Zak Knutson [Interview]


Oh do we have a GREAT interview for you fine folks today! I have been waiting for years to be able to finally get the brilliant Zak Knutson here on our digital pages! He is an absolutely brilliant filmmaker, actor, and a damn fine showman who’s importance has been forever embedded into a world that we have celebrated time and time again here at Trainwreck’d Society. And that would is the beloved View Askewinverse. Yes, when it comes to the world that Kevin Smith set out to create 25 years ago, we have been rightfully obsessed. We have featured some damn fine folks from this world, and today is no exception. Zak remains a friend in the View Askew world, and will always be deemed a hero to us die hard fans of all things Kevin Smith.

And since moving on to bigger and better things, Knutson has only been thriving! His recent film Supercon, had a theatrical run and is available wherever you buy/rent films. It has a brilliant cast, including the wonderful comic Russell Peters and a small but brilliant appearance from our new friend here at TWS, the great Candi Brooks! It is a hilarious film, and just further evidence of the brilliance that Zak Knutson can and will give to the world.

So Folks, please enjoy some words from the brilliant Zak Knutson!

When did you first decide that you wanted to join the world of film? What initially drew you into this business?

I’ve never really wanted to do anything else. The family television set was my babysitter when I was younger. Well, after watching the billionth episode of Little House on the Prairie, you start to notice the credits. Michael Landon was all over that thing, and I was fascinated that the guy who starred in the show, also wrote it… and directed it. At the tender age of 7, I was arrogant enough already to say “I could do that”.

What was the very first paid gig you can remember getting either on screen or off? What kind of emotions did you have at the time? Nervous? Shitting nerves? Excited?

My first paid gig was in a movie called Last Action Hero. I was cut out of it. (story of my life)

You have worked on a ton of projects in the View Askew/Smodco/Kevin Smith Universe over the last two decades. How did you become involved in this world, and how is working with this crew different from the multitude of other projects you have worked on?

I was hired as the production secretary on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and my desk was right between Kevin’s office and Scott Mosier’s office. I didn’t screw anything up too bad during production, so they gave me a job as a VFX assistant during post production to keep me around, and I never left. I worked on Jersey Girl and then we started all the DVD stuff (webisodes and feature docs) on Clerks II. I loved working with those guys. Their sets were fun and the crew became some of my closest friends. I loved that time.


And we have to ask….How did you get pegged to be “The Sexy Stud”? I think you may have discussed it in a cleverly titled series of shorts film that accompanied the Clerks II DVD. I forget the title, although I believe it was perfect, could you tell us again what it was called again? And what inspired you to make them?

I got the part because Ben Affleck didn’t wanna wear chaps. Its that simple… AND the only time you will ever hear “Well, shit! Affleck wont do it. Call Knutson”. The webisodes we did were called Train-wreck: Making Clerks 2 – I think. We put out three minute webisodes every few days during production and post production. We’d shoot all day. Then I’d edit all night. It was my film school, to be honest with you. We had to created and tell stories in 3 minutes, every 2 or 3 days. It got us ready to make the documentary that went on the DVD. I’m still very proud of Back to the Well. I think it’s a pretty honest look at the making of the movie. Funny thing is, at the same time we were doing that, Peter Jackson was doing King Kong and doing webisodes. He had action scenes, and props, and amazing period costumes to talk about and show. We had Mooby’s and Jason Mewes. (we may have gotten the better end of things, come to think of it)

What has the fan interaction been like since you appeared in one of the most legendary bachelor party scenes since, well, Bachelor Party?

I barley get recognized now for that, but when I do… the eyes go big and I hear “I miss my donkey” or “oh, cake”. Im just glad people laugh.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I just co-wrote and directed a movie called Supercon starring Clancy Brown, Maggie Grace, Mike Epps, Brooks Braselman, Russell Peters, and John Malkovich. We got a theatrical run and now its on all the digital platforms and DVD. Im pitching a limited series around town and taking some meetings on other stuff. Hopefully we can announce the series soon. Im excited about that one.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I watched Michelle Wolf’s HBO stand-up special last night (I was late to the game) and laughed my ass off. Plus, if you put John C. Reilly in anything, i’ll probably laugh too.

Check out the trailer for Supercon right here, and find it on whatever platform you buy/rent movies. Enjoy!

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Richard Cansino [Interview]


As some of you fine readers may have noticed, we have really been digging deep into the world of voice acting lately. We have especially put a primary focus on the voice actors behind the brilliant Fallout series that we all know and love. Last week was actually ALL Fallout voice actors. And yet, here we are again with just one more (for now) to share with you all. But, trust me, Richard Cansino is far more than just another few characters from Fallout 4. He is a wise and extremely talented man in the world of voice over and on screen work, and probably gives the greatest bit of insight into the business that we have had to date!

Richard has a lot to say about his career thus far, what it has been like to evolve in the digital world of voice over and loop groups and beyond. He even gives insight into the insane fandom in the world of anime, of which I truly knew nothing about. So, I really think we just dive right into it! But, I have to say that it is a true honor and a privilege to have another legendary voice over artist here at Trainwreck’d Society! So folks, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Richard Cansino!

How did you find yourself in your line of work as an actor and a master of the voice over world? Was this a world you always dreamed about being a part of? Or did you just sort of find yourself doing it for a living?

I come from a showbiz family. My grandfather was a big star in vaudeville. He & his brothers and sister were known as The Dancing Cansinos. They introduced Flamenco dancing to America and he married a Ziegfeld Girl, my grandmother Volga Hayworth. My father’s sister, (Auntie Rita), was Rita Hayworth, (yes, the Hollywood legend!), and I’m also distantly related by marriage to Ginger Rogers and Donna Reed.

Because of the long show business history of my family, I really didn’t have too many romantic illusions about it. I had enjoyed being in a couple of high school plays but I knew acting wasn’t a very practical way to make a living so, when it came time to go to college, I decided to be a language major. I figured it would be easier to get a job if I spoke Spanish at least. But as luck would have it, Glendale Junior College, (in my home town of Glendale, CA),  didn’t offer Spanish as a major and I couldn’t afford the schools that did. So I decided to take a few drama classes in Jr. College, hoping that one of the required courses in other subjects would catch my fancy but nothing gave me as much pleasure or satisfaction as theater so I kind of fell into acting because nothing else suited me.

