By Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press on January 31, 2024.
TORONTO – In recent weeks, Adam Copeland has been experiencing a phenomenon he says hasn’t happened since the ’90s: teenagers are recognizing him in public.
“It’s been kind of surreal,” the pro wrestler better known as Edge for the last quarter-century says during a virtual call.
“They come up to me and are like, “˜Are you”¦?’ And I’m used to people saying, “˜Are you Edge?’ or “˜Are you Adam Copeland?’ But now it’s, “˜Are you Ares?'”
The Orangeville, Ont., native plays the god of war on Disney Plus series “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” based on Rick Riordan’s acclaimed series of young adult novels.
The 50-year-old says he didn’t know much about the fantasy adventure franchise before taking on the role of Ares, except that his daughters were fans. But he quickly learned how popular it was after seeing its rabid fanbase’s reaction to the British Columbia-shot show.
The first episode of “Percy Jackson” brought in 13.3 million viewers globally in its first six days on Disney Plus and Hulu in December, which Disney says placed it among its top five premieres of 2023.
While a new generation of fans is just getting to know Copeland, his turn as Ares is a welcome surprise for legions of wrestling devotees who have been following him for decades.
And the 31-time champ is full of surprises. Last year, Copeland hinted he might retire after the final match of his 25-year career with World Wrestling Entertainment, which took place Aug. 18 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. But he rocked the wrestling world when he debuted on rival promotion All Elite Wrestling in October.
Copeland says he seriously considered retirement once his WWE contract expired, but his friends on the AEW roster, including best pal Jay Reso (Christian Cage), helped sway him.
“I knew how much fun they were having,” he says.
That, essentially, is Copeland’s guiding principle these days.
“The recurring theme of my life right now is: if it ain’t fun, I ain’t doing it.”
What drew him to “Percy Jackson” were two fun things: it was shot in Vancouver ““ “one of my favourite cities in the world,” he says ““ and he had the ability to add “humorous beats” while auditioning for the role of Ares.
The series follows Poseidon’s demigod son Percy, played by Walker Scobell, and his friends as they trek across America in search of Zeus’ stolen Master Bolt when they encounter Ares on a freeway near St. Louis.
“You hear “˜god of war,’ and people would just assume it’s this big angry, growling guy,” Copeland says. “But in reading the sides, I was like, “˜There’s way more here. There’s insecurities, there’s petty jealousies, there’s very human flaws.'”
Copeland says Ares’ vulnerability allowed him to inject the character with just the right amount of “acidic, caustic humour,” which has always been a trademark of his in-ring persona. He also had an opportunity to flex the improv skills he’s honed through wrestling.
He recalls a diner scene where Ares is sitting across Percy’s friend Grover, played by Aryan Simhadri, in which Copeland decided to slam the table on a whim.
“Coffee spilled, burgers were jumping. We finished the take, and you could hear a pin drop. Aryan, who plays Grover, was like, “˜Oh my God. You scared the hell out of me!’ I was like, “˜OK, that’s what I was going for.’ It was really fun to explore with this character because there are pretty much no handcuffs.”
Copeland says his acting career “fell in my lap” after he temporarily retired from wrestling in 2011 due to a neck injury. That year he was offered a role as a troubled ex-soldier in the Canadian Showcase series “Haven,” and it went well. He became a recurring character. He later portrayed a Norse warrior on History’s 2017 drama “Vikings.”
For his next acting gig, he’d love to join yet another Disney-owned franchise.
“It’s just a matter of, again, what’s going to be fun? Would it be fun to play Sabretooth in X-Men? Heck yeah, it would. That sounds like a blast. But I take it as it comes. I don’t put any pressure on myself to go knocking down doors for the next gig.”
Still, he isn’t quite ready to pull a Dwayne Johnson and become a full-time actor. Copeland’s got plenty of bouts left in the ring. He says he’s thrilled to work with the AEW roster, which is stacked with names he’s never wrestled, including Jonathan David Good, known in the ring as Jon Moxley, and Nuufolau Joel Seanoa, or Samoa Joe.
“It allows me to try different things that I wouldn’t have tried in my matches before. When I was with WWE and how I was being used, it was basically, just come back and do the greatest hits. And that’s great. But it also gets boring, and I like challenges.”
The roster also boasts The Hardy Boyz, who were longtime foes of Copeland and Reso in WWE. Fans have been clamouring for the four to recreate their classic “Tables, Ladders, and Chairs” matches from the early aughts ““ essentially the WWE’s version of a demolition derby, where all the titular objects are used as weapons during the match.
But Copeland isn’t as enthused about that prospect.
“People say (they want to see it), but no, actually stop and think about it for a second. We were in our early 20s when we did those matches. We’re in our 50s now. Leave it in a very good place in memory, and let us do what we do now, which is tell better stories.”
Copeland thinks about how he’d like his own story to end ““ for real ““ in the squared circle. He doesn’t know who he’d face, but he knows where it would happen.
“It would be really cool if we could do it at Maple Leaf Gardens. That would be the place. That’s where I saw my first wrestling show. I can still picture it. I still know where my seat was. The opening match was Tony “˜Cannonball’ Parisi versus Rene Goulet.”
However, he says that’s still far off. Right now, he’s enjoying himself too much, both in the ring and on screen, to slow down.
“People come up to me and say, “˜It looks like you’re having fun.’ I am.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2024.