AEW's Samoa Joe On Playing Sweet Tooth In Twisted Metal, Working With Anthony Mackie & More - Exclusive

More than 20 years ago, Samoa Joe burst onto the professional wrestling scene in the United States. In the years since, he's wrestled all across the globe, making stops along the way in Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling NOAH, WWE, NXT, AAA, the indie circuit and All Elite Wrestling, his current professional home, where Joe recently faced familiar foe CM Punk on the premiere of AEW Collision. Along this journey, Joe has learned all he needed to survive the apocalypse as a murderous clown, driving around in a souped-up ice cream truck. Or, at least, that's what he's doing outside the ring, taking on the role of Sweet Tooth in Peacock's "Twisted Metal" series, adapting the popular PlayStation video game franchise of the same name. 

In this interview, Samoa Joe discusses working on "Twisted Metal" and we explore Joe's journey, as he transitions from an in-ring behemoth to.. whatever Sweet Tooth is supposed to be. He opens up about embodying such a beloved character, and revealing how a deep understanding of the original source material and an intimate collaboration with co-star Will Arnett shaped his portrayal.

Reflecting on his past in wrestling, Joe shares an unexpected phone call that spurred his foray into acting. We delve into the impact of his supportive wrestling community, which provided a unique network to navigate this new path.

This interview offers an intriguing look into the transformative journey of a performer, uncovering the nuances of Samoa Joe's shift from the wrestling ring to a dystopian gaming universe in "Twisted Metal," premiering on Peacock exclusively July 27.

Editor's note: this interview took place in June 2023, prior to the current SAG-AFTRA strike.

Samoa Joe's Journey To Becoming Sweet Tooth

​​Jack: All right, Joe, how are you doing today?

Joe: Excellent. How about yourself?

Hey, I'm an 8 out of 10 so far. Always room for improvement, but still pretty good.

Yeah, very good.

I appreciate you taking the time. I'm Jack Farmer with Wrestling INC. I know you're a big gamer, Joe. So my first question, just to get things started right off the bat is, did you feel a lot of pressure taking on a role like Sweet Tooth, one of the most iconic gaming characters in history?

No, at first I was like [fist pumps]...And you celebrate. And then I was like, oh man, if we mess this up. Because I've got a direct line, I'm going to hear it directly from the people if it ain't right. The people with the opinions.You know those people, you're probably one of them.

I got a couple.

Yeah, being in the gaming space, I knew if we were going to do this, we better do it right. Yeah, you definitely feel the pressure, but I think it was more internal pressure than external.

Did you feel, as you were doing this, any need to meet the source material, do your own thing? How did you figure out that balance? Because the physicality of Sweet Tooth, from what I've seen here, and how you play that role, you don't see Sweet Tooth in the game very often out of his car. How did you figure out how you were going to portray that?

I think a lot of it was, obviously, I have a very innate understanding of all the different manifestations of Sweet Tooth through all the different games. And taking a lot of that, a lot of the edginess of the Sweet Tooth from [Twisted Metal] Black. And just trying to bring all the best aspects together and put into this character. Especially it having an expanded mythology, you learn more about the backstory of Needles Kane, and what produces a man like Sweet Tooth. I think all of those aspects went into the development of the character.

You definitely have a great balance. And this whole show, from what I've seen, has a great balance of being action, but fun, a little scary at different times. Must have been really fun to get to work on that and do all those different things. What was it like? I want to talk more about the character here, because obviously I'm with Rllegends; I know Samoa Joe on TV, that I've seen on AEW and in the past, and other places. But this was a character that it wasn't just you in this, not only were you trying to take on the character of Sweet Tooth, but you were working with the voice, Will Arnett. Did you guys have any one-on-one time where you would discuss how you were going to portray this? Did you guys take it separately and meld together this situation? How did you approach that?

No, we definitely spoke before production began. Got together and tried to figure out what this character's going to represent, get into the mind of how chaotic he is and how much his mood shifts back and forth. And I did a lot of studying of what Will does, of listening to BoJack Horseman, going back to Lego Batman. Just trying to catch inflection and tone and trying to keep that in the back of my head as I'm doing the character. And I think it's that collaboration that made it all work out.

Stepping out of the Ring into the Gaming World: How Joe Became Sweet Tooth

You were living the dream for a bit there. I can only imagine someone saying, "Hey, take the trash out, or do this." "Look, I got to play video games and watch BoJack Horseman. I'm studying here." That was-

Yeah, it was a really tough period of my time. My friends and family had to learn to respect it. It was a process, but they eventually did. And I like to say that is still in place, if everybody around here hears that. Okay? Yeah. They all know. If I'm up here and I'm goofing off, this is research for a very important role. That's how I like to play it off.

Yeah, absolutely. Well, that leads me to my next thing here is, of course you've been a pro wrestler for a very long time. You've had a great career doing that. As far as getting into acting goes, was that something you pursued? They approach you? How did this happen where you made this transition from wrestling into acting?

