In maart 2017 is het alweer 3 jaar geleden dat de laatste aflevering van Clone Wars verscheen. Zes seizoenen lang konden Star Wars fans deze animatieserie volgen waarin de belevenissen van onder andere Obi-Wan, Anakin en Yoda tijdens de (hoe kan het ook anders met zo’n titel) Clone Wars centraal stonden.
In 2010 had ik het genoegen om zes personen te interviewen die nauw bij deze serie betrokken waren: stemacteurs James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan), Matt Lanter (Anakin), Cat Taber (Padmé), Tom Kane (Yoda), Dee Bradley Baker (Captain Rex) en sound designer David Acord (die diverse stemmen voor zijn rekening nam). Aan met name het gesprek met James Arnold Taylor bewaar ik bijzonder goede herinneringen, die man is écht héél erg getalenteerd en liet dit live zien door (ook nog eens in rap tempo) een heel arsenaal van stemmen en imitaties te produceren.
In dit ‘Flashback artikel’ alle zes interviews die iets meer dan zes jaar geleden plaatsvonden… Return to the Clone Wars!
James Arnold Taylor – Obi-Wan Kenobi
What got you started as a voice actor? Was it something you always wanted to do? And on what age did you discover your talent?
I have always wanted to be a voice actor, pretty much since I was 4 years old. I knew I wanted to do voices in cartoons, TV and radio. I did little radio shows with my friends creating sound effects. When I was 16 I started as a stand up comedian and I always did voices like Marty McFly and Doc Brown. Then I got into radio a year later and became a DJ. I tought myself how to work with all the equipment by staying over late at night and watch all the DJ’s working. I started to make my own shows and gave them to the program director. One day they asked me if I wanted to do my own show because the overnight DJ didn’t show up. So I ended up doing a show and from there on I went on and the rest is history as they say. I actually did over 8,000 comedy bits that I wrote, voiced, produced and directed for the premier radio network over the course of 12,5 years. From there on I moved into voice acting getting an agent and getting in cartoon work. I knew from a very young age that that’s what I wanted to do. I loved watching all those greats like Mel Blanc, Don Messick and Daws Butler as well the new breed like Jim Cummings, Jess Harnell and Billy West. I’ve always been inspired by them and knew that this was what I wanted to do.
Every Star Wars fan knows you as the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Clone Wars and in a lot of video games. How did you get started working for Lucasfilm?
I started about 8 years ago when I auditioned for the mini series of Clone Wars and I was lucky enough to get picked. Collette Sunderman, who was the voice director and a friend of mine thought it was a perfect match. Her words, not mine! (laughs) I had done some voice matching for Ewan McGregor in the past and knew I could hit his voice very well, but I approached it as to match Obi-Wan Kenobi and not worried about doing Ewan as much. It was from this series that I got working at Lucasfilm. They used my voice for the videogames. Revenge of the Sith was in the making at that time so I got to watch so much of the movie before it was released as I had to voice Obi-Wan for the Revenge of the Sith video game. According to the folks at LucasArts it was this that locked me into doing all this and continuing it for Clone Wars.
How do you ‘create’ voices? Do you –in Obi-Wan’s case- study the actor (Ewan McGregor) that originally played the character?
I always study the actors’ voice for voice matching. I’ve studied Ewan’s voice more than anybody but I also studied Alec Guinness. I wanted my Obi-Wan to be a combination of both. I feel I have the ability to do that since I don’t have to look like them but just to sound like them. I try (with Alec Guinness’ voice) “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” and (with Ewan McGregor’s voice) “May the Force be with you” and combine them both so you get (with his own Obi-Wan voice) “My Obi-Wan Kenobi”. The trick is not to do a voice characterization but to being able to step in seamlessly and be the person when they are not available. I’ve had the honor to be Obi-Wan for so many years and have voiced him more than anybody else. Both George Lucas and Dave Filoni said “this is your role now, so take it and do with it as you would”. So, I don’t have to worry about sounding exactly like Ewan or Alec.
Besides Obi-Wan, you are also the voice of Plo Koon, a character that doesn’t speak in the movies. How did you create his voice? Did you get specific directions?
Yes, I did. Dave Filoni pulled me aside at one point and said they were gonna bring in Plo Koon. I didn’t know it was such a favorite of Dave. I learned this in the first recording session. He said he wanted me to think of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings; Ian McKellen. I thought that was a great stepping stone, great direction. That’s where I took it. I started (with Gandalf’s voice) “By thinking of Gandalf, how he would talk and present himself”. Then there’s the wisdom that Dave wanted to hear in the voice. It was great fun because Dave is such a fan of Plo Koon and we were able to get what he was looking for and hopefully what George Lucas and the fans were looking for. Thanks to Matt Wood and his abilities as a sound designer they’ll take Plo Koon and (with Gandalf’s voice) “I start as Gandalf and I’ll read the lines and they’ll pitch it down and put processing on it and it sounds a bit different”. But this is what he sounds when I start.
