Christopher Daniel Barnes About Credits Gallery Links
'Chris Barnes, The Spectacular Spider-Man' -- click for full-sized image From STARLOG #213, April 1995, p. 52-55.

Chris Barnes, The Spectacular Spider-Man

Christopher Daniel Barnes, Starman's son,
has a brand-new secret identity.

By PAT JANKIEWICZ


As Christopher Daniel Barnes rushes into Hugo's, a trendy West Los Angeles eatery, one can't help but notice his resemblance to Peter Parker, the college student who secretly fights crime as Spider-Man. For one thing, he's late! But maybe that's a trait he picked up while voicing the Marvel hero in 65 episodes of Spider-Man, Fox TV's new animated series.

The actor, best known for his role as the son of TV's Starman, enjoys playing the hero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. "I'm keeping Peter Parker a nice, sweet guy. He would be really cool, except he has all this pressure and responsibility. He's not a geek, he's just so burdened by saving the world that people don't understand him.

"I make my voice a little higher and more innocent for Peter. When he's got the costume on, my voice comes down. I don't focus on Peter's guilt, but he occasionally thinks, 'I can't take it anymore, my whole life is falling apart because of Spider-Man,' and wants to throw in the costume.

"We did an episode called 'Spider-Man No More,' and every time he gets in that mode and sees a crime taking place, he feels, 'I can't throw in the towel.' Peter Parker isn't perfect. He makes mistakes. Hell, he began his career feeling responsible for his uncle's death. He realizes he must recover from these mistakes and persevere."

"In 'Spider-Man No More,' I actually get to say, 'With great power comes great responsibility!'" he smiles. "It isn't pretentious like Superman's 'Truth, Justice and the American Way' speech; it's very Spider Man. I think the single greatest element of any mythical hero is the responsibility of power and that's Spidey's most important aspect.

"I play it very straight and very real. That's the quality of Spidey—-he wrestles with himself over his demons and responsibility. The fact that he always ends up saying, 'I have to do this-—with great power must also come great responsibility!' is what's so noble about him. I like that he acknowledges his problems and admits his fears, but still overcomes them.

 
Barnes and Hays in 'Starman'
Barnes still has fond memories of his time as the son of Starman. "It got me into the mind frame of exploring myth, aliens and magic."

"There's also lots of comedy," Barnes notes. "Spidey is always making quips and joking. I also do internal monologues—-you know, those inner thoughts that Spidey has in the comic books? There's a great one in 'Night of the Lizard.' I'm underwater having a vicious fight with the Lizard, but at the same time I'm having this surreal thought it's so strange... this man was a scientist just days ago."'

Barnes was "a huge Spidey fan as a kid. The time period we're concentrating on in the show is the one I'm most familiar with in Spidey's life. I know Peter Parker-—it's a deep character study. I read all the early '80s stuff like Secret Wars. We're doing some Spidey stories from a little before and after Secret Wars"

Barnes already has a favorite supervillain. "It's the Hobgoblin, because Mark Hamill [who voices him] blew me away," he admits. "I was standing next to him—-I usually stand next to the villains when we're taping—-and Mark was so great, I found myself having to rise to the occasion! It was like, 'This guy's really intense, so I've really got to be a hero!'

"Mark is a nice guy and a great Hobgoblin. He scared me," the actor confides. "His Hobgoblin is very different from his Joker [whom Hamill also voices on the animated Batman}. They were careful to make sure it sounded different, with a different texture. My favorite villains so far are Hobgoblin and Kraven the Hunter."


Christopher Daniel Barnes, 1995
Barnes photo: Lisa Orris
  Peter Parker in 'Spider-Man: The Animated Series'

Amazing Hero
The animated Spider-Man explores various SF/fantasy concepts. For example, there's the black, alien costume which briefly possesses Peter Parker and then merges with Eddie Brock to become Venom. "That was the most challenging story because it was so far out—-I'm literally battling my costume," Barnes explains. "It had intense battle sequences. It's really spiritual in a weird way. Venom is like a biblical avenger, spouting poetry and all. I love the Venom shows—-like 'The Alien Costume'-—because Venom is very bizarre and interesting.

"What was so challenging is that Hank Azaria, who plays Eddie Brock, did this really extreme transformation from Brock into Venom. I had to come in and do Spidey's transformation when the suit tries to possess him after Hank did his. I had to listen to what he did and how extreme he took it.

