Jim Carrey gave the Knuckles cast permission to make the funniest show possible

Jim Carrey gave the Knuckles cast permission to make the funniest show possible

Knuckles, Paramount Plus’ spinoff series of the Sonic the Hedgehog movies, could have been a shameless IP cash-in. And the premiere isn’t far off! Following the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, we find Sonic and Miles “Tails” Prower living an idyllic life in Montana, and helping their new red echidna friend get the hang of Earth life. Without the budget for a big action spectacle, it’s mostly a kid sitcom with the Sonic gang — until it very much is not. In the subsequent five episodes, Knuckles (voiced again by Idris Elba) pairs up with dimwitted Green Hills sheriff Wade Whipple (Adam Pally) on a road trip to Nevada, where they both hope to find meaning in the world. The result is basically Tommy Boy for Sega buffs. It’s bananas.

Knuckles veers from the Sonic movie blueprint through pure demographically transcendent hijinks that range from cartoon pratfalls to hallucinatory dream ballets set to Michael Bolton singles. There are Men in Black types hunting the echidna warrior for his superpowered quills, and a few by-the-books fights in showcasing Knuckles’ energy-charged moveset, but despite the title, Pally is the star of this show. As Wade quests to reconnect with his dad, “Pistol” Pete Whipple (Cary Elwes), at a major bowling tournament, he and his new sidekick navigate a rowdy Shabbat dinner, outrun a Tiger King-esque bounty hunter (played by The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt), and hang out a bar in Reno talkin’ life. Pally is electrocuted, exploded, punched in the face, smashed into cage bars, and dragged across multiple highways.

The Tommy Boy invocation goes beyond the road-trip format; the Happy Endings and Mindy Project actor goes full Chris Farley in — of all things! — a television show based on the Sonic video games.

Adam Pally barfing a rainbow in stars while in a bowling alley in the Knuckles show
Adam Pally as Wade Whipple in Knuckles
Image: Paramount Pictures/Sega/Paramount Plus

“That is such a high compliment,” Pally says when I embarrass him with this compliment on a recent call. “There’s not a Farley move I haven’t done to my family or a Mike Myers reference I haven’t made to my cousins, so I think knowing all that stuff and loving it so much… It’s so ingrained in who I am. It’s probably annoying to people that I reference those things so much.”

Pally attributes the series’ free-for-all approach to someone who doesn’t actually appear in Knuckles: Jim Carrey. He believes the actor’s performance as Dr. Robotnik set such a tone on Sonic 1 and 2 that anything was possible in the spinoff. “From knowing Jim Carrey’s performance and working with him on the first two, I couldn’t fail, you know? That freedom just lets you soar.” Pally adds that Carrey’s “fingerprints are all over not just this series, but probably my entire career.”

Pally’s co-star, Scott Mescudi (aka Kid Cudi), went into Knuckles on the exact same wavelength. His character, Agent Mason, is one of the suits looking to take Knuckles out with a well-placed power-glove punch to the snout. But to click with the tone of the show, his mind wandered back to the days of watching Jim Carrey on In Living Color.

“I really wanted to embody his goofiness, but do it in the Agent Mason way,” Mescudi says. “One of the things that people don’t know about me is that I am very, very goofy. That’s, like, a very big part of me. […] I do a lot of dramas, I do a lot of serious stuff. So it’s a real nice break to just kind of have fun and goof off.”

Scott Mescudi as Agent Mason and Ellie Taylor as Agent Willoughby in Knuckles standing with supercharged red energy gloves and a giant gun
Scott Mescudi as Agent Mason and Ellie Taylor as Agent Willoughby in Knuckles
Image: Paramount Pictures/Sega/Paramount Plius

There’s still a ton of precision when “goofing off” involves acting against a 3-foot-tall CG echidna. Mescudi says there was a decent amount of training required to be able to film a simple action sequence — from choreography to fighting guys in Knuckles gloves on set, then repeating it all without any counterpart so the VFX team could fill it all in later — and that it was unlike anything he’d ever done. Working on Knuckles wasn’t even a talk-to-the-tennis-ball assignment; there was an on-set Knuckles puppeteer around to riff in every scene, giving Mescudi and Pally a physical presence to work off of for all the comedy bits.

Pally celebrates the writers, who all understood the assignment and wrote to his strengths. It’s unclear to the actor if a Knuckles TV show would have seen the Sonic character breaking challah bread with Stockard Channing on a quiet Friday night if it weren’t for Pally’s Jewish heritage, but the team took full advantage.

“It’s all so organic,” Pally says of the comedy. “And also it’s just fun to hear Elba say ‘matzah ball.’”