How do you experience a day working on Clone Wars? Can you describe how such a day goes?
Well certainly. We record at a studio in Los Angeles. Dave will pull all of us in and he’ll give us the rundown for that episode. We don’t get our scripts until 24 hours before the recording session and that is only if we have 10 lines or more. If we have less we’ll get it when we get there and we don’t know what the storyline is about until we step into the booth, so you’re almost cold reading in a sense, but that’s what voice actors are used to. Lucasfilm is very secretive about the scripts and storylines so the messenger the scripts to our homes and the scripts are covered with our names all over them so they can’t go online without anybody knowing whose script it was. S, Dave will run down the script and storyline for the day and tell us different aspects that we need to know for our characters, like what they are dealing with emotionally and the atmosphere that we’re in, what planet we’re on. If there are new characters he’ll tell us about it and who the guest stars are voicing. They’ll show us pictures and things of what is going to happen in the episode and Dave is very descriptive and has such a passion for it so it really brings it to life for us and then we start to record. We record the dialogue and we do it from page one until the end, everything in order. If one of the actors doesn’t happen to be there one of the others will read their lines. Tom Kane is usually in his home studio in Kansas City so one of us might read Yoda or Dave will read it to keep the flow going. We read through the whole thing just like a radio play, or just like you would when you read a book. We’ll record it and do 3-4 takes of each scene and Dave will give us directions. When the recordings are done the artwork will be done. They always have preliminary artwork and storyboards before we do the voices. Now, with the technology they can change the lip-flaps so they match. A lot of times there’s a camera filming us so the artists see how we move, which is helpful to them.
What is your own view on the Clone Wars series? And what is your favorite episode?
I’m in love with the show. I think it’s one of the best shows on television and I’d also say that if I wasn’t in it. There are several actors, friends of mine, seasoned actors, that watch the show religiously with their kids and I think it is due to the storytelling, the art and the love of filmmaking. These are mini-films and what Dave Filoni is doing with his crew and what George Lucas is imparting to all of them in this series and bring a whole new breed of Star Wars lovers into existence is fantastic. I think this show is just a great way of doing that but also giving all of us that are die hard Star Wars fans fro day one back in the 70’s a new chance of experiencing Star Wars in a different way.
My favorite episode…boy, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say I loved the 3 part Mandalorian arc that we had with Obi-Wan and Satine. As far as the work I’ve done for the show I was very proud of this. I also have to say Lightsabre Lost is a favorite as well as Senate Murders. It’s hard to name one particular episode, I enjoy all of them.
You were a kid when the original Star Wars came out. Were you a fan back then and which memories do you have of your first encounter with Star Wars?
The very first time I saw Star Wars was at a drive-in in San José, California and I loved it. I saw it many times after that in the theater in my home town Santa Barbara, California; the Arlington Theatre. This is an amazing Spanish style theater that seats several thousand people. That’s where I grew up, seeing all those films, the great Spielberg and Lucas films. I love all of the Star Wars movies. As I kid I used to play Star Wars with my friends. It wasn’t cops and robbers, it was Star Wars and then Indiana Jones as well. I’m a huge Indy fan but Star Wars was just amazing. I remember seeing it and thinking this is just the coolest thing in the world, or out of this world. This takes us to places we’ve never been. I was a little kid but thought “Wow, if we could live there, if I could do that”. And now, to be a part of this universe and to be so connected with LucasFilm is just a great honor. The thing I love about George Lucas’ work is that he has such a love for film and storytelling, the romance of it all. I don’t mean the mushy romance of the love stories but of film, fantasy, taking you to new worlds. George Lucas has brought us stuff that changed the world.
You have been the voice double for actors like Ewan McGregor, Michael J. Fox, Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken, Nicolas Cage, Christian Bale….the list is endless and full of great actors. As an actor, you were featured in Comic Book: the movie. Have you ever considered an on-screen acting career?
(Starts to say every actor’s name I mentioned ‘in character’ with the right voice and accent)
Voice acting is more of a challenge than most people will ever know. I’d love to see people change their ideas of what voice actors do. When we perform it’s just as much acting as an on-screen actor does. I will be doing some more on-screen acting in the future, but my first love is voice acting. I really do enjoy it. There are so many on-screen actors striving to be voice actors now because they think it’s an easy buck. They find out when they get in the studio it’s not that easy. There’s a lot going on and hopefully we can shine that light on people and let them see that.
Of all the characters you have voiced: which one is your personal favorite? And why?
