Voice of the People

the Joe-Mammy.com interview with Kari Wahlgren

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Kari Wahlgren 1You know when you start to notice something — color of the leaves changing in fall, that annoying laugh your sister’s new boyfriend has, the odd smell by the couch — and suddenly you notice it popping up everywhere? That was the realization I came to a few months ago when it occurred to me that I kept hearing the same voice in different animated programs, video games and commercials. When I realized that it wasn’t just the voice in my head, I became intrigued. It turns out that voice belonged to one Ms. Kari (rhymes with Ferrari) Wahlgren.

For the uninitiated she has provided voices for a number of animated shows like “Fooly Cooly,” “Samurai Champloo,” and the charmingly titled “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!,” as well as popular video game titles such as “Halo 2,” “Jade Empire,” and “James Bond 007: From Russia with Love.” I did my usual thing: sent a request for an interview and waited… and heard nothing. I figured it might be one of those “better luck next time” kind of deals. Needless to say I was surprised when I was roused from a feverish slumber one afternoon and heard that same voice over the phone. I had tried to contact her for an interview but due to technical problems lines had gotten crossed. In either case we arranged a time for a proper interview. As the old adage says: hijinks ensued.

*****

Joe-Mammy.com: Tell us about yourself, from what I’ve seen you’re a Midwestern girl?

Kari Wahlgren: I am. I was born and raised in Kansas and actually the furthest away that I’ve technically lived was on the Missouri side of the Kansas City line. You know half of Kansas City is on the Missouri side and half of it is on the Kansas side. Before I moved to California I was on the Missouri side of Kansas City and that was the farthest away that I had moved and then I came to LA.

Joe: That’s a bit of a jump.

Kari: Yeah. A bit of a culture shock.

Joe: speaker So how long have you been in Los Angeles?

Kari: I just passed my 5 1/2 year mark.

Joe: Is that the cut off — if you’ve made 5 1/2 years you’ve made it?

Kari: It’s kinda funny because when I moved out here, it was really rough my first year and a half. I was so poor and things were hard and I was struggling — a lot of people struggle in the entertainment industry in LA. But I kept telling myself I have to give it five years. I can’t really say I’ve done everything I can do and I’ve really given it a good solid try if I leave before the five year mark. It was kind of funny to pass the five year mark and think: “Yeah, I’m glad I waited it out.”

On a little side tidbit on that whole thing, a friend of mine, when I was getting ready to move to LA, he took my picture to a psychic and he said, “Well my friend’s getting ready to move, what do you sense?” And the psychic said “Within five years her name will be known.” Kinda looking back on it, it’s really interesting because she didn’t say my face would be known, she said my name would be known. I always think that’s kind of creepy because I ended up in voice overs and I can go to the bank and to the grocery store and nobody really knows my face but the name is starting to get out there, I guess.

Joe: You’ve used a few of them. I’m looking on IMDB and there’s about ten on there.

Kari: It started out as privacy issues. I just kinda used a pseudonym and people started busting it. But IMDB is not always the most reliable source, either. They’ve credited me for a number of things I actually didn’t do. So I’ve tried to e-mail them and say “I didn’t actually do that” and they kind of have the take of “How do we know that you’re really who you say you are? We have a source in Iowa that says that you were in the ‘Death by Degrees’ video game and this source in Iowa has been very, very reliable for a number of years.” “But I’m the person who actually didn’t work on the game.” “But we don’t know that — “

So, you know.

Joe: Well, they’ll give you an Oscar on there, you can take that.

Kari: Exactly, I like the way you think.

Joe: Going over the biography, you started out doing theatre work in Kansas City. Was that always what you wanted to go into or was it something you found yourself in and really enjoyed or a combination?

Kari Wahlgren 2Kari: I’ve done theatre since I was a child and just love it. I just think there’s something so energetic and so immediate about the stage. If you do something funny the audience is right there and you get the instant gratification with the laugh. And there’s just this energy about stage work that I really love and Kansas City had a really nice regional theatre scene. There were a number of equity theatre houses there so I was doing a lot of theatre once I got out of college but I always knew I wanted to relocate to either LA or New York and I wanted to try my hand more at the on-camera work and voice-overs.

Voice-overs were always something I wanted to do as part of my career. I think I always had a sense, ever since I was a kid, that there was somebody doing the Disney princess voices and someday I wanted to do that. So it was always something with the move that I wanted to be involved with, I just didn’t really expect it to come front and center like it did.

