Exclusive Interview Series: Andrea Romano On GOODFEATHERS and ANIMANIACS

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Our multipart exclusive interview with 8-time Emmy-Winner/40-plus-Emmy nominee, Andrea Romano continues!  If you missed any of the previous segments with this fascinating woman, click here or on the links at the bottom of this column.

Romano was Casting Director and Voice Director to several animated series including STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS PINKY AND THE BRAIN, its parent show, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS and STEVEN SPEILBERG PRESENTS TINY TOON ADVENTURES.  This column focuses on the lengths to which Romano will go to get the perfect voice and the perfect performance for a particular part.

Goodfeathers Goodfellas photo Andrea combined

THE TV ADDICT:  One of my favorite ANIMANIACS segments ever was GOODFEATHERS, the parody of Martin Scorsese’s feature film, GOODFELLAS.  Can you tell us a bit about those wacky mobbed-up pigeons?

ANDREA ROMANO:  We were so very fortunate that the crew was able to turn those witty ideas into funny characters and situations.  A prime example of that ability was the recurring segment called GOODFEATHERS.

As you said, GOODFEATHERS was a parody of the Martin Scorsese feature film, GOODFELLAS.  I found some wonderful voice actors who were able to sound like the main characters in that movie. 

Chick Vennera Pesto Andrea photo

Pesto, modeled after Joe Pesci’s character in the movie was voiced brilliantly by Chick Vennera (above). 

Mo at Emmy Awards Anread Photo 2

Maurice LaMarche did the voice of Squit, which was based on Ray Liotta’s character in the movie (above).

John Mariano Andrea photo Bobby Goodfeathers

We were fortunate to get John Mariano (above) to do “Bobby” since he is one of the best Robert DeNiro impressionists ever.  He was stunning at it and still does one of the best DeNiro impressions anywhere.

We put those three guys in a room and they became a family, too.  Those sessions were such classics.  I spent my four hours in the morning sessions just laughing.

How can you not love starting the day off with a smile?  It was the same for SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS.  I always liked to schedule them in the morning for no other reason than they made me laugh and for my personal enjoyment.  They would do each take differently and they would do it funnier.  It was remarkable!

TVA:  You also had a familiar voice that people may have recognized but did not make the connection.  You know who I mean?

AR:  Of course I do!  The fabulous Tom Bodett!  There was a sequence on ANIMANIACS called “Good Idea/Bad Idea.” [Producer] Tom Ruegger came to me and asked me if Tom Bodett would do it. 

People may not know who Tom Bodett is by name, but he is as an American humorist who is best known for the voice of the “Motel 6” commercials.  The commercials’ tagline was “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

Tom Bodett photo Andrea

Tom Bodett (above) has that natural homespun, comfortable voice, which actually sounded more mature in years than the actor really was.  He was living in Homer, Alaska, at the time, and you can’t get much more remote than that.

But, we figured out a way to record him because he had done a lot of other gigs from there.  Every once in awhile, he would make it down to Los Angeles, and it was such a joy to record with him in the room because he is such a funny man!

TVA:  I would imagine that having him in the room would be much easier than directing him from Homer, Alaska.  That being said, I have seen you get great performances out of actors who are thousands of miles away.

AR:  It is certainly more convenient to direct an actor in the space, but not always possible.  Occasionally, there can be a “disconnect” when trying to direct an actor remotely.

Technology makes it “sound” like they are in front of you, but I am such a physical voice director that I often act a part out for the actor so they can watch me perform the character for them.

That way, I can give them the physical inspiration, the physical impetus, for their lines, and they can adjust their voice performance.

Without that close proximity, I still can get a good performance from them, but it is one-step removed from doing it “in person.”  When they’re in the studio, I can help them “see” what the character is doing…for instance, to pick up something with rubber gloves on in a funny way.

We can still do it, but I like for them to be able to see it, and to “feel” what they are performing, as well.

Stay tooned for more with Andrea Romano.  If you missed any part of this interview series with the Emmy-winner, click here!

Exclusive Interview Series: Andrea Romano On PINKY AND THE BRAIN And ANIMANIACS

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In this installment of our exclusive interview with Andrea Romano, the Emmy-winning voice and casting director of STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS discusses one of the great delights of the series…the characters of Pinky and The Brain.  Audiences loved them so much that the mice were spun off to their own series…STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS PINKY AND THE BRAIN.

Romano, who has garnered 8 Emmy Awards, over 40 Emmy nominations and a legion of fans over the years, speaks about STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS PINKY AND THE BRAIN, its parent show, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS and what happens when you give 2 genetically-altered mice their own series.

To quote Pinky…Narf!