There are so many characters I had the honor of voicing. Each one is so different from the next that it’s hard to name a favorite. But I would have to say that Obi-Wan is becoming my favorite. He has such a wide arc in his life and he’s a character we get to see a lot. We don’t know much about his young life except the little bits we’ve read but those aren’t from the mind of George Lucas. I’d love to know what he thinks about that. I love doing Obi-Wan, Plo Koon, working in the Star Wars universe, but it’s like children, trying to choose your favorite.
Do you have dreams regarding the future? Is there on specific thing you want to do?
There are many things. I enjoy producing movies and projects. I will probably doing more of that as time goes on. I try to be a realist in my work as a voice actor, performer and actor. I know that I’m not gonna be the young hotshot the rest of my life. I’m 41 and I see where my voice career can go knowing that as you get older your voice changes. (With a low, deep voice) “It gets deeper, bigger”. It changes and I won’t always be able to do (with a high voice) “10 year old voices like Johnny Test”. So I try to be a realist in it and know that I need to plan for the future. I am always planning ahead and always working on different ventures and things from writing scripts and producing films to being involved in stage shows. I have a stage show that I’m putting together, I love entertaining people and hopefully I will always be blessed with the ability to entertain folks and I’m honored to have moments like this to be able to chat about voice acting. I’m honored that you wanted to interview me. Thanks for the great questions, I had fun!
The honor is all mine! Thank you!
Matt Lanter – Anakin Skywalker
How did you start in the movie and voice acting business?
I did some background extra work for a film called Bobby Jones that shot in Atlanta. After falling in love with the magic of it, I decided to finish out my semester at UGA, save up some money then packed up my car with what I had and drove out to LA to make a career.
Can you tell how you got cast for the Clone Wars series?
It was a standard voice audition for a project that I knew nothing about; just that it was Star Wars something. Dave Filoni was there, as well as Catherine Winder and they asked me to read the copy as a combination of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. I gave it my best and here I am today!
You were given the tough task to voice an established character since Anakin was featured in the prequels, played by Hayden Christensen. Did you study Hayden’s portrayal of Anakin and his voice a lot to come up with your own version of Anakin?
Of course I watched all the prequel films to gather what I could about Anakin, but I’m not trying to copy a voice performance in any way. George and Dave and I have all chatted about how this Anakin is a bit different than what we have seen in the films and I feel I have the liberty to extend that into voice quality as well. I was cast with my own spin on the character, not as a voice double, so it’s actually really nice not having that pressure like a few of my other cast mates.
How do you look at working on Clone Wars? And do you like the series?
I love working on it and love watching it as a fan too. The cast is great, Dave and a fantastic supervising director and really knows how to work with the actors. We really have a great family feel from the actors to producers to everyone at Lucasfilm. We all have a passion for making the show the best it can be. Every time I watch it, it just blows me away. I am humbled that I’m a part of it.
Were you a fan of the Star Wars movies when you were a kid?
I can’t really say I was a fan because I hadn’t seen them all. I actually saw the prequels before I saw the original trilogy, I think around 15 or so. I’m obviously a huge Star Wars geek now though!
Looking at the future: do you want to establish yourself mainly as an actor or as a voice actor? Where do you get the most satisfaction from?
Both. I love doing both for different reasons and I have a passion for both. You have to put yourself and your character in these hard to imagine situations, especially in Star Wars. It’s a great outlet for creativity! On camera is much different. You also get to travel and experience new places and cultures, which is a blast.
What would your dream project be and are there future Star Wars projects you are going to be involved with?
I’m always doing video games as Anakin. As far as other Star Wars projects, who knows… I wouldn’t turn it down, that’s for sure. I’m not sure that I have one dream project. There are a lot of things I want to do in my career.
Please finish the following sentence: “When I look at my work on Star Wars, I…”
Feel lucky and humbled to a part of it.
Cat Taber – Padmé Amidala
How did you start in the (voice) acting business?
I moved to Los Angeles to be an actress, so, I was already here working on camera. I had actually never even heard of voice over when I was referred to a really great Voice agent through someone who thought I had the right stuff for that side of the business. Luckily the agent agreed, signed me, and the rest, as they say….
Your first job for Lucasfilm was the videogame Knights of the Old Republic, for which you voiced Mission Vao. How did you get this job?
Not only was Mission my first voice over job, it was literally my second audition! When my agent, Sandie, called to let me know I had booked the job, she said “you might not want to say it’s your first voice over job”. I did end up telling the director, Darraugh, at the end of the job, because it all went so well. He, Sandie and I had a good laugh. That job gave me some credibility early on, so I feel very fortunate to have been there. I really feel it is my own love and knowledge of the Star Wars universe that helped me to get the job. I love that game, and I still get mail from Mission Vao fans!
