game “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” His brief appearance in a mid-credits scene during the first “Sonic” live-action film meant that not only was there hope for a sequel, but that it would include at least one — if not more — classic “Sonic” characters.

Since that first tease, Tails has been voiced in the “Sonic” films by voice actor Colleen O’Shaughnessey. She brings with her a considerable breadth of experience, not just in voiceover work, but in voicing Tails specifically: O’Shaughnessey has voiced that character since 2014 in shows like “Sonic Boom” as well as assorted “Sonic” video game titles.

Despite all her credentials, O’Shaughnessey’s casting was notable: As The Atlantic reported in 2011, and Collider in 2021, voice actors are frequently passed over for blockbuster animated film roles in favor of recognizable celebrity talent who can hopefully draw in audiences.

O’Shaughnessey spoke with Insider about what that casting meant to her, as well as recording from her closet during the pandemic and meeting Jim Carrey for the first time.

Warning: Light spoilers for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” ahead.

sonic the hedgehog and tails in a small red propeller plane, backgrounded by a giant eggman-esque robot with glowing eyes and mouth in sonic the hedgehog 2

 

Sonic, Tails, and a propeller plane vs. Doctor Robotnik’s Master Emerald-powered mech in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”

Paramount Pictures/Sega of America

Insider: This isn’t the first “Sonic” film that you’ve been in — you very briefly debuted as Tails at the end of the first film, in what was maybe one of the most hyped post-credits scenes I’ve ever experienced. 

Colleen O’Shaughnessey: That was crazy. People lost their minds, it was awesome.

How did you initially get brought on for that cameo, and what was that response like on your end?

I recorded the credit scene in, I can’t remember if it was August or September of 2019, but only a few months before the movie opened. I didn’t know anything about it until they called and said, “Do you wanna do it?” And I said, “Of course I do.” I didn’t know it was gonna be a credit scene either, they made it sound like it was more like a cameo somewhere in there. Once I was there, I realized it was a credit scene. I’m like, ‘That’s so cool.” I didn’t know it was gonna be just Tails. I had no idea, because obviously it wasn’t finished yet, so I didn’t know.

People would send me videos of their theaters exploding in excitement, people screaming and jumping out of their chairs. Overwhelming. I mean, I knew people love Tails. I love Tails. What’s not to love about him? But the extent to which they were excited, I was like, “Wow.”

tails in the first sonic the hedgehog film tapping on a yellow device with a screen. he's a small, fluffy, yellow cartoon-ish fox with two tails

 

Tails first appeared in a mid-credits scene in “Sonic the Hedgehog.”

Paramount Pictures

The sequel hadn’t even been announced yet at the time, but was continuing on as Tails something that was on the table? When did you learn that you’d be voicing him in the second film as well?

I had no idea. I don’t think they knew if they were gonna get to do a second one at that point. So they started production for the second one last year, I guess. They pumped that out fast. Everyone’s got this weird COVID timeline, it’s so impossible to figure out where you are in time.

I did not know that I was going to get to play him until like, May-ish, June-ish of 2021. You just never know, and being a voice actor, I really just assumed they would get a celebrity to do it. And I’m so, so thrilled that they didn’t.

What did it mean to have this near-decade body of work as this character recognized, and be able to continue playing him in this way?

It really means so much to me, honestly. It’s so hard to express in words. I love what I do, and I would pick voiceover every single day and twice on Sundays. I’ve done on-camera stuff, I’ve done theater, but at the end of the day, it’s voiceover for me, it’s what I love. It’s my passion. It is just the best job ever.

But we don’t typically get to that level of what this movie is. And for me to do this so far into my career is just, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do with myself because it’s just so exciting. You just don’t expect it, and it’s not that you think you can’t do it, it’s that it doesn’t happen.

The outpouring of support and excitement from all of my voiceover peers has just been so, so exciting. They’re so excited for me, they’re excited for the possibility for our whole community. It just means so much to me. I love this character, and that I get to continue on with him is… I’m so happy.

I think it means so much to the fans too, because they get these characters that they love, and then, their favorite character’s gonna be in a movie. And when you change the actor, it changes everything, and I think sometimes it can be disappointing. So the fans too have been overwhelmingly supportive and excited.

You’ve spoken previously about developing Tails’ character over the course of the television series “Sonic Boom” and other video game titles, but what was it like stepping into an earlier iteration of this character who’s just meeting Sonic for the first time in “Sonic 2”?

It was very interesting, because like you said, we’re meeting him at the beginning of this relationship as opposed to a relationship that’s already been established. It’s also a much bigger scope, it’s a cinematic universe. So the performance is definitely more grounded than it’s been in the past.

Especially in a video game, all the energy is way up here. And there certainly are high-energy, high-stakes moments in this movie, but it’s a different kind of stakes. It’s not “I’m trying to win the game” stakes, it’s “I’m trying to save my life” stakes. And then it was matching that up with the rest of the film, to make sure that everything is fluid and works.

Working with Ben [Schwartz] and finding that relationship was actually kind of a beautiful thing, because we were just getting to know each other, and Sonic and Tails are just getting to know each other. So it all made sense.

ben schwartz and colleen o'shaughnessey standing on both sides of a person wearing a tails from sonic costume. schwartz, on the left, is raising his eyebrows and pointing at tails, while o'shaughnessey is smiling and has her hand on tails' chest.

