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Posted at 1:15 PM ET, 07/24/2010

COMIC-CON 2010: 'Cleveland Show's' KEVIN MICHAEL RICHARDSON voices his fandom of Macfarlane, McGruder and The Batman

By Michael Cavna


Flip on any kids' channel, check out whatever cartoon is on at that hour, and you're odds are better than good than KEVIN MICHAEL RICHARDSON, voice actor extraordinaire, has done work for that show.

Richardson is perhaps best known these days as the voice of Cleveland Brown Jr. on Fox's "The Cleveland Show" -- the third Seth Macfarlane cartoon that the actor's worked on. Or you may know him as Maurice from "The Penguins of Madagascar." But Richardson, 45, has an resume so long and impressive -- nearly 300 acting credits in less than two decades -- that you'd think he were working in the era of Mack Sennett.


Then again, for such gifted voice actors as Richardson and pal Tom "SpongeBob" Kenny, his fellow Syracuse alumnus, their opportunities are so plentiful, it highlights just how much TV animation is its own blockbuster industry.

Not that the full-throated Richardson, twice an Emmy nominee for his voicework as The Joker on "The Batman," every expected to be making his living by voicing superhero, penguin and panda projects.

"I did not foresee this career coming," says Richardson, who studied acting at Syracuse and used to do eight mainstage shows a week. "I remember talking to casting directors looking for voice talent, though, and saying: 'I can do THAT.' I nagged people for a year to break into it -- it's a tight circle of talent -- and then, once I got in, that's all she wrote."

Richardson has been so in demand that hasn't even had time to see considerable parts of his body of work. " 'Porco Rosso,' I was in that?" Richardson replies when reminded of his role in the Hayao Miyazaki film. "Oh, yeah -- I've never actually ever seen that film."

Richardson, though, does recall whom he lost out to for those two daytime Emmys? "Henry Winkler and Eartha Kitt," he muses. "I mean, how are you going to beat Henry Winkler and Eartha Kitt?" He chuckles, letting out one of the TV industry's great and warmest laughs.

Voice work, the actor says, allows him to put a roof over his family's head -- yet he notes: "My real passion is singing. Something I'm coming to realize and it's coming out more and more."

Noting that he's quite the karaoke champ, Richardson says: "There's a passion lying out there for me to be singing on camera. But I feel really good: I can do the voicework and also have the singing bug."

When it comes to voicework, perhaps nothing in his career as been as fortuitous as meeting Seth Macfarlane and getting cast on "The Family Guy" -- the Fox show that returned from cancellation before helping to make Macfarlane a $100-million man with a new contract a couple of years ago.

"I was blown away to see how much that show blew up," Richardson says. "And then to be asked to audition for 'The Cleveland Show' -- I was blown away again."

Again, Richardson admits to not having enough time to watch his own projects. "When my agent approached me about doing the spinoff, I didn't watch 'The Family Guy' enough to know Cleveland really was."

Richardson now considers himself part of Macfarlane's animation family -- a place he appreciates akin to a regular member of the Christopher Guest troupe. Seth "is like Superman with this Animation Domination" on Fox, Richardson says. "He's definitely the king of this ship."

(For "Family Guy," Richardson has done a dead-on Bill Cosby impersonation: "I have no idea where I got it from. I probably learned it from other peole and it all came together, just goofing off.")

The actor also remembers meeting Mike Henry, not knowing the white actor would be voicing Cleveland. "When I went to audition, Mike was just such a nice guy, so we talked and he told me. I was like, 'You're kidding me.' He looked at me, waiting for a reaction, like I was going to kick his [butt]. But basically, we immediately hit it off."

Richardson has also done "The Boondocks" voicework for Aaron McGruder, who the actor says "is a very serious guy, especially for his age -- he's an old soul."

For McGruder's show, he recalls, "I got to play Martin Luther King. That was really a big honor. I know the character dropped an N-bomb, but it was very cool -- especially when I heard that I was cast for the job over Jamie Foxx."

Richardson lets out that warmest of king-sized laughs again. It's the kind of energy that endears him to the Comic-Con crowd.

"I love the scene at Comic-Con," Richardson says. "I dig the crowd. My ADD kicks in. And that really cool ingenuity that goes into the costumes. And all the toys all over that I just gotta have!

"Basically," the actor says, with one last embrace of a laugh, "I'm just a big kid."

At Comic-Con, aren't we all?

[Note: The "Cleveland Show" panel -- featuring Richardson, Macfarlane, Henry, Rich Appel and Sanaa Lathan -- is Saturday at 11:45 Pacific time in Ballroom 20.]



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By Michael Cavna  | July 24, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  San Diego Comic-Con, The Animation  | Tags:  Aaron McGruder, American Dad, Kevin Michael Richardson, Seth Macfarlane, The Boondocks, The Cleveland Show, The Family Guy  
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