Joe: How exactly do you get started with that? A lot of people don’t necessarily think of that first off, but there are a number of people, yourself included, who do well at it. I assume there are open casting calls for that, but is there a culture you have to break into with it too?

Kari: Definitely. The thing with voice overs — it can be a very tricky niche to get into because rather than hiring ten different people to do ten different voices they’ll hire one person to do ten different voices. The pool in some ways is a lot smaller. But, like anything else, if you do start auditioning and landing some jobs with different clients, once they start getting to know you they use you over and over again for different projects. So it can be a really lucrative and fulfilling line of work.

As far as how I started, I had done voice-overs in Kansas City — some different radio spots for different companies. There was an advertisement for an anime project in California and I sent in my voice over demo for that and came in for an audition and ended up booking that job. That was sort of my first break in Los Angeles in the anime world.

I guess I should explain what that is for people that don’t know. Anime is usually Japanese-based animation although some of it is from Korea, but most of the time it’s animation created in Japan and they get to a point where they want to basically dub it into English. The recording process is kind of a very tricky technique of syncing every line up to a preexisting picture. As you get more comfortable with it you can sync the lines faster and faster and there are certain people that have been doing it a long time that are really fast. I mean they can dub a whole show in a day. So that’s a form of voice-over work and a style of animation that’s very popular.

On the other hand with original animation like “the Simpsons” you record the voices first and then it’s sent it to animators and they actually draw the picture to your recordings. So it’s just a couple of different styles and I broke into the anime side first out in Los Angeles and started doing a lot of work with that and then started kind of breaking more into the original animation and video games.

Blah blah blah.

speaker Just start to snore a little bit if it gets too long. Just feel free to start clearing your throat and say “I have to pay for this call.”

Joe: First off the call is free; secondly in my experience if you let people go on their own you get more interesting stuff anyway. That means they're talking about stuff they care about instead of “Well yeah, I think the Hoover Administration was great, why do you ask?”

Did you really expect the response you’ve gotten and the notoriety with some of the core fans of anime or Japanimation or whatever the preferred nomenclature is.

Kari Wahlgren 3

Kari: You know I was pretty surprised that there was a fan base. I remember doing the very first on-line interview with that very first anime project that was called “FLCL” or “Fooly Cooly” or “FuriKuri” — they call it a number of different things. But that very first anime project that I did and we did an on-line interview about it. They kept talking about the fans and “How do you think the fans are gonna feel about the interpretation?” And my classic quote in that on-line interview was “We’ve got fans!?!” I had no idea that there was a whole following for it. So that was a pretty interesting realization.

I’ve just always tended to really try and fly under the radar and be very low key about the work I was doing. And I had a number of friends that had websites and went to a lot of the different conventions and they have huge fan followings. Literally they get stacks of fan letters all the time and just tons of e-mails. They go to conventions and some of my girl friends who do voice over work had gotten marriage proposals at conventions and all sorts of just crazy things and I’ve always been just very, very private about it until the last, well, I guess mostly the last few months when I set up the website. I’ve been very, very surprised that people have started to write and start to request pictures and yada yada yada. I was just like “Oh wow, that’s cool.”

Joe: You have this fan base you didn’t even know about. You’ve been missing out. You could have been selling t-shirts or something.

Kari: I guess. I dunno. My philosophy is that you can’t take that stuff too seriously because if you believe all the good stuff you gotta believe all the bad stuff, too. I’ve always been kinda more of the “all right” — didn’t get caught up in the hype. Just work and try to be a good person, pay your bills and whatever. I’ve gone to a couple conventions. I usually try to get to one convention a year. Sometimes scheduling-wise it’s a little hard. And that’s been cool. That’s been cool to get to a couple of the conventions and I’m going to a couple this summer so that’ll be fun. I’ve not been to any of the east coast conventions so it’s going to be interesting to meet the fans out on the east coast in May and June.

Joe: It’s not like hip-hop with the east coast/west coast rivalry thing, is there?

Kari: I don't know, you tell me Paul. Is there?

Joe: If we say there are, maybe we’ll start something and then, you know.

Kari: That’s right; maybe we’ll start some West Side Story stuff. That would be great. (laughs)

Joe: I’m not sure I want the blood of anime fans on my hands.

