With Grand Theft Auto already on its way to retailers, Rockstar has finally revealed the voice cast for the PlayStation 2 action adventure. Protagonist Carl "CJ" Johnson will be played by Chris Bellard, an aspiring Los Angeles rapper who goes by the musical handle Young Maylay. A friend of DJ Pooh, who cowrote the scenario, Young Malay will release his first full-length album later this year.
However, while San Andreas' lead will be played by a relative unknown, its voice cast is bursting with famous Hollywood and hip-hop talent. At the top of that list is Samuel L. Jackson, who will portray Officer Tenpenny, the corrupt Los Santos police officer who sets the game's criminal events in motion. Playing his partner will be Chris Penn, brother of Sean Penn and star of Reservoir Dogs.
Another actor with major star wattage is James Woods, whose role in the game is best left undefined for spoilers' sake. However, it will come as no surprise that Easy Rider star Peter Fonda plays a whacked out hippie or Ice-T plays a ruthless rap mogul. Other strokes of master casting are Mr. Show's David Cross as a nebbish science geek and Shaun Ryder, infamous lead singer of the Happy Mondays, as Maccer, former member of a Manchester techno group.
San Andreas also sports a solid roster of character actors. Heat's William Fichtner reprises his role from Vice City as the cocaine-addled lawyer Ken Rosenberg, while Debi Mazar plays a character named "Maria," although it's unclear if it is the same Maria she voiced in Grand Theft Auto III. Other notables are Traffic's Clifton Collins Jr., Black and Whites Bijou Phillips, Young Guns' Casey Siemaszko, and The Big Hit's China Chow. And although, contrary to rumors, Dave Chapelle will not appear in the game, his Chappelle's Show costar Charlie Murphy will provide some comic relief.
The game also features many actors who appeared in early 1990s 'hood movies, which inspired the game. CJ's brother is played by Faizon Love, the portly comedian who starred in the gangsta parody Fear of a Black Hat. Two Menace II Society cast members also appear: Clifton Powell plays CJ's buddy Smoke, while Eazy-E look-alike Ryder is voiced by gangster rapper MC Eiht.
Speaking of rap, several hip-hop artists also voice characters in San Andreas. Besides Ice-T, 50 Cent cohort The Game plays one of CJ's enemies, while Yo-Yo plays CJ's sister, Kendl. Chicano rapper Kid Frost also appears, as does Los Angeles hip-hop radio personality Big Boy.
Ironically, some of the most famous voice talent in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas appear as the DJs of the game's various radio stations. The Funktipus, DJ of funk station Bounce FM, will be voiced by none other than Parliament and Funkadelic founder George Clinton. Playback FM, the classic hip-hop station, will see its DJ, Forth Right MC, played by Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. Reggae station K-Jah West will be hosted by dancehall stars Sly and Robbie, and Andy Dick will appear on West Coast Talk Radio. Last but certainly not least, Tommy The Nightmare Smith, the DJ of rock station K-DST The Dust, will be voiced by none other than W. Axl Rose of Guns-'n'-Roses fame.
For the full rundown on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, read GameSpot's full review.