THE TV ADDICT:  One of my favorite shows ever is STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS PINKY AND THE BRAIN.  I have maquettes of the characters on my mantle, and I love the fact that Brain sounds eerily like Orson Welles.  What can you tell me about that insanely funny series?

ANDREA ROMANO:  We can’t speak of ANIMANIACS without speaking about PINKY AND THE BRAIN, can we?  It was a wonderful spinoff.  Of course, all of the ANIMANIACS segments could have been spinoffs as far as I’m concerned, but PINKY AND THE BRAIN was special.

TVA:  Can you tell our readers a bit about the premise behind PINKY AND THE BRAIN in case  they never have never seen it?

AR:  Pinky and Brain are these two lab mice who have been genetically altered at Acme Labs where they live in a cage.  Brain is brilliant, but a kind of a schemer and speaks with a voice that is reminiscent of Orson Welles.  Pinky is sweet, but missed out a bit in the brains department.

Brain is interested in taking over the world, and Pinky wants to do whatever Brain wants to do.

The theme of the show is a conversation that they have in every episode.  Pinky asks Brain, “What do you want to do tonight, Brain?”  Brain responds, “The same thing we do every night, Pinky.  Try to take over the world!”

TVA:  How does that work out for them?

AR:  Brain devises a new plan to take over the world in every episode, which of course ends in epic failure, usually because the plan is ridiculously complex or because of Brain’s arrogance or because Pinky does something idiotic to blow up the plan.

The plots often were parodies of famous films or novels, and the execution was brilliant!

TVA:  When did you know that PINKY AND THE BRAIN would become a fan favorite?

AR:  I remember the first time that footage came back [from the animation studios].  It was a “rough cut” and wasn’t even fully animated at the time.  There were no sound effects or music cut to it yet.

It was the first ANIMANIACS episode that PINKY AND THE BRAIN were on, and the segment was called “Win Big.”

Brain’s big plan for the first episode was to go onto a parody of JEOPARDY called “Jip-parody” and win enough money to make whatever invention that he could make to take over the world.

Pinky and the Brain photo Win Big

In the segment, Brain makes this enormous “man-sized” suit, which had the controls inside so that his mouse-sized body can control it so he can make it walk and make its arms move, but it has his little tiny head on top of the man-suit.

Brain decides to leave the lab in his “man-suit.”  When he takes the controls in that suit and raises the arm to try to hail a cab, I burst into laughter.  I was laughing so hard that I missed the next three minutes of the cartoon.  I was laughing so hard that I was crying!

The visuals and voice acting on that show was so stellar…so stunning…that still, to this day, I have people come up to me and mention that particular scene.

Rob & Mo Pinky & the Brain photo

Rob Paulsen, who also did Yakko Warner, voiced Pinky and Maurice LaMarche voiced The Brain (above).

I so enjoyed PINKY & THE BRAIN, both as its own series and when it was part of ANIMANIACS.  Those shows were so wonderful!

I am so happy to have been a part of ANIMANIACS that I must give [Producer] Peter Hastings so much credit.  He came up with such wonderful ideas and brought in so many stories, due to the experience with his kids.

We did a wonderful episode called “Wakko’s 2-Note Song” when Wakko proves to Dr. Scratchinsniff that his song composed from two notes is actually music.

Peter would come in and sit in my office and say, “I have an idea for an episode.  Wouldn’t it be funny if…” before laying out his idea.  It always was so hysterical that I would go wild for it and tell him that I loved it!

Stay tooned for more of our exclusive interview series with Andrea Romano.  If you missed any previous installments, click here to read more with this multi-talented award winner!

Exclusive Interview Series: Andrea Romano On Steven Spielberg, ANIMANIACS and Casting Overseas

Andrea signing autographs

Andrea Romano, casting director and voice director of many of your favorite animated series and movies, including STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS TINY TOON ADVENTURES, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS PINKY AND THE BRAIN, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, THE BOONDOCKS and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, has 8 Emmys, over 40 Emmy nominations and a huge fanbase.

She has cast and directed many animated shows for Steven Spielberg and spoke with us about the attention to detail that went into dubbing ANIMANIACS for non-English-speaking audiences.

This is Part 4 in the series with our exclusive interview series with Andrea.  Click here if you missed any of our discussion with this fascinating woman.

Spielberg in baseball cap

THE TV ADDICT:  Steven Spielberg is a person known for wanting to deliver a great product to audiences, as are you.  Could you tell us a bit about that process?

ANDREA ROMANO:  One of the things that I did several years after ANIMANIACS came out in the U.S. was to cast the series for overseas.  Steven Spielberg did not want the series to be sold overseas without someone from the original series having creative control.

Spielberg with Animaniacs animated
He wanted casting approval here and had me supervise the first few episodes being directed in the major territories, like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. I went to Europe to supervise some episodes in each of those four countries through a translator, and that was great fun.

