You might not recognize her face but her voice will jog your memory! Tara Platt is an amazing voice actor whose worked on shows like Naruto and Ben 10, films like the upcoming Tekken: Blood Vengeance and video games like Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe and Marvel vs Capcom 3. Aside from her work in animation, Tara Platt is an accomplished stage actress who’s played the title role in Romeo and Juliet and as Titania in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. She’s worked multiple times in shows written and directed by Star Trek: TNG’s John De Lancie. In 2004, she and her husband Yuri Lowenthal created Monkey Kingdom Productions, an independent film company and they also co-wrote a book on Voice Acting called Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind The Mic.
You started acting at a very young age, but when did you first get into doing voice work for animation?
The acting that I did when I was younger was all stage, I didn’t get into film or TV until after college, and then I didn’t start working in VO (animation, video games, etc.) until moving to LA in my early 20’s. So although I’ve been acting for much of my life, the VO part has been the latest “medium” to play in.
You’ve recorded voices for anime, American cartoons and videos games. What differences, if any, are there between recordings for different mediums?
Each of those is slightly different in what you need to do technically, though not really all that different in technique. Sure you could say that doing a certain voice requires different mic technique, but really at the end of the day it is all still acting. Whether I’m doing a VG or an animated series/movie I still have to do my work as an actor in the same way: looking at the script, asking questions, making choices. When I record a VG though often I might be running down hundreds of lines/loops in an hour, so I’m simply reading each line a few different ways and moving on at a pretty fast pace, and usually by myself in the booth. With animation, it might be original, where it will be animated afterwards, then I will get to read off the other actors in the room, which is always a treat. With dubbed animation (most of the anime) I will once again be alone, but having to work technically matching mouth flap for timing so my performance matches the movement of the already animated mouth of the character.
When you do different voices, how do you go about “finding the voice” for the character?
That is kind of a tricky question, as there isn’t a “right” way to do it. Sometimes I just get an idea from looking at a drawing of the character or hearing a description of them. Other times, I technically play with my voice to create something – either altering pitch, speed, accent, volume, or vocal quality to find something unusual or fun to play with. Then once I hone in on it, or a director is guiding me to something, we can make more specific adjustments and then settle on the voice.
Are there any characters that you loved performing?
So many of them are great! I often say that there is a little of you in each of your characters, because you are building them out of your own humanity. Your personality infused into the character is what brings them to life, so even if you are playing a “bad guy” you have to find a piece of you to bring to the table – maybe your vulnerable side that you don’t want others to see, so you’re covering (which can lead to a great quality in a villain) or maybe your take-charge side that gets things done (which can be commanding)… it’s not about being bad to sound bad, it’s about finding a quality of yours you can blow-up and play with. When I’m Wonder Woman, I’m still me, I’m just the very solid, strong, powerful me. When I’m Eva (from Monster) I’m the overwhelmed version of me…you just push those parts of yourself to the extreme and play with them there, and you can create some really amazing yet relate-able moments.
We can all imagine what it might feel like to wanna bop someone over the head for doing something we dislike – we might not act on it in real life, but bringing that reaction and filling it out is the fun part of acting! 🙂
Are there any characters you had trouble performing?
Vocally sure, since it’s got limits, you have an upper and lower part of your register and no matter how hard you might want to do something else, there is a boundary. So that has been difficult. But you find that the more you learn your voice, the less likely you are to hit your boundary and better work within your range. Sometimes I’ve had difficulty finding things that a director wants but usually that has to do with miscommunication and once we figure out where the confusion is we can work to get clear and I can better give them what they are looking for.
What is a typical day of recording like?
Most sessions are booked in 2-4 hour increments to try to honor the ability of your voice to sustain. Much longer than that and it is likely to get tired and you’ll
be less productive. With commercial or narration you may have a very short or very long session (respectively) just due to the type of material you are working on. Most days I will have at least an audition or two, that I will be able to record in my home booth, if not on site at one of the various recording studios in town. Sessions are almost always scheduled at the recording studios so then I will head to one of those and do my session there for my allotted time. If I have multiple sessions set in a day, I’ll usually head from one to the next, since it’s pre-scheduled; this is typical: 9-1a session, 2-6 session, so you can grab lunch/travel between.
What can you tell us about the book you co-authored with your husband, Yuri?
Sure! It’s called Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic, and we wrote it out of what seemed to be a need from friends and fans wanting to know how we did what we did and created and built careers in VO. We realized we were answering the same questions over and over and there wasn’t a simple fast response, so we wanted to bundle all the info together to make it easy and fast. We were thrilled that so many of our colleagues and business contacts were able to participate by giving anecdotes of their experiences (from directors, audio engineers and fellow VA’s) to give a really full scope of this unique and fun business. We’ve also since recorded a Warm-Up CD, and we have both on our website www.VoiceOverVoiceActor.com
What brought about Monkey Kingdom Productions?
We are actors, and we want to be acting. And sometimes that means creating your own productions to do it. Also Yuri’s a great writer and together we’ve written six features. Since it’s inception several years ago, we’ve shot two features (Tumbling After – a psychological thriller available on DVD later this year, and
Con Artists – a mockumentary about the anime convention scene currently in post-production) and we just finished filming Season One of our new web-series which we are really excited about, called Shelf Life. Shelf Life is an irreverent comedy made for geeks by geeks, that follows four action figures on a young boy’s shelf. It’s kind of like Toy Story but with more swearing. We’re extremely happy with how it’s turning out and the trailer will be premiering at SDCC in just a few weeks. To learn more visit www.ShelfLifeSeries.com or check out our production company website www.MonkeyKingdomProductions.com
FOR MORE INFO ON TARA AND HER WORK, PLEASE VISIT:
PETER has always been a huge animation buff and always has questions about voice overs, some of which Tara was kind enough to answer! After reading her responses, he’s pretty sure he can’t wait for Shelf Life to start and as soon as his next paycheck goes through, he’s buying a copy of Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic.