If viewers have heard about Channing Tatum's involvement in Amazon's Comrade Detective, which he both executive produces and stars in, they may be a bit confused when they tune into the first episode. After a brief introductory segment, Tatum's familiar face is nowhere to be seen; instead, the screen is filled with unknown actors, playing out a spoof of '80s Soviet propaganda. But soon, audiences may recognize the timber of Tatum's voice emanating from the mouth of Romanian actor Florin Piersic, Jr.; all of the dialogue in the show has been dubbed by American performers, and watching the series often feels like a guessing game of famous voices. So who are the voices in Comrade Detective?
Identifying a person based solely on the sound of their voice can often be a frustrating endeavor; so, in order to help you focus on the plot, I'll eliminate the distraction and reveal the unseen actor behind the premiere's vocal stylings. Obviously, Tatum will be the easiest to discern, given that he's playing the show's lead, Detective Gregor Anghel.
If the voice of his beloved and tragically ill-fated partner, Nikita Ionescu, sounds familiar, that's because he's voiced in his brief appearance by Saturday Night Live actor Beck Bennett. Bennett, of course, is perhaps most famous for his recurring portrayal of Russian president Vladimir Putin, appropriately enough. Gregor's new partner, country bumpkin Iosif Baciu, has an even more famous voice behind him: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who's re-teaming with Tatum after their work together in the 2005 crime thriller Havoc, the 2008 war drama Stop-Loss, and the 2009 action movie G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra.
Perhaps the most instantly recognizable voice in the premiere belongs to Nick Offerman, whose speech patterns as Gregor and Iosif's gruff captain are impossible to separate from his role as Parks And Recreation's Ron Swanson. Rounding out the first episode's main roles, Oscar winner Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) portrays the lewd American ambassador while Jenny Slate (Obvious Child) provides the voice for her giggly secretary.
A look at the cast list reveals that there are even more famous voices coming in future episodes; audiences can look forward to hearing cameos from the likes of Mahershala Ali, Chloë Sevigny, Daniel Craig, Fred Armisen, Bobby Cannavale, Mark Duplass, and more. So the guessing game will continue throughout Season 1's five remaining episodes (all of which are available for streaming at once).
But how did the team behind Comrade Detective decide which comedic talent to pair with which character? Which came first, the famous American celebrity, or the unknown Romanian actor? "Obviously, we knew that [executive producer and star] Channing was involved," director Rhys Thomas (Documentary Now!), who helmed all six episodes, reveals in a conference call with Bustle.
"But otherwise, we went to Romania with a script and the opportunity to essentially just cast the characters themselves. You know, when casting in Hollywood, there's always a need to attach some stars, there's audience baggage and all that stuff. So this was a really fun opportunity, landing in a city where we didn't really know the landscape very well, we didn't really know the acting scene, and we were able to just sit down and meet actors and audition them, just looking for, 'Who's Gregor, who's Iosif?' and find the individual that most purely spoke to that character. You just don't get to do that all the time."
That part of the process "came before everything else," Thomas says. "Then we came back and we cut the Romanian show, fully in Romanian with subtitles, and basically made that original Romanian cop show first. And it wasn't until that point that we actually started thinking about the voices and coming up with a wish list." Ultimately, it was the performances of the Romanian actors who "informed our choices of who we wanted to go for for each character," and not the other way around.
In that way, Comrade Detective is essentially two shows in one: a genuine cop thriller featuring unknown Romanian actors giving fully-committed performances, and a comedic spoof featuring American actors at the top of their voiceover game. And it's the blend of those two distinct, competing genres that makes the Amazon series such an unexpected delight.