Ultimately, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS went on to be dubbed in at least 32 languages, if not more.

TVA:  That sounds like a lot of fun.  Did the original actors hear their voice “doubles”?

AR:  Yes!  What was really cool was that, once in awhile, I would get submissions from various countries, which would sound like Bernadette Peters speaking Hungarian or someone who sounded like Rob Paulsen as Yakko Warner, but speaking French or an actress who sounded like Tress McNeille as Dot speaking Hebrew.
Jess, Tress & Rob performing

What I would do is that I would play the tapes and call the actors here and leave it on their answering machines saying, “This is what you sound like speaking Spanish!”

ANIMANIACS was so well-received that the show was such a joy for all of us.

TVA:  Finding the right actor for the job is difficult enough in one language.  What was involved in finding actors in multiple languages?

AR:  When we were doing the overseas versions, Tom Ruegger came to my office, and we would review submissions from different countries.  We would marvel at what the Goodfeathers would sound like speaking German!

Goodfeathers

We used to talk about a scenario in which, one day, we would put together an episode that had the ANIMANIACS, PINKY & THE BRAIN, Rita and Runt, Goodfeathers and the other segments being voiced in various languages by the actors from the other countries.

Andrea Pinky Brain

We’d planned to send that episode out to be aired in the U.S. because there are so many people here who speak foreign languages.  We never got to do it, and it’s one thing that I wish we had done because it would have been so much fun!

Click here if you missed any of the segments with Andrea.

Stay tooned for more with Andrea Romano!

Exclusive Interview Series: Andrea Romano…More On ANIMANIACS, Mindy, Buttons and a Girl Named Bart Simpson

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Eight-time Emmy-winning animation casting and voice director, Andrea Romano, has been instrumental in launching careers, as well as giving actors and crew some sage advice.

With over 40 Emmy nominations under her belt, Romano’s advice is certainly worth its weight in Emmy gold.  Here is more on STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS, Mindy and Buttons, the classic Warner Bros. style and a very recognizable voice.

This is Part 3 of our exclusive interview series with Andrea Romano.  For more in our series, click here.

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THE TV ADDICT:  STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS was an eclectic delight of different styles.  Can we talk about Mindy and Buttons with regard to that?

ANDREA ROMANO:  Mindy and Buttons was a series of segments on ANIMANIACS.

Buttons was a pet dog, and Mindy was a toddler who was a latchkey kid.  Her mom would put her out in the backyard in a harness, put her on a swing and leave her in the backyard alone with the dog.

The mom would tell Buttons, “Now you’re responsible for Mindy.  Take care of Mindy.”  Then, the mom would go back into the house for hours.  Mindy would invariably slip out of the harness and get into incredible trouble.

The dog, Buttons, always would be the one to save the day.  It was in the very classic style of the Warner Bros. cartoons.

Mindy and Buttons photo
Mindy would crawl over to a construction site and end up on a girder at the top of a 30-story building, toddling along the top of the building.  Buttons would be teetering behind her, trying to save her.

She would step off of one girder onto another girder safely, and Buttons, of course, would fall and get squished while she was perfectly safe.

Mindy would see Buttons doing all kinds of crazy stuff and giggle, “Silly puppy.”

Andrea Mindy Buttons Mom
They would end up back in the backyard at the end of every episode.  She would be back in her harness but would be a little bit dirty after the adventure.  Poor Buttons would be an absolute pancake and a mess.

Mom would come out and say, “Oh Mindy!  How did you get dirty?”  Then, she would yell at Buttons, “Bad dog! Bad dog!”  After saving her life, Buttons was in trouble because Mindy got dirty.

Andrea interview photo Mindy & Buttons and Ralph

TVA:  Was there a particular challenge when casting that segment?

AR:  Mindy was described as the “cutest baby ever,” so we needed the voice to be really cute.

Nancy Cartwright photo

[Actress] Nancy Cartwright was able to portray cuteness when she said, “Silly puppy” to Buttons as a girder was squishing him or when he was being hit by an anvil…whatever precarious thing that hit him and missed her.

She also could do sound effects, kind of like a female Frank Welker as far as doing all kinds of inanimate objects as well as people.  We needed that very often when she was voicing Mindy.

Mindy and Buttons was one of those very sweet cartoons, and we were very lucky to get Nancy to voice that.  I had known Nancy back from my Hanna-Barbera days, and I gave her some advice when she was doing a series called POPEYE AND SON.

Andrea Nancy Cartwright Popeye and son

She was doing a little girl’s voice, and I told her that she really needed to expand into little boys’ voices, because she absolutely had the type of edge in her voice that would allow her to do that.

I told her, “I really think you’ll have more opportunities if you find a way to do both ‘little girl’ and ‘little boy’ voices.”

