2-1B (The Empire Strikes Back), Wicket (Ewoks: Animated Series)
Interview: September 2005
What got you into voice acting?
I had started playing with tape recorders and microphones when I was about twelve years old. My friend’s dad had an old tape recorder, and we would make ‘shows’ and goof around with different voices and the like. Later, I turned it into a career. Your first contribution to Star Wars was providing the voice of medical-droid 2-1b in The Empire Strikes Back. How did you get this part?
I never was sure about what droid characters I did voice work for. When you have to provide ADR (automatic dialogue replacement) for an actor, you see and must match the mouth movements. Droids don’t move their “mouths”, so all that was done wild. I never saw the pictures of the droids and what or who they were. And with all the processing it went through, I could not swear to anyone which droid I voiced. I DO know I didn’t do voices for Princess Leia.
Can you tell us any anecdotes about doing the voicework for The Empire Strikes Back?
No real anecdotes. That was 1) many years ago and 2) with my friends at Lucas, and I’ve done many sessions with them, so it is kind of a blur. But Lucas has always been enjoyable to work with. My last shot was a game I did for them in December 2006.
In the mid-eighties you voiced Wicket the Ewok in the Ewoks cartoonseries. What are your fondest memories regarding this series?
The cartoons were great fun. Almost all the players were voice people and comics in San Francisco. We did the work quickly, but not so quickly that we couldn’t joke amongst ourselves.
A favorite story: When the show was about to premier on Saturday morning, the four principles of the series, Jeannie Reynolds, Jim Cranna, Sue Murphy and I decided to have a premier party. We rented a suite at the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco, had them serve breakfast and invited everyone from the show; the recording engineers, the writers, the producers, the other cast members…everyone. Just one requirement, everyone had to wear pajamas. So we had at least two dozen people trouping through the lobby of one of San Francisco’s ritziest hotels on Saturday morning in their pajamas. I don’t think the place has been the same since.
You have done voicework for a lot of Star Wars computergames. Have you actually played them? (and do you like them?)
I have played them. I like the shooter games, and now we are working on some strategy games too. They are real brain teasers.
Is there any difference in voicework for movies and voicework for computergames? Can you describe this?
Movies and games are kind of the same, because you work on a line or so at a time, in order to get it right for the scene or character. It’s harder generating the right feeling when you are doing this in a room by yourself. Cartoons are different, since usually you work in a room with several cast members, and get to “play off” their responses to your situations. The energy is really exciting.
When you are doing voicework, how does your average day look?
The world has changed so much. Used to be that you would drive into town, go from studio to studio and see friends and do voice work, but the new technology allows me to sit in my small studio at home, and connect with studios from Spain to Australia and do voices for all kinds of people. But you don’t get to see folks and sit around and chat before and after the job is done. Efficient, yes, but I miss the personal contact.
How do you prepare yourself for doing a voice? And where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration is people around me. I listen to people’s voices on the bus or the airplane or where ever. It is fun to hear the things people say, and how they say it when they’re not thinking. It is also fun to think of what those voices would be like for other kinds of characters. What if you stuck the voice of someone like American actor Sylvester Stallone, with his New York accent, on the body of a viking? It’s just a chance to let your imagination carry you away.
Of all characters you have voiced, which one is your favorite?
There is a little character that I love. He appears in a series of games for Lucas under the title Monkey Island. His name was Murray the Skull. He can’t do anything but yell at you, and since he is so powerless, he yells louder than anybody. He’s just frustrated. He still makes me laugh.
You have done some ‘physical’ acting in movies like Howard the Duck and American Graffiti; movies in which George Lucas was involved. Have you met him and if so, what is your opinion about him?
I have met Mr. Lucas, and of the projects that I’ve been involved in that he was part of, his closest association was with the Ewoks cartoons. I think he is a little protective of the characters he’s created. Which is a good thing. And as to my opinion, I think he is a first rate film maker. I fell in love with his first production, THX 1138. I kinda wish he directed more, but he is a great producer, too.
In the mid-seventies you used to work for a radiostation in Tulsa. Of course, we want to know what your favorite music is!
Actually, I worked for radio stations in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and California. Disc jockey work can be a lot of fun, and I used to use the voice talents and production to make my shows engaging. The music was different at all the stations, and I’ve become a big fan of all kinds of rock, big band, Zydeco, Gilbert & Sullivan, country and western… I do have trouble getting my head around hip hop, but I kinda like a song I can whistle.
Do you think that the fact you have worked on all sorts of Star Wars projects has opened doors for you that would have stayed closed otherwise?
I know it has. I wound up doing some other cartoon things in Los Angeles based on my work on Ewoks, which was probably because I did the Movies, etc., etc. People who can make a living doing what I do are very lucky, and I am grateful to the Lucas people and the fans of all the Lucas movies, games and cartoons for letting me do what I do.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
I am doing some work for Sesame Street, and like most of us in the voice business, doing commercials. But for the most part, people like me don’t know what we’ll be doing three days from now, so my current projects are those things that I’ll wake up and do Monday morning, whatever they are. Likely, someone will call in the morning at 10:00 AM, while I’m working on a car commercial, to book something for the afternoon. It is a crazy living.
If there is anything you want to say to the Star Wars fans….here is your chance to do it!
Just to thank them for the support of the great movies and to say that I have a certain pride in having been able to provide a little bit of the great body of work that still keeps them coming back for more. I thank them for being interested enough in my contributions to have read this far.