‘The Tick’ Star Griffin Newman on Acting in a Superhero Suit

“You very quickly realize there’s a certain iconography and a power to wearing one of these suits.” – Griffin Newman

One thing great actors of the decades before multiplex blockbusters never had to contend with was tight-fitting, move-restricting superhero costumes. But nowadays it’s common for actors to wear form-fitting suits that might otherwise look ridiculous in superhero projects. But beyond just concerns of appearing silly, actors also have to face another problem — the suits often cover up parts of their face, or hamper their movements, or rob them of their acting tools in another fashion. The Tick star Griffin Newman spoke to Vox about the challenges of acting in a superhero suit.

Newman reveals that even wearing his sidekick suit — as silly as it may appear — gives an actor a certain amount of power when wearing it. He explains, “From the moment I did the first costume fitting and I was in this room full of mirrors where they were going to poke me and prod me and pin me and try to figure out how to make the suit look better — they’re pulling at the seams, and I’m just catching glimpses of myself in these reflections, and testing out every little move I do. You very quickly realize there’s a certain iconography and a power to wearing one of these suits.”

To prove his point, Newman turns to an expert opinion — that of one of the biggest superhero movie stars of all time. He says, “Michael Keaton always said, ‘The thing I realized when I got Batman is you have to work that suit.’ He realized how much lifting that does. But the other end of that is they are physically restricting in all these weird, weird ways.”

Newman continues by pointing out the ways the suit limited his movement — but how that was yet another challenge he had to face as an actor:

My suit was essentially like a wetsuit, and a thing I realized very quickly is that it’s a little, not spandex-y, but it has that sort of tension to it, so if I’m not making a concerted effort to take on a certain position, it wants to go back to neutral. It wants to go back to square one. As an actor, you’re trying to figure out ways to use your body to make gestures that imbue the character with certain meaning or reveal certain things about your psychology, and this is a costume that wants to rob you of that power of physical subtlety.

I look at the show now, and certain scenes I go, like, “Wow, it’s crazy how much the suit adds there,” and other scenes, I look at it, and I go, “I should have been fighting harder to do something with my body.” Because sometimes it just looks like you’re standing there blankly.