Editorial: Remembering That Time I Met Charles Martinet

It all happened at E3 2017…

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/25/2023 14:24 Comment on this     ShareThis

Nintendo just announced that Charles Martinet will be vacating his iconic role as the voice of Super Mario. As many know Martinet wasn’t the first actor to tackle the part; that honor goes to Lou Albano. Albano, alongside actor Danny Wells, brought the famous plumber brothers to life on the small screen in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show back in 1989. It was eventually followed by the abortive Super Mario Bros. film of 1993 starring Bob Haskins as the titular hero. Growing up in this era, these were my first exposures to the voice of Super Mario, but when Martinet took on the part in 1996’s Super Mario 64, it was a game changer. Think something along the lines of Robert Downey, Jr. taking on the role of Tony Stark for the first time. If you were a longtime comic book fan, you’d seen and even heard interpretations of the character before, but Downey came in and owned the part. He essentially overrode everyone that came before him and asserted himself as the definitive Tony Stark.

With Martinet, it was much the same. His voice simply embodies everything fans love about the character: friendliness, energy, happiness, and endless optimism. And I was lucky enough to meet him once… entirely by accident!

It was E3 2017. I would make my way to the Los Angeles Convention Center each year by way of a bus/train redeye combo courtesy of Amtrak. It’s a hellish trek (if you’ve ever ridden an Amtrak bus you might understand my consternation), but to conflate matters I was also sick as a dog that year. I had a massive fever and soar throat and almost faked out on going to the show (this was a pre-COVID world, dear readers). But it was E3! I couldn’t possible miss the biggest show of the year. It was for work, yes, but it’s also a great personal joy—so made the trek I did.

I arrived at the convention center around 9 or so in the morning. E3 was one of the biggest spectacles a video game lover could ever hope to see. Split into two massive halls, the convention center became a wonderland of lavish floor displays that made it feel like walking through a theme park. Being as objective as I can, Nintendo’s booth was always both the most attended and the most elaborate. In 2017 the entire booth was a recreation of New Donk City in celebration of Mario Odyssey. In a haze of fever and pain I wandered the floor, staring up at faux brick buildings and giant replicas of Mario as a tank.

Suddenly, as I stared out towards the throngs of people swarming the show floor, I saw a large crowd converging directly towards me. Before I could move, I was quickly surrounded and standing next to none other than the voice of Mario himself, Charles Martinet. I was floored. I don’t tend to interact with celebrities in any capacity, yet there I was with one of the best known voice actors in the world. I became slightly panicked; what the heck was I supposed to do? I decided to keep things basic and said, “hello! You’re Charles Martinet, aren’t you?” To which he smiled and said yes. Feeling bold, I decided to ask him for his autograph, but with the show having just started I didn’t have anything of note for him to sign. I settled on my press badge, handed him a Sharpie, he gave it a quick signature, we took a photo together, and then Martinet and the crowd shuffled off to parts unknown. I stood there in a mild state of shock.

The whole exchange lasted less than three minutes, yet it still felt somewhat monumental. I’d crossed paths with a genuine childhood hero, the voice of one of my favorite video game characters. Martinet was every bit the jovial, friendly soul he seems to be in the games and in interviews. In that brief encounter he was genial and warm, taking the time to give his attention to some random dude that happened to cross his path that morning. Martinet by all accounts represents all of the good in Mario, making him the perfect fit for the character. Without him it’s going to be tough to see how Nintendo proceeds voicing Mario (and the many other characters Martinet lent his talents to) in the future. For now, I think I and many other fans will simply enjoy the years of fun games that Martinet played such a big part in bringing to life and be grateful for the huge impact he left on so many of us.

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