Behind the Mic: Yuri Lowenthal Breaks Down the Little Things that Make Spider-Man 2 a Tearjerker, Including Grandpa Earl and Howard’s Mission

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| November 11, 2023

Spider-Man 2, what a game! I wrote a long-ass article about it for all of you, and I’m here again with an extra special guest joining me. I was lucky enough to have a conversation about it with Yuri Lowenthal before the game was released, but now we’re here once more! In case you don’t know who Yuri is (which I highly doubt, but one can never know), he is Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man. He is the one bringing our favorite web-slinging superhero to life. Of course, Yuri Lowenthal did many awesome things even before his time as a superhero. Many will know him as Ben 10, Sasuke on Naruto, Mylo in Arcane, or as various superheroes from DC/Warner animated shows. Literally, if you play any kind of game, it is quite possible that you will hear Yuri’s voice from the different NPCs. Let’s have some spoilery talk about his latest big game, Spider-Man 2, and find out which other villains he would like to see in the game. 

At this point, it’s fair to talk spoilers, so this is your official warning: If you haven’t finished the game yet, do it and come back afterward to read this awesome interview.

Lily: No holding back this time. I need to know all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans, Yuri; let’s dive in! We did talk on our podcast about Peter having the Venom suit, but let’s acknowledge it fully now. First off, I was genuinely upset with Peter, so job well done, but tell me, what was the hardest part in bringing the dickhead side of Peter out? 

Yuri: That he is INHERENTLY “your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” Making Peter actually mean was SO HARD. It was like my body fought it tooth and nail; it felt so unnatural. And at first, it felt false, but we worked it out so that it wasn’t just like a switch got flipped when Pete got the symbiote. There was a progression, and that definitely helped. Good writing. And good direction from Kris Zimmerman, our performance director. But I’ll tell you, I was surprised by how hard it was for me to let Pete be selfish and mean. It’s just so not him. 

Lily: That switch when Peter starts referring to himself as “we” and “us” goosebumps all over. Be honest regarding your previous answer. It must have still felt good to bring out the bad guy side of our beloved Spidey?

Yuri: Yay! It worked! Look, like I said, it was hard, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Every actor will probably tell you they love playing villains. Like you just alluded to, it’s fun because it gives you license to play at being bad, but with zero real-world consequences! I mean, when he first gets the symbiote, there’s no downside because he gets all the new powers, but the symbiote still hasn’t really gotten ahold of him. It’s FUN. But the more he leans into it, the more it gets its claws into him and the less control he has over it. It’s like certain kinds of drugs. At first, they make you feel good, invincible, yourself, but better. But the more you lean into it, the less control you have, and the more the drugs start to influence your behavior, your relationships, your everything. But, again, I got to play at that without any real-world consequences, so even THAT was fun.

Peter’s Spider-Man looking over the city

Lily: Let’s talk about Harry, played by the amazing Graham Phillips. Everyone was waiting for him to show up as we all know how important Peter and Harry’s friendship is… well, let’s be fair, it’s one of the greatest bromances out there. Harry becomes Venom, and Peter is desperate to save his friend from the alien symbiote. Some of the most emotional scenes come regarding the two of them at the endgame. How was that whole experience for you? Am I right to guess that they were some of the most challenging parts to get right?

Yuri: Absolutely. I think it was brilliant of Insomniac to include the flashbacks to younger Pete and Harry and the Coney Island stuff because we know they were friends, but only because we were told that up until now. We never got to see it. This way you could really spend some time with them and come to understand why they were friends. And then that helps your heart break when the stuff that happens finally happens. But it was very important to Insomniac that we really built that relationship, and it was fun because I hadn’t worked with Graham before, and we really got to figure so much out as we went along. In a way, as we were learning more about each other in real life and building a working relationship, the players got to do that as well. Graham is so awesome and fun, and I had a blast working with him. The bromance is real.

Lily: Alright! The Little Things. Howard, Dave Fennoy, man, what a treasure he is. I even messaged you as it was the first time this second game made me cry – many came after. You even told me that it made you cry in the booth while recording those parts. There’s also Grandpa Earl’s mission, and let me tell you – since I know you are not a regular on TikTok – people are absolutely praising these two side missions. After all, it’s what Spider-Man is all about. Do share your thoughts on these two, but tell me what other little things were the best to do on this game?