I studied acting for over seven years before I felt ready to try making a living at it. I graduated Magna Cum Lousy at Cal State University Long Beach, (Go Beach!), and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts/West. When I graduated from the American Academy my goal was just to make a living as an actor. It never occurred to me there was even such a thing as a voice over career. I knew there were actors doing cartoon voices but my focus was to get on-camera and stage work. For about ten years I managed to eek out a meager living doing a combination of theatre, children’s theatre, some TV parts and several “B” films. Some years weren’t as good as  others, though, so there were times when I had to do “survival jobs” between acting gigs. One of those survival gigs was painting houses and one of the houses I  painted, (and really terribly, I have to say), belonged to a couple of friends of mine, Steve Kramer & Melora Harte.

Steve and Melora had been making a pretty good living writing, acting, and directing dubbing scripts for anime and foreign film projects. Steve, at the time, was directing an anime series called Soccer Boy, basically following characters around the world as they attend World Cup soccer matches. Steve needed actors who could not only hit sync but speak in a variety of different accents. I have always been good with accents and dialects and Melora suggested Steve call me in for a day after she heard me clowning around with accents at a party were were both at.

Dubbing is not for everyone. There aren’t a ton of actors who can match the lip movements of the characters on screen and make it sound real so Steve was reluctant to call me in but he decided to give me a try by hiring me to do voices in the background, (known in the biz as “walla”), with a group of seasoned dubbing actors. So, there I was making background conversation with the other actors when Steve asked me to step up to the mic and do one line for one character. I didn’t realize he was auditioning me, otherwise I would have been very nervous, and I hit the line perfectly on cue and every word fit into the character’s mouth perfectly in one take. So I passed the test I didn’t know I was taking!

I aced the rest of the day’s work but didn’t realize that most of the other actors I was working with were very active as dubbing writers and directors too. They were all happy to discover another actor who could dub well and be fun to work with and I started getting called in by them on other projects.

About a month later, Saban Entertainment was casting a replacement for Bob Bergen on a series called Eagle Riders because Bob had left to voice Porky Pig and Tweety Bird at Warner Brothers. My voice just happened to sound so similar to Bob’s that they didn’t even have to redo a lot of the lines he had already recorded. I worked on that series for a year, (Bryan Cranston voiced my character’s co-pilot!), and when it was over, they offered me a part on another show called Super Pig, followed by another show and another after that. I ended up working for several years on Saban projects like Flint: The Time Detective, Digimon, and Power Rangers. During that time, I worked with more and more people with connections in dubbing, looping and video games and I, unintentionally, was networking with them. After a while, they would just call me in for work without me even having to audition! What a luxury for an actor!

So, basically, with the help of Steve Kramer and Melora Harte, I just lucked into it! But even though I was lucky, my training prepared me to take advantage of the opportunity when it came a-knockin’.  As Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers said: “Luck is the residue of design.”

Boy, that was a really long answer to a short question!

One of the projects you have worked on happens to be a video game in a franchise that is very near and dear to our hearts here at TWS. That project would be Fallout 4. You voiced three very unique, and actually pretty hilarious in their own right, characters on the game: The Railroad’s star tourist Ricky Dalton, Diamond City’s beloved chem dealer Solomon, and the wrongfully(?) imprisoned Lorenzo Cabot. So, what was it like to join the Fallout franchise? Was there anything that set this series apart from other projects you have worked on?

This is going to sound terrible but I had no idea I had worked on anything in the Fallout franchise until you asked me now. Maybe if I heard some of the lines, I’d recognize the characters you mention but right now I’m drawing a blank.

It’s not my fault, though. Up until a few months ago, most video game companies would never tell us the actual name of whatever game we were working on. They always gave the project a pseudonym because, I guess, they were afraid of corporate espionage or something. I worked on one of the Halo iterations but had no idea until I’d already completed the job and they sent me a copy of a previously released Halo game.

Solomon in Fallout 4

The production companies get a bit paranoid, in my opinion. They frequently make us sign a non-disclosure agreement just to submit an audition. Usually, the auditions consist of maybe a page of lines so how much can an actor discern about a project from only a page? They give us actors way too much credit for being smarter than we really are.

And, frankly, some of my lack of recollection is probably because I don’t remember most of the projects I’ve worked on. Here’s an example: My girlfriend bought a DVD of a Korean movie called Old Boy. Neither of us speak Korean so I suggested we watch the English dubbed option because the subtitles would be too small to read on my little TV. As the film went on I recognized a few of the voices, including my friend Steve Kramer’s. But there was one actor who really bothered me. He had the same vocal range as me but was way better. His sync was perfect and his acting was really super. He was very natural sounding, even though he was doing a really emotional scene just before committing suicide — or maybe he got pushed off a roof — I don’t remember, (see what I mean about not remembering?!). Anyway, as I watched him in this scene I started to get more and more upset.

“Damn!” I said, “I don’t know who this guy is but he’s really good! And he’s in my vocal range and age! I’ll bet he’s getting all the parts I’ve been auditioning for lately. Can’t really blame the directors for casting him over me, though. He’s really good!” I stayed upset about this new guy usurping my career all through the film until, toward the end, I thought I saw some familiar footage. Could it be I had worked on it? Maybe I’d done some scenes where I was one of the crowd voices? So I rewound the tape and started to watch it again when my memory suddenly clicked in. That actor I was so upset about was me! I had completely forgotten I’d done the part. But at least I was pleased with my work!

Lorenzo Cabot in Fallout 4

A friend of mine had a similar experience only worse. He saw an old rerun of Kojak or something, saw a young actor, and didn’t realize the actor was him thirty years ago! Nobody ever lost money betting on actors not being smart!

