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Voicing Officer McHorn: A Conversation with Mark ‘Rhino’ Smith


The modern mammal metropolis of Zootropolis is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootropolis,” a comedy-adventure directed by Byron Howard (“Tangled,” “Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”) and co-directed by Jared Bush (“Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”).

Officer McHorn is being voiced by Mark “Rhino” Smith, a well known British body builder made famous for his long stint on 90s hit shows Gladiators and Bodybuilding, where he also went by the name of Rhino.

Since then he’s been busy with film roles including CREED (alongside Sylvester Stallone, Michael B Jordan), CRIMINAL (alongside Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman out April 2016) and VITAL SIGNS (Apple’s first TV show, produced by and starring Dr Dre).

Rhino is apparently the only Gladiator in the world to come to the show with his own nickname.

The Fan Carpet’s Naomi Joseph had the pleasure of talking to Gladiator’s alumni Mark ‘Rhino’ Smith about his role of Officer McHorn a Rhinoceros in Disney’s Zootropolis




Let’s go back to the beginning, how did you get your nickname?

Rhino was given to me in the gym that I used to train at called Muscleworks Gym and it was in 1989 when I won the Junior British Championships in body building.

Why did they call you Rhino?

I think it’s because they thought I made noises like a Rhino and I was powerful like a Rhino when lifting weights.

(laughs) that’s cool.

Yeah it was cool, then the nation kind of grabbed hold of it when Nigel Lythgoe on Gladiators in 1995 when I joined Gladiators he said “your nickname is perfect can we use it on the show” and I said “yeah perfect”. So that’s how the nation got to know Rhino as a Gladiator.


How did you get into bodybuilding? 

I did body popping and break dancing from the ages of like 12 to I’d say 14/15 and then me and a few buddies, like my best friend Louis Durkin and another guy Lewis Palmer. We got into bodybuilding and then I just started getting into competitions and started to get serious about nutrition and just started educating myself about nutrition and stuff.


So what does it take to be a body builder then?

Well I think it’s consistency with anything in life, consistency is first and foremost the most important and then nutrition I’d say is two thirds of it, if you don’t eat right then you’re not going to recuperate or recover or build muscle. Because I like food I was halfway there (laughs) so once I knew you had to eat to grow then it was good, I enjoyed it. Then obviously I did loads of bodybuilding shows where you diet for 12 weeks before and that’s when you go like no sugar, no fried foods, no sweets and you just eat really clean you know, oatmeal with porridge and water, I’d have ten egg whites and the next meal would be grilled chicken breast, rice, broccoli, the same again the next dish and then fish and asparagus or broccoli, so it be just clean food really.

Crazy dedication




So how did Gladiators come around then?

Then I went for an interview in 1995 with Nigel Lythgoe and Kenny Warrick, that was at LWT in Southbank and you know you do like an interview and we got on really well and then I had to do a fitness try out which was hard, I wasn’t really used to it at that time, climbing ropes and like a circuit. I was carrying a lot more muscle then than I am now, so that was a hard armed circuit for me but yeah I completed it and then they took me off to Australia as a my first gig in 1995 to do Battle of the Ashes, so I was chosen out of the six guys, but because I was the new gladiator it was great to be taken on to do that.


That must have been really cool. What’s your best memory of your time on the show then?

My best memory wow that’s a good point, you know what probably my best memory was the start which was going to Australia, my first gig, flying to Australia representing England in the Battle of the Ashes which was amazing and being the only guy to hold someone for 29 seconds in Gauntlet.

What’s that?

Gauntlet is where the contender has to run through 5 gladiators in a tunnel.

Oh right (laughs).

I was always ready, they put Rhino at the start, so I was always at the start and that was great, that was fun, yeah that was a good memory and obviously the guys where great and the girls where great and we all got on really well and then I moved to LA in 2008 with my wife Simone Young Smith and my son Brodie Smith, and then I came here for film and TV and in the last, I’d done (jibs and jabs?) but in the last like two years it’s going really well.


When did you realise acting was what you wanted to do, was there like a defining moment or something?

Yeah I think, it was Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan was the director and I think that was like the time I thought ‘wow great man, I love this’ and then, I’d done various episodics like Eastenders , other TV shows in England, Synchronicity, I’d done Robin Hood, I did Trial and Retribution, Lynda La Plante, yeah there all great stuff and then I came to America to do TV.


Over here, I done The Last Ship, the Michael Bay production and that’s on TNT and Sky in England and I done that for about 8 months and 5 episodes and we filmed at the US Navy base in San Diego and Culver City at the Sunday Studios, that was great and then I done NCIS: LA and I got to work with LL Cool J, obviously a childhood hero and then I done Creed….

That must have been amazing.

Yeah it was amazing, I mean Sylvester Stallone is a huge huge childhood hero, the whole Rocky story you know I love all that and it really inspires me and yeah we filmed that in Philadelphia whilst I was doing NCIS: LA and doing The Last Ship.


