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For Nadji Jeter, stepping back into the role of Miles Morales for Insomniac’s Spider-Man 2 was a chance to learn some new skills — outside the realm of webswinging. Among them was studying American Sign Language, which Miles uses to communicate with street artist Hailey Cooper in the game, which has been praised for its deaf representation.
“We had great teachers on set. I’ve always embraced it, because I feel like we’re touching a lot of communities,” Jeter tells The Hollywood Reporter. “A lot of people out there that can sometimes feel like they get excluded. But in Spider Man 2, everyone is connected with this game.”
In Spider-Man 2, Jeter also formed a relationship with genre legend Tony Todd, who plays Venom in the game.
“That’s my uncle, man! Uncle Tony,” says Jeter. “The day when he was on the motion capture set, it was like the President was there.
Nadji’s previous installment, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, was well received critically and commercially, selling over 6.5 million copies. In addition, he’s also voiced the character in Spider-Man on Disney XD, and in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. His latest game, Spider-Man 2, has broken records at every turn, becoming the fastest-selling PlayStation game in the company’s history, with 2.5 million copies sold in the first 24 hours.
In a conversation with THR, Jeter also talks about his love of going to comic cons, and the personal belief that Miles’ Spider-Man journey is relatable for everyone.
When Spider-Man: Miles Morales first came out, we were in the middle of a global pandemic. What’s the reception for Spider-Man 2 been like for you now that you can be out at conventions to enjoy it?
I was waiting for this opportunity to redeem what we kind of missed because Spider-Man: Miles Morales dropped in the middle of a pandemic. I’m redeeming that time that we lost because I definitely wanted to go out there. I wanted to do so many interviews. I wanted to reach out to the world. But we were getting told no, because everything was just everything was completely shut down.
In the Insomniac Spider-Man franchise, we’ve seen Miles’ journey evolve into becoming his own, fully fledged Spider-Man. Has your own life changed during this run?
I’ve definitely earned some cool points with my nieces, nephews and cousins. You know, my uncle kind of finally told me that he was proud of me. (Laughs.) I started Miles when I was 17 or 18 years old, playing him as a 13 year old on (Disney XD’s) Spider-Man. So, I grew up with Miles, but ended up being in the games because PlayStation called me over there, because they knew I was connected with Naughty Dog (Nadji voiced Sam The Last of Us). I didn’t know that it was going to just take off, but when they scanned my face, I was like, “This is going to be some big shoes to fill.”
What’s your favorite thing about playing the character in this game?
Getting to play Miles and being on the mocap set, you get to just have fun… you get to be a big kid again. Honestly, you get to use that imagination you had as a kid when it comes to playing hide and seek or any of those creative things we did as kids.
What was your relationship like with Peter Parker actor Yuri Lowenthal while doing this latest game? He’s mentioned how much he’s enjoyed your friendship over the years.
Yuri and I have a bond on and off the camera. He’s taught me a lot, industry-wise, when it comes to the effects of what we put out there, to giving me about comic cons. He’s a great, great guy. When we’re on stage, we’re definitely feeding off each other. You know, we actually met years ago, on Disney XD (where Yuri voiced Curt Conners on Spider-Man).
You also got to work with Tony Todd. What was that like for you?
That’s my uncle, man! Uncle Tony! I heard that he was given the role and we were all just ecstatic – nobody else can better play this role. His cadence, the voice, everything. The day when he was on the motion capture set, it was like the president was there.We met in the dressing rooms, I think he was just getting done for the day and I was starting my day, so we crossed paths. We both just embraced each other. I was like, “Man, I’m a huge fan!” Then, we had our San Diego Comic-Con trip and that’s where we just bonded from there. He’s taken me under his wing — I love Tony to death.
I got a chance to talk to the creative team about the different journeys of Peter and Miles, and the human side behind the mask. How did you connect with that on a personal level?
You know, with a lot of communities I come from, we grew up fatherless. Miles also has a great loss in his life with his father. So, just growing up with that and then being a mixed race coming from that background and having those challenges of finding your identity in both communities, you know, is definitely a very unique thing. My mom is Jamaican and my dad is African-American, but he wasn’t in my life. So, walking in those shoes and being connected with Miles … it kind of shows all these things that we go through. The challenges and trials and tribulations that we all face, with family dysfunction or even just different family backgrounds — how we all come together as one is the main message that’s portrayed in Miles and Peter’s story.
Miles’ relationship has also grown with his mom, Rio Morales (Jacqueline Pinol), best friend/tech guru, Ganke Lee (Griffin Puatu), and especially the local artist celebrity, Hailey Cooper (Natasha Ofili). What was that experience like in this game, and learning sign language?
Those are fun because you always want to learn something new when you’re in character development. I definitely walked away with a lot of lessons in ASL (American Sign Language) as well, and the New Yorker/Puerto Rician aspect of Spanish and man, we just had a blast. We had a lot of sit-downs of how natural we can be with what we bring with this game and especially Hailey’s relationship.
It was definitely my first time learning ASL. And I pray that we did a good job with what we projected. We had great teachers on set. I’ve always embraced it, because I feel like we’re touching a lot of communities and a lot of people out there that can sometimes feel like they get excluded. But in Spider Man 2, everyone is connected with this game. Everyone can come together, and that’s the number one thing we wanted.
There’s a ton of new suits and classic favorites in Spider-Man 2. What’s your personal favorite one?
My go-to is the 2020 suit (from Spider-Man: Miles Morales). I haven’t seen all 65 suits yet, but I heard there’s some good choices.
If you could look down the road in the future, who would you want to see Miles team up with, outside of Pete?
Probably Blade or The Punisher. The Punisher was just one guy, and I always looked up to Blade. Those are my childhood, you know? And Cyclops. But with no rules on the universe? I’d love to see a team with Static Shock.
The Last of US is now a live-action show. If there’s a live action Spider-Verse film, would you want to play the Miles variant for the Insomniac Studios character?
If they make that call, they make the call, man! I’ll be in the gym. (Laughs.) I’ve had a great ride, man. You know, I’ve been doing Miles since he was a freshman in high school, and now he’s in college. It’s been a crazy, crazy journey. They make that call and make it happen? We’ll do it again.