While I am honestly have very little knowledge about the world of anime, I am inclined to believe that a lot of our readers may be huge fans of some of the work you have been involved with in that world. I’ve found it to have a very devoted fan base. So how has your interactions been with anime fans, or just fans in general? Do you find some pretty die hard fanatics out there? What do fans really seem to go apeshit over when they meet you in person?

Anime fans go apeshit over my Adonis-like physique, movie idol sexiness and charm, my Einstein-like intellect, my rapier wit, and, mostly, my humbleness. But seriously, folks. . .

Boy, anime fans are absolutely amazingly die hard! I had no idea of their devotion to whatever series or characters that resonate with them! Y’know, when we record, we are in a little room where the walls are covered in foam rubber and there’s an adjoining room separated by a glass window where the director and engineer, and sometimes the producer sit — and that’s it. There’s no audience. We’re performing in a vacuum and have no idea of whether people like our efforts to entertain them or not.

On rare occasions I’ve gotten a fan letter but, for the most part, I’d never interacted with fans of anime until last year when, for the first time, I attended an anime convention. It was at the Alias Convention in Trinidad and Tobego. Trinidad and Tobego?! Who woulda thunk that?! The “Trinis” treated me like a huge movie star! That was a huge surprise but, beyond that, they spent all kinds of time, money, and ingenuity making costumes of their favorite anime characters and seeing the results really impressed me.

Two ladies named their oldest child after a character I voiced, two other fans brought me gifts – I mean nice gifts!, and one fellow really left an impression. He loved one particular anime character of mine that has a big scar in the shape of an “X” on his cheek. So, he held out his knuckle and showed me a large “X” shaped scar on it.

“You see this scar?” he asked, “I accidentally slashed my knuckle and knew it would leave a mark so I took a knife and cut it more so it would make an ‘X’!” Now that’s devotion — or maybe just psychosis, (wink, wink).

On a more serious side, there were several people who told me that watching my show(s) helped them through very difficult childhoods. I guess they fantasized about being like my character in one series who was constantly having to overcome huge challenges and long odds, (usually in the form of duels), and just when it seemed he was defeated, he always managed to rally and find a way to succeed. That’s a powerful message to a kid who’s going through hard times. I’m  grateful and actually humbled that I was able to play a small part in helping them get through those difficulties.

You have been in the voice over game for quite some time, and have probably seen a lot of changes in the world with the advancements in technology that have occurred. So in your obviously expert opinion, what have been some major changes in this industry that you have noticed? Are some concepts still the same as when you started?

 

The major change is that we no longer get papyrus scripts written in hieroglyphics. . . Just kidding. . . The scripts were carved on stone tablets.

Actually, there have been some major changes in technology. In the old days, before I got into the voice over world, there was no such thing as videotape. Whenever they would need to rerecord or dub a line, they’d clip out a piece of film, make it into a loop and literally run that little loop of film over and over until they got what they wanted. To this day, the rerecording/dubbing process is known as “looping”.

By the time I got into dubbing and voice over, everything was on videotape. Whenever we’d miss the sync or the director wanted a different line reading, the engineer would rewind the tape to the beginning of the line and we would start all over again and again until we finally got it right. That was a slow process. The average actor would be able to record about 15 – 20 lines an hour. I would be a bit higher, usually. I’d like to think it was because I was incredibly talented but it might have been because the directors figured there was no use trying to coax a better performance out of a slug like me so they just opted to move ahead.

Nowadays everything is digital and computerized. There’s a computer program called Pro Tools that most of the studios use now. If you don’t hit the sync quite right now or if you miss taking a pause, or you finish too soon or too late, you don’t have to start over like we use to. Now, the engineer just moves everything around digitally. They can put in a pause if you miss one, stretch out your line if you finish too soon, and compress it if you finish too late. They can do that for individual words if they want to! They can raise and lower your pitch and add all kinds of effects right during the recording session where, before, they’d need to do things like that after the session because it was so time consuming. This has really sped up the process. Now, I can get in 25 to 30 loops an hour or more. The only thing they can’t do with digitization is change the actor’s performance, thank God, or we’d all be unemployed!

iPads have replaced scripts too. When I started, we’d get paper scripts and we’d make adjustments like word changes and pauses, etc. with a pencil directly onto the script. Now everything is controlled by the engineer from the booth. I just stand and watch while the adjustments magically appear on the tablet as the engineer enters the info. I can’t say I care for that particular innovation. I like to make my own scribbles that I know I can recognize without having to rely on anyone else’s notations but what are ya gonna do?

The basic concept of dubbing has remained the same: Put English words into mouths speaking a foreign language and make it look and sound real. At least that’s true for live action films with real people in them. The concept has changed for animation. When I started, a lot of attention was paid to hitting the internal sync. That is not only starting the first and last words of a line at the same time as the character, but also matching the sync of the words between the start and finish of the line. We took a lot of pride in making the entire line fit into the mouths of the characters. It took some time to get it right but the finished product looked better. Nowadays there is so much pressure to get the product out quickly and cheaply, that a lot of producers only care if the line starts and finishes on time. Not as much attention is paid to the internal sync and I feel the finished product suffers because of it. Other than economics,  I think part of the reason for this is that most producers just don’t see it when the internal sync is off. It drives me crazy but they just don’t seem to care.

I have a theory that one of the reasons the producers don’t care about internal sync is that a lot of anime fans don’t seem to care either. What many of the most opinionated fans care most about is “authenticity”. I take that to mean they want the English dubbed version to look as close to the original Japanese, (especially Japanese!), or Korean or whatever as possible. Well, in my not-so-humble opinion, the original voice work is often terrible! The sync on the original is often times way off. Sometimes a 40 year old voice is coming out of a character drawn to look 20. I’ve heard that’s because in Japan the audience values performance over everything else. They also have certain actors who they want to hear, whether those actors’ voices are appropriate for the characters or not. Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m not knocking the actors’ performances, (lots of them are fabulous!) — I just don’t care for their dubbing. So I guess a lot of producers figure if the audience doesn’t care about sync, why should they? Especially if it might cost them more money! Can’t really blame them, can you?