You are best known as the voice of Padmé for the Clone Wars series. How did you get this part? Lucasfilm knew you, but did you still have to audition?
Actually, Lucasfilm didn’t know me. The thing about Lucas is that the departments are separate. Although they communicate, LucasArts, who does the video games, is a different entity than Lucas Film. I was still fairly new at the time, so my agent had to call the casting person 3 times to convince her to see me. Sandie said “no really, she IS Padmé.” Thankfully, I got the appointment. I didn’t hear anything for a month, but it was still on my mind everyday. Then, one day my agent called and said “What’s up Padmé?” After she convinced me she wasn’t just joking with me, I think I screamed. I was very happy!
Did you study Natalie Portman’s performance in the Prequels a lot to get the voice of Padmé right? Or did you give Padmé your personal touch?
I naturally have a voice similar in tone to Natalie’s, and I certainly have watched her performance from the films many times. I also studied the wealth of data on Padmé and her history at the Star Wars online database, but, after that, Dave is really great about letting me just play Padmé as I see her. Whether you are doing theater, such as a Shakespearean piece or film or television, I believe when you take on a character it’s important to make it your own, and not just try and copy another actor’s performance. I feel honored to be the one bringing Padmé to life in all her new trials and adventures.
What’s it like, working on Clone Wars?
If we are recording an all new episode, it takes 4 hours for the initial record. First, Dave talks to the cast about what is going on in the episode and brings to life any history that may be relevant. Then we go through the script, just like an old school radio play. Unless the cast member is out of town, we are all there together in a big room stationed in front of our mics. Usually there is also a camera set up to record our faces for the animators. It is so much fun! Then some days you are just going in to do “pick ups”, adding any finishing touches or changes that have been made to the episode after the animation has been done. In this case, you are often saying your lines “to picture.” You have to time it correctly to fit with the animation. Dave is always there, in the control booth with our awesome engineer, Cameron, and sometimes, Dave will bring a writer or episode director down to Los Angeles with him. I love that, because it’s great to meet the other “teammates”!
How is your relationship with your colleagues like Dave Filoni, Tom Kane and Matt Lanter?
Dave is the coolest director I have ever worked with. He cares about the material and he understands how to communicate with us. He will often send me some of Padmé’s speeches months before we record an episode to ask how I feel about them. He knows I have very clear ideas about who she is. Although I don’t always have the final say, he really listens to my ideas and feelings. It’s pretty awesome. Tom Kane is one of the coolest people in the business. He is so funny and genuine, and wise… the fact that this super tall guy plays this tiny green Jedi seems crazy at first, but the more you get to know Tom, the more you are like, well besides the height thing, he is Yoda! Matt is super fun and talented. I love doing the romantic and the bantering scenes with him. Sometimes I forget we are animated! I have become good friends with James Arnold Taylor and have learned so much from him about how to be a good person and true to yourself in this crazy business. Ironically, I think he and I have really developed a friendship that is very close to Padmé and Obi Wan’s. Dee, Corey and Phil are so talented and funny, I always say working with them is like going to Harvard for Voice Overs. Ian Abercrombie is a true gentleman and is an acting legend to me. Last but not least, Ashley! Ashley, simply put, is THE BEST girl to work with. She is genuinely sweet and supportive. We are really lucky to have gotten such a great group of people together.
What do you expect of Clone Wars: Season 3? The stories in season 2 seem to get more and more ‘mature’. Will season 3 continue this?
Absolutely. Things get darker as the series goes along. I think they kind of have to in order to be true to the overall Star Wars “legend”. Ashley and Dave are taking Ahsoka in a very cool direction as she matures and comes into her own. We know the path Anakin is headed down, and we will start to see that transition. Everyone is affected, not only by the war itself, but also the hidden politics that are below the surface. There will still be the classic Star Wars humor and light hearted fun moments, but the darker more mature tone continues for sure.
I heard you’re a huge Star Wars fan. How and when did your fandom start?
As a kid I grew up loving sci-fi and fantasy, but I was more of reader. As a late teen and young adult, so many of the guys I knew loved Star Wars that it just rubbed off on me! It delivered all the things I love – princesses, scoundrels, space ships, creatures, good versus evil, it has it all! I love all 6 of the live action films, although Empire Strikes Back is my favorite I think, because of Hoth and Dagobah. I am also a fan of the Zahn books, and now I really love getting recommendations from fans on other expanded universe stuff to check out.
Since you’re such a fan voicing a major Star Wars character like Padmé must feel like a dream coming true I guess?
I am not trying to be a cornball, when I say it really is an honor. I said prayers and wished on every star in the sky to get this job! And I am grateful to have been chosen.
How ‘far’ do you go or have you gone as a fan? I mean things like a house full of merchandise or sleeping in front of the cinema to see the first screening of Episode I for instance.
