Knuckles Season 1: Idris Elba gets seriously silly

By Gen Terblanche14 June 2024

Knuckles Season 1: Idris Elba gets seriously silly

At the end of the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 movie, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) and his buddies Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey) and Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) opted to stay on Earth. For Knuckles, the super-strong and proud alien echidna warrior, that poses a bit of a problem. What is he supposed to do in a time of peace? Fortunately for Knuckles’ earthly guardian, veterinarian Maddie Wachowski (Tika Sumpter), the ancestors have the answer. Knuckles’ ghostly tribal elder Pachacamac (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) gives him a quest to train suburban dad Sheriff Wade Whipple (Adam Pally) to become a mighty hero. 

Rory McCann as The Buyer in Knuckles
Rory McCann as The Buyer

Their mission is in peril when an arms dealer known as The Buyer (Rory McCann), who used to work for Doctor Robotnik, sends two “G.U.N.” agents, Agent Mason (Kid Kudi) and Agent Willoughby (Ellie Taylor), to kidnap Knuckles so that they can harness the power of his quills. Wade might not be ready, but he’s going to have to step up to save his teacher. And  the true battle begins for master and student after Wade’s heroics put a price on his head.

Binge Knuckles Season 1 now.

Scott Mescudi as Agent Mason and Ellie Taylor as Agent Willoughby in Knuckles
L-R: Scott Mescudi as Agent Mason and Ellie Taylor as Agent Willoughby

The series combines the power of fun action sequences that reference the Sonic computer and platform game series, with cheerfully committed live action and animation performances. The result is a delight that tweens and young teens (aged 9-13) and their parents can watch together. But it wouldn’t work anywhere near as well without the weight of absolute conviction that Idris brings to playing Knuckles, especially when he’s baffled by Earth customs. And just watch the scene as Knuckles honours Adam’s mom, Wendy Whipple (Stockard Channing), with the respect due to a queen. 

After years of playing everything from the Norse god Heimdall, to Nelson Mandela, to the last Gunslinger in The Dark Tower, Idris is having a grand time flexing his comedy muscles as the alien version of a spiky Australian marsupial. For parents watching, Idris made his mark as drug gang The Barksdale Organisation’s business minded second-in-command turned leader, Stringer Bell in The Wire Seasons 1-3 – the real brains of the operation. It was also the start of his voice acting career, in a way. To land the role and make it through the audition rounds, Idris, who grew up in London, had to pretend to be from Brooklyn. He did it so well that series showrunner David Simon only found out during the cast-reads that Idris is British!

Idris: serious actor, silly role

Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) now streaming on Showmax
Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba)

Nobody is surprised when someone like Jack Black or Robin Williams puts on a silly voice and “dresses up” as a cartoon animal to go on adventures. Jack Black is a Panda that does kung fu? That’s just real life, right? But out there in animation land, some serious dramatic actors are sneaking around undercover on Showmax. It’s time for a Scooby-Doo style unmasking.

More serious actors as animated characters on Showmax

1. Fireheart

Fireheart is on Showmax

Olivia Cooke is really going through struggles as Queen Alicent Hightower, as she fights for her son to keep the throne in House of the Dragon Season 1-2. She’s having a much more relaxed time with fire as she voices Fireheart’s brave 16-year-old Georgia Nolan, who’s determined to become New York City’s first-ever female firefighter, despite the fact that women are barred from the job in 1932. PS: Freddie Fox, who plays Alicent’s brother Ser Gwayne Hightower in House of the Dragon Season 2, voices Denis the menace in British animated series Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed Season 1.

2. Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 3

Kung Fu Panda 3 on Showmax

Oscar winning dramatic actor Dustin Hoffman, Chester “Ace” Bernstein in HBO series Luck Season 1, brings wit, warmth and wisdom to the voice of Po’s (Jack Black) mentor, Master Shifu the red panda.

3. Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2 and Hotel Transylvania 3

Steve Buscemi, who won a Golden Globe for his performance as old timey gangster Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire Seasons 1-5, growls and prowls his way through playing Wayne the Werewolf. Well, actually no. He’s more of a data processor by day, werewolf by night. PS: Steve is also the voice of DJ’s old neighbour Horace Nebbercracker in Monster House

4. The Boss Baby

Alec Baldwin’s comedy skills are so iconic that it can be easy to forget his action hero roles like playing Jack Ryan in the Hunt for Red October, or the utter “Coffee is for closers” meanness of Blake in drama Glengarry Glen Ross. Nowadays he might be more familiar in romantic lead roles like Jacob Adler in It’s Complicated, but Alec really flexes as corporate schemer baby Ted Templeton Jr, in the title role of Boss Baby. 

