Anyone who’s met Nicktoons VP and GM Keith Dawkins knows how passionate he is about football, boxing and basketball. But who would have guessed that his equally strong affinity for old-school wrestling antics à la WWF would land him a gig as a professional wrestler at the TWF. That’s right: Dawkins plays The Big Time on Thumb Wrestling Federation, the hilariously quirky short series Nicktoons co-produces with Animation Collective.
It turns out a latent fondness for ’80s-style wrestling came bubbling up during a development meeting on the series, when Dawkins got caught up in the excitement of the sport in front of his co-producing partners. ‘I started suggesting different characters and then found myself saying, ‘You can’t handle The Big Time,’ in this loud wrestling voice,’ he says. And that’s how Dawkins’ alter-ego as the federation’s over-the-top, Shaft-esque baddie was born.
Dawkins has a lot of say in how his character appears on the series. ‘They’ll allow me to ad-lib and go for it, and it’s so funny because I’ll just completely transform into this other character while I’m doing the voiceovers,’ he says.
It’s definitely not all fun and games. Well…OK, to Dawkins it is – but he admits it is strange to experience things like wardrobe malfunctions and hand cramps under the hot lights of the tiny set. The colorful wrestling masks have a tendency to pop off the tip of one’s thumb when the fighting gets rough. ‘When you’re wrestling, your hand starts to sweat, so wardrobe will literally come in and put tape on my thumb,’ he explains. ‘It’s surreal.’
Fortunately, Dawkins hasn’t exhibited any diva-like behavior on the set yet. He’s not walking around the Nicktoons office covering his hand in a protective towel or getting manicures. But he does take it seriously. In fact, his competitive nature really came out when The Big Time lost the grand championship in season one. There weren’t any actual tears, but Dawkins was more than a little upset at the loss. Luckily, this kind of raw emotion just opens the door for more fun character development.
The second season of Thumb Wrestling Federation is currently in production, and the property’s licensing agency Al Ovadia and Associates is signing up partners to round out a merch line that will center around toys from master licensee Spin Master.