Yuri: I’ve said it before, but another thing I think is absolutely brilliant that Insomniac does is the little things. The human moments along the way that they spend time crafting that lead to the epic emotional moments at the end of the game. They’re always laying the groundwork as they go. The Howard and Grandpa Earl missions. The robot dog mission, Coney Island. And because it’s a Spider-Man game, and Spider-Man is who he is (and I include Miles here as well), you kind of NEED these moments. Games like this don’t always have the resources to spend time creating these types of moments, so I feel very lucky that we got to do that here. And I think it’s an important reason the game is so good.

The long-awaited hug

Lily: Let’s talk about Miles and Peter. Mentor and student, Master and Padawan, but by the end of this game, the tables have tabled, I mean turned. And even though the story sets up a falling out between you two, Miles never actually leaves Peter’s side. You and Nadji Jeter work perfectly together. What was it like to go through all of these rollercoasters, especially after Spider-Man and Miles Morales?

Yuri: It was hard! After all this energy put into mentoring Miles, it was hard to disappoint him, to fail him, and to create even more work for him, and then, once we make up; to let him go! I mean, as a mentor, of course, you want to get someone to a point where they don’t need you anymore, but then it can be hard to let go. But from a storytelling standpoint, the rollercoaster is where the drama is. Both these characters have to go through the fire again and again. It’d be kind of boring otherwise 🙂 But it wasn’t easy to watch it happen.

Lily: We leave the game with Peter choosing to focus more on being Peter Parker and trusting Miles that he will be fine for a while by himself. But the game also sets up future possibilities in terms of both story and villains. We met Cletus Kasady in this game!!! What Spider-Man villains are you excited to possibly meet in the future?

Yuri: Man, they could go so many different ways at this point, and you’re right; they’ve definitely left us some clues for where they COULD go. But as with every one of these games so far, you get the villains you’re expecting, but there’s also room for surprises! In addition to some of the bigger big bads that are on everyone’s list, I’d love to see some reimagining of lesser-known, maybe even “joke-villains” into something you aren’t expecting. I’ve been a fan of Spot, but we just got him in the ACROSS THE SPIDERVERSE movie, so I don’t know what the deal is there. We’ve seen how cool using portals can be in video games… I think that’d be a super fun element to add. 

MJ, Peter and Miles at the end of the final battle

Lily: I already said many times to the world and to you as well that you are my Spider-Man, easily. You perfectly embody Peter Parker and Spidey, just as they were always meant to be. What do you think the future holds for your Peter? What is it that you want to explore more when it comes to his story?

Yuri: You are so sweet. Thank you. This really does still feel like a dream I have yet to wake up from. I’d be happy for Peter to go anywhere at this point as long as the brilliant people at Insomniac keep writing him stories… and let me stay on! But we started with Pete, a little older than we normally see him, and he’s gone through a lot. He’s entering a new stage of his hero journey, sure, but also his journey as a human being. What does he want out of life now? Can he finally let go of being Spider-Man? We often forget that he’s a brilliant scientist. Could spending more time science-ing actually result in him helping even more people than he does as Spidey? Could he commit to a relationship with MJ and maybe even start a family? Or is it just too much fun being Spider-Man? He feels the weight of responsibility so intensely, probably too much so, really. What would it take for him to let some of that go? I mean, I’m not asking for a game where Pete just goes to therapy for the whole game, but the guy’s got issues, and he works them out on the streets, fighting crime. What happens when that changes? In the end, I know whatever Insomniac comes up with will be great. 

Lily: Thank you so much, Yuri, for answering all these questions and allowing us to have a spoiler-filled, fun talk. Before you go, one last question: What is your message to all those who played or still playing Spider-Man 2?

Yuri: It’s been my pleasure, really. Thank you for loving the first one so much that we really had to reach for the stars on the next one. Thanks for taking the journey with us, but also for helping us to keep crafting better games. Now, go play it again.

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