As far as any changes in games, I really don’t feel the new technology has affected how actors approach their jobs. Games are much less demanding than dubbing in that we don’t have to match anyone else’s rhythms, or performances. We just have to read the scripts and finish within a certain time. There’s nothing to look at on screen because they animate the characters to our voices so things go much faster than with dubbing. I’m sure the engineers are much happier with digitization but as far as acting for games, I don’t think it’s changed my technique at all.

I hope you didn’t want short answers. . .

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to tell our readers about?

Well, my crystal ball tells me I’m about to be in a live action movie called Time PulseI also have co-written a film that is “in process”, as they say, at Hallmark Studios. I think that’s code for “We’re thinking it over.”  And if any of your readers want to finance a micro budget movie, I’ve co-written a comedy that people have told me has the potential to be one of those “cult classics”. So if you’ve got a couple hundred thousand smackers you don’t know what to do with, get in touch with me!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

You asking little ol’ me for an interview!

Sunday Matinee: King Cohen [Film]

“Buckle up for KING COHEN, the true story of writer, producer, director, creator and all-around maverick, Larry Cohen. Told through compelling live interviews, stills and film/TV clips, the people who helped fulfill his vision, and industry icons such as Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams, John Landis, Michael Moriarty, Fred Williamson, Yaphet Kotto and many more, including Larry himself, bring one-of-a-kind insight into the work, process and legacy of a true American film auteur. Few can boast of a career as remarkable or prolific, spanning more than 50 years of entertaining audiences worldwide.” – October Coast

Larry Cohen has always been one of those maverick figures that I feel like I always knew was out there, but really didn’t know anything about, until now. King Cohen dives directly into its attempt to make unwary viewers understand just how important this man was to the world of film and television. It also brilliantly provides the strong sense that with a strong work ethic and willingness to go as far as possible, pushing the limits of both society and the world of cinema, some really great art can be given to the world. Because that was exactly what Cohen did, and even continues to do.

And just as previously stated above by our friends at October Coast, and as any showcase of a film legend should do, there are a TON of wonderful interview subjects that are more than willing to tell you that Larry was, while a bit eccentric, probably one of the nicest guys in both old and new Hollywood. The brilliant Steve Mitchell (the man who wrote the seminal horror classic Chopping Mall!) knew exactly what he was doing, and managed to chop this brilliant film together to make a very lovely ode to a man who both changed cinema, but also rethought the way it could be created.

King Cohen begins its theatrical run July 27 in markets including Los Angeles and New York.

Special event screenings of the film will also be held throughout July and August in cities including Asheville, VA and Yonkers, NY.

Kari Wahlgren [Interview]

Voice over artist Kari Wahlgren, Photo Credit: Michael Becker, Styled by Lauren Bernard, Makeup and Hair by Maxine Christians

Hello Dear Readers! Today we have another amazing interview with a brilliant voice over artist from our beloved Fallout franchise, the wonderful Kari Wahlgren. And much like our previous guests this week, she is also a master of the on screen/stage screen as well. For my fellow Wastelanders out there, Kari is the voice of the one and only Proctor Ingram in Fallout 4. You know, the one keeping the Brotherhood of Steel mechanically sound?! That is, right before I tend to blow them all to pieces in my own play throughs, but that is besides the point.

Kari is an incredibly talented actress and voice over actress that has been in just about everything you know and love. From Disney animated films, to the biggest video game franchises that have been enjoyed by so many, to every sort of television series you could love in the world of anime and beyond. Anime fans especially should be excited about her upcoming return to the legendary series FCLC that is on Adult Swim on Saturday nights! She can be heard in the upcoming Adam Sandler led film Hotel Transylvania 3. Video game fanatics will recognize her vocal chops from series like Final Fantasy, Halo, The Elder Scrolls, Skyrim, and just so much more. She really can do anything!

So Ladies & Gentlemen & Non-binary alike, please enjoy some amazing words from the extremely accomplished and amazingly talented human being, Kari Wahlgren!

When did you discover that you had a unique talent for the world of voice over work? Was it always something you had imagined doing as a youth, or did you just find yourself excelling in this line of work one day?

I knew from a pretty early age, I think.  I was really into cartoons as a child and had a sense that someone was doing the voices. I told my parents I wanted to be a Disney cartoon character one day. I’ve always had an eye on it as a part of my creative career.

 

What was your very first paid gig in the voice over world that you remember getting? And did this experience help shape your work in some shape or form on your future endeavors?

I was on a studio tour with my parents on my 11th birthday, and they were looking to cast a girl my age in a radio drama.  They asked me if I’d like to audition, and I got the part, and I recorded two episodes right there on the spot.  That was my first voiceover job, and it definitely made me want to do more VO work in the future.

 

One project that you have worked on was performing as the Brotherhood of Steel’s jack of all trades Proctor Ingram in the video game we adore around here known as Fallout 4. So, amongst the plethora of video games you have added your talents to, how does the Fallout world stand out in your mind?

I think they used a fake working title for the game when we were recording it, so I didn’t know what I was working on for a while. I had only enough context to know who my character was but not what was happening overall.  I remember the character artwork being very cool and being impressed with the script…I didn’t find out until later that it was Fallout 4.

Fans of the Fallout series are a very die-hard group of people, to say the least. I am confident in saying this, as I believe I am one! So how has your fan interaction been when it comes to the world of Fallout? I know it is only one specific project you have worked on, but I am curious to know how my fellow Fallout fans react in your presence? 

Actually, not a lot of people know I worked on the game!  That’s one that surprises people! If there are fans out there doing cool fan art of Proctor Ingram, please share it on social media…I’d love to see it!!

On the topic of die-hard fan bases…you also happened to work on a bit on a show with one of the biggest cult followings around these days, which would be Rick & Morty. In your own personal opinion, as someone who has worked behind the scenes, what do you believe it is about R&M that has managed to generate such a large following? What sets this show apart from other animated series in the same vain as this one?

I think Rick and Morty manages to be both gross and offensive and incredibly smart! Justin and Dan are two of the most brilliant guys I’ve met…their brains operate on a whole different level, and it comes across on the show.