"When Peter has the costume on, it starts taking him over, so he has to get rid of it. I wanted to mimic a little of what Hank did to match it and to foreshadow what would happen if he kept the costume on. When Hank did his thing, it sounded horrifying, but Spidey didn't have to be that intense because he got rid of the costume before it took control. His voice did get deeper and grittier" Barnes notes in a guttural tone.

"It will be really intense and vivid," he promises of the multi-part story. "Eddie Brock knows my secret identity after he becomes Venom. That's what's so freaky to Peter, as well as the fact that my spider-sense can't pick him up. The Venom shows are my favorites because of the emotional arcs. They were the most challenging in terms of acting. We had to do these intense scenes in bell towers because it's more than just fighting,—-it's a spiritual epiphany for Venom to beat Spider-Man!

"The show keeps true to the comic," the actor declares. "It's like radio drama; we're not gonna get hokey. When we do Venom, it's not [strikes a fey voice], 'Oh no, it's Venom! I'm spooked!' The scenes we're doing are like [lapses into anguished Peter Parker voice], I'll never be free! My soul is in torment—-Venom has taken over my life!' It's really heavy stuff, not casual and light like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends or the cartoon from the '60s."

Barnes got the spider-gig "because I fought for the part—-I went in biting and clawing the other guys," he laughs. "Basically, I went in and knew I was gonna get it. That sounds vain, but as soon as I read, I told Saratoga Ballantine [who plays Mary Jane], I'll see you on the first show.'

"I knew I was gonna get it. I don't know if it was because I couldn't bear not to get it because I love Spider-Man so much, or if I just felt I was right," says Barnes, who won the role over such competition as Bill (The Rocketeer) Campbell.

"I grew up on Spider-Man comics. I knew exactly who he was, his quips, his humor and his burden, so I had a strong feeling I would get the part. I was ecstatic when I did. I'm honored to play him and hope I live up to everyone's expectations of what Spider-Man should be.

"Spider-Man's a true hero to me. I like him not just because I'm playing him, but because he worries about doing the right thing. He never kills anybody or is just violent for the sake of being violent, like some superheroes. Unlike the Punisher, he's not a vindictive avenger."

Barnes and Hays in 'Starman' -- Click for full-sized image
"Starman meant a lot," states Barnes of his first big break into television, alongside Robert Hays, who, ironically enough, now voices Iron Man.   All Starman Photos: Copyright 1986 Columbia Pictures Television

  Starman's Son
Barnes "was born in Maine, moved to New York when I was 8—-which is also when I got into acting—-and moved to LA at 13 and been here ever since. I came out because I got Starman and then I did Day by Day with Julia Louis Dreyfus, pre-Seinfeld. I also did loads of stuff in New York; a lot of movies-of-the-week after Day by Day. I even did Frankenstein: The College Years!"

Besides roles in American Dreamer and The Brady Bunch Movie, Barnes took part in another blockbuster film. "I was the Prince in The Little Mermaid" he says proudly. "If I never do anything else, Disney on laserdisc is eternal! I'll be able to show it to my great-grandkids!

'The Little Mermaid'
"I was the Prince in The Little Mermaid," Barnes boasts. "If I never do anything else, Disney on laserdisc is eternal!"   Mermaid art: Copyright 1989 The Walt Disney Company

"It's my favorite of all the Disney films," he confides. "I'm not just saying that because I'm biased. In every animated film that came after, all the women look like Ariel."

He didn't reprise the role On the Little Mermaid TV series, which, since it takes place before the film, infrequently uses the character.

Barnes' most famous fantasy role was the half-human/half-alien teenager on Starman (which he discussed in STARLOG #147). "I have a lot of great memories from doing the show," he notes. "Starman meant a lot; it was my first big series and it got me into the mind frame of exploring myth, aliens and magic. Remember those weird, mystical spheres we had on the show? I'm really from the comic-book world, but that got me interested in making a show about it.

"We traveled everywhere; we went all over California on Starman. Every episode was literally on location. We went to Sedona, Arizona to film the episode where we find Jenny Hayden briefly. Sedona was beautiful. This is a great memory-—midnight during a full moon on Halloween.

"I went into the state park with Adam Taylor, a good friend of mine who was a production assistant on the show, to see these caves. The guy in the guard booth knew we were filming the series so he let us in. We spent three hours in the middle of nowhere. We were out there looking at the stars and thinking about the show. Sedona, Arizona is very magical.