So, again, not to toot my own horn, but she has gone on and done very well doing little boy voices.

Nancy Cartwright and Bart Simpson

(Editor’s Note:  Nancy Cartwright has been the voice of Bart Simpson since 1989.  That’s 26 seasons and counting…)

If you missed other parts of our interview with Andrea Romano, click here.  Stay tooned for Part 4.

Exclusive Interview Series: Andrea Romano On ANIMANIACS, Rita, Runt and Inspiration From Desperation

Andrea photo at Paley

Animation casting and voice director and Comic-Con rockstar, Andrea Romano, has won 8 Emmys and been nominated for over 40.  In Part 1 of this series, we discussed STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS and its main characters, Yakko, Wakko and Dot Warner.

STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS is a television series that is loved worldwide where it is seen in over 30 languages.

This is Part 2 in which Andrea discusses more about some of our other favorite characters on ANIMANIACS.

For more in our series with Andrea, click here.

THE TV ADDICT:  In Part 1, we discussed the casting of the animated Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner sister, Dot.  Can you tell us a bit about casting the other characters on ANIMANIACS, like Rita the Cat and Runt the Dog?

Rita and Runt Christmas photo

ANDREA ROMANO:  We had such a marvelous cast on ANIMANIACS.  Each episode was made up of several segments, and each segment had its own main characters, with Yakko, Wakko and Dot appearing in at least one segment in every episode, along with other stories and little shorts, as well.

TVA: How do you go about finding a character’s voice when it is still in the development stage?

AR:  For an example, let’s use Rita and Runt from ANIMANIACS.  “Often, in animation, impressions are used as a jumping off point in creating a voice.  They’re not always intended to be spot on impressions.”

Frank Welker photoFrank Welker came in, and at the time, RAINMAN was a popular film.  Frank was playing around doing his RAINMAN impression but giving it just the flavor, not a spot-on impression.

The character of Runt was one of a dopey dog who always thought Rita the Cat was also a dog.  When we heard Frank’s variation on the RAINMAN voice, that’s when we decided to use that voice for the dog named “Runt.”

TVA:  Are there other factors that go into choosing a voice based on a concept?

AR:  Decisions often are based on contemporary talent and who and what’s hot during the time that you are making a series.  During ANIMANIACS, Rickie Lee Jones had just put out a popular album, and she was really hot at that time.  It was requested of me to make her an offer, without even an audition to do the series and she accepted.

About a week before the first session, we were lining up the talent and scheduling the first recording session, and I got a message back from the agent saying that she had changed her mind and didn’t want to do it.

Rita and Runt montage #1 photo

TVA:  I imagine that threw the schedule into turmoil?

AR:  Yes.  That change made the situation desperate, because we were to be recording in a week on a major Steven Spielberg-produced series, and I don’t have a “Rita” yet.  Music had been written for Rita, and it needed to be in the right key.

I found out that Jones wasn’t available on a Friday, so I went in on a Saturday at what used to be the Imperial Bank Building in the Sherman Oaks Galleria [the former home of Warner Bros. Animation] and got out my “Players Directory,” which is like a big yearbook of talent.  It shows actors’ agents, their headshots, their credits, etc. and contact information.

So, I sat there and paged through all of the female actors and made a list of actresses and good singers that I thought would be right for the part.

Tom Ruegger came in and we reviewed the list for the type of celebrity that we could offer to Steven Spielberg for approval.  We ran five names past Steven, our top choice being Bernadette Peters, and Steven really warmed to that idea.

So Tom and I sat down and wrote a very personal letter to Bernadette explaining what the series was, what the character was…that Rita was a cat looking for a home…and that there would be singing.

We sent the letter off to her agent and almost instantly got the response that she wanted to do it.   It was such a relief!  Plus, it was really, really good casting.

Not to pat myself on the back, but every once in awhile I believe that things happen for a reason.  Rickie Lee Jones dropped out and Bernadette Peters became the voice of Rita.  And she was a wonderful Rita.

Bernadette Peters photo

TVA:  Your letter must have been very convincing.  How did she respond?

AR:  Bernadette’s response was so wonderful.  She said that she was touched by the fact that we wrote her a personal letter.  She loved the fact that Rita was a cat because she’s a huge cat fan.

When she used to fly in for the sessions, we always had to ensure that she was flying on a flight that would allow her to bring her cat on the plane, because she wasn’t going anywhere without her cat.

The brilliant Richard Stone, Julie Bernstein and Steve Bernstein wrote the most beautiful songs for her, and we all were so thrilled to work with her.  She was a brilliant Rita!

Stay tooned for Part 3 of our interview with Andrea Romano.  For more in our series with Andrea, click here.

