Who wouldn’t want a second shot at playing Iron Man? Adrian Pasdar first got the chance in 2010’s Iron Man series for G4, but the property had been adapted from a Japanese series, so it was a challenge to make his lines fit the action. This time, Pasdar feels a bit more comfortable with the role of Tony Stark and his hero alter-ego, and will be making his first appearance in a series of episodes of Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man starting this Sunday, April 22 at 11am ET/PT, as part of the network’s Marvel Universe block.
In the episode, young Spider-Man (Drake Bell) meets one of his heroes, Iron Man, and receives an Iron Spider suit developed specially for him by tech wizard Tony Stark. But there’s a steep learning curve to operating the complex suit, and Spidey has to figure it all out before he jeopardizes his relationship with his fellow teen super heroes.
I had to wonder if playing the Tony Stark role in the face of Robert Downey Jr.’s now-iconic portrayal put anything of a crimp in Pasdar’s style as he worked to bring life to Iron Man for Ultimate Spider-Man. “It’s funny,” he remarks. “From the outside, it appears — and I’ll bet you Robert would probably confirm this — it appears as if a singular actor has put a stamp on a character when it’s finally in the theaters. So many people go into making that thing happen, without the least of which are the people that you’re working with immediately in a scene. … Other people obviously come with preconceptions as they do with Tony Stark, sure, because it’s been such a success on the big screen, but in the performing of it, the immediate surroundings and the dialogue and the people you’re working with really help define the character in a completely original way.”
In making the role of Tony Stark his own for Ultimate Spider-Man, Pasdar has simply tried to please his own creative sensibilities and meet his own standards, but he’s looking forward to the critical feedback of his target audience — namely, his two sons. “I just watched the first two or three [episodes] with my 7-year-old,” he says, noting that his 11-year-old is also a fan. “I’m excited — mostly for my kids. They watch this stuff — it’s right in their wheelhouse.”
Beyond just the very real and gratifying enthusiasm of one’s children, there has to be a certain resonance in playing a character that you likely remember from your own childhood. But as Pasdar explains, his character and those around him in Ultimate Spider-Man are clearly different from the ones of his youth. “These characters are kind of real, in a different way than the Spider-Man I grew up with,” he says. “I mean, they were real then, too, for me. But I think now the demographic is much more relatable in terms of friendship and high-school life, and the things that these kids are going through. They make mistakes, which is cool — and they learn from them. So Tony is not this infallible [character] — even though he is perceived as a big hero of Spider-Man. … He makes mistakes along the way, although he’d never admit it — you know, he’s an egomaniac — but he learns from them, along with the other characters.”