5. Trolls and Trolls Band Together

Trolls Band Together on Showmax

In The Gilded Age Seasons 1-2 she’s stuffy and snippy high society dame Agnes van Rhijn. But if you’ve seen her as Tanya Chesham-Leigh in musical comedies Mamma Mia! and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, you know that Christine Baranski has what it takes to serve comic excellence as the hideous, power hungry Chef in Trolls. 

6. Birds Like Us

Jeremy Irons has been an icon among British villains ever since he won an Oscar and Golden Globe for his role as possible wife killer Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune (1991). He was an obvious pick to play the smartest man in the world, Adrian Veidt, in Watchmen Season 1. So when Birds Like Us was looking for someone to voice the tyrannical vulture Kondor, who demands a sacrifice of other birds’ eggs, guess who they turned to!

7. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on Showmax

We’re still up in the air about whether we’d call Barry Seasons 1-4 a comedy. Emmy Award-winning title role actor and series creator Bill Hader was genuinely terrifying as hitman-turned-actor Barry, whether he was on a killing rampage, delusional about reality, or yelling at his girlfriend. Fortunately he’s charmingly nerdy and enthusiastically innocent as the voice of crazy inventor Flint Lockwood in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. 

8. DC League of Super-Pets

DC League of Super-Pets on Showmax

As poker dealer and human lie detector Charlie Cale in Poker Face Season 1, lead actress Natasha Lyonne grabs our attention and never lets go a minute that she’s on screen, no matter what kind of crime she’s investigating. So The Flash should be honoured to gain her Merton the red-eared slider (the turtle, aka Natasha) as his pet after she gains super-speed powers. We bet she has some stories to tell. 

9. Despicable Me

Oscar winning actress Dame Julie Andrews is iconic thanks to her lead roles in musicals like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. She has 67 awards to her name, and earned a new generation of fans playing the graceful Queen Clarisse Renaldi in the Princess Diaries movies (she’s also the voice of Lady Whistledown in the Bridgerton series). It’s a hilarious contrast to her role as supervillain Gru’s endlessly demanding and belittling mom, Marlena Gru. PS: Julie also voices Queen Lillian in the Shrek films and the sea monster Karathen in Aquaman

10. The Amazing Maurice

Amazing Maurice on Showmax

David Tennant, who plays ill-fated Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in drama mini-series Litvinenko Season 1 shows a rattier, softer side as the wise and mystical peasant rat Dangerous Beans in The Amazing Maurice. 

11. Flushed Away

Kate Winslet is the queen of dreary drama as struggling detective Mare in Mare of Easttown Season 1, and as social climbing, poverty dodging and delusional mother Mildred in Mildred Pierce Season 1. But she’s the real bright spot in the sewers as adventurous, resourceful rat Rita Malone in Flushed Away. 

12. Minions

And speaking of rats, Jon Hamm won an Emmy Award and two Golden Globes playing Don Draper in the 1960s-set drama series Mad Men. But he has a taste for comedy, playing himself in Barry Season 1, episode 4, and in Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10, episode 8. And he pounced on the chance to voice mad genius inventor Herb Overkill in Minions, with his ratty sideburns, and even rattier nose. PS: Throughout the franchise, the Minions are voiced by the films’ long-time director, Pierre-Louis Padang Coffin.

13. Monster Family 2

Aside from playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and a host of sneering villains, Jason Isaacs is a deeply serious Admiral John Godfrey in British war drama Operation Mincemeat. But in Monster Family you may call him Count Dracula, Prince of Bats. He’s suave, rich, and tech obsessed. Welcome to the dark side. 

14. Puss in Boots The Last Wish

Puss in Boots The Last Wish is on Showmax

Who’s that stealing porridge and running an infamous gang of three bears? Why, push back those Goldilocks and you’ll recognise Florence Pugh, last seen screaming her way through cult horror film Midsomar, screaming some more in Stepford Wives-Style tech thriller Don’t Worry Darling, playing psychiatrist Jean Tatlock in Oscar smash-hit Oppenheimer, or sitting down for dinner with Morgan Freeman after killing his kid in A Good Person

15. Shrek

Shrek is on Showmax

Fans of serial killer series Dexter are still spooked by the Trinity killer, and women would cross the street to avoid the evil and creepy Roger Ailes in Bombshell. Or you might just know John Lithgow as Perry Mason’s mentor, attorney “E.B.” Jonathan in Perry Mason Season 1-2. Shrek superfans know John as Lord Farquaad – and pronouncing the name in just the right way gives this perverted tyrant the insult he deserves! Shrek enthusiasts can also listen for the voice of theatrical agent Brian Debenham in Funny Woman Season 1, since Rupert Everett plays Prince Charming in Shrek 2.

16. Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

Ruby Gillman Teenage Kraken on Showmax
(from left) Chelsea Van Der Zee (Annie Murphy) and Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor) in DreamWorks Animation’s Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, directed by Kirk DeMicco.

Nobody screams and cries like Toni Collette in movies like The Sixth Sense and Hereditary! She also delivers neurotic grovelling, scheming and desperation in roles like Joni Thrombey in Knives Out, and Macey in The Estate. As Agatha Gillman, though, Toni gets to be Ruby’s loving, supportive super-mom…and the number one real estate agent in Oceanside. Just don’t go near the water. Agatha’s mom is the Queen of the Seven Seas, and she’s hiding a tentacle or two. 

17. SIng

Sing on Showmax

Sing has a stacked cast of musical performers. It also includes Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon the koala and Reese Witherspoon (perfect wife and mother Madeline Martha Mackenzie in Big Little Lies Season 1-2) as Rosita the pig. We really get a kick out of comparing Buster to Matthew’s role as troubled, philosophical detective Rustin Cohle in True Detective Season 1.

18. The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Super Mario Bros. Movie is on Showmax

The iconic and feisty Princess Peach is voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy, who brings a completely different vibe to eerie Viking sorceress Olga of the Birch Forest in The Northman

19. The Secret Life of Pets 2

The Secret Life of Pets 2 is on Showmax

While the voice cast of The Secret Life of Pets is full of comedians, someone serious snuck into the sequel. Listen out for Harrison Ford – Jacob Dutton, patriarch of Yellowstone’s Dutton clan in 1923 Season 1, and future detective Rick Deckard in sci-fi film Blade Runner 2049  – as the voice of Rooster the Welsh sheepdog, the stoic, no-nonsense boss of the farm. 

20. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man Across the Spiderverse on Showmax
Spider-Man/Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ SPIDER-MAN™: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE.

Daniel Kaluuya brings humanity and passion to playing Ernest “Slim” Hines, a young man on the run with his date after killing a racist police officer in Queen & Slim, and we’re biting our nails for him every step of the way after Chris Washington meets his girlfriend’s creepy family in Jordan Peele horror film Get Out. His coolest role ever, though, could be voicing alternate universe Spider-Man Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk. 

21. Penguins of Madagascar: The Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the great British performers in roles like that of tragic, otherworldly painter Louis Wain in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. And he’s been embraced by Sherlock Holmes fans internationally. Benedict uses his iconic voice for good in the heroic role of Penguins’ “Agent Classified”, the Eurasian wolf. The film also includes John Malkovich as Dr Octavius Brin, a giant pacific octopus, and (hilariously) notoriously nihilistic director Werner Herzog as “himself” (a documentary filmmaker). 

22. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is on Showmax

Isabella Rossellini was a go-to if you wanted a sophisticated but softly sexy woman in European cinema in the 1980s. And she is still eye-catching and compelling as brothel head Balbina in Domina Season 1. Her natural accent, warmth and charm make her perfect as the voice of Nana Connie, Marcel’s Italian grandmother, who calls him “Marcello” in Oscar-nominated, Annie Award-winning Marcel the Shell with Shoes on. 

23. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

How To Train Your Dragon on Showmax

Kit Harington, serious-minded and honourable warrior Jon Snow in Game of Thrones Season 1-8, is a perfect match to voice former dragon hunter Eret in this animation. PS: keep your ears on the ground because the great Cate Blanchett voices Hiccup’s mom, Valka Haddock. And look out for Maisie Williams, who plays Jon’s sister Arya in Game of Thrones, as the voice of cavewoman Goona in Aardman Animation’s Early Man. (Early Man also features the voices of British drama heavyweights like Eddie Redmayne as Stoneage caveman Dug, and Tom Hiddleston as Lord Nooth, an evil governor of the Bronze Age City).

24. Happy Feet and Happy Feet 2 (from 17 June 2024)

Hugo Weaving, who played the most threatening collection of binary code ever as Agent Smith in The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions, commits to the penguin waddle as the voice of Noah the Elder emperor penguin, mayor of Emperor-Land. 

Keep your eyes and ears open, animation fans, there are some unexpected actors hopping about as wolves, kangaroos, penguins, monsters and more.