Kari: That’s right. (laughs) Okay that made me laugh really hard. “How many bullets Paul, how many bullets?”

Joe: That would just keep me up at night, thinking there’s some guy in Boston getting shot because he likes Robotech.

Kari: There’s a little Sailor Moon out there with a black eye. You’ve gotta have that on your conscience.

Joe: And that image made me laugh, so now we’re even.

Kari: My gosh, that’s really amusing. I’m gonna laugh about that one for a couple days.

Joe: Before we end up alienating everybody who might want to check this out…

Kari: That’s right, oh shoot, you’re recording all this aren’t you?

Joe: Well, editing’s a beautiful thing.

Kari: God bless the editing.

Joe: Digital media makes this so much easier. I could make this sound like I’m talking to Jesus if worse comes to worse.

Kari: That’s right. That frightens me a little bit. I’m glad that we appear to be getting along okay, you know?

Joe: When it’s all said and done there will be a big fight and something. I’m not sure what all I’ll do, but it will be all very dramatic.

Kari: That’s right; there will be something on there that says “I hate dogs.”

Joe: Well now that you gave me the actual audio clip to use with it…

Kari: I know, then all the angry letters from all the dog lovers saying “I happen to love my Chihuahua, how dare you say that.”

Joe: You’ll probably get more hate mail about Sailor Moon than the dogs, though.

Kari: Nice, oh geeze. Remorse, remorse!

Joe: Yes, we should all beg forgiveness.

Kari: Okay. All right, all right, I’m back on track.

Joe: I’m going to have someone draw that for me because that’s too funny.

Kari: Oh my gosh.

Joe: From your site — you have demos on your site — you also do jingles and singing. Do you do anything more along those lines or is that just part of the acting and voice over work that you do?

Kari: The singing, you mean?

Joe: Yeah.

Kari: I was singing in public and doing the whole musical theatre thing since I was four or five. So yeah, I’ve just been singing for a number of years. I don’t do as much of it anymore, although I say that and I just did a musical… It’s like I’m admitting I do something terrible. Now I’m all worried about the audio clips because I’ve got all these jokes I want to make but taken out of context they would be so inappropriate.

Joe: For what it’s worth I print everything so there’ll be an entire context for everything.

Kari Wahlgren 4Kari: Thank God. speaker But yeah, I did a lot of musical theatre for a number of years. But it was funny cuz once I started working professionally in Kansas City I started getting hired a lot for straight plays — straight plays with no singing and for the voice-over work and some on-camera stuff. So I haven’t done as much singing since I’ve moved out to LA. When I do get a chance to do it, it’s really exciting. There have been a couple video games I’ve gotten to sing in.

Actually one video game — the Lemony Snicket video game — there was a song. I played one of the white-faced women and the note was that I was supposed to sing the song as badly as possible, which was so much fun. So I kinda sang it through a couple times in my character’s voice and they’re like, “That is excellent, I mean that was just so terrible that it’s perfect!”

Every once in a while I kinda think back and think, “I don’t know if that exactly a compliment or not, but it was awfully fun.” And I want to get into more of the jingles. They say that one of the highest paid voice-over people on TV is the woman who would sing the Meow Mix jingle. The whole meow meow meow meow — that whole thing, she’s a millionaire. So I would like to do a Meow Mix commercial. But we’ll have to see what the future holds. I’d like to do more singing, it’s always fun when I get a chance to do it.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Joe: speaker You’ve also had a full-length theatrical release.

Kari: Yes.

Joe: “Neverland” — not to be confused with the Johnny Depp one, “Finding Neverland.”

Kari: Not to be confused with Johnny Depp one, no.

Joe: That’s coming later; you’ve got that lined up next, right?

Kari: Yeah, right.

Joe: I’m sending good vibes your direction. Think positive, think positive.

Kari: Oh that’s right, I was deflecting them, but I’m going to absorb them. Thank you. Yes. The next film I’ll do will be Oscar-nominated, thank you.

Joe: Oscar winning. Because we already said IMDB is going to have you win an Oscar by the end of the day.

Kari: Oh exactly. Oh gosh. Excuse me I need to throw up in my mouth a little bit just now. (gagging noise)

Joe: If I had a nickel for every time I heard that…

Kari: (laughing) That rocks. Oh my gosh that’s fun. Anyhoo. Yes, yes I did that film.

