This year's Comic-Con was filled to the brim with more celebrities than ever before, faces you could recognize from a thousand yards away. Of course, it was also packed with famous, beloved actors that even most hard-core nerds wouldn't recognize, simply because they've never seen their faces. I'm talking about the people who give life to your favorite cartoons and video game characters, voice actors. Today, we have an interview with one such actor (and film maker) who has lent his voice to such classic game series as Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Red Faction and Saints Row and current cartoon sensations like The Emperor’s New School, Justin Cowden.
What inspired you to want to do voice acting?
I always loved cartoons! You name it, I watched it; Hanna Barbara, Rankin and Bass, Looney Toons, Mel Blank was the King! But there was actually a moment when I was about eight years old. I grew up in Culver City and they were filming Matlock on my street. I got to meet Kenny Holiday. And when I found out that he was the voice of RoadBlock on GI.Joe, I went nuts. Not only was he the coolest, this guy was the biggest celebrity to me. I haven't seen him since, and I don't think he knows what he did for me. He inspired me. I wanted to be like him.
How did you get your start?
I kind of fell into voice acting. I had gone into an audition for a radio spot. They asked me if I did Spanish, which I do. After that, they sent me up against a bunch of little kids to play a little Latino boy on a cartoon, knowing that my voice wouldn't change and I was an adult. The producers hired me for Ozzy and Drix on Kids WB. That was where I met all my mentors and heroes: Pat Fraley, Rob Paulson, Jeff Bennett, Phill Lammar, Jim Cummings, Frank Welker, Alanna Ubach,Tasia Valenz, Billy West, and Jess Harnell. And that was only a few!!
What's auditioning like?
Auditioning, once I broke in, became a fun process. I didn't always get the job, but I got to read for stuff that was just amazing. Got close on a couple of big comic book heroes, but came up short, which is always a bummer, but I'm a big believer that the voices I'm supposed to do will come at the right time.
When you're trying to create a character, what's your method?
When trying to create a character, I usually look at the sound they want, then I look for people I know, or people in pop culture and merge ideas to create something really fun. I'm also very flexible with what the producers want.
What animated shows or video games have you worked on and what characters did you play?
I have done shows like Ozzy and Drix, As Told by Ginger, and The Emperor’s New School, which is still on the air. I was also a voice in various pilots. Video games I did were Kingdom Hearts 2 (Hayner) and various voices in The Sopranos, Saints Row and Saints Row 2, Red Faction 3, and the upcoming Final Fantasy.
Are you a nerd and if so, what nerdy things are you into?
I am absolutely a geeky nerd, for real! I love comic books and have collected them since I was a kid, [and] still do. I love superheroes and movies, Sci-Fi and fantasy. [I] played D&D as a kid: Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis, Batman, Green Lantern, Star Wars and Star Trek! The list is too long for this page!
Do you have a favorite project you've worked on?
Every time I get a job... that's my favorite!
Do you have any advice for anyone else who is thinking about becoming a voice actor?
My advice for aspiring voice actors would be, don't Give up!! Ever! Just when you want to quit, stay one more day. Take classes with folks like Ginny Mcswain; I owe my career to her. She is awesome! Pat Fraley is awesome too and someone who I learned a lot from. Most importantly, practice, and watch cartoons. Listen to the radio. Listen to people talking. It's the best school you can attend.
What's your dream voiceover role?
My dream role would be to finally play a superhero, to play a Batman character, Robin or Nightwing in a Judas Contract movie would be awesome! I am available, Andrea Romano. [I] would love to work with her too!
What was it like at Comic-Con this year?
Comic-Con was a little overwhelming this year. I really love that it has gained so much legitimacy. It has essentially become comparable to what the Sundance Film Festival was in the nineties. Everyone who's anyone has to be seen there regardless. The lines for toys were a bit much and the auditoriums were filled to the max. A simple panel took half of a day to wait in line for, but aside from that, I had a short film at the festival that I wrote and directed. It's called The Swing, about a guy who covers for super heroes when they are sick. Keep an eye out for it in feature form and graphic novel form as well.