Beyond the world of voice over work, you are also an accomplished theatre performer as well as having done some on-camera work. I am curious to know how you might compare the two forms of performance? What do you find to be the benefits to each style of performance?

In voiceover, you are limited to using your voice to create your character.  In theater and on-camera, you can use your body language and facial expressions and props, but you’re also more limited in a way.  I play everything from babies to grandmas in voiceover, and I wouldn’t be able to play those parts on camera…there’s a great freedom in that.

Voice over artist Kari Wahlgren, Photo Credit: Michael Becker, Styled by Lauren Bernard, Makeup and Hair by Maxine Christians


What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

More new episodes of FLCL2 are airing Saturday nights on Adult Swim, which is really exciting.  I also have a few new projects that I’m hoping to be able to announce really soon.  You can find me on Instagram at @kari_wahlgren and Twitter @KariWahlgren .

I try to post all of my updates there, and I love hearing from the fans!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Listening to the band Slaughter in my car.  I geek out pretty hard over those guys.

Ellen Dubin [Interview]


Hey Folks! We have another absolutely amazing interview for you all today which keeps in line with our love for both strong female voice over artist and actresses as well as our undying desire to talk about Fallout 4! Because if I have to admit it, if I am not working on this blog, or it sometimes becomes stagnant for a couple of weeks, I am probably getting sucked into my 42nd play through of Fallout 4. Nevertheless, we have some amazing words from a truly amazing and talented individual to share with you all today!

Ellen Dubin is a brilliant actress and voice over artist who has been involved with just so many of your favorite projects, it’s hard to really narrow them all down. We talk about a couple of specific projects that I personally love and enjoy to this very day, including the aforementioned Fallout 4 where she actually voices the roles of two characters that I have probably killed with every play through I have ever done of the game. I feel kinda bad about it now that I know Ellen is such a nice and wonderful person. But in all honesty, I just did it again about a month after getting these amazing answers from her. So I guess I am not to be trusted. Another role from Ellen that you all will know and love is her work as Ilene in the seminal classic film Napoleon Dynamite. It’s such an amazing film, and while Ellen was one of the characters you wanted to hate, you sort of had to understand her whole side of the ordeal in a way. Maybe? I don’t know, that might be a stretch?

The point is that Ellen has not only been able to pull off the roles of somewhat dubious characters both in front of the camera and in voice over roles, which seems like a breathtakingly hard task to pull off. And her career spanning close to 30 years has given us so damn much to be impressed by, and we just so damned lucky that she was willing to take some time to answer some of our questions in great length and give some beautiful insight into her amazing career thus far. Sometimes we just get so lucky that we find people that are as extremely talented as Ellen and they also happen to be just so damn nice!

So with that, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Ellen Dubin!

When did you decide that you wanted to play pretend for a living? Was it a long term yearning to be an actress that brought you into this world, or did you just find yourself within the world one day?

I never set out to be an actress. Most of my actor friends had that dream right from the start. I was a very shy insecure child with flat feet and poor posture and my wonderful parents enrolled me in ballet classes to gain confidence, relate to other children ,stand up straighter and get stronger feet.  At the end of each season there would be a ballet recital. It was there on stage where I could feel the most confident. I loved the live reaction of an audience and  relating to them and working off their energy.  If I was doing a dramatic ballet, I would always do an extra arm wave -my dying swan took a lot longer to die. If I was doing a comedy ballet, I would wait for the laugh before I did the next step. It was in this world of make-believe that I felt alive and at home. In this world of pretend, I was bitten by the performing bug and wanted to continue to strive for more and more and learn everything I could. My ballet teacher who was very blunt used to say to me : “You are not a great technical dancer but you have the ability to make an audience feel and laugh.”

I ended up having a major knee injury at an audition for a ballet company and had to figure out what I was going to do with myself in this devastating time in my life. I went to university and took a couple of English literature courses that focused on Shakespeare , Greek comedy and tragedy and theater history. We also had to do shows as part of the curriculum. Mostly academic but also creative.  I realized that if I wanted to stay in the performing arts world, I had to continue learning -so outside of university,  I studied  other types of dance- jazz, character dancing and tap, singing, acting, piano ( my dad wanted me to be a concert pianist but I couldn’t sit still at the piano) , scene study and improvisation. I was fortunate enough to audition and land roles in various musicals.  The world of ballet taught me discipline  focus and artistic courage. I ended up doing a wide variety of theater productions from farce to drama to Shakespeare to musicals.  I feel the stage is the best training ground for the magical world of pretend.

So acting came about because of a knee injury….


What was your very first gig as an actress that you can remember working on? And did that experience help shape who you are as a performer today?

I think everything you do as an actor whether it turns out great or not shapes you as a performer and as a human being. I have learned something from every production I’ve been in .

My first paying gig was doing two musicals in repertory at a dinner theater where I not only performed in the shows but had to serve food at the intermission and before and after the shows. What a juggling act!  These two plays began the pattern of me being known as a very eclectic actress. A few nights a week, I would be playing the oldest earthy daughter in the amazing musical Fiddler On the Roof. And the other nights I would be playing a ditzy character with a squeaky voice in the 1920’s musical No No Nanette. These two characters could not be more polar opposite.That began my love of keeping an audience guessing! I was very lucky to start my career being very chameleon like. I loved doing research on the different time periods and really making specific character choices. I got a kick out of dealing with the costumes of the time period- what a great learning experience. Attention to detail became very important to me in everything I played. The experiences of being on stage and doing the same role every night for several months taught me how to keep a performance fresh and work with a team of other actors plus behind the scenes people. No matter what type of genre you work on in this business, I have always believed it’s a team effort. It taught me an appreciation  for everybody’s job in a production, as well.

Being on stage also gave me the technique  to be able to bring something up at the drop of a hat – an emotion quickly. Remember, you don’t have a chance at a second take. So you have to be so on point and aware of everything in the theater. So when I got  roles on television and film , I had a solid technique to draw on. I always stayed on set to watch the older actors, as well. I would hide in a corner when they were working and absorb everything. I feel like I am always learning ! No matter what genre you perform in, there is always more you can do with a role.