"Robert Hays [who played his alien dad] is a really great guy and a good mentor. I enjoyed working with him on Starman. It was eight years ago and I've seen Bob maybe twice since the show was cancelled. I saw Patrick Culliton after the show and I get information from Spotlight Starman [the series' fan organization] all the time. The guy I went on the hike with, Adam Taylor [husband of Battlestar Gatactica actress Anne Lockhart], recently died in a motorcycle accident and Spotlight Starman had a piece on him."

Barnes has fond memories of his Star-Mom. "Erin Gray [Wilma Deering on Buck Rogers) played my mother, and I had a big crush on her," the actor sheepishly confesses. "I thought she was hot! I was like, 'C'mere, Mom! Lemme give you a big hug!' Hey, I was 14 and that's what happens."

He's happy that Hays is portraying another Marvel hero, Iron Man, on the syndicated Marvel Action Hour. "I'm really looking forward to doing a crossover where Spidey and Iron Man get together. I found out that he was doing Iron Man right before we did our first show. I went over to see Bob a couple of months ago and we talked and joked about it. If Iron Man gets picked up for more episodes, we might do a crossover.

"We're taping Spider-Man's second season now and it's even more intense than the first--we're about to do the story where I get six arms. Spidey goes through this mutation process and gets extra arms.

"On the show, I live with Aunt May, but later I get my own pad with Harry Osbome. He's played by Gary lmhoff, the prince in Thumbelina. We're the two princes! The Aunt May scenes are very tender and humorous because Aunt May is always saying, 'Oh, that horrible Spider-Man. What a menace to society!'

"Aunt May hasn't had a heart attack yet, but I'm sure she will," he says, referring to one of Aunt May's defining comic-book characteristics. "When the Hobgoblin kicks the door in and knocks her down, she goes into a coma. I decide not to move out because of what happens."



Altered Ego
The actor is happy with his co-stars. "Saratoga is great as Mary Jane. In the comics, Mary Jane has known Peter Parker is Spider-Man for a long time. She finally tells him [she knows] after Peter pushes her out because he's fighting Puma, I don't think the Mary Jane on our show knows yet.

"Ed Asner is a great J. Jonah Jameson. Ed is also fearless; he'll say anything any time to anyone anywhere! He's so bold and forthright--I like that, as long as you're on his good side!

"It's funny; Ed takes these little catnaps between takes where he'll shut his eyes and he's snoring. You look over and see that his part is only five lines away. Suddenly, he awakens, stands up and delivers a perfect reading in one take! It's a skill I wish I could learn!

"I really like [story editor] John Semper. And Stan Lee is probably the coolest guy ever. Stan is like my two favorite Marvel heroes—-Spider-Man and Dr. Strange—-wrapped up in one guy."

'The Amazing Spider-Man' comic
Bits of the animated Spider-Man come directly from the comics. "I actually get to say 'With great power comes great responsibility!'" raves Barnes.   Comic art: Steve Ditko/Copyright 1962 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc.

  Barnes' next on-screen role brings to life another popular icon. "I'm Greg Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie. What can we say about Greg? He's a Brady! I'm true to the spirit of Greg; happy-go-lucky with lots of smiling. You won't believe the clothes—-the gag is that it's 1995, but they still act and dress like it's 1970! It's gonna be out of control.

"You will see Johnny Bravo [Greg's rock-and-roll alias]. Greg will be singing and dancing and I think that's enough! We shot it on the Paramount lot and they were doing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager across from us on Brady, so I thought I would casually walk over and take a look," he shrugs. "Security was intense: 'Freeze! Freeze! Down on the ground!' It was like going to the White House!"

The Brady kids in 'The Brady Bunch Movie'
"You won't believe the clothes," Barnes exclaims of The Brady Bunch Movie in which he plays Greg. "It's gonna be out of control."   Brady photo: Elliot Marks/Copyright 1994 Paramount Pictures Corp.

As for the future, "Brady Bunch is now out and I'm in negotiations for some other things, but nothing's definite." One thing he would die to do is audition for James Cameron's live-action Spider-Man film. "I would love to do the movie," Christopher Daniel Barnes proclaims. "I've fought Venom so many times, I would hate to see somebody else get the chance!"

PAT JANKIEWICZ, veteran STARLOG correspondent, profiled Patricia Tallman in issue #209.

Last updated May 18, 2003       Designed and maintained by Indigo Xia.

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