It didn’t take very long for the ancient god Khonshu to become a breakout character from the Disney+ Marvel series “Moon Knight.” In the show’s second episode, Khonshu – a giant figure with a large bird skull for his head who was voiced on the show by Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham – implores his avatar Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) to dispatch the villain with a bit of casual violence. “Kill him! Break his windpipe,” Khonshu grumbles with urgency.
“That seems to be a very popular line,” Abraham tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview. “On the street, people recognize me, and they’ll shout it to me. It’s really outrageous.”
Released this year, the six-episode “Moon Knight” focuses on Marc Spector (also Isaac), a former mercenary who suffers from dissociative identity disorder – hence the aforementioned personality Steven, a British museum employee. Years earlier, when on the cusp of death, Marc was saved by Khonshu, who turned the assassin-for-hire into his avatar, Moon Knight. It’s Moon Knight, on the orders of Khonshu, who seeks out those who have committed violent acts or criminal activities and kills them, a form of vigilante justice that Abraham says he sometimes understands.
“I’m sorry to say, this society that we’re living in now – these dangerous times – I really feel sometimes like I wish I could be Khonshu for a little while,” the 82-year-old says with a laugh. “Some people are getting away with murder. And I would think Khonshu steps up and says, ‘No, isn’t going to happen, baby, not on my watch.’ And I respond to that so positively. I’m a Scorpio. And I went through a whole period of that Scorpion vengeance. And I thought I got rid of most of it. But not all of it.”
Abraham, who won Best Actor at the 1985 Oscars for his unforgettable performance in “Amadeus,” worked previously with Isaac on stage as well as in the 2013 film “Inside Llewyn Davis.” But the actor says his friend and former collaborator wasn’t directly involved in bringing him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“I called Oscar and I said, ‘Thanks for submitting me,’ and he said, ‘I didn’t have anything to do with it.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? How did they know?’” Abraham recalls. It turned out “Moon Knight” director Mohammad Diab wanted Abraham for the voice role.
“The problem I had was trying to come up with the right voice for this remarkable character,” Abraham says of his initial steps to playing Khonshu. “He really is outrageous. And I just kept doing things like how do you do that kind of a creature with a face like that? A body like that? And so I did all kinds of different gravelly voices and quiet voices – and when I presented them, Mohammad said, ‘No, no, I want to hear your voice. I want to hear you do him.’ And I just was so delighted to be able to have that kind of freedom.”
For his work as the vengeful god, Abraham received an Emmy nomination this year for Best Character Voice-Over Performance – his third Emmy nomination overall.
“The thing about it is that it was like so much fun to do,” he says of the Emmy nomination. “And the idea that you can get that kind of lovely recognition… I mean, it’s a wonderful thing. You’re like, ‘What’s better than that?’ There’s nothing better than that.”
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