Exclusive Interview Series: Andrea Romano…Best Of The Best

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“Television Sweeps Month” begins on Thursday, February 4, 2016, when the industry determines who is watching what shows and how often.  Networks trot out their “best of the best” to draw viewers and garner that notable recognition.

Andrea Romano is one of those “best of the best” in the industry.

With 8 Emmys and over 40 nominations, and an IMDb page that reflects her work with Academy Award, Emmy, Tony and Grammy winners and nominees, along with hundreds of notable actors, one would think that her dreams have been realized.  That person would be wrong.  Andrea Romano has made, and plans to continue to make, the most of her time on what she calls “this beautiful planet Earth.”

Eight Emmys and over 40 nominations…to put that in perspective…Cloris Leachman and Carl Reiner have won 9 Emmys each.  Mary Tyler Moore and her co-star, Ed Asner have won 7 Emmys each. Tim Conway also has 7.  Alan Alda has 7, and Anthony Geary of GENERAL HOSPITAL has 8.   Art Carney of THE HONEYMOONERS fame won 6. Academy Award-winner/multiple Emmy nominee/Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award winner, Ernest Borgnine, won an Emmy at age 92.

Borgnine, Asner and Conway have guest starred on Romano series.

Emmys are given to the “best of the best,” and Andrea Romano has earned that distinction, time and time again.

A veteran casting director and voice director for some of the finest animation projects in the history of television, Andrea has cast and/or directed the likes of STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS PINKY & THE BRAIN, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS TINY TOON ADVENTURES, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, THE BOONDOCKS and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, and those titles only represent a small portion of her credits.

Romano has given so many actors and other folks a start or an incredible opportunity (including me) in the entertainment industry that it is true to say that she is, in fact, a legend as well as a friend.

This is Part 1 of our Exclusive Interview Series…Burning Questions with Andrea Romano.

THE TV ADDICT:  You have such impressive credits.  STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS TINY TOON ADVENTURES, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS, STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS PINKY & THE BRAIN, JUSTICE LEAGUE, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES…on and on.  Is it fair to say that your shows are like your children so you would never name a favorite?

ANDREA ROMANO:  That’s probably true.  I have so many that are my “favorite,” that it’s hard to say that I have just one.

TVA:  That being said, can you name three memorable episodes or series when the casting came together like a “perfect storm” that you did not expect to happen that way?

AR:  Remarkable casting events, if I may say, came together with STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS ANIMANIACS, which was an enormous challenge for me as it was the second series I was both casting AND directing.

We already had done one series with Steven, my first to cast AND direct [STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS TINY TOON ADVENTURES], and he was happy with our work.  We knew that we had to “up our game” and get better.

Animaniacs photo logo Steven Spielberg presents

We had a couple of issues casting Yakko, Wakko and Dot Warner.  They all needed to sound like children, yet their attitudes had to be very “adult.”  The humor was very adult.  We did try some children, but they just didn’t understand the humor well enough to get it right, so we knew that we had to use adults.

 TVA:  What was your process in casting ANIMANIACS?

For Yakko Warner, who was to be, arguably, the head of that series, we knew that we wanted Rob Paulsen.  We had worked with Rob for many years, most recently on STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS TINY TOON ADVENTURES, and [producer] Tom Ruegger and I just knew that he was the right guy.

Rob Paulsen with characters

I’ve told this story very often of how we submitted five voices for Yakko as “Actor #1,” “Actor #2,” “Actor #3” and so on, and three of the five were Rob Paulsen.  Sure enough, Steven picked one of Rob’s.  We just knew that was the way to go, so that was kind of speeding everything toward our way.

Tress MacNeille photo

When we started casting for Dot, we knew that Tress McNeille would be better for it than anybody else.  We didn’t even worry about putting her audition on tape with other actors because she was so much better than everyone else that Steven would approve her…and he did.

TVA:  Was there a particular challenge in casting any of the Warners?

The biggest challenge was finding the voice of Wakko.  We went through hundreds and hundreds of auditions.  We were sitting in the last day of callbacks, and we liked some of what the auditioning actors were doing for Wakko Warner, but not totally.  Either there was a lack of the proper energy, or something else that was slightly off.

Then, Tom Ruegger pulled out a reference book of celebrities and famous people.  He was referring to it and asking the actors, “Can you do a so-and-so impression?”  He got to one section and saw The Beatles.

Landing on that page, we asked the actors to do their various impressions of The Beatles.  An actor that I never had met before, Jess Harnell, came in.  He was very enthusiastic and an excellent musician, but without much experience in animation, if any.  But, he certainly had the “animation energy.”

Jess Harnell photo

We asked him if he did any impressions of The Beatles, and he said, “I do all of them.”  He did each and every one of them…all excellently.

