Matthew Lillard has an acting career that spans nearly twenty years and is known for such notable roles as “Cereal Killer” in Hackers, Stuart in Scream and Dennis Rafkin in Thir13en Ghosts. In 2002 he first portrayed Shaggy Rogers in the live-action film Scooby-Doo and reprised the role in the 2004 sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Earlier this year he voiced Shaggy in the animated Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo and, after the retirement of Shaggy originator Casey Kasem, has now become the official voice of the character. I talked to Matthew last week about taking over the role and the new animated series Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, which premieres July 12th on cartoon Network.
POP CULTURE ZOO: To start of with, what was the path that lead from you playing Shaggy in the live-action films to now being the official voice in the new animated series?
MATTHEW LILLARD: It was one of those things. I’ve never done a “voice” in my life, I’m not that guy, I don’t have those set of tools. When the audition came up to do the live action version I found myself walking around a park screaming myself horse because Shaggy talks in that part of your voice where, if you have a rough voice [as Shaggy] you sound like Shaggy a little. I flew down and auditioned, I got the part and then I had to figure out how to do it without screwing up my voice by screaming for an hour straight before I worked. I eventually figured out how to do the voice without destroying myself as a human being and since it’s not really a skill that many possess they sought me out to continue to do it. But it was one of those things I put out into the ether. I loved Casey [Kasem], I grew up on the show and I heard they were doing new cartoons and so I put it out there that if they needed a Shaggy I would love to do it. Eventually they came to me with an offer to do one of the DVDs and from there I said to them up front that I would love to be the voice of Shaggy if you’ll have me and if Casey is done doing the voice. I told them I would love to be the guy to do it for a long time. And that’s kind of how I got here.
PCZ: Did you find yourself sort of becoming possessive of the role?
ML: I didn’t originally, but now I find I have, eerily, taken complete possession of it. Scott Innes did it for a while and there was a rumor going around that he thought I was a really bad Shaggy and I found that I kind of wanted to fight him to the death. (laughs)
PCZ: Is it almost walking a tightrope to avoid impersonating Casey Kasem doing Shaggy and actually doing Shaggy’s voice?
ML: I don’t know, I’ve done it for so long now, for eight or nine years. The first movie we did was like eight years ago. I have the utmost respect for Casey. It’s kind of one of those things that I don’t really think too much about it. I hope that I’m doing it justice, I hope that I’m doing the series justice. I love what I do, it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I go back week after week and I see these incredible actors. Any voice actor in the world is completely unappreciated as far as I can tell. You watch these guys come in and do voices and they are amazing! Frank Welker [voice of Fred and Scooby] is a legend and he’s just one of the kindest, most wonderful people I’ve ever met in this industry. On top of that, you see other guys come in and they’re funny and witty and sharp and what they can do is amazing to me.
PCZ: Well, I’ve always been amazed that there are these iconic cartoon character voices that people have known for decades, yet they have no idea who the people are that do those voices.
ML: Yeah! I mean, look at Frank Welker who has had this incredible career. I had no idea who Frank Welker was before this. I love that we had the guy who did the movie Scooby voice and the story behind him, but the fact that Frank Welker didn’t do Scooby-Doo in the movies is crazy to me. He’s a hero. There are the four of us there in the voice sessions and when other people come in you’ll see them try to impress Frank, a legend, and you realize you’re in the presence of greatness in terms of this world. And he doesn’t want that kind of attention. I said to him, dude, you have to go to Comic-Con once. You have to let them throw their praise at you because they’ll go bananas, you’re a hero. And he just won’t do it, he’s not interested in those kind of accolades.
PCZ: Now, having done Shaggy in the live action films is there different acting muscles you have to use now that you’re just doing the voice?
ML: It is definitely different. It’s a skill-set I’ve never used. I think I’m a relatively good actor, I’ve spent all my life doing it so it’s a skill I apply a lot. Then I watch someone who’s really good at voice acting and I realize that I have nothing compared to what they have. I’m amazed at how little I do know when it comes to this world and how gifted these actors really are. I think I’m a fine actor and then I walk in and I see what Grey DeLisle does with her voice and I see what Frank does with his voice and I know I’m just an acolyte.
PCZ: There are a lot of actors that can play the same types of roles, but the fact that you can go from the guy in Scream to playing Shaggy Rogers definitely elevates you as an acting talent for sure.
ML: Well, if you can tell everyone you know that, that would be fantastic. Just spread the word, I would really appreciate it. (laughter)
PCZ: Over the years have you ever had any conversations with Casey Kasem about Shaggy?
ML: Casey actually plays my dad on the show. I met him for the first time during this series and he’s so sweet and delightful and lovely. Mindy [Cohn] and Frank have worked with him forever, so the stories you hear are fantastic. He’s great.
PCZ: Looking at the new show, I noticed that the tone of it seems to be somewhat similar to the live-action movies in that there is still a little nod and wink to the audience.
ML: I definitely think the great thing about this show is that it is a restart of a classic. I think both Spike [Brandt] and Tony [Cervone], the creators, have taken something that they don’t want to mess with too much and have tried to do their own thing with it. The kids are still solving mysteries. They are portrayed this time around as real teenagers, which has never really been done. They are now suffering through the same things that modern teenagers kind of suffer through, relationships and parents. The other idea is that they are staying in one town so there is an overall arc to the entire show, which will see us answering questions across the season. There will be the episodic mystery and then there is the over all arcing mystery. We think, we hope, that kids and Cartoon Network will get it and want to see it through to the end. They’re taking a classic and tweaking it, trying to make it interesting to a whole new generation of viewers.
PCZ: The first episode is pretty fun and for someone who has been alive for as many years as Scooby-Doo has been around I’m pretty pleased by it.
ML: Well, good, that’s perfect.
PCZ: Also in the opening episode we see that Velma has romantic feelings towards Shaggy?
ML: Well, Shaggy is pretty much overall studly, I mean, just in general he is a handsome devil. And a fantastic kisser. I think that Velma, after years and years of this generational show, finally fell for his wily ways.
PCZ: So, now being the voice of Shaggy how does that affect your credibility at home with your kids?
ML: I will tell you I am a hero amongst heroes. I know that Leonardo DiCaprio is a movie star, but when it comes to eight year olds I have him beat.
PCZ: What are some of the other projects you’ve been working on lately?
ML: I just did an Alexander Payne movie with George Clooney called The Descendants and that will come out in December, for your Academy Awards considerations. Then, I just did a pilot for Country Music television, CMT, so we’re hoping that finds life and will take off.
PCZ: Great! Well, that’s all I have for you. I thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today, it was great to talk to you.
ML: Thanks, Joe!
Be sure to catch the premiere of SCOOBY-DOO! MYSTERY INCORPORATED Monday, July 12th at 7:00 PM on Cartoon Network!