Lott Dod, Gragra (The Phantom Menace)
Interview: June 2017
When, where and how did your movie career get started?
I started my career many years ago in the 80’s as a comedian in a double act with a fellow called Bill Bailey. I left to pursue Theatre, TV and radio. Film has always been a part of my job, but mainly smaller, cheaper films.
How did you get cast as a voice actor for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace?
I had been working on Radio 4 doing voices and impressions along with Peter Serafinowicz (voice of Darth Maul), Lewis MacLeod (Sebulba) and Andy Secombe (Watto). We all went in and recorded many, many different voices… in fact l didn’t hear l had got the gig until long after all the others, l thought l had missed out.
You provided the voices for Lott Dod and Gragra. How did you create their voices? Did George Lucas tell you what he wanted?
George Lucas sent me a copy of my lines as read by a Thai man as a general guide, it was a little hard to follow, but it certainly gave me an idea. As for the Gragra voice, I tried a few voices to the video playback in the studio while George gave me directions.
The Phantom Menace was the only Star Wars project you worked on. How come? Lott Dod did return in the Clone Wars animated series so they should have used your voice again.
Well l agree! I don’t know why they didn’t use me; you would have to ask them.
Did you get to visit the set of The Phantom Menace? Or was all of your work done in the studio?
Sadly, l never made it to the set, but as the recording studio was Abbey Road, l was delighted to be where l was!
Could you share some of your memories regarding working on The Phantom Menace?
I remember being fascinated that George had the entire film on a laptop, which at the time was quite a feat. I received a VHS tape of the scenes in the Senate with some early makeshift effects on place, but of course, l had to give it back.
Back in 1999 The Phantom Menace was the most anticipated movie ever. Were you a Star Wars fan and did you look forward to this movie?
I was a very big Star Wars fan and was very excited; l couldn’t quite believe l was going to be a part of it.
Looking back at Star Wars: What is the best or most precious memory you have regarding The Phantom Menace?
I remember a rather panicked call from George’s assistant just days before the premiere, informing me that George had forgotten to record one short scene, so l had to rush over to a private house somewhere in North London and send my performance down the line to George Lucas miles away at the Skywalker ranch.
Your résumé of characters you have voiced is pretty long. Which character is your personal favorite and why?
I did enjoy playing Judge Dredd very much, it’s difficult to beat playing the toughest cop in Mega-City one. However, l played Wowbagger the infinitely prolonged in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and as a result l have been lucky enough to join the glorious Hitchhiker’s family (headed by Simon Jones and Dirk Maggs) on radio and in the theatre which has been an honour and a privilege that continues to delight me.
Final question: I read that for Judge Dredd: Solo you provided all 34 (!) voices. This must be a world record?
It certainly is a lot! Great fun, made possible by great writing by Jonathan Clemens and great direction by John Ainsworth, but l don’t know if it is a record. When l perform/read/narrate (still not sure what the correct term is and l must have recorded hundreds!) audiobooks l play every part, and some of the sci-fi books are very long and cover centuries, so l expect one of those must have even more parts, and a few of the alien voices can be particularly demanding, given the descriptions in the text can include ‘he spoke in a voice like dry leaves being caught in a breeze’…