Joe: Was that the Hoover Administration question right there?

Kari: Yes, I really didn’t agree with the Hoover Administration, why do you ask?

Joe: It was the 30’s, cut the guy a break. Or was that Coolidge?
(note: Herbert Hoover was President from 1929-1933, Calvin Coolidge directly preceded Hoover in office from 1923-1929.)

So nothing more about the movie?

Kari: Well, it was a lot of fun. It was a really fun film to do. It ended up getting picked up by a small distributor so I think if you go to the “Obscure” section in your local Blockbuster that it’s somewhere. A friend of mine called me from Blockbuster and said “Hey, you’re in the ‘Obscure’ section!”

But it was great fun to work on it. It was a modern retelling of the Peter Pan story. Neverland was kind of an amusement park and the Lost Boys were kind of a group of homeless kids that would live in the park after hours. It was just kind of this retelling of the story, a re-envisioning of the characters. I basically played the Tinkerbell character who was really drugged out on fairy dust and it was great. It was a very edgy, snotty character and I don’t get to play those very often so I had a really good time with that. And I think that’s probably all I really have to say about that.

Joe: Do you have a preference between doing voice-over work or the feature work?

Kari: I would definitely like to do more of it. Honestly when I moved out here to LA, that was more my focus that I wanted to do films and TV and to do voice-over on the side. And I just got so cranky with whole LA scene and just going to an audition and not even getting to speak. It would be like, “Oh we want someone with a bigger chest or someone who is taller. Sure, that hot girl in the lobby can’t really speak her own name and walk in a straight line, but she’s hot.” I got really tired of that, so that was what kind of prompted me to take a break and focus just on the voice-over world and I just kinda told myself when I get the fire in my gut to pursue the film and television arena again then I’ll go back to it. I’m just getting back to it now, so we’ll see. Check back in with me in a couple of years and we’ll see what happens.

Joe: Aw you won’t even remember me. I’ll just be one of those guys you forgot along the way.

Kari: Oh get out. Are you kidding? The whole Sailor Moon with a black eye thing, you’re pretty much in my brain forever.

Joe: I’ll be the guy in the dirty clothes and long beard standing with the sign “Sailor Moon, Remember Me?”

Kari: Oh yeah. And I’ll be like, “No, sorry. I’m so sorry, that’s my Lexus over there. I’ve got to go.” Geeze, I shouldn’t even joke about that, it makes me feel terrible. Okay yes, that’s the answer to that.

Joe: You mentioned Lexus. The Lexus spot you did, they ran that last summer, last fall?

Kari: Yes!

Joe: I actually saw it and I didn’t put two and two together until I saw it on your site —

Kari: So you actually saw it?

Joe: I want to say I saw it on USA one afternoon —

Kari: That is so fantastic. Do you realize you just completely made my week? I think they were only playing it at specific times and my poor parents they kept looking for it and they always missed it, so I’m glad that you saw it.

Joe: I can confirm that it did in fact exist. It was one of the few commercials that made me — I have this strange little cough-like laugh I have when something surprises me and makes me laugh at the same time. That commercial made me do that.

Kari: Rock on! That was all improv too; it wasn’t in the script.

Joe: What was the script then?

Kari: The whole premise of the spots, it was a series of spots; it was Andy Roddick picking up various people on his way to the US Open. They were all giving him tennis advice. So my whole thing was giving him tennis advice that he should use voodoo against his opponent. That whole first day of shooting I was sticking to the script or at least kind of sticking to the idea they had in the script. Then the second day just towards the very end I just started making stuff up. They had said “feel free to improv,” but you’re so nervous the first day and you don’t want to screw up and get fired, so the second day of shooting I just kinda improv'd a few thins and that was what they ended up using, and it just kinda cracked me up. It was really fun, really fun.

Joe: For those of us who are ignorant in the Midwest — not that living in the Midwest makes you ignorant, but I am ignorant and I am in the Midwest —

Kari: Yeah, you have to be careful, those are my peeps.

Joe: They’re my peeps too. I still live next door to them, so I have to be careful.

Kari: (laughing) Yes, the Midwestern folks what?

Joe: Could you walk us through a standard week or day or two as far as trying to be gainfully employed in Los Angeles in the entertainment industry?

Kari: Okay, let me think. This is kind of a mock week but this is sort of what could potentially happen. I would possibly have an audition at my agent’s office Monday morning. The cool thing about that with voice over is that my agent’s office has a recording booth in it so they may call and say “Hey we’ve got an audition for you Monday morning at 10:45” and I may go in there and there might be five different projects that they’re auditioning for. So it’s as if I’ve done five different auditions at one place at one time which is wonderful because they just e-mail those auditions off to the five different clients. You know maybe you’ve got a granola bar radio spot and then a regional thing for a grocery store and then an animated pilot and two different video games — you could audition for all of that in one day. I then I may go to a voice-over coaching session with a coach. I’m constantly trying to take different classes and meet with different people and just brush up and get better. And then I may have anime recording session for a couple hours. Then the next day I may have four hours blocked out for a video game recording session followed by an audition out of house — which means it’s not in the agent’s office it’s out at a client’s office or it’s out at a production studio or something like that. So I may have an out of house audition in the afternoon.

I also do loop groups once in a while, which is another form of voice over work. You may see these in a television show like “Gilmore Girls” or “Entourage” there’s a restaurant scene and there’s a bunch of people talking in the background at the restaurant. Well most of the time the people in the background aren’t really talking or they’re talking very, very softly. So you go in with a small group of people and you lay down tracks of people talking in a restaurant. And let’s say that there’s an especially drunk blonde in the background that throws her head back and laughs; well that’s called a specific. So you go back in and record a blonde laughing drunkenly in the background. All of this is what’s called looping. So there may be a day where I’ll spend a whole day or half the day recording loop group tracks for a TV show or a feature film.

Then the next day I might be blocked out for a four hour chunk of time to record an animated series followed by an audition at my agent’s office followed by an out-of-house audition. With LA it’s kinda hard because the travel time is so crazy that to go to two auditions could take you three hours with all the driving and waiting and getting in and stuff like that. That’s kind of a rough work week and I’m sort of boring myself so I’ll wrap myself up.

Joe: I think it’s good to get a feel for what actually happens. I think a lot of people have the perception that “I go out and do one thing and then I go home and hang out on my yacht for the afternoon” or something like that. There’s a lot more dirt under the fingernails than people give it credit for.

Kari: It’s very unglamorous and a lot of times with video games or anime you’re the only person in a very small booth — a small dark booth. In the room next to you sometimes there’s only a director and an engineer. You could spend two, three, four days really not talking to anyone which is kind of ironic. You’re just in a small dark room recording lines with only an engineer and a director behind thick glass to talk to. It’s a very bizarre world. It’s very strange.

Joe: If you had to choose a favorite child — you could go by how the work experience was or how the final product came out or both, which would it be?

Kari: speaker It’s so hard to say because one of the great things about my job is that every day is something new and completely different and exciting in its own special way. The variety of it is one of the things that makes it so cool. If I were pressed to say… well, this project I’m working on right now — that I actually can’t talk about yet — but I’m having a blast on it and I’m just really excited for that to start getting announced so that I can shout from the mountaintops that I’m working on this really fun new thing.

As far as stuff I’ve worked on the past, “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!” is the title of the very first series regular lead role for Disney that I ever booked and it got turned into a toy so there’s a little talking robot monkey toy with my voice out there in the stores. I would say that one has the most sentimental value for me right now just because it was the first Disney series that I ever booked, and I had this notebook in my desk with the top 100 things I wanted to do before I die and I think number six or seven was “do a voice on a Disney series.” So actually getting to go back and cross that off the list was extremely satisfying. So that one might have a little special place in my heart.

Joe: How are you doing on that list overall?

Kari: Well I haven’t learned how to fluently speak Italian or belly dance yet, so I’ve got a little ways to go, but it’s going okay. It’s funny because I actually lost the list for a while and I just found it again a month ago, and I actually was able to cross off a number of things. It’s fun.

Joe: That world domination thing is number one I assume?

Kari: Have you been reading my list, Paul?

Joe: If I say yes will the lawyers come back?

Kari: (laughing) Oh I like you, you’re fun.

Joe: Just on a personal note, being involved with a project called “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!,” even if I was the janitor I’d say I was with that.

Kari: It’s so funny because it took my dad a good year to learn how to say it correctly so I was so glad it was picked up for a second season. Bless his heart; it just took him that long to get it right before he could just say it. But the kids, that’s the crazy thing, the kids seem to pick up on the title really fast. It’s the adults that kinda trip on it a bunch. It’s hard to say with a straight face, too, because it’s so long.