 

Ben Schwartz and Colleen O’Shaughnessey with Tails at the “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” family day at the Paramount Pictures Studios Lot on April 2, 2022.

Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

You two are going back and forth a ton in this movie as Sonic and Tails. You both have improv backgrounds, so were there any particularly memorable moments recording with him that didn’t make it into the film?

The best thing was recording that scene in Siberia. It was so much fun, and they just let us go. We kept really true to the script for a couple of passes, and then they were just like, “go for it.” Especially the parts in the middle where we’re bumping into each other, we got to just really go for it, and it was so much fun.

Like you said, we both have an improv background, so it was easy. He’s just so wonderful, and when you have a super pro like that who you get to work off of, it just makes your job even easier, you know?

How many takes do you think the two of you did just spitballing there?

Oh my gosh, I don’t know. Probably five or six maybe of the full thing, and sometimes we’d break it up, and I think I did go back in a few times to add a couple things here and there once they animated. But yeah, it was so fun. You’re like, “over this way,” “no, that way,” or “whoops!”

You’ve been recording at home and a bit in the studio during the pandemic and on this film. Has that ever resulted in any funny mishaps with your family?

I have two giant dogs who luckily are sleeping right now, but a leaf blows by and they’re like [mimics barking], so there’s that. I have two cats who love to sleep in my closet, and my booth is my closet. My husband is actually currently building me a fantastic booth space, but it’s not done yet, so I’m still in the closet. Sometimes he needs socks, so it’s like “Oh, please hold for sock retrieval.”

And then for whatever reason during the pandemic, everyone in the neighborhood had their gardeners coming on the same day at the same time, so it was impossible. I would schedule around my gardener, but then all the surrounding neighbors, all I hear is leaf blowers and lawnmowers. Luckily I’m not in a flight path or anything, but every once in a while then, “oh, they decided to jackhammer the street in front of my house.”

And then of course the technical difficulties that we all have faced. I mean, man, talk about the voiceover community coming together. Everybody was helping everybody. Shout out to sound engineers, because my god, they went above and beyond. First, it’s hard because there’s a delay, so every single line has to be moved. And then they’re having to be the IT guy for every actor because we’ve never used all of these different programs and things before, and they don’t know what computer we’re using.

They were so helpful, but they had to be like, ‘Well, let’s try turning it off and turning back on.” That’s the go-to, right? Like, “Whoops, I didn’t actually plug the microphone into my computer, I don’t know why you can’t hear me.” There was a huge learning curve, because I can do what I can do, but I am not a sound engineer. People go to school for that sort of thing, and I did not.

There’s too many cords, too many interfaces. 

I didn’t even know the word interface, or preamp. I’m like, “I’ll take the combo please.”

They would have these


Zoom

meetings for anybody that wanted to join in and they would give us ideas of good microphones, good preamps. And giving us in-betweens, like, “if you only have five bucks, you can get this one,” or “if you wanna spend a lot you can get this other crazy one,” or “you can get these ones that are in-between.”

But I’m so grateful that we were able to do it. We were like the only ones working, right? Everything was shut down. There was no production happening except for voiceover.

the cast of sonic the hedgehog and director jeff fowler with people in costume as knuckles, sonic, and tails on the blue carpet at sonic 2 family day

 

Colleen O’Shaughnessey, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Jeff Fowler, and Lee Majdoub at “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” family day in April 2022.

Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

What was it like coming full circle and getting to meet the rest of the cast and crew of this film closer to the premiere?

It was so great. I met everyone in person for the first time at the family day on the Paramount lot, and I’m so happy that Ben [Schwartz] was there, because we were just like, “You’re here, you’re in person!” Just hugs galore with every single cast member, they were so lovely.

I went up to Jim Carrey to introduce myself, and I just assumed he didn’t know who I was. So I was like, “Hi, I’m Colleen, I play Tails.” He grabbed both of my hands, and he’s very tall and I’m very short. So he grabbed both of my hands and he bent over and went, “I know.” And it was so sweet. He had the sweetest smile on his face, and I was like, “I’m gonna cry.” And I know he said something after that, and I’m sure I said things too, but I have no idea beyond that what either of us said.

But everyone could not have been more welcoming. James Marsden gave me a hug like we’ve been friends for years. He introduced me to his kids, I introduced him to mine. It’s just been glorious.

I finally got to meet Idris [Elba] on Tuesday [at the premiere]. I love him and I love his Knuckles. So good, he made me laugh out loud multiple times.

knuckles the echidna in the sonic the hedgehog 2, with red lightning surrounding his fists and a serious expression on his face

 

Idris Elba plays Knuckles the Echidna in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”

Paramount Pictures/Sega of America

Were there any moments working on this film that are going to stick with you?

I know I mentioned the Siberia scene. But the scene after, there’s a couple of those really tender moments that I think are gonna stick with me forever. I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody that hasn’t seen it yet, but that little Sonic and Tails moment is just really beautiful.

And when you get to flex those actor chops and really bring a tender moment, and especially then to see it on the big screen, the first time… I mean, tears. It was just so beautiful.

I wanted to cry when he put his tails over Sonic while they were lying by the fire. 

Oh my god. They did those tails just so much justice. They were just big, fluffy, beautiful tails.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is currently in theaters.

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