In today’s modern world, almost every day of our lives we hear countless voice overs in movies, television series, and even in advertisements! Voice overs are quite literally everywhere, but what goes into voice acting? How would someone find themselves in that field? How can one person lend their own voice so many different characters?
We recently met up with fan favorite voice actor Phil LaMarr at Keystone Comic Con in Philadelphia, PA to talk about his time in the voice over industry, advice for those trying to get into it, and returning to one of his most famous characters, ‘Samurai Jack’! Check out our full exclusive interview below!
ScienceFiction (SF): Diving right in, you’re one of the most popular voice actors in the industry! We know you started out with a number if on screen roles, but how did you get into voice acting?
Phil LaMarr (PL): I’m not entirely sure! My very first professional gig was actually a cartoon when I was in high school. But it wasn’t the beginning of a voice-over career, I just did a “Mister T” cartoon for a couple of seasons! Then after college I was pursuing acting in a general sense, and I think it was during ‘Mad TV’, they began to do claymation pieces and they had the cast voice the animated characters, and that is where I really started getting experience behind the mic, getting the feel for it, and realizing that I liked it! After ‘Mad TV’ I began really actively pursuing it more since I had time, and I got very fortunate because the casting company that cast ‘Mad TV’ was also casting ‘Futurama’. They brought me in to read for that and I wound up working on that, and things just started to fall into place!
SF: Do you find that there is a lot of difference in the way you prepare for a role between on-screen acting and voice acting?
PL: Huge difference! You don’t have to memorize anything for voice over! You still have to understand and prepare. You have to know the character and know the story, and what your character is there to accomplish. But, one, you’re trying to make sure that everything you’re communicating is picked up by the microphone, and for on-camera, you need to worry about the physical presentation as well as everything else.
SF: Do you have any advice for aspiring voice actors trying to break into the industry?
PL: Learn to act! Because it’s acting. The voice part is secondary. Not only learn how to act, but learn to read, copy words from a page, without sounding like you’re reading words on a page. It’s weird because you don’t even realize you’re doing it until you’re doing it. When people read things, they tend to flatten out. Because all of the sudden we aren’t engaging with the words and the emotions behind the things, we are just trying to get from word to word as we are with our eyes, doing with our voice what we are doing with our eyes. The key to voice acting, in particular, is to not do that. If you do that? You’re dead. With on-camera, you get over that hurdle with the memorization, because you’re no longer reading.
SF: Over the years you have voiced an insane number of characters across various series and films, with over four-hundred credits to your name. Would you say you have one that really stands out as your favorite, or that you relate to the most?
PL: That’s like asking the Waltons who is there favorite child! Because they’re all such great kids! Like when you have only one good kid, it’s easy to pick! But I have been over the years, supremely fortunate enough to be part of… The Justice League! To be a Jedi! To be part of the work of art that is the ‘Samurai Jack’ series! To do ‘Futurama’ four different times! And working with amazing creators, with fantastic scripts? It’s impossible to pick.
SF: Speaking of ‘Samurai Jack’, you were recently able to return to one of your biggest roles with ‘Samurai Jack’s recent return for a proper final season. Are you happy with how that series wrapped up?
PL: It was so moving! And to me, it was absolutely fitting. The entire series was about sacrifice. He never got back because he always gave up his chance for someone else! And the only way he was finally able to get back and do his mission, that he was born for, was by someone else giving the ultimate sacrifice for him.
SF: With so many classic series making comebacks in recent years, are there any former roles you’d hope to return to sooner or later?
PL: All of them! That’s like… which wonderful job would you NOT like to do again? I have been lucky enough to have done so many, I would do any of them again in a heartbeat.
SF: Are there any other projects you have coming up you can tell us about? What can fans expect to see from you next?
PL: Yes! I’m actually working on producing my own animated project called ‘Goblins’! It’s an animated version of a webcomic of the same name, and I’m working with my friend Matt King and Tarol Hunt who created the original comic. We’ve got a pretty amazing group of talent to voice the characters including Jim Cummings, Jennifer Hale, Tara Strong, Matt Mercer, Steve Blum, Billy West, and Maurice Lamarche! What we are doing right now is we have crowdfunded enough money to make a five-minute mega trailer to show people what this world looks like, what these characters feel like, and hopefully someone will come in and help us finance the full series!
SF: If you had one message to tell your fans, what would it be?
PL: Be kind to each other!