I do have quite a bit of merchandise in my office I must say. Dave didn’t believe me at first…then he saw photos! I actually have stuff from many of the jobs I have worked on, posters, artwork and figures. The coolest thing I have though, is a drawing Dave did of me fused with Padmé. I love it. I haven’t slept in lines though, although I really am in awe of the story telling magic that compels so many fans to do so.
Another major character you voiced was Princess Leia for the videogame The Force Unleashed. How strange was that, being the voice of one of the most popular movie characters ever? Since you’re a Star Wars fan maybe you imagined you were Leia when you were a kid?
Forget as a kid, I still imagine I’m Leia! But really, it was fun to play Leia, and just to be a small part of The Force Unleashed. I love Leia’s attitude and we try to bring some of that to Padmé on the Clone Wars, for sure. I hope to play Jaina Solo someday and complete my “trilogy”. I’m thinking Live Action. That way I finally get to wield a lightsaber!
What will the future bring you? Do you have new projects and on what Star Wars projects will you work in the future?
I am having a great time and keeping super busy. But the funny thing about this line of work is all the confidentiality clauses! I keep my website updated and also IMDB is a good way to check out what I am doing…I have Metal Gear coming out soon, and this cool game Resonance of Fate just hit stores. And yes, there is more Star Wars for me!
Tom Kane – Yoda
How did you get started in the voice acting business? I read that you had a fascination with voices on TV as a kid and that when you were 14 you could do any voice?
I got into it when I was a teenager living in Kansas City. I was 15, it was summer and I was bored. I knew I had a better voice than a lot of the local stuff on TV and radio because back than it was all done by (does a radio voice) the local FM disc jockey who sounded like be theretherethere’.
So I started calling local advertisers and offered my services. It didn’t occur to me anyone got actually paid for it. One day I got a call back from the American ads agency and they liked to have me donate some voice over work. I had my dad drive me over to the studio because I didn’t have my license yet and of course they walked up to him and he said ‘No, that’s the guy’. They were like ‘What?’ The co-producer got his ass whooped while the engineer was setting me up on a microphone because they rented a studio and found out I’d never done this before. I asked them if they wanted me to do the lines in some kind of accent. The producer goes ‘What?’ I said that it might sound good like the old Pepperidge farm guy. He said ‘Oh, you do that do you? Let’s hear that’. So I went (does the Pepperidge farm accent) ‘Every weekend a couple dozen Kansas City families have a couple dozen garage sales’. Anyway, they went ‘O’, recorded it and put it on the air and 5 days later I got a call from another ad agency that wanted me to do 5 commercials except it was paid and I had to join the union and here I am!
You have done voice work for Lucasfilm since the mid-nineties. How did you get started at Lucasfilm?
I got started at Lucasfilm just doing miscellaneous small parts for their video games. I guess I was actually on the very first they ever did, it was called The Dig I think. Just goofing around I would read other parts to show off. One day they were doing some TIE Fighter game. There were the voices of Yoda and C-3PO, I read them and they hired me to do them.
One of your first jobs at Lucasfilm was voicing the droid Leebo for Shadows of the Empire, which was a big project back then with books, a soundtrack, toys and a game being released. How do you look back at Shadows of the Empire?
Man, I wish I could tell you I remember all of that but I don’t. I’ve got a bunch of kids and I can’t remember what I did last week (laughs). I remember doing it but the details are lost in the mist of time.
Over the years you have voiced many Star Wars characters, from Yoda to Boba Fett and from C-3PO to Lobot. What kind of techniques do you use to come up with a voice?
I don’t really use a specific technique to come up with a voice. A lot of guys do and practice to come up with things. I just can either do it or can’t. I may massage a voice once I get going on it but generally if I can’t do it pretty naturally I don’t bother because other people can and are better at it than I am.
Your best known role is Yoda, who you voiced on various occasions.
How did you prepare for this role? Did you watch the movies a lot while trying to come as close as possible to Frank Oz’ voice?
As far as Yoda is concerned, I didn’t work on being Yoda. I saw the movies 53 times so the voice was very much in my head. Everybody tries to do Yoda, not just voice overs but everybody. I was doing stuff for LucasArts and I was goofing around and reading Yoda lines and what I didn’t know was that Frank Oz was directing a movie. They recorded it and played it for George and I’ve been Yoda ever since.
Speaking of Frank Oz, have you ever met him?
I have never met Frank Oz. I once saw him at a recording studio but didn’t have the guts to come up and say anything. So, I would love to meet him. I hope he feels I’m doing justice to his creation. I’m immensely respectful for the fact that it is his creation and I’m just caretaking it. I hope that when he hears it he’s not displeased.
You will voice Yoda again for The Force Unleashed 2 video game. Can you give us any spoilers about how the game and storyline will be?
