Colleen O’Shaughnessey has been voicing Miles “Tails” Prower in video games and cartoons since 2014; here, she tells EW about taking the lovable fox to the big screen.
After the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie brought the iconic blue speedster (Ben Schwartz) into a recognizably human world, this month’s sequel introduces his most important supporting characters from the long-running video game franchise. But while Knuckles the Echidna is portrayed by Idris Elba, the lovably nerdy fox Miles “Tails” Prower is voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey — the same actress who’s voiced him in video games and cartoons since 2014.
O’Shaughnessey is, in fact, the only Sonic voice actor to carry over from the games into the burgeoning live-action film franchise.
“It’s really huge for me, and it’s huge for the voiceover community,” O’Shaughnessey tells EW. “I can’t tell you how many of them have reached out to me, and they’re genuinely excited. That is the best thing about the voiceover community: We are all rooting for each other. While it’s a huge win for me, it’s a huge win for all of us. I just got a text in all caps with a million exclamation points from one of my friends about it this morning. It’s just very exciting and unusual. I’ve been doing this for a really long time, and I had no illusions that I would get to do this movie. It just doesn’t often happen. I feel so fortunate; it’s amazing.”
These new movies are busy minting lots of young new Sonic fans, but there’s also a pre-existing fanbase who have been following the franchise for years. From the moment Tails popped up in the post-credits teaser at the end of 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog, those fans were excited to hear O’Shaughnessey’s voice on the big screen.
“The fans really appreciate it. The support I’ve gotten from the fanbase has been overwhelming and just so lovely,” O’Shaughnessey says. “I’m so grateful for all of them. They couldn’t be better. They are just so happy that Paramount did it. It gives a through-line for them. If you’re a huge fan of Sonic and you’ve been playing the games, you get used to what a character sounds like, and that’s who it is to you.”
After all these years of playing him, O’Shaughnessey has naturally gained some insight into what makes Tails tick.
“He is so very smart — basically genius level, he makes all these cool gadgets,” she says. “He’s loyal. He’s the best friend you’re ever gonna have. He’s sweet, he’s endearing, and he’s funny — mostly without meaning to, I think!”
Tails is also a big fan of Sonic. In the new film, all this precocious young fox wants is to help his hero save the world. Schwartz, for his part, is a big fan of O’Shaughnessey and enthusiastically praises her talent.
“She is amazing,” Schwartz tells EW. “Watching her go through this process of premieres and this and that, I think she’s such a wonderful, special, kind, talented human. I text her before all the things, just checking in with her, and she’s just awesome. She’s enjoying it all, and she deserves it because she’s a super pro.”
It’s fairly common practice in animation for women to voice young male characters like Tails. Over the years, O’Shaughnessey has learned how to modulate her voice for different characters as part of honing her craft.
“When I first started out, my voices were girls — although I would do impressions of boys all the time,” she says. “But once I had a callback, and the casting director was like, ‘You sound too much like a boy.’ We got through the audition, and at the end, she said, ‘You need to go and tell your agent that you do boy voices.’ So I had to really think about that. Young kids sound very similar, but you can tell when a boy’s talking versus a girl most of the time. So I had to figure out, what does that sound like?”
O’Shaughnessey continues, “My neighbor at the time had a younger boy, so I would listen to him, and I would watch TV and pay attention to what boys sounded like versus what girls sounded like, at any given age. I really worked on putting myself in that mindset. Then I had kids, and my boy was very typically boy, and my girl was very typically girl. Watching the way that he approached his environment or a toy versus the way she did, it was very different. So I just grabbed onto those. Now, having done this for so long, when I’m given a script that has a boy or a girl or whatever, in any given age, I can kind of just dial in naturally.”
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is in theaters now.