I still get butterflies before every job I do which is apparently a good thing- enthusiasm and nerves combined!

In 2004, you appeared in one of my all time favorite feel-good comedic films of all time, the now classic Napoleon Dynamite. I’ve never worked in the film industry, but I would love to imagine that film that is so fun to watch as this one would have a pretty fun set life as well. So what was your experience like during the filming of Napoleon Dynamite? Was it as much fun to work on as it was for us to watch?

I have to start off by saying that never in my wildest dreams did I have a clue that Napoleon Dynamite would become the anthemic comedy of a generation. I still get fan mail from this iconic comedy. I wanted  to share with the readers that I got this job because one of the producers was a fan of my Sci-Fi work. He had interviewed me for a Sci-Fi magazine about a wild and wacky show I did called Lexx. This goes back to the previous question where you never know where another job will lead so you learn to be appreciative of everyone you work with or who you are interviewed by.

Flash forward a few years later, I get a call from the man who interviewed me – now producer Chris Wyatt asking me if I wanted to work on a  film that shoots in Preston, Idaho? He sent me the script and I thought this is a bit weird but I had never been to Idaho, I hadn’t been offered anything at that point without an audition so I thought what the heck, I have nothing to lose. Sounds like it could be a fun experience! Nothing ventured; nothing gained!

Being on the set of Napoleon Dynamite, I have never laughed so much. When Jon Heder made his first entrance when I opened the door in our first scene, I have never had to suppress a laugh so hard in my life! I was literally biting my tongue because I wanted to scream with laughter. He stayed in character the whole time and every time I went by him I wanted to laugh like crazy.  One of the other delights of working on this movie was working with Efren Ramirez (Pedro). We worked on  a crazy comedy feature film  called Tammy and the Teenage T- Rex together. We could not keep a straight face about that film either- it starred Terry Kiser, Denise Richards and the late great Paul Walker.

There was constant fun on the set And I really enjoyed the lunch hour because we shot at an actual person’s house in Preston ,Idaho and we would eat in the backyard and sit and chat on the swing set like kids. It wasn’t fancy, We stayed in a very rundown motel –I was across from the fabulous Tina Marjorina . But I loved it!  One of the highlights of my career. Jared Hess , the director, was very specific about the style of comedy he wanted. Most comedies are high energy and fast paced. Napoleon Dynamite was very low key in its energy. We all had to take it down  a notch and it worked so perfectly. Very unusual style of comedy!

The reaction of the fans has been beyond heartwarming. This is a movie that  that had no budget and at the time had no A list movie stars and It was a multi-award winning  ginormous success.  It says a lot about content and characters , doesn’t it?  Filmgoers identified with this movie. There is a nerd in all of us! YEAH!

You have worked quite extensively on screen as an actress, but also as a voice over artists on so many animated or video game projects. I am always curious to know, as a brilliant artist working steadily in the two different functions, what would you say is your preferred method of performance? Are there benefits to each type of performance?

Every project I work on, I put my heart and soul into .The voiceover part of my career is the newest addition. I love the freedom of being a voiceover actor. I love the challenge of creating a world without props , costumes ,hair ,make up , set and the absence of the other actor. I can be 3 years old, I can be 300, I can be a lizard, I can be a queen! I am not judged on my physicality, my age, my gender. So that is a huge advantage as a performer. There’s more freedom to play different characters, for sure.

I find that the writing especially in video game roles very emotionally charged and fascinating.The creators  take you in so many different directions depending on what the player chooses- So  you have to record a huge variety of  storylines in the studio. Video games are extraordinarily sophisticated now so I also love the depth of the material. Love that you’re have to turn on a dime when you record video games.At one point you could be mourning the death of your brother and then next line you are a wench in old England serving beer in a pub. I find that my stage background really helps to get to the emotion very quickly in a video game and also the language in some video games is very Shakespearean especially if you’re doing a fantasy type read, so all my training in stage work really comes in handy for that type of language and name pronunciation .

I also love the challenge of diving in because the material is so secretive, Sometimes you don’t get the material till you walk into the studio so you have to be a very quick reader- a fast cold reader. Love that too. Even though I am using my voice, the physicality in the booth in front of the microphone is very evident. If you watched my recording, you would sometimes thing you are watching a fight scene or a jousting match. I am actually miming swing a broadsword, or waving my arms gracefully if I am playing a majestic character or hunched over if I am playing a Charr in Guild Wars 2 , for example, my movement training also comes in handy to give a full rounded performance which comes out in the voice.

The only thing that I miss when I do voiceovers is relating to the other actor I still love that human contact. But I have to use my imagination and imagine what the other actor might do and give a few versions so they have that to choose from when the other actor in another studio records his or her section. It’s a very unique process!

I love what genre I am doing when I do it! But voice over is in the top two! And like the world of sci fi ( which is another one of my favorite type of gigs), the fans are the most passionate and devoted!

Over the last year or so, we have spoken with about a dozen of your fellow VO actors from our beloved video game, Fallout 4. You of course did the vocals for a couple of the top Institute cohorts that play a major role in the third act of the game. With that, I am curious to know what your experience has been like being a part of this franchise with such die hard and loyal fans? And have you managed to play or see your characters be utilized within the game?

Ha, first of all thank you for letting me know that I’m in the third act of the game! That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I am absolutely so grateful for the Fallout 4 fans. I really realized  how diehard they are when I was walking around San Diego Comic- Con in a Fallout T-shirt – I was stopped all the time. And when they found out about my Institute characters they started quoting lines from the game that I didn’t even remember recording! Now that’s loyalty! The impact of the Fallout 4 game is just so rewarding. It is certainly a special club to have voiced this game. One fascinating tidbit , in one scene my two scientists characters are talking to each other. The director Chris Faella and myself found that amusing and challenging. Because they weren’t drastically different- just had different backgrounds.  We decided to make one more cynical and older and the other one a bit greener to differentiate. Love that collaborative effort!  Here is a quiet confession – I have never played a video game in my life! Ssh! I think if I started I would never stop. I will leave that to the amazing fans! Shhh! Shh! What happens in this interview, stays in this interview!