Wakko Warner is the youngest of the three Warners, kind of cute and a smartass, and he wears a great big hat that covers most of his head.  He’s really kind of the silly one, and the Ringo voice that Jess did worked so well for that character.

Wakko Warner

I may be mistaken, but I think they pitched all of the characters’ voices up just a little bit, about 5%, which gave them just that little bit of a “youthful” edge.  This may sound a little strange, but the pitching up also gave them a “not quite human” sound to be a little more cartoony than a human voice.

When you see the Warners, we always joke, “What are these characters?” because they certainly are not rabbits or mice.  We just called them the “puppy-children.”  But they sound kind of like children, and pitching them up gave them a little bit of sparkle.

So, to answer the question, this mystical, magical moment was watching these three actors truly become a family.  They WERE the three kids.

Rob and Tress absolutely led Jess along as far as teaching him how to do this.  They showed him how to do publicity for this kind of thing, like what kind of things to say in an interview and what kind of things to say at a live appearance.

Animaniacs replacement picture Yakko Wakko Dot

To watch them all work together was so rewarding.  It was such a “family affair” that they all are still like a family to this day, some 25 years later.  They are still appearing together at various live functions where they are singing ANIMANIACS songs with orchestras and signing autographs.

Rob Paulsen, Tres MacNeille & Jess Harnell photo

It’s just one of those shows that has had a true, lasting effect on the fans.  The kids that were watching it loved it.  Their parents loved it.  When I do personal appearances, those fans that were kids when the show first came on are now adults and tell me that, because they loved the show so much when they were younger, they are turning their kids on to ANIMANIACS and that their kids love it!

That’s real longevity.  That’s really the way that you want a series to go.  It’s like the LOONEY TOONS situation, which we all watched and loved as children, even though we didn’t get half of the jokes.  Now, when we watch it as adults, we get the jokes and it’s still a good show because we now understand the jokes.  LOONEY TOONS is still funny, 50 years later.

That’s what has happened with ANIMANIANCS, and it’s still a great series, because the casting came together in such a beautiful way.

Click here to read more from our interviews with Andrea Romano.

Burning Questions for Jason “Jay” Bell of ARROW, THE FLASH and STAR TREK BEYOND (Part 2)

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Stunt performer, Jay Bell, seen on many stunt-intensive TV shows and top-grossing feature films, recently took time out of his active schedule to chat with THE TV ADDICT.

A former active duty soldier, Afghanistan veteran, musician, composer and father, answered our burning questions about stunt work, broken bones and some of our favorite shows.  You can see him on many television shows including ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERNATURAL, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW and feature films such as STAR TREK BEYOND, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and DEADPOOL!

Related: Read part 1 and part 3 of our interview with Jay Bell

Jay Bell doubling Milo Ventimiglia

THE TV ADDICT: How often do you have to wear special wigs, makeup, get special haircuts or dye your hair to double an actor? (seen above doubling Milo Ventimiglia)

JAY BELL: It always depends on the show.  The only time you wear a wig is if it’s for something specific or when you’re doubling an actor and they need to match your hair to the actor.  Otherwise, you’re getting a nice new haircut!

We get makeup done almost every time on set unless your face is covered by a mask/helmet or some kind of wardrobe.

When I was doubling Hawkman on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, whenever I wore the Hawkman helmet, they had to color the bottom half of my hair at the back to make it lighter and match Falk Hentschel’s, the actor who plays Hawkman.

Most memorable makeup for me was for being a zombie on FEAR THE WALKING DEAD.  It was pretty wild!

TVA: What is your background?

Jay Bell in military uniform dress

I started off my journey with gymnastics and Shotokan Karate in high school.  After college, I did 7 years in the Army with a tour to Afghanistan.

These days you’ll find me hitting pads at my long time Muay Thai gym, working on flips and tumbling at the local indoor Parkour gym or training with my master at my Taekwondo Dojang.

Jay Bell gymnastics

I like to keep things varied, so that I don’t get stuck in one groove at one time.  Stunts can require a lot or a little, so if you’re prepared for a broader spectrum, you’ll set yourself up for success.

TVA: What is the most difficult type of actor/role to double?

I’d say matching the actor’s particular movement with a certain character.  A lot of times, you’ll double an actor and they move completely differently from how you would portray that same character.

For me, personally, I try and study the actor’s movement and copy their articulations as best as possible, even if it goes against feeling “right” for you.  That for me can be a tough, but also a welcomed, challenge.

TVA: If you could work with your dream director, who would it be?

Hands down, it would be Steven Spielberg.  I grew up watching almost every one of his films as a kid.  I think I might be temporarily starstruck if I saw him on set.  I have such respect for him and to be on the same set would be pretty amazing.

TVA: Do you act, sing, dance or do stage work in addition to stunts?