Then the other big thing that I done, in England actually in East London was the Criminal with Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Ryan Reynolds and that comes out in April next month.


Cool. So you’ve got quite an extensive CV, how do you think your time on the Gladiator, bodybuilding, kind of, impacted your acting, do you think it’s kind of impacted your acting or your approach to acting?

Yeah training definitely because it shows you consistent results, you know never give up, then you can achieve your goal, like believe and achieve so to speak. So long as you keep working hard and have a hard work ethic and I think it’s also good to be nice, I hope I don’t have any enemies, I try to get on with everyone and just do the job right.

I think in acting you’ve got to be tenacious, I think that’s in life in general though isn’t it, you know so long as you strive hard you can get there, have a lot of dedication.


Yeah that’s true in everything, you’re right. So you’re in Zootropolis right now, can you tell me a bit about Officer McHorn?

Yeah I laid down the voice of Bogo which is Idris Elba and then the writers and producers one day said to me ‘hey Rhino we have a surprise for you” and I went “oh yeah” this is at Walt Disney remember, and they went “we want you to read for the Rhino”, so internally I was like ‘Bloody Hell this is amazing man’, but it’s not a foregone conclusion, I had to read for it, audition for it, so I read for the rhino part and they said they wanted it in American so I did that and they loved it and I couldn’t believe that my nickname, I get to play the part of Rhino in Zootropolis, amazing. It’s picked 650 million already, it opens in England today and I think it opens in Japan next month, so it’s a huge movie, it’s great to be a part of.




Why do you think it’s been so popular?

I think it’s because of the message it gives, you know the bunny, the message is that anyone, like any animal can anything they want to be, doesn’t’ matter how big or small you are and I think that’s the same with us, as people you can be anything you want to be in life, doesn’t matter what your colour, creed, size or shape is, so long as you believe in yourself and don’t give up I thank that’s an important message. But it’s also very funny as well, I mean that sloth trailer I think it’s had over 15 million views or something and I’m at the start of it, so that’s an honour to be on the trailer as well.

Yeah, it’s a hilarious movie.

Sloths are fun, you seen the film?

I’ve not seen it yet, but I’ve seen that trailer about seven times now, that sloth bit is hilarious (laughs).


What was it about Officer McHorn that you liked the most?

Just his presence, you know he’s big, me playing a little….I’m trying to think of a little animal, me playing a little animal probably wouldn’t be right, me playing the big powerful rhino, it’s just perfect I couldn’t believe it, to be a part of that it’s an honour and the writers and producers have been talking to me and e-mailing me personally and saying you know “we’re so happy you where a part of it and thanks for all your help, long live Officer McHorn” that’s great, hopefully there’s a sequel.


Yeah, did you have any inspiration for the character?

No I just wanted to show his presence, show that he’s powerful and kind of like me in person, nice but thorough and assertive in his behaviour which he was in the film, he’s always a bit hard on the bunny sometimes (laughs) yeah he’s definitely a big powerful guy.


What was the best thing about working on Zootropolis? 

Just getting in that booth and having eight people in that room bouncing off each other, writers and producers, you know you got Byron Howard, you got Jared Bush, Rich Moore and then Clark, their like the 4 main guys writing, directing and producing. Amazing.

I can imagine…

What else is there, oh yeah, now I’ve been working on Criminal Minds as a love interest for Paget Brewster, that’s her real name, that’s a great experience as well, never played like a love interest for someone, usually I’m like the pal of the protagonist.

It’s a great TV show that was probably a lot of fun.

Yeah Criminal Minds is a big TV show, it’s my third TV show now.


So you’re doing that, but what would you say has been the highlight of your career so far has been? 

Wow, I would say working on Creed, yeah 3 things, Gladiators, working on Creed being on the opposite side of Sylvester Stallone who’s my childhood hero and the third one is playing my nickname in a blockbuster Walt Disney film Zootropolis, I mean who gets to play their nickname in America, I’m just a boy from Acton.


What’s next for you?

What’s next for me, I’m working with Dr Dre at the moment on a TV show for a huge company, it’s a huge company doing their first TV show and Dr Dre is producing it and acting on it and I act with him on it, I’m his bodyguard in the TV show, but I can’t say what company it’s for, if you Google it, you’ll all see what it’s for anyways.


That must be really cool as well; you’re working with so many cool people.

Yeah that was cool, that’s on the internet as well, I think it’s on my Twitter, a picture with me and Dre, you can just pull that off.


I think I’ve seen that. So just to end, what’s your top acting tip for someone trying to get into the industry?

My top acting tip for someone trying to get into the industry, I would say is to, should be to work hard, be very present in your auditions and prepare prepare prepare.




Keep up-to-date with Mark ‘Rhino’ Smith on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Zootropolis Film Page | Zootropolis Review


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