LOL!

Without trying to place the burden directly on your proverbial shoulders, I feel compelled to ask about the current climate and conditions for women in the world of film and television, both in front of and behind the camera. Appearances might seem like there have been strides towards change, but there is still such a small percentage of women working behind the camera, and still seem to be so few roles for strong female characters on camera. With that being said, in your own personal opinion and experience, what needs to change, like instantly? What are some aspects that maybe the average movie-goer or show viewer may not know about?

This is a very profound question, as you know and I’m not sure what the outcome of all of this will be but I do know that it is important to talk this out. I feel that strides have been made because more and more women and men are feeling more comfortable coming forward and sharing their experiences if things aren’t out in the light then we don’t know about them. With the high profile cases, this is helping people  express what has happened to them. That said we do have a long way to go and I think there are more stories to tell. When this started to come out, I started to think about some of my own experiences dealing with abusive artistic directors, photographers, producers throughout my career and I remember when I started in the theater having a director who was very “hands-on”. At the time, he wasn’t some huge powerful Hollywood type, but he could hire me for lots of other shows and he was powerful for me at my young age. And I just let him do what he did when he directed. I just thought that that was the norm. He was touchy-feely with all the actresses. It was uncomfortable but I giggled a lot and made jokes because I didn’t know how to handle it. I think at an early age both boys and girls should be taught how to deal with this kind of situation.  Meaning it is ok to say NO. Sadly sometimes it gets to the point where it is so violent and abusive ,even an adult would not be able to handle it. I really hope that we can continue to talk about it and people do not get cynical as new cases are revealed. We have a long way to go in hiring female talent on camera that are not just the girlfriend with the short shorts, or the hooker with a heart of gold. I think about my early career on camera when I played a lot of “sexy” parts. I am hoping that writers  will write more than just about our private parts. Fully realized characters that have more to say and do then  be the object!

As far as behind the camera and in video games, I have been fortunate to work with a few female directors who are all working now but we do have a long way to go in hiring more directors, writers, gaffers, sound people etc.  And I don’t necessarily believe that we have to just have females working with females. The wonderful male population can just as easily hire women crew!  And write fully realized female characters.

We have been taught from in early age as women to be subservient , not aggressive and not dominant. And an interesting thing would be one day just to say what a great part for woman. Not a strong woman not a powerful woman just a woman that that would encompass everything. Minus that adjective.

I think the average movie or theater goer, has no clue that this is happening. Remember they see the finished product and don’t get to peel back the curtain and see what is really going on. But with the press lately, the cinema or theater goer is learning more, as well.

I am not sure this will ever be a hundred percent solved in any business but we must continue to talk about it. Parents should keep on talking to both their kids and educate from a young age. We have made some baby steps lately…. But lots more to talk about for sure!  And to teach the next generation……..

Respect for all human beings! What a concept, huh!?

g_-_leg-1.jpg”> Peter Scolari is Robert in the comedy Boeing Boeing where he plays a non suspecting visitor of his friend Bernard (Michael Lamport) Paris apartment.
Ellen Dubin is Gloria who is one of three stewardess “finacees” Bernard surprises Peter with a hot blooded kiss.

[/caption]What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Staying close to family right now.  Love spending time with my family. My number one priority.

I am working on a video game in Toronto which of course I cannot say anything about and I am also the voice  on a wonderful project as a continuing character in a major television project out of Los Angeles .It is a great role that again signed a major NDA for.  Can’t wait to share this one .  And hopefully will be doing a few indie films in the fall. Stay tuned!

I also hope to be at San Diego Comic Con this year. I would love to see your readers come out and say hi. For future updates because life is so uncertain right now, it’s best to check  ellendubin.com or my fan Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/EllenDubinActor/ or @EllenDubinActor twitter page

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This question!! Actually, all of your questions. A huge piece of carrot cake! And seeing my mom smile!

Julie Nathanson [Interview]

Photo: Jason Willheilm / Stylist: Simona Sacchitella / Hair & Make Up: Muamera Pulic

Oh Dear readers, do we have not only a wonderful interview to share with you all today, but honestly this is going to be an amazing week! As many of you know, and some of you are probably here for this specific reason….we love us some God damned Fallout. The entire series, but specifically Fallout 4. And with less than 4 months left until we get to explore this universe in a whole new way, I am so excited to share some words from a few more (added to the dozen or so we have already spoken with) folks who helped bring the characters of Fallout 4 alive. And we are kicking this off in a very big way.

Today we have some great words from the amazing voice over artist and actress Julie Nathanson who is just an absolute delight and a genius in her craft. True Fallout fans will know her as the mysteriously optimistic Penny Fitzgerald who can be a bit loosed lipped about what is truly going on at Covenant.

And as it always seems to be, it was so damn great to hear about the plethora of amazing work that Julie has given the world. She has worked on a ton of other video games including work in the Far Cry and Final Fantasy series, as well as on screen and animated voice over work on series ranging from Powerpuff Girls to Beverly Hills 90210. Seriously, this amazingly talented human has done it all! She even has a new series on YouTube Red featuring Kat Dennings and John Cena to share with you all, which we will discuss below.

So with that, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Julie Nathanson!

When did you first discover that you had a talent for the art of performance, both on screen and in the voice over world? Was it an early passion that drove you to these professions, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

When I was six years old, we put on a little play at school. I remember it was the first time I had ever seen an audience from a stage. Parents in folding chairs and everything. Anyway, I was in the second skit, but when the curtain went up, the kid from the first skit was nowhere to be found. Empty stage. The audience started murmuring, and general child chaos ensued. I saw this unfolding from backstage and immediately threw my hair into a low ponytail, put on the weatherman’s hat and suit jacket the absent kid was supposed to wear… and waltzed onto the stage. I did his entire scene. And then my own. Apparently, in my excitement, I had memorized the entire play. Not just my lines. Everyone’s lines. I’m fairly certain that was early evidence of my passion for performing. (Either that, or really weird memorization skills. I did memorize the first 60 digits of Pi in eleventh grade. But that’s another story.) So, yes, I discovered my love of acting at a very early age. It’s funny, I’ve never told that story in an interview before, but it really was pivotal.