I can’t give you any spoilers, because the secret police at Lucasfilm would have me taken out. But it’s gotta be cool obviously. It’s going to be bigger, better, faster and more intense.
You have voiced a lot of Star Wars characters for a lot of Star Wars games. Do you play these games? And which one do you consider to be your favorite?
I haven’t played many Star Wars games, frankly I haven’t got much time. I’ve got a bunch of kids and I work all day. I don’t play any games, so it’s not something against Star Wars. The kids play them all the time and I look over their shoulder. I’m pretty much in the Stone Age when it comes to playing games.
Back to Clone Wars: how does a typical work day for Clone Wars look like?
I don’t live in Los Angeles anymore so I don’t record with the cast. Usually they get together and it takes 2 or 3 hours to record an episode. Since I’m not geographically able to do that they just send me my lines and hook up with me from studio to studio and while I read my Yoda lines they record it at their end and the whole thing usually takes 15 minutes.
Clone Wars: season two is airing in the US right now. In the beginning of the series the stories were mainly aimed at kids, but it now seems that the show is getting more and more mature. How do you look at this?
It is definitely a little more mature than season 1. Obviously it was a conscious decision. They’re not trying in any way to scale it mature to the point where people don’t want their kids to watch. That’s the lifeblood of Star Wars, bringing in a new generation of padawans. They’ll never make it so mature that it’s not kid-friendly. Other projects may be different. The live action TV show may be more adult. It’s not gonna be The Sopranos.
You are directed by Dave Filoni on Clone Wars. How is he to work with?
Dave is a wonderful director. He’s a fan of the show, he’s an experienced competent animation voice director. We almost always agree instantly on what the right read is for a particular line. I can’t say enough about how wonderfully brief he is. He tells me what to do and what to say and he brings it all together in a wonderful little package.
How do you look at working on Clone Wars?
I love working on Clone Wars. I like the series, I’m always 4 or 5 episodes behind because I try to find the time to watch, so I’m always telling people ‘Don’t tell me anything! I don’t want to know!’ It’s almost a split personality thing because when I’m working on it I’m just trying to concentrate on that as a job, to make that the best performance I can and I try to put the fact that it’s Star Wars out of my head because otherwise I get too excited. It takes 6 to 9 months for the episode to air after it’s recorded so by then I’ve forgotten a lot of it in terms of the dialogue and plot, so I get to watch it as a fan which is really nice.
When the Clone Wars were first mentioned in A New Hope back in 1977 I bet no one could imagine we would ever see this as an animated series 30 years later. Suppose someone would have said to you, back in 1977, that you were going to play a big part in this, what would you have said? And were you a fan of Star Wars back then?
Nobody could have imagined that a couple of lines from A New Hope would turn into this, 30 years later. I certainly could have never imagined that someday I would be working on a project like this and meet George Lucas, Mark Hamill and the people I’ve met over the years. It’s hard to imagine. I was a huge fan. I saw the original Star Wars probably 12 times. I took my 85 year old grandmother to see it and she loved it.
Has George Lucas visited the cast and crew of Clone Wars? What was that like, meeting ‘the maker’ and did he give you any advice?
We have all met George a couple of times at Clone Wars. I’ve met him a couple of times other than that for various reasons and projects and it’s amazing. Partly the reason it was cool because he’s such a nice normal guy. He’s such a mythic character in many ways. In person he’s just the opposite of that. He’s just a guy wearing a flannel shirt and jeans and he’s a nice regular soft spoken guy. That was a real treat, to see that he’s human. Well, ok, he was levitating 2 or 3 inches off the floor most of the time, but other than that he’s just a regular guy.
You once said that Yoda is your favorite character, so I’m not going to ask you who’s your favorite. Instead, who’s your second favorite character that you have voiced? And why?
Yeah, Yoda’s my favorite character. Next to that, probably Professor Utonium from the Powerpuff Girls because he’s a dad and I’m a dad, and Darwin from The Wild Thornberry’s because that was a great show to work on, partly because the cast was so awesome.
Suppose you had the chance to pick any character you like to voice. Which character would you choose, and why?
Well, duh! Darth Vader! (laughs) That’s the voice over gig of the century. I would only do it though if I can frickin’ perfectly nail James Earl Jones. Otherwise it would just be embarrassing.
Looking at the future: what are your upcoming projects and what would be your dream project?
I might be working on a pilot for Seth Green and I’d love to work on the upcoming Star Wars live action show. I don’t know what voice over work they’ll need, but I’m pretty sure they’ll need some droids and other stuff so I really hope I’ll get a chance at that. It’s the stuff I love more than anything.
Thank you for the interview!
(with Yoda’s voice) May the Force be with you!
Dee Bradley Baker – Captain Rex
How did you get started in the voice acting business?
