An interview with Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019) actor Justice Smith, who played Tim Goodman in the film. Conducted by phone on May 3rd, 2019, and transcribed by Jeremy Williams.
Justice Smith: Hey Chris, how’s it going?
Chris Mirjahangir: Hey, congratulations on breaking the video game curse for films. This is the best one I’ve ever seen.
Smith: Oh wow, that’s so good to hear, thank you, man.
Mirjahangir: I’m someone who only has a shadow of knowledge of Pokemon. So it’s something I can enjoy.
Smith: Alright, because that’s what we wanted, that’s awesome.
Mirjahangir: You’re a big Pokemon fan?
Smith: Yeah, I’m a big Pokemon fan. I have all the original cards, I had the games, the video games. I had Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Crystal. I watched the anime, I was a huge fan and it had an impact on me and my childhood.
Mirjahangir: Do you keep current and watch the current ones they put out?
Smith: I haven’t seen the current ones, no, I stopped after like generation three. But I do play Pokemon Go now and I plan on getting the new Pokemon Sword and Shield when it comes out on the Switch. Just cuz, I’m… It’s kind of consumed my life now that it’s a part of my career. So it’s kind of like made me get back into it.
Mirjahangir: Pokemon Go I think was the one that was responsible for people losing weight.
Smith: Yeah. I mean, yeah, they’re still doing it. I still see people, like grown men too, like out about fighting at the gyms and stuff.
Mirjahangir: We got a park nearby where a whole bunch of them would be, right. And I looked around and there are people with strollers like almost walking into a pond.
Smith: *laughs* Yeah.
Mirjahangir: But you’re also like an anime fan as well right, do you have any favorites?
Smith: Yeah I love Death Note, I love this one anime Darker than Black, I really like Devilman Crybaby. I like… Those are really dark ones. I like the Miyazaki films as well.
Mirjahangir: What about Dragon Ball?
Smith: My older brother was into Dragon Ball. Um, so I tried to get into it, but I never was never into it. But I did like playing the Dragon Ball games. I also like One Piece, I was a fan of.
Mirjahangir: Assassination Classroom was good, I heard.
Smith: Oh, I haven’t seen that one yet, I’ve heard that one is good, too.
Mirjahangir: So back to the movie, you have a lot of dialogue with Ryan Reynolds. You know ‘cuz you have to kind of have to bounce off to match for the animations of Pikachu. What was that process like?
Smith: So, we had like a week of rehearsals before we started shooting where we found our dynamic. And he wore a motion capture helmet. And kind of just went throughout the whole script, and changed what wasn’t working, and did all this stuff. And then Ryan went away to go record in a booth. And I had to remember what he did and recreate my side of that, um, on set. But the short time I actually did get to work with him was… I mean, just the nicest dude, hilarious and it was cool to see that he’s not just funny on camera. He’s just like that, he just likes to make people laugh and he’s really authentic, too, which is refreshing.
Mirjahangir: When filming scenes with Pikachu, how did you keep your eye line correct and get your reaction time perfect?
Smith: We had a reader that we casted, who would improvise with me and say Ryan’s lines. And then Matt would kind of help us keep timing and also help us keep it loose. And then Ryan, once we shot everything, would go back and dub Pikachu’s voice and make sure it was in line with what I had shot on the day. So it was just both of us collaborating to make it seem like we were in the same room.
Mirjahangir: So this is like the start I guess of an expanded universe, are you signed on for more or?
Smith: I mean I would love for there to be a sequel, you know there’s eight hundred and seven Pokemon I believe. So we definitely have a lot of content. *laughs*
Mirjahangir: Yeah, were there ones you wanted to see in, but they didn’t make it?
Smith: I mean without spoiling which Pokemon are in the movie and which ones or not, yes, the short answer is yes.
Mirjahangir: Are there ones you’re gonna try and push for if there is a sequel?
Smith: Yeah, I’ll try to get the ones I want in the sequel.
Mirjahangir: Yeah, I saw a little bit of Paper Towns. You had like a scene where you were singing the Pokemon theme song. Did you even have to memorize it?
Mirjahangir: Or was it just burned into your brain.
Smith: Well it was burned into my brain and also, funny enough, that song was originally supposed to be Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” But we had to cut it and we had to change it to a different song, and as cast, we were trying to come up with what song we should sing. And I suggested the Pokemon theme song, and that’s the song we ended up doing in the movie. And then here I am years later, leading the first live action Pokemon movie. Which is a crazy coincidence.
Mirjahangir: Did you audition for this or did they call directly, how did it work?
Smith: Well, I had a meeting with Rob and he kind of showed me his vision for the film, and then they flew me out to London to audition. There were other people they were considering as well. But as soon as I saw his vision, I just knew that I had to be a part of it.