Joe: It’s one of those busy titles, it’s great.

Kari: But once you hear the theme song it really gets stuck in your head. Once you hear the theme song of the show it all makes sense and you’ll walk around singing it all day and then you can say it.

Joe: So it was a matter of the tune stuck in your dad’s head for a day or two.

Kari: speaker Yeah. But it’s always hard when you’re sitting in the dentist chair and they ask what show you’re working on and I say (unintelligible). There’s just no really easy way to say it.

Joe: At that point the dentist is asking “Did we already give her the gas?”

Kari: That’s right.

Joe: One thing I wanted to get into was with the video games. The big movie studios point to DVD’s and video games as a reason that they’re not able to make it as well as they used to. How do you see that the industry has evolved with the video games and voice-overs changing over the past few years?

Kari: There are a couple big things with video games. It’s a real hot-button issue because some of the more popular titles like “Halo 2” and some of the games like that grossed more money than a lot of the blockbuster movies. But as an actor you just go in and get paid your one little session fee and even if it sells more copies than the Ten Commandments you never see another penny. It’s been a very tumultuous field for a lot of actors because the technology of it and the popularity of it is really driving forward, but the livelihood benefits for the people that work on them have kind of stayed in one place. So that’s one of the issues about it that’s really been the center of a lot controversy lately.

Also just from a production standpoint, the video games have come so far from a technological standpoint — the graphics are just amazing now, and from a voice-over standpoint nobody is too big to do voice-over. I just worked on games in the last year or so with Sean Connery did a voice on a game, the Rock did a voice on another game; I’ve heard that Charlize Theron is doing a voice on a video game. It’s such a hot medium right now that all these huge name actors want to work on them.

That brings up its own interesting plusses and minuses. It gets the games made. Unfortunately sometimes it puts the lesser known actors a little bit more out of work. You know, you have to weigh it back and forth. It creates more work in some ways and closes down work for the lesser name actor in other ways. I see it really evolving in the next few years because it’s not “Frogger” anymore. It’s a whole new world. I definitely expect to see big changes in the next few years. That’s all I can think of to say about that.

Joe: That’s interesting because I remember the same kind of discussion ten, fifteen years ago with animated films. If you remember all the big animated films didn’t have big-time names attached to them until that Disney Renaissance period where all of a sudden you had big-name actors signing on, and you had some of these guys who had always been doing it who are suddenly not as employed.

Kari: Yeah. And once again it’s been a blessing and a curse. A couple monster Disney films were “Beauty and the Beast” and “the Little Mermaid,” and the two lead actresses in those films, Jodi Benson and Paige O’Hara, were not big names but just immensely talented. Once in a while now in the pursuit of a big name you sometimes get people who are big names but aren’t really as skilled in the voice-over realm as a lesser known actor, so sometimes I think the quality dips just a little bit. But on the other hand, you know, somebody like Robin Williams is amazing. He deserves every dollar he gets on animated projects, so I don’t like to make blanket statements that “celebrities are ruining animation,” because there are some very, very talented celebrities doing animation. Once again, it boosts work in some ways, maybe takes it away in other ways but you can’t get too bitter about that or you’re just hurting yourself. Blech.

Joe: As long as we’re talking about the “blech” part, what are some of the big frustrations you encounter?

Kari: So what are my pet peeves, then?

Joe: Essentially yeah.

Kari: I will say the thing about some work going to celebrity actors that maybe aren’t as skilled with voice-over as an unknown, sometimes that’s a little frustrating. I booked a great pilot some time back and production went to Canada on it. That’s a big problem from a business standpoint that there’s a lot of animated projects that are going to Canada because it’s cheaper to put it together there.

Joe: That’s even for the voice-over work? I knew they’ve been filming up in Canada for years, but I wasn’t aware that the voice-over work was going up there too now.

