Talking toymaking with WWE's wackiest.
Some WWE superstars break character when doing interviews. Kane notably did not set journalists on fire when asked about his movie See No Evil. The Rock refrains from laying the smack down when he's out of the arena. Sometimes, he even talks in the first person.
Santino Marella, however, retains the hilariously exaggerated Italian personality that has made him a reliable figure of fun on Monday Night Raw. Perhaps that's why he's the perfect spokesperson for Mattel's kid-friendly line of WWE toys. GCD caught up with Santino just prior to SummerSlam this past weekend in Los Angeles. And yes. He's an action figure. Of course we asked what it feels like to play with himself.
GeekChicDaily: You said you got rid of your unibrow for a wedding. What happened to the fauxhawk?
Santino Marella: Well, you know, I'm trying to be a little more corporate and to be honest, it was exposing some weaknesses I had in my hairline. I have some thinning, male-pattern baldness and I want to cover it. The unibrow will be back in no time, don't worry.
GCD: What's the process like of getting your own action figure made?
SM: Sometimes the Mattel people come to where we're performing Raw, and they'll do pictures: a 360 profile, then for individual things like tattoos they'll do close-ups of each individual tattoo and condense it down as accurately as possible. Sometimes they take individual photos of your shoes or kneepads, details of your outfit, then take all this information back and do it together. Then when they get back, that's when the technology kicks in. That's when they start making 3-D models and decorating based on the photos.
GCD: So it's just based on photos? They don't make you stand in a laser-scanning booth?
SM: Sometimes my memory is a bit confused between the action figures and the video games. I know we scan for the video games for sure and I think we do more of a manual scan with photos from every ten degrees for the toys - it's kind of like a scan.
GCD: How do they decide whether the figure has a happy face or a screaming face - is that something you have input on?
SM: It depends on where you are in terms of your character. If you're a bad guy, you're probably going to have an angry face. But I'm a pretty happy character these days, so I think my packaging is reflective of that.
GCD: You were always a pretty happy bad guy too, though.
SM: Ah, but it was different happy - it was "oblivious to the boos" happy. This is "I appreciate the cheers" happy.
GCD: You were part of the very first WWE Mattel lineup. What was that like, being chosen for that initial rollout?
SM: It was great professional recognition, to know that you're somebody the kids would be interested in purchasing. When you're in Walmart or Target and you see yourself on the shelf, that's pretty exciting. But sometimes I'm not there on the shelf - I'm assuming I'm sold out! People catch me in the aisles looking for toys, and I always have to go, "It's for my nephew. My nephew." I played with Mattel as a kid, so it's very nostalgic for me.
GCD: What's been your favorite figure of yourself so far?
SM: The most recent one (Best of 2011) is the best one. It's the most current in terms of what I still wear. Sometimes you change some things and then when the action figure comes out...for example, when the figure with the fauxhawk came out, I didn't have a fauxhawk any more and I didn't have the black boots when the first one came out. [Looking at the current figure:] This one here is the same uniform: same outfit, same haircut, same everything. It's the most up to date with all my tattoos, which are almost more detailed on it than my actual tattoos. And this I've never seen - there's actually a fade in the hair. When I look at the face, I see my mother, because I have my mother's cheeks.
GCD: If you could do a specific defining moment that's more elaborate than the regular figure, what would it be?
SM: Hmmm. I would like to see a two-pack with Vladimir Kozlov and the tag-team titles. We deserve that. We were a tag team for one year straight and that would be nice to see.
GCD: But he's no longer with the company, right?
SM: Well, neither are the Legends...
GCD: You've been hilarious as a comedic character, but there's some feeling that it's tough for a comedy wrestler to be in the main event. Do you think that's right, or do you see yourself someday being the champ?
SM: Interesting question; I debate that myself. You do have more longevity and always have a place when you're the comedic component, but I know I'm developing the skills to become a main-event competitor. My grappling's better; my conditioning is better. I'm more experienced. When I first started I was basically fresh, like a rookie. So it''s not something you can pick up very quickly. It takes many years. But I'm becoming better and Triple H actually told me that you can still be a comedy person, but you can now put the jokes on the other person instead of yourself. So I can still be funny and be competitive.
GCD: When you were a kid, what was your favorite action figure?
SM: My favorites? I had G.I. Joes and He-Mans.
GCD: Now that you have your own, do you ever use him to knock around any of the old ones?
SM: No, I don't have the old ones any more. But I keep one (of myself) on my dresser - every morning I wake up, he's right there, a little "Son-o-ma-gun!" looking right at me. And my girlfriend, she looks like a Bratz doll, so we make them play. But not bad play!
Stay tuned to GeekChicDaily for a special giveaway from Mattel later this month.