Jay Pharoah is bringing cool to his Bulletproof role on Invincible: “He could just get cooler”

The actor talks about what to expect from his superhero role in the second half of Season 2 - and whether we'll see him in live action.

22nd Annual Visual Effects Society Awards
22nd Annual Visual Effects Society Awards / Olivia Wong/GettyImages

It was a long wait for Invincible Season 2, but one of the highlights was the introduction of Jay Pharoah as Bulletproof. The character first popped up absolutely ripping into fellow superhero Rex-Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), establishing that in the middle of all the in-fighting and romances in the superhero team Guardians of the Globe, Bulletproof was above and beyond all of that.

“I started watching Invincible after I got it, but I always wanted to get a chance to play a superhero,” Pharoah told Bam Smack Pow. “And it was definitely an attractive character that I felt like I could adapt to… This character has a certain coolness that I really don't get a chance to play.”

When Invincible returns for the second half of Season 2 on Thursday, March 14, Bulletproof is back in the mix as well. And while we won’t spoil what’s in store for the superheroes (you can read our overall spoiler-free thoughts in our Invincible Season 2 Part 2 review), just know that Bulletproof will continue to be extremely cool.

For more on that, how the character came together, and whether we’ll ever see Pharoah as Bulletproof in live action, read on.

Bam Smack Pow: This is the most obvious question first, but just because I haven't actually talked to anybody in the cast yet, I'm curious about recording for the show, since obviously it varies from animated series to series. Did you get to record with anyone else or was this one all solo?

Jay Pharoah: No, no, no. It was definitely all solo. Just me and the producers and the flow of words.

Invincible Season 2 Part 2
Zachary Quinto (Robot), Gillian Jacobs (Atom Eve), Jay Pharaoh (Bulletproof), Ben Schwartz (Shapesmith) /

You've done a ton of different animated projects, how do you form a dynamic with actors through voice work when you're not actually interacting with them? I imagine at least a little bit of it is the old adage about acting being reacting. But I'd love to hear from you.

I mean, I guess that just speaks to the precision of the script writing… When folks are really good with the storyline and they can see it too, they can coach you, they can coach you with how to ... Or, "Such and such is going to say this." Or even them playing the lines, and you listening to them. If you're a good actor, you can pick up a certain vibe, I mean, a certain feeling, energy, and you can translate that back.

But I mean, everybody has a role when it comes down to it. And the directors and the writers do a really good job because we don't get a chance to actually record together like some of the other shows probably would. So it's just everybody being on their A-Game.

And what drew you to this in particular, other than obviously jobs are nice, but was this something that you had seen the first season of and you were intrigued to come in for Season 2, or was it something that just kind of came your way?

It definitely came my way. I started watching Invincible after I got it, but I always wanted to get a chance to play a superhero. And it was definitely an attractive character that I felt like I could adapt to. And then… This character has a certain coolness that I really don't get a chance to play. So I definitely think they knocked the ball out of the ballpark with that one as well, and me as well [Laughs].

I didn't know how big Invincible was. And then, damn, dammit, if I'm not the coolest person when I go back for Thanksgiving with my little cousins. You know what I mean? They're fans of the show. And now, after watching it, man, and being a part of it, dude, it's ... Live-action is on the way, hopefully it is. And yeah, brother, so that's what drew me.

This is not nerd gatekeeping you at all, I'm just curious, have you read ahead at all? Is there anything you're looking forward to in terms of potentially what's coming with Bulletproof, or are you just playing it episode by episode?

I know in the comic book, his role is a tad bigger. Of course, possibly the arc with his twin brother, that as well. But really I would look forward to his character becoming even more of [central character] like Invincible or something like that. I feel like he could do that. So I'm looking forward to that, if they do build to that arc.

I'm looking forward to if he gets in the Invincible costume, I think that would be very cool as well… You actually do a few voices on the show. Again, this is just a very logistical question, but I'm curious, do you bang all of that out in one day or over multiple days? Or is it you come in for a Bulletproof session and then you're coming back for, what is it, Data Twin #1, or whatever else?

[Laughs] No, I do all of those in the session together. But the Bulletproof lines are probably the ones that take the longest. So those are the ones we typically knock out first, and then we go back and I do the other multiple characters. But it's all in one day, man. Yeah, I got a vocal powerhouse here. It's crazy.

And are you doing it to anyone? To use a specific example, you were talking about the coolness and he has such a cool introduction, just digging into Jason Mantzoukas's Rex Splode in the first half of the season. Are you working off of Mantzoukas's lines or is it just you're doing it into the ether and hopefully you're syncing up in some sense?

I'll hear what I have to react to, so I'll definitely play off the characters like that and be like, "Okay, well, this character kind of looks like such and such," or I'll try to do this type of voice. Or the directors, they'll be like, "All right, well, cool. Well, maybe try it like this. Or maybe he's this ..." They describe it and then you just go and you hope that you knock it out of the park.

One of the major themes of the season, at least the way that I see it, is growing up. Bulletproof seems… pretty good. He seems to know who he is.

Oh, yeah.

What do you see has his character arc over the course of the season? Or is it really just more about he's this element who comes in, is doing a job and then leaves at the end of the day?

No, I think with him just being able to not blow his top off in any situation, to always have a firm grasp [of] your emotions and always be able to be cool. Yeah, it doesn't seem like he's [making] that much of a difference.

But however, he's got to be moving forward, and he's definitely ... What can happen? He could just get cooler. He could just get cooler in situations as it goes on. So I think the coolness even grew a little bit more this season. He's Bulletproof, dog. He is who he is, but lo and behold, with everything growing on the show, he's growing as well. He's not staying still.

You mentioned the live-action earlier. I know that's something in the background, has been in development for a very long time. Have you been getting in Kirkman's ear at all about playing live-action Bulletproof?

Actually, I have brought it up to them, and there've been a couple of conversations, but nothing is solidified yet. So hopefully in the future we can do it, because I would definitely love to play Bulletproof.

At the very least you’re dealing with multiverse stuff, so maybe you do a live-action version of the universe or something like that. I'll just keep pitching stuff out until we get you live-action, that's what I'm doing here.

[Laughs] Yeah, I think if everybody pitches in and says a word, then it will definitely get made.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Invincible Season 2 Part 2 premieres Thursday, March 14 on Prime Video at 8/7c.

Next. Invincible Season 2 Part 2 review: Growing up is hard to do. Invincible Season 2 Part 2 review: Growing up is hard to do. dark