I had a phone call from a old friend from back in the day who is now working for PlayStation Pictures for Sony. And they were in pre-production, they were trying to basically brainstorm who was going to play this character. And he called me up, he said, "Hey, remember 'Twisted Metal'?" "Of course I do. I owned a PlayStation, who wouldn't remember 'Twisted Metal.'" And he goes, "Are you interested in playing Sweet Tooth?" And I said, "Yeah." And we did a quick little screen test, we got that all arranged. And lo and behold, here we are today.


Shout out to the good homie Carter Swan.

Shout out Carter Swan. Yeah, that must have been a great phone call to get. Like I said, talk about living the dream, Sweet Tooth. "Twisted Metal," anyone who played video games back in those days definitely spent far too much time playing "Twisted Metal."

To even actually add context to that, the phone call actually came a couple hours after I just got off the phone with Johnny Ace. It was a basket of emotions that day.

Those Who Helped Joe Along The Way and Feedback Joe's Received

Well, that leads me, again, back to the pro wrestling thing. A lot of wrestlers have made the transition into acting in one way or another. As you were getting ready for this role, were there any of your wrestling friends that you reached out to or that reached out to you that gave you advice? Or did anyone give you advice? Who were they, and what advice did they give?

They've all been super supportive in everything that I've ever done, I've been really fortunate in that aspect. Just because of locality and stuff, Dave Bautista has been an awesome sounding board if I've ever had any questions or issues about the industry and stuff. Mainly him. But like I said, I've been fortunate enough that John [Cena], up to The Rock, they've all been very, very complimentary and very, very supportive. Especially to all wrestlers, really, who are making forays into other forms of media and stuff. It's part of the wonderful brotherhood that we have in professional wrestling, and I'm always appreciative for it.

Well you mentioned Dwayne, I have to ask. As you do acting, are you keeping the name Samoa Joe or are you going to go to your real name?

For me personally, Samoa Joe, it's been my shingle, if you will, that I've traded on. And it is mine, and I think most of the world knows me as that. I'm very, very proud of our young island nation of Samoa and the many people we put out there. Yeah, either/or. I guess it's preferential. It's not really preferential to me, but if I'm called Samoa Joe, so be it.

Well, I saw in an interview Anthony Mackie actually spoke about you, and had some very high praise. Said, "Samoa Joe killed it. He's not an actor, but to see his comedy work and his physical work, there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to do that at that level, which he did." And then he went on to say more and more stuff. It's your first go-round in acting, as far as I'm aware of. How does it feel to receive such high praise from someone who has done such amazing things like Anthony Mackie?

Beyond wonderful. And honestly, a lot of the performance I think can be owed up to his help on set. He was always very, very helpful and always offering advice. And if you needed to read to a camera, you wouldn't read to a director. Anthony would be back there and he'd be reading to you and doing everything he can to just try to get the best performance out of everybody on set. Yeah, man, it means a tremendous amount to me. And my respect for that guy has gone up just as part of this process, seeing him bring work back to New Orleans, to just the way he conducts himself around the cast and crew. He's just a stellar individual and it was a blast to work with somebody like that on set.

Samoa Joe on His Future in Acting, Wrestling, and Surviving a Showdown with Sweet Tooth

Do you see yourself doing more acting in the future? Would you like to do more acting, I should say? Or do you plan on getting just back in the wrestling ring and focusing on that? Any decisions made in that front yet?

Nah, no real decisions. Obviously, we got plenty of wrestling left to do and we're having a great time at AEW. But as opportunities and things materialize, we'll make those decisions.

Again, from what I've been able to see, this is such a fun show. I really, really enjoyed what I got to see. I haven't seen the whole thing, I can't wait to be able to watch the whole series again. Just a perfect mix of fun. The soundtrack, by the way, shout out to whoever put together the soundtrack.

It's pretty stellar, I got to admit. Yeah, I tell everybody, all that music's from the last time I think I was really cool. I'm really feeling the soundtrack. I think a lot of other people will too.

Yeah, definitely caught me off guard. Every time your song came on I was like, oh yeah, this one! This is a good song. I love that. I guess my final question, I know you're busy, you got a lot of people to talk to. I think the question on the mind of everyone who is at Rllegends is: Samoa Joe finds himself walking through the post-apocalypse and runs into Sweet Tooth. What happens?

Yeah, we put him to sleep, because you can't fight with a man like that. You got to get him unconscious immediately, and then make sure you slash his tires on the way out because he will find you.

Well, Joe, thank you so much for your time. Again. I know you're a busy guy. This is an incredible, incredible show. I hope everyone checks it out. Appreciate you and thank you so much.

Appreciate it. Take care.

All right, you too. Thank you.

"Twisted Metal" premieres July 28, exclusively on Peacock.