The only acting I get to do is on the jobs I book as a stunt/actor.  I have yet to have any experience on stage or singing/dancing gigs.  Somehow, I don’t know if that would be my niche, but never say “never.”

Jay Bell photo diving

TVA: How many hours do you train for a complex gag?

A Ratchet (“wire work”) can be a tricky one because you have to setup the machines with your particular weight, your velocity, arcs, how high you’re going and, most specifically, what’s your action before, during and after you land or hit the ground.

I’ve done some days of 12+ hours practicing one single gag.  Complex fight scenes with a lot of different moving parts can also take a long time.  We did one big sequence where the main heroes are fighting a lot of bad guys while there are complex driving sequences going on at the same time.  That was a full 2 12-hour days of rehearsing.

TVALegendary stunt person, Dar Robinson, never broke a bone in his career.  Is that really unusual, and have you?

It’s not unusual at all.  I know a lot of veteran stunt guys who have done some totally insane gags without a scratch. One friend, however, broke his neck on a feature film 5 years ago and has now fully recovered.

Luckily for me I’ve just broken a nose along with some torn ligaments in my ankles and a separated shoulder.  I don’t know…maybe I’m crazy…but that is getting off pretty easy to me (knocking on wood).

Jay Bell photo 5 X-Men

TVA: What is the most unusual request you ever got for a stunt?

I haven’t had too many “unusual requests” but on X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, the Hair Department pretty much told me that I’m shaving my head and beard off…except the mustache.  I was walking around Montreal for a month with a shaved head and a big dark bushy ‘stache…. not exactly the look I like to have for prolonged periods of time.

TVA: What hobbies do you have?

Completely unrelated to film, I’m an avid guitarist.  Whenever I have any time to myself and I’m not training, working or changing my daughter’s diapers, I’m playing and recording my own music on my MacBook.  It’s the only time I get to be alone in my own musical creative world.

That being said, I look at my career as a stunt performer as a hobby.  I think the moment I look at it as a job, I might start feeling different about it, and I don’t want that.  For me, it’s the most fun paid hobby you can have.

Check out Part 1 and Part 3 of our interview with Jay Bell.

Burning Questions for Jason “Jay” Bell of ARROW, THE FLASH and STAR TREK BEYOND (Part 1)

jay

No, your eyes are not fooling you in the photo.  The faces above are not exactly the same faces that you see on THE FLASH and ARROW.  Those are the stunt performers who do the “ballet to sound effects” performed so brilliantly each week.  To the far left is Jay Bell, doubling Robbie Amell’s Firestorm.

Jay is a stunt double, stunt performer, actor and motion capture performer who has worked on such stunt-intensive television shows as THE FLASH, ARROW, SUPERNATURAL and the upcoming LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, as well as feature films X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, STAR TREK BEYOND and THE A-TEAM.

Jay Bell Afghanistan

A former active duty soldier, Afghanistan veteran, musician, composer and father, Jay was kind enough to take time out of his incredibly busy schedule to answer our burning questions about stunt work, broken bones and some of our favorite shows!

Related: Read part 2 and part 3 of our interview with Jay Bell

THE TV ADDICT: You have worked on some of the most stunt-packed shows on television and top-grossing films.  What is the hardest part about being a stunt performer?

JAY BELL That’s a good question.  The hardest thing about being a stuntman, in my opinion, is the physicality of the job. The longer you do it, the more it takes a toll on your body.

Jay Bell rock climbing copy

When you’re constantly being thrown through the ringer… physically…it definitely catches up faster than you think.  I’ve torn all of the ligaments in both ankles, broken my nose and separated my right shoulder multiple times.

In my mind, though, whatever injuries you incur over the span of your career are worth it because it’s one of the coolest jobs you can possibly have.

Jay Bell Firestorm

TVA: Do you do a lot of work with CGI and what is most interesting about it?

Now that TV and film have become so reliant on CGI to fill in the gaps, I’ve had plenty of opportunities.  In my experience, CGI has brought energy and life to the characters for the viewers to enjoy at home.

I doubled Robbie Amell last season on THE FLASH as “Firestorm.”  His character is a superhero on the show whose body lights up on fire.

I got to do a lot of the action for that character.  I got so excited every time I had an opportunity to “flame on” and pretend like I’m calling upon this awesome force and become this badass human fireball.

It was the same with Hawkman on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW.  I got to pretend I’m sprouting these huge angel-like wings from my back as if I were some demigod, whether I was on a wire flying around or sweeping a bad guy’s legs out with one wing.  CGI is very cool to work with and even cooler when you get to see the finished product.

TVA: What is the hardest part about keeping your face away from the camera?

That can be a tough one to pull off.   Sometimes, the camera is pointing directly at your face during your action, so you definitely have to be creative on how to sell a movement, whether its a simple punch or doing wire work.

