Majdoub’s character was initially supposed to be an exposition tool, “to give someone for Robotnik to talk to,” Majdoub told The Washington Post in a phone interview. But as Jim Carrey, who plays Robotnik, improvised, developing his villain into a lonely, Ivy League-educated misanthropic mad doctor, Madjoub in turn made Stone into something of a doting pupil, desperate for attention from his mentor.
“Through chatting with Jim and developing a rapport with him, we turned their relationship into something more fun and personal,” said Majdoub. “Even Jim said at one point that there’s got to be something about Stone. If Robotnik hates humanity so much, why is it this one guy that sticks around? Stone was always reliable, always there for him, and knew what he was going to do before he did it."
The central theme of “Sonic the Hedgehog” is how men deal with loneliness. Sonic wanted friends, and had none. Robotnik wanted no friends, but had Agent Stone. Their relationship bordered on abusive (by way of slapstick physical comedy).
Now, Agent Stone is developing his own audience of admirers, inspiring fan art which reimagines him as a classic Sonic villain, and notably, art that “ships” a loving relationship between the two villains.
“It’s definitely admiration,” said Majdoub, laughing, recalling the art. “I think more than anything, Stone just wants attention from Robotnik, and wants to mean something to him. There are elements of their relationship he’ll go through that typically someone won’t go through just to get that. He probably sees, ‘Wow this guy stresses out a lot. Maybe I can make him a latte to ease him up and it’ll all be okay.'”
Majdoub’s character was just another surprise in a film full of them. The film was mocked mercilessly last year for a disastrous first impression of the Sonic design. Yet against all odds (and lots of extra work), “Sonic the Hedgehog” is now Hollywood’s No. 1 film of the moment, and it’s likely to stay that way for another weekend. The Washington Post’s Style review called it “sweet, funny and smart."
Diversity in Hollywood has been a big part of the discourse surrounding filmmaking these days, and “Sonic the Hedgehog” has a diverse cast without ever calling attention to it. James Marsden and Tika Sumpter portray an interracial marriage that simply exists, which the script doesn’t call any attention to, even with its jokes. Majdoub, a Lebanon-born Canadian citizen, called it refreshing.
“I love it, when a production or project doesn’t feel like we have to be like, ‘Hey look at us, we casted diversity, yay us,’” Majdoub said. “It just was. It’s a family movie that just has representation. And the fact that we don’t have to hit you over the head with it is refreshing.”
Majdoub said he’s lucky to be with an agent that avoided stereotypical roles for Middle Eastern men. For him, it was about the long game, and not being typecast.
“I have friends who have that struggle, having made decisions and feeling they can’t get out of it,” Majdoub said. “I think as an industry, we’re going in the right direction. Could it be better? Of course. Could we be moving faster? Yes. I’ve just been really fortunate."
Majdoub felt genuinely moved by how positive everyone on the project was, even despite the shock and controversy caused by the first trailer, which caused such an outcry that director Jeff Fowler and Paramount Pictures delayed release of the film to completely rework the main character’s design.
“It was more a shock to see how many people were speaking out, and how much engagement there was,” said Majdoub, who grew up with the character but didn’t realize the franchise had a rabid online fan base. “It was realizing how important of a character this was to people. So many people wanted their voices heard, and to see Jeff and that team not miss a beat, to come out and listen, was amazing. It’s a big struggle these days, wanting to be heard, and it’s lovely to see what happens when it’s done right."