Kari: In the last Emmy’s the majority of the animated projects that had been nominated for Emmy’s were produced in Canada, which was really kind of a shocking realization. It’s got its problems just like any other area of the business. I don’t know. My personal feeling though is always you can’t just focus too much on the negative. You can work to change it as much as possible, you can stay involved with what’s going on as far as working to get equal pay and benefits and stuff as an actor and everything, but I don’t know, I’ve just run into so many people who are really, really bitter who can just sit and give you a half hour, hour speech on what’s going wrong with the voice-over world or what’s going wrong with the on-camera world. I don’t know, that can just be really toxic for your attitude. I prefer to say more, “these are some things that are a little tricky” but plow ahead and eventually you have to suck it up and either get out of the business or do what you can to make it better and just keep working. That’s my two cents.

Joe: I think any line of work you’ll have people like that. When you’re dealing with something in those areas I think people invest a lot more of themselves and who they view themselves to be, more so than someone who works at the local Kwiki Mart for instance. It can be tough to keep your spirits up in any creative work where you’re dependant on other people liking you. It can get very frustrating very quickly.

Kari: speaker You know what, though; I kinda got to thinking about it one night when I was feeling really frustrated and really focusing on all these things that were going wrong. If I were working in a typical office nine-to-five situation there would be so many kinds of problems that I could be potentially dealing with in that situation. There could be somebody in a cubicle next to me taking credit for all the work I’m doing. There could be somebody that’s come in after years and years and years of some older person that’s been doing this job they could out the older person, bring in some new young guy because they want fresh blood and he might not be as good but they want some young hip kid in there. There could be a company takeover, a new boss could come in and a new organization could come in and make changes and stuff like that. All of those things happen in Hollywood in the entertainment industry, but all of those things happen at Copymax headquarters or whatever, you know? I’m just hesitant to get too fired up and to think that the things we deal with in the entertainment industry are so much more important than the things they deal with at, I don’t know, Rockford Products. You know what I mean? It’s business anywhere you go and anywhere you look at it, and sometimes if I get too caught up in it it’s good just to have a little bit of perspective that those sorts of things do happen in all sorts of other fields, too. You just do what you can and you grow in the ways that you can. But that’s just my philosophy. This all bunch of complaining doesn’t really help you out much. It just gives you ulcers.

Joe: But ulcers are your little gastronomic friends.

Kari: I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to insult your gastronomic friends, if you have them.

Joe: They’re the only ones who’ll call me any time of the day or night.

Kari: That’s right, that’s true. At 2AM they let you know they’re there.

(brief intermission while recording equipment is fiddled with)

Joe: speaker Now that we didn’t really say much, now you can say all those jokes you were afraid were going to offend people, now that we’re recording again.

Kari: Oh funny. (laughs) I’m not afraid to say it: you’re going down Sailor Moon!

Joe: So now we know where the black eye will come from. You’re getting ready to throw down.

Kari: That’s right.

Joe: Do you follow the anime that much? I know some people when they do it they go home and don’t think about it, some people watch it and enjoy it.

Kari: You know I wasn’t a huge anime fan before I started working on it. I did follow “Dragonball Z” a little bit because I was dating a guy at the time that was just totally into “Dragonball Z.” So I’d watch a number of episodes of that but I wasn’t a hardcore fan; I didn’t follow a lot of different shows. I like to watch certain anime shows, it’s just a little difficult now since I know so many people that work on it, sometimes it’s slightly distracting to watch the show and say, “Oh, that’s so-and-so. That’s funny, that’s so-and-so working, no wait I’m trying to focus on the story and the characters… but that’s so-and-so and we just had coffee yesterday.” So I watch it a little bit but it’s hard to kinda follow it in a pure sense because you get so involved with working on it from the production side.

Joe: So you’re more attracted to the subtitled versions, right?

Kari: speaker Exactly. I do love listening to the original Japanese because we get to hear a lot of that in the recording process because they’ll play a line in the original Japanese and then you’ll record it in English. The acting is just beautiful. Even though you can’t understand what the Japanese actor is saying, the intention and emotion behind it is so clear that it’s really, really fascinating to watch.

Joe: So do you have a friendly rivalry going between some of the other voice actors? Like the old joke: how many guitarists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Four: one to do it and three to say they could have done it better.

Kari: Oh awesome, they have that joke about actors too.

You know what? I’ve gotta say that for the most part it’s such a supportive community. I was very, very surprised. It was very different from on-camera because with on-camera work there was a little bit more of that “I can’t believe she got it, blah blah blah.” But with voice-over work, for the most part people are so supportive of each other. They’re like, “Congrats on getting on that show, I’m working on this one, oh awesome.” Yeah, there seems to be just such a cool element to the people who work in voice-over. I would say 99.95% of the people I’ve met that work in voice-over jobs are just really fabulous people, really down to earth, very cool, very supportive. Every once in a while you run into your bad apple, but it’s very rare.