If the director does not want your face seen, you have to be sure it’s not seen.  A lot of times, you would typically sell a hit away from camera.

TVA: Did you ever forget to duck (sorry, I had to ask, LOL)?

mmm…..yes….It sucked, and I was totally embarrassed.   But, it sold well to the camera!

TVA: How many parts can you double on one project?

As many as the Coordinator/Director wants.  One of my close friends who works on ARROW as a lead double has doubled 8-10 different characters on that single production.

It also depends if you’re a full-time double for one of the main characters or just for an actor for that particular episode.  If you’re unavailable or have too much on your plate, most of the time they’ll try and find another performer with your particulars and skillset to fill in for you.

TVA: As a stuntman, you are required to act as well as throw a punch.  Could you tell us a little more about that?

Almost every single one of my acting credits has been a Stunt/Actor Credit.

I still have to go through the audition process like any actor would, but in these cases they typically want a stunt performer who they know can throw out some lines with no problem as well as do the actual stunt.

It’s a lot of fun, as I tend to get really into character, even with one line.

TVA: What is your specialty, e.g. horses, fire, cars, hand-to-hand?

For me it’s definitely hand-to-hand and fighting.  I have a background in Muay Thai and Taekwondo so that style of stunts comes more naturally to me.

I’d love to get into more driving/motorcycle style of stunts but most of those guys have been in the business for 20+ years and have earned those coveted spots with skill and time in.  Someday, though!

TVA: Do you take acting and dance lessons in addition to strength training or boxing or have you learned how to act on set?

I’ve literally taken one acting class in my life.  Everything else I’ve learned regarding acting has been by watching other actors on set and how they portray their characters.  I think it’s better than any acting class you can take and you get to see an array of different styles.

You can also read part 2 and part 3 of our interview with Bell.

 

 

Discovering the Incredible World of Nerd HQ: Zac Levi’s Comic-Con Alternative

Every year fans flock to San Diego, California for the mecca of geek gasms: Comic-Con. Being an entrepreneurial opportunist and perhaps nerd-genius, spring-boarding off that worldwide phenomenon, star Zac Levi took his popularity and passion and channeled it into a convention that has paralleled Comic-Con for the past two years.

Creating his brainchild The Nerd Machine with the help of some like-minded celebs, friends and anyone with a kindred spirit, Zac created a world for nerds, geeks and fans to mingle and celebrate. In fact, Zac found a way to bringing all these fantastic worlds together for a special 4-day event known as Nerd HQ. This year, with over 18 “Conversations for a Cause” panels featuring the talents of such popculture stars as Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Nathan Fillion, Damon Lindelof, and Jared Padalecki as well as featuring hot shows like DOCTOR WHO, CHUCK, PSYCH and GRIMM and film casts from EXPENDABLES 2 and TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN, the Nerd HQ event managed to showcase some of the year’s hottest celebs.

Exclusive Interview: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Star Jamie Bamber

jamie bamber apollo battlestar galactica season four
By: Amrie Cunningham [My Take on TV]

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is back, and not surprisingly, better than ever. What better way to count down the minutes to the final season premiere than by spending some time learning a bit more about everyone’s favorite Viper-pilot-turned-courtroom-lawyer, Lee Adama [aka Jamie Bamber]? Jamie and I talked last week about what he hopes to see for his character, what he hopes fans take away from the show, and what he really thinks about the whole “Starbuck/Apollo/will-they/can-they/should-they-really” relationship.

BATTLESTAR is hands down one of my favorite shows on television and I’m so excited that it’s coming back tonight.
Jamie Bamber:
Yeah, we all are. It’s something that’s become very precious to us, and we want to see it finished in the right way.

What attracted you to the role of Lee when the series first started.
I think his entrance into the show. The way the character arrived, as a stranger aboard this Battlestar, not wanting to be there, being forced into this sort of retirement of his dad that he doesn’t get on with. It being completely about, you know, family relationships and something that we can all relate to. And then the end of the world happening and him being stranded in this world that he didn’t really want to be in. I thought that was the most fantastic premise for a character opening. This is not his life; this is not the people he’s surrounded by, all these military guys. He was probably, in my mind, about to quit the military, and here he is stranded. With the one man he didn’t want to see forever. It was just a great set up for a character, and an unusual one. In the original series, he was the out and out hero. And in this one, he is that, but he’s also less than perfect. He was very adolescent in the original, and I think I brought an adolescence to it that made it even more the case. It was that. It was purely that. And the fact, I knew I was meant to be playing Apollo, and yet I couldn’t find the character Apollo, he was called Lee Adama and it was that, we’re trying something new, and we’re trying to get away from the curse of these names, you know, Apollo, Starbuck. The way that Ron has made the world plausible, is what struck me.

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