How did you first get into voice acting?
My parents both majored in theatre with a radio minor. Mom went off to do repertory theatre and voice overs, Dad went from acting and directing, to opening up an advertising agency.
Growing up around theatre folks, it was natural I would follow into the arts and the footsteps of my voice over folks.
I think if I had said, “I’d like to be a lawyer or a doctor”, my parents would’ve thought I was crazy. In my family it was always best to major in the arts with a backup of mime and juggling.
I went to Emerson College for two years and finished my theatre degree at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. When thinking about jobs, I thought “I wonder if I should have my Dad make me a demo reel and I could do voice overs as a side hustle before breaking into Broadway”. He did!
Back to NYC and I was dating a lovely young man whose mom was NYC’s biggest voice over coach and demo producer, Alice Whitfield. I had the HUGE blessing of having a one on one coach/mentor for months. We’d coach in the a.m. and then I’d run to Macys in midtown Manhattan to the Chanel counter to spritz people with perfume.
I remember the days in NYC when I ran all over town, to casting agencies, big advertising agencies and occasionally you’d read at your agent’s office. It was exhausting and exhilarating, especially as I added Improv in the mix at Gotham City aka The Groundlings East.
I was absolutely obsessed with crazy characters (imitating everyone!) and moved out to LA to do animation voice over and sitcom television. I took whatever animation classes and “meet the casting directors’ nights” LA had to offer. My voiceover world quickly expanded into animation as well.
You’ve had lots of amazing roles in some very well-known animated series/movies. Do you have a favourite?
Every role has held such a special place in my heart and career. From my first series as tough and feisty Lieutenant Felina Feral in Hanna Barbera’s Swat Kats, being cast to voice opposite Seth MacFarlane’s Larry and Steve (the pre Family Guy short), The Boss in the popular Metal Gear Solid video game series, to Marvel’s 1994 Fantastic Four, playing Sue Richards The Invisible Woman.
Family Guy and SpongeBob Squarepants happened in the same year, 1999. Who knew that would change my life forever - Diane Simmons The Anchor Woman, is homage to my mom, while Pearl Krabs is the most fun, spazziest girl who’s still 16!!
Working on Wall-E, Monster’s University, CarsToons, Inside Out, Bonnie’s Mom in Toy Story 3 & 4 and hundreds of other crazy ladies, teenagers and critters, have all challenged and enhanced my acting and improv skills and has also been some of the most rewarding, fun and beautiful chapters in my life. No favorites, all so wonderful. I feel so GRATEFUL – and old - as I write this! LOL
How did you get the role of ‘Pearl’ in SpongeBob Squarepants and what is it like to play her?
In the audition description, she was larger than everyone else under the sea. I knew she had to have this low voice but still be a teenager, where she was kind of lovably spoiled. I just tried to make her like a girl that goes to the mall and then give her a big sound. I always try to give somebody a little something like a laugh. She ended up with a laugh and a cry that are now built into the character 20 years and going strong.
I loved playing Pearl because she's a flirt and she's a daddy's girl and she's just excited about life. If any of my characters were the most like me, it's her. Just goofy and happy and pom poms, you know, trying to cheer everybody else up. I'm not as spoiled as Pearl, but I adore playing her.
We get to all go in together as a group unless you're just doing pickup lines, so every time I have the most ridiculous time, I'm so grateful and it's so fun. They're writing more and more for the women on the show so that's exciting as we go into our 20th year.
What was is like to work as the voice of the mother in Toy Story 4?
Very emotional and very fun because it's very natural. It's hard not to get a little awestruck when I've gone up to Pixar, or when I go onto the Disney stage, but it's really neat. You're improvising eight hours a day, then sometimes you will get these roles that come up out of the big group of sessions. It's really exciting to know that as the character of Andy went off to college, everyone was like, "What's going to happen at the end of Toy Story 3. The journey continues in Toy Story 4 so it's been an absolute honour.
How has the industry changed since you first started?
There's such an influx of people, they want things now. And faster.
The reads, at least over here in the U.S. - the real read, the non-announced read - is to be more relatable, to give hope, to get hope, to inspire, to be inspired, more storytelling in nature. Even the promos and animation are a little bit pulled back.
Just like the trends and the sounds change, so does what the clients want and how they want it.
Take private coachings, get into an improv class, take classes.
There's a huge influx of non-union. As a union girl, I grew up with my mom, the SAG-AFTRA president in the Washington, D.C. Local, and I did my homework in the back while she would chair a meeting. So when people go non-union and work off the card, they're undercutting their fellows.
What advice would you give those wanting to work in animation?
Classes, improv, explore and remember all the characters in your own life. Anyone that's deeply ingrained. Accents you do really well, you should really showcase those on your demo and then when you're auditioning, if you don't do them well, make them a hybrid, fun, weird thing. I really encourage people to draw on and keep a note, like an actual note card, of all of the accents you do well or poorly, so that you can draw on those when you get a script.
How do you look after your voice?
I vocalise every single day. I warm up, and I warm down. I take voice lessons. I no longer have anything minty or eucalyptus. All the things that have menthol eucalyptus completely dry your throat out. You want your mouth and throat to be lubed up, so nothing that dries it out, not even tea. Entertainer's Secret (a glycerin spray), Grether's Pastilles are great, I like the actual throat tea because it has slippery elm and licorice root in it. It's a good reason to have like hard candies, anything that just the thought of it makes you salivate. I steam and I will even bring hot water to a session and just put my nose over it like if you have a cold. It will just open up those sinus passages. You want them moist and the hot water keeps the swelling down. You especially want to warm down your voice after a session. In the morning hydrate with almost a litre of water and hydrate throughout the day, because the minute you become thirsty, you're already dehydrated. I have one cup of coffee in the morning and that is it.
How important would you say training is for voiceover artists?
It's everything. You have to be a good actor. You're not just like, "Oh I have a cool voice, I should get into voiceovers." I hear that every day, and it makes me crazy. You have to know how to relate to somebody in the scene. Get back into a good acting class because for your demo or for a scene on audition, we need to hear the relationship. How do you feel about them? You can add on emotions and triggers.
What do you enjoy in your free time?
I love rescuing animals. I love not eating them. I do anything for animals that I can. I advocate for women's rights, animal rights. I just try to go volunteer because this business is very narcissistic and it just is. Take care of you first so you have reserves to call upon to be there for other people.
Do you have any inspirational quotes or mantras that motivate you?
Be in your talent without arrogance. It's humble things, go find something creative, find a hobby, find recreations. Find a way to flesh out your full, rich life.
Actress, Producer, Coach