Joe: I’m trying to figure out what a bad apple would be. You have the bad boy image of the actor coming in drunk and abusive. In voice-over it seems like it might have a different effect.

Kari: Well they can still come in — “You know, that was great, but I think we need to have Robbie the five-year-old boy not act cracked-out in this episode..." No, I’ve never experienced that.

Joe: That would be a great bit of dialogue to write out. That would be hilarious.

Kari: That would be fun, wouldn’t it? Rock on.

Joe: Do you have any parting words of wisdom for the kids at home?

Kari: Wow, okay, that’s a tough one. Do you have any words of wisdom for the kids at home…

Joe: It doesn’t have to be your home; it could be anyone’s home.

Kari: Oh geeze, that makes it even harder. For the kids that are interested in getting into voice-over I would say that a big mistake a lot of people make is putting up a lot of money on a demo before they really have a good understanding of what goes into voice-over acting. I would say that if you’re interesting in getting involved in it, make sure you take a class first or get a little coaching first. It’s really important you get an idea of what your strengths and your weakness are, that you get an idea of what a good demo sounds like for your area, because a good demo in Texas is going to be very different from a good demo in LA — different markets sell different things. And it’s very important to get comfortable in front of a microphone, and figuring out techniques that come across well in a recording studio. There are just so many scams out there, so many places that just really want to take your money, and there are so many young kids and young people wanting to get into voice-over. They’re like, “We love anime, we love cartoons. We want to do it,” and they drop hundreds and hundreds of dollars on classes and demos that aren’t very helpful.

I would just say be very, very careful. Really do your homework: what classes are legit, what teachers are actually experienced. Make sure you don’t put hundreds of dollars on a demo until you get some information first. I get asked that a lot: “How do I get into voice-over acting?” Those would be the biggest words of wisdom that I could put forward is to definitely do your homework before you rush off and get really excited and spend a lot of money.

As far as — maybe that’s it. I was trying to think of words to live by in general. I can’t think of anything really witty. The power of positive thinking… and the golden rule. We’re all here on the same planet, just try to treat people nicely. You know… ah well, gosh, man, I’m dangerously close to creeping on to my soapbox —

Joe: Go for it!

Kari: speaker Well, I have a little charity section on my website and I just think it’s so important for every person to chip in some little way, like volunteer or do some thing to make the world a better place. Oh my gosh, this sounds so cliché, but yeah. I think everyone can get involved in some small way and it’s not like you have to do everything, but there’s this great quote that “I might not be able to do everything but I can do something.”

I don’t know, just try not to be a lousy blot on the Earth. Treat other people nicely and try to do something nice once in a while for your fellow man. Now I’m getting off the soapbox. I’m done, I’m off, I’ve stepped down, I’ve stepped away from the podium.

Joe: You’ve stepped away from podium, the soapbox has been abandoned.

Kari: That’s right; the soapbox is there in the corner collecting dust.

Joe: Although there are two very nice footprints in the middle of it right now.

Kari: Oh, I know, but you know the magic of editing. You could edit all of that stuff out.

Joe: But what fun would that be?

Kari: Ah, well.

Joe: You’ve been on the internet. If you don’t have a soapbox on the internet you’re probably porn.

Kari: (laughs) Oh my gosh.

Joe: On that note —

Kari: Huzzah!

Joe: Now that I’ve said the magic “p” word…

Kari: That’s right, that’s the perfect way to end any interview.

Joe: It’ll probably quadruple my traffic over the next few days. Porn!

Kari: That’s right; all you need to do is just slip that in.

Joe: Just slip some porn in. Boy, will my mom be proud now.

Kari: Yes she will. Wow.

Joe: It’s pretend porn mom, it’s not real.

Kari: Oh, okay. Well as long as it’s pretend porn.

Joe: I’m not even sure what that means.

Kari: You know what; I’m really not going to think it out too hard.

Joe: Well, for some reason in case you’re up late at night and come up with an answer you could always let me know.

Kari: Yeah, now that I’ve got the e-mail address. If I’m really having insomnia one night and I come up with the answer I’ll be sure to let you know.

*****
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