One of your gigs as a VO artist has been on a video game series that we hold rather sacred here at TWS, and that would be the Fallout series. Specifically Fallout 4, in which you had a couple of roles in. So, I am curious what it has been like to become a part of this die-hard community specifically, as compared to the plethora of other series you have worked on. Have you received any sort of specific attention for your roles in the Fallout world?

Oh, I was so excited to play in the Fallout world! My roles in Fallout 4 aren’t huge, but they’re fun. Especially Penny Fitzgerald. She’s a little eccentric, and she’s also a little annoying. I like playing quirky characters. The fans were incredibly kind and enthusiastic, and I was really grateful to be welcomed into this beloved world. Plus, Courtenay Taylor, who voices the Female Sole Survivor, is one of my closest friends, and I loved watching the community embrace and celebrate her awesome performance.

 

Penny Fitzgerald in Fallout 4

When you are working on a video game series, I am curious to know just how you may personalize the character? What do you do to make sure that these characters come to life? How do you put your own spin on characters like these?

I always start with knowledge and empathy. I study the lines and character descriptions, looking for clues to a deeper understanding. I want to make the character real for myself before I attempt to make it real for anyone else. That’s the first step to personalizing it. Once I’m clear about who this person (creature, elf, computer, adorable blob of goo) is to me, then I get to work on the scene itself. The voiceprint comes last, and if I’ve done my homework correctly, it falls out of my head organically. Even with an oddball character like Chocolina (Final Fantasy 13-2, Lightning Returns), once she was clear in my head, her wild enthusiasm flew out of me like the bird-like wacko she is. For Jess Black in Far Cry 5, the process was a little different. I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, so I have a deep understanding of trauma. This helped me dive deeply into Jess’ world and make her pain – and even her sarcastic coping skills – very real to me.

Photo: Jason Willheilm / Stylist: Simona Sacchitella / Hair & Make Up: Muamera Pulic

I understand that you have been working on a pretty exciting new project available on YouTube Red entitled Dallas & Robo? Can you tell us a bit about this project? What will we be hearing you do on this project?

Dallas and Robo is basically a 1970’s trucker movie in space. With cannibal bikers. What more could you ask for?? It’s hilarious, and the cast is phenomenal. Kat Dennings is hysterical as Dallas, and John Cena is fantastic as Robo. I play the Computer voice, which has somehow become an odd niche for me as a voice actor… playing A.I. voices and computers. And I’m so human in real life! The first episode is streaming now for free on YouTube, and the rest is available on YouTube Red.

I also understand that beyond the voice over work, you are also a wonderful singer in your own right. Where does this passion stem from? And what sort of music brings you the most joy to create?

Thank you! My father loved grand opera, and I have an abiding love for this music. I have studied classical singing for many, many years. My mother is an otherworldly gifted blues harmonica player, and my grandmother played drums for decades. I love that you asked about joy. That’s actually the answer to your question. The sort of music that brings me joy is the sort of music I like to sing. Whatever brings me joy. If I ever came out with an entire album, it would be such a mix of genres! Little opera, little indie, little musical theater… but in the coming weeks, I am releasing a cover of Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up.” The song has meant so much to me at various points in my life, and I am excited to share my interpretation of it. I haven’t created much in the way of original music, although I’ll be releasing a lullaby I wrote later this year. See? Another genre!

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

I’m voicing some incredibly cool projects about which I’m very excited (NDAs for all of them – I’m sorry!), and I’m also writing a couple of new scripts at the moment. Between these and the upcoming song releases, I’m definitely keeping busy. I’d like to thank your readers for being interested in multitasking artists like myself! Feel free to connect with me on social media. I’m pretty active on Twitter (@julie_nathanson), and I post about voiceover, odd humor, kindness, and weird words. And I’m finally getting better acquainted with Instagram (@julie_nathanson). Come say hello!

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

To be honest, just being asked this question made me smile. And prior to that, I smiled because I thanked someone for her caring friendship. Gratitude – feeling it and sharing it – brings me joy.

Sunday Matinee: 1/1 [Film]

“Breathless, daring, and undone in a million pieces. Describing both the film’s style and main character, 1/1 submerges the audience into the mind of Lissa, a twenty-year-old girl trapped in rural Pennsylvania, who grapples with sex, drugs, love and loss. When a possible pregnancy forces Lissa to take a hard look at her life, both her and the structure of the film mature, illuminating a brighter path ahead.” – Big Time PR

Wow, just wow! I have to be very honest and admit that I was unaware of the actress Lindsey Shaw prior to sitting down to watch 1/1, I was more drawn to the idea of seeing Judd Nelson and Dendrie Taylor who I have always admired. But I will be god damned if I did not find myself almost entirely drawn to the amazing talent that is Shaw. What an absolutely stunning performance! I seriously can not think of a single moment in this film where she was not completely spot on and brilliant in her portrayal as Lissa. Especially being somebody who has felt that bitterness and resentment to the fact that you may very well be stuck in a place that is as frustrating as it is saddening. I can state with all honesty that she absolutely nailed it! Nelson and Taylor may have been the draw for me, but I left with a whole new love for the brilliant Lindsey Shaw.

And what a hell of a story, I should probably add! Shaw’s amazing performance was obviously guided by an amazing script by Jeremy Phillips. The frustration and turmoil of desperate times during desperate situations is a subject that so many of us can feel right to our cores.  And Phillips has created a brilliant visual demonstration of said turmoil with this brilliant film. With an amazing soundtrack from the amazing group Liars, the list of amazing things about this film would go on forever. Suffice to say, 1/1 is a genuine, honest, and damn near perfect film that everyone needs to see.

1/1 will be released July 17 on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray(special features and unreleased Liars track available on Blu-ray) For more information about the film, go to oneoveronemovie.com