I taped improv sketches as a kid with a tape recorder with low batteries then would plug it in and play it back resulting in a sped up voice, almost chipmunk. I thought it was fun to modify my voice and perform. I did ventriloquism and all kinds of performing all my life- plays, stand up, musicals, singing telegrams, theme parks, children’s theater, summer Shakespeare, operas, improv. Never studied it really, just performed A LOT. My first “big” voice over gig was voicing and moving the jaw of Olmec on Nickelodeon’s Legends of the Hidden Temple game show. My first animated television series was Cow and Chicken as Dad. There I learned from the great Charlie Adler and Candi Milo, as well as other brilliant guest stars how to do it.
You have done voice work for Lucasfilm for many years. How did you get started at Lucasfilm?
I was called to audition for this “unnamed” project. Had to voice match the clones, they liked me, I booked it. I’d already worked with director Dave Filoni on Nickelodeon’s Avatar television series -really proud of that show- and as well as with the incomparable voice director Andrea Romano, who was helping cast Clone Wars at the time. They knew and trusted my acting ability and I gave them what they needed, I guess. Couldn’t believe it. I’d never done anything so “normal”. Most of my roles were either cartoony or creature oriented up to that point. This was a whole new thing, plus, it was dear to me, as I really loved Star Wars as a kid. Gotta find that picture of me in the Jawa costume my folks made for me, October 1977…
For Clone Wars you have voiced many Star Wars characters, from Rodians to Clone Troopers. Do you get strict instructions of how a voice should be? And what kind of techniques do you use to come up with a voice?
I get specifics from Dave Filoni, plus the scripts are well written and show the way. It’s specific, but I wouldn’t call it “strict.” Also, we get a drawing of the character to get a sense of the size, attitude, etc. Dave is supportive and trusts us, yet has a specific idea of the feel of what the character needs to be. From that, we are free to find it with imagination.
How does a typical work day for Clone Wars look like?
I show up at 2pm with most or all of cast in the recording studio. Dave talks us through the story. We usually receive the scripts to review the day before. We record it almost like Radio Theater, taking it scene by scene. Really fun. Good actors, fun people. A real blast. Done, hopefully, by 6pm or earlier.
Does the cast and crew of Clone Wars joke around and have fun sometimes?
Yes. We have a lot of fun. It keeps the energy up, which is really key when you are spending a few hours on a record, as a drop in energy can kill the needed focus and spark.
You are directed by Dave Filoni on Clone Wars. How does he direct you and how is he to work with?
Dave trusts actors and that makes it easy for us to find the story he needs us to tell. He will add specifics we may not realize, as he has it more specifically blocked out in his mind than even the script suggests. He always has a calm grin and has fun with us as we paint the story.
How do you look at working on Clone Wars? Do you like watching the series?
I think the series is utterly awesome. I could go on and on. I’m lucky to be on a lot of shows, but this is one of the few I make it a point to see, either with my kid or solo. I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to see how it is finally rendered. It gets better and better, so far beyond anything else on TV. I can think of in that realm. A quantum leap. Really an impressive show in how it is blocked out and imagined. The pace, the action, the comedy, and even the spirit to it, it’s really an amazing package. I wish there were a new one every week all year long.
Can you tell something about Clone Wars: series 3? What can we expect from the new series?
I’m busting to tell so much. Some really incredible developments and new story lines, yet I’ve only heard the records, not seen the final product, which is even more impressive. I can’t say much, but I can say that fans will be surprised at some familiar faces appearing from the features. There is also a multi episode arc of a particular episode that is near and dear to my heart from season one that I think fans of the clones will particularly love.
Who’s your favorite Star Wars character that you have voiced? And who is your favorite overall character that you have voiced?
That’s hard to choose, because we try to give each clone a sense of individuality and humanity. Ultimately, each is interesting to me. But, if I must: My favorite Clone Wars clones I’ve voiced are probably Rex, because he’s so solid and dependable, and then Cut, because he’s a dad, like me. Really loved his episode. I think it was also pretty awesome voicing Bossk. Since the Gorn (editors note: a cult creature from the original Star Trek TV series episode Arena), I liked lizard dudes. On other shows, I have so many characters I’ve done that I just love, but I gotta say I have a special place in my heart for Appa, from Nickelodeon’s Avatar animated series. I particularly loved voicing all the creatures for that series. Dave Filoni directed the first season. Was kinda sad they had no interest in having me voice Momo and Appa for the feature on that one…
Were you a Star Wars fan before you got to work for Lucasfilm?
Well, I had read the novel and read all the reviews and features before seeing the original Episode IV back in 1977. This was a movie event like no other, kids now cannot imagine the unprecedented excitement of that first movie. It was in-sane. Logan’s Run had just had it’s release, cost more to make, and wasn’t anywhere close in terms of special effects and generating excitement. When Episode IV was re-released summer of 1978, I spent that summer dressed in my Jawa costume at the local theater in Greeley, Colorado scaring people and watching Episode IV all summer long. Got paid in movie passes. Best job ever, well, next to this one. Ha!
What will the future bring you? Do you have new projects and on what Star Wars projects will you work in the future?
I’m working on a lot of shows and games all the time. I’m very lucky to help make these things I love. I’ve been working on a few Star Wars related games recently, new seasons of SpongeBob, Ben 10, American Dad, Phineas and Ferb, to name a few. Got Gears of War 3 coming up this next week, a freakishly great game in my book. Love video games. There are a couple other projects that I’m really excited about that I still can’t talk about. Living the dream.
David Acord – Sound Designer
How did you get started in the sound engineering/movie business??
I was a musician in college, in couple of bands, and we recorded a lot of original music, mainly for our friends and each other. I suppose that was my introduction in sound recording/editing/mixing. As for the film business, I was working in the Special Effects department on 12 Monkeys in 1994-1995. On set, I got to be pretty tight with the sound mixer, Jay Meagher, talking about sound and sound mixing. He graciously hired me on to his next 4 or 5 projects as his assistant.
How did you get started at Lucasfilm?
Matthew Wood. After a couple of years of knocking on their door (so to speak), and two or three interviews later… I was hired as an assistant on Attack of the Clones.
You’re currently sound designer for Clone Wars. Can you tell what you exactly have to do for this series?
The “sound designer” is basically in charge of the sound effects for a show. The designer selects, creates, records, etc. sound effects to create a specific tone for the project.
In 2009 you won a Golden Reel Award for Clone Wars. Did you feel winning that award was a crown on your work?
It is certainly great to be recognized by your peers for your work! I’m very proud of the work we do and of the people I work with; it’s a collaborative process after all.
You worked on the 2004 DVD version of the Star Wars original trilogy. For this, you had to go through the archives. Were there notable discoveries you made while going through all those old takes?
Ha! Yes, indeed. Matthew Wood and I had a lot of fun pouring over alternate takes of famous lines from the show. I think the one that stood out to me was an exchange between George Lucas and Alec Guinness. It was an ADR (looping) session and George was directing Alec’s performance for lines like “Use the Force, Luke…” That was kind of surreal.
At Skywalker Sound you must have met the legendary Ben Burrt, who won 2 Oscars. Has he taught you important things and functioned as a mentor to you?
I owe quite a bit to Ben Burtt, obviously. Ben is a good friend and has been a great guide and a source of encouragement during my time as designer on Clone Wars.
You have done a wide range of voices for Star Wars and Clone Wars. Do you consider yourself a voice actor as well?
And how do you create all these voices? Is there a lot of computer enhancement involved?
Well, I have spent time learning the craft of voice acting at classes San Francisco and Oakland. I have a lot to learn still, I have great respect for our voice actors on Clone Wars; those guys are amazing! The voices I’ve done range from robotic (A-4D and GH-7) to creature (Rotta and Pilf Mukmuk) to human (Senate guards and the Coronet Captain). The droid voices are definitely processed, at least somewhat, to give them that classic Star Wars droid ring. The creature voices have a little less process, usually just a pitch change.
About the characters you have voiced; did you get to choose them yourself? Or were the assigned to you?
Generally, you audition for a voice role. A couple of characters were sort of assigned to me, though. GH-7 for instance: Ben asked me to take a crack at it, which I did. George then signed off on it, and it made it into the movie. A-4D was a role written with me in mind by Henry Gilroy and Dave Filoni as a foil for General Grievous (Matt Wood).
I bet you saw Return of the Jedi back in 1983. 25 years later, in 2008, you voiced Rotta, his son. That must have been something you would have never, ever expected?
I did! Multiple times… No, I never would have expected that I would have anything at all to do with Star Wars on a professional level, nevertheless voice a character!
Of all the characters you voiced, you must have a favorite. Can you tell who that is and why?
A-4D is my favorite, for sure. He’s fun to do because he’s got so much personality and he’s so evil!
You have worked with directors George Lucas and Dave Filoni. How were both men to work with?
George and Dave are really great to work with! They both completely respect sound and know well the process of creating good a track. They also have great ideas on how to handle certain sound-related challenges we face in every episode. At the same time, Dave and George encourage a lot of creative free reign, sound-wise.
How do you look at working on the Star Wars movies and on the Clone Wars series? And do you like the movie and series as a fan?
I love it! Of course I’m a fan! The hard work Matt Wood and I put into the show is as much a part of our profession as it is a labor of love.
Looking at the future: what are your upcoming projects?
“Always in motion is the future….”