Nancy Cartwright gives a "how to" and "how come" look at the voice-over industry.
For you dedicated readers who have been following this column for the past couple issues, this is to let you know that I am currently interviewing a handful of voice-over professionals to get their perspective on the animation industry -- ranging from directors, to casting directors, to voice artists, to animators. I know there is a LOT of interest in the "how to" and the "how come" of this industry and my next issue will focus on some of those points.
Meanwhile... a diversion:
Recently I celebrated my birthday. Yes, I am nearly 5X Bart's age... with the operative word being "nearly." Dana Walden and Gary Newman, exes at 20th Century Fox Television acknowledged that anniversary by giving me a special visit to the set of 24. Needless to say, I am a HUGE fan of the show. The writing is superb, the casting is impeccable and the performances are seamless. About now you are probably wondering what this has to do with voice overs. Well, nothing and something.
I arrived on the set, anonymous and unobtrusive. I was pulled right into the imaginary world of the CTU with all the bells, whistles, lights, computers, open-vaulted and ventilated ceiling. It was organized chaos with the director and crew handling lights, sound, set, extras, camera operators and the script, itself. This very familiar on-camera world is one I had not visited in nearly 10 years.
It's not that I had been just "hanging out" for a decade. My involvement in that world had been put on hold so I could focus on raising my two kids and I putting my artistic energies into voice overs, animation, writing and producing. I never saw this as a "fall-back" position, because voice acting had always been my passion. But I, like many of you, had strong aspirations to become a reputable on-camera actor as well.
Well, Jack and Lucy have grown up into young adults who are quite responsible in their day-to-day activities and this has freed up a bit of time.
Being a fan...
So... back to 24. Here I am, completely "anonymous," an interlude I enjoy before my "true identity" is revealed and the gig is up. Escorted around the set by two lovely PR representatives, Jenny and Audrey, I quietly observed Keifer Sutherland's "Springfield." There were a couple of reps from West Point there to advise and lend authenticity. Normally they would have been the objects of much attention, but, within minutes, when my cover was inevitably blown, the cast and crew had gathered round to let me know how much they enjoy The Simpsons.
Ever prepared like the good Girl Scout that I am, I broke out my stack of signed Simpsons bookmarkers that I carry with me "just in case." Several crewmembers had requests for their four children and even some for grandchildren, but nothing went over so well as having me voice a few words as Bart. This constantly amazes me. It takes so little effort and yet it creates such an impact. I love creating that effect! It makes people laugh, smile and gives them a story to tell.
I was soon escorted next door to the production offices to meet exec producers Joel Surnow and Jon Cassar. Joel practically bowled me over with his ebullient hug and Jon, although more understated, exuded a quiet respect from one artist to another. A small gathering of staff began to ask questions and we enjoyed a good 15 minutes of Simpsons voices and funny stories. (I ended up telling way more than I had ever anticipated, but it all seemed appropriate under the circumstances.)
Okay, here is the deal -- at this time in my life I am taking another look at the direction I am headed, personally and as an artist. I have many irons in the fire. Our animated racing series, The Kellys, with Turner Sports Interactive, is about to launch new material in a new direction; I am in my second year as Honorary Mayor of the North San Fernando Valley; we are hosting charitable events at my home and helping the Police Activities League Supporters and the Chamber of Commerce of the Devonshire District... and I went and fell in love with an amazing man. But these exciting developments just fire me up. As far as my career, like any artist, there is an urge to continue to challenge myself. That muse that we all have wants to be fed.
I recently had a meeting with a casting director. We talked about everything, except acting -- until the last 10 minutes of the meeting. Suddenly the subject became, "Why aren't you acting on-camera anymore, Nancy?" This was about a month ago. Since then, I took a really good look at that question. Yes, my name is known within the industry, but not for what I've done on television or film. I certainly can't play the same parts on-camera I did back in the mid-'80s. And my name isn't being bandied about with the dozens of other character actors being considered for the same role. I realized that in many ways I am brand new.
You just never know...
I never would have thought that being the voice of Bart Simpson would actually open doors for me to work on-camera again. In fact, quite the contrary, I had seen it as a mark that would make it difficult to ever return to the set. Besides, I LIKE the anonymity. It has served my personal life well. All decisions require some kind of tradeoff. So, when the producers of 24 offered me a part on one of their episodes, how could I do anything but squeal?!
The desire remains. So now, a new adventure, a new experience and a new credit to an otherwise blank resume.
Nancy Cartwright is best known as the voice of spiky-headed Bart Simpson on The Simpsons. She has voiced dozens of cartoon characters in her career that has spanned more than 20 years. Currently, she can be heard as the voice of Rufus the Naked Mole Rat on Disney's Kim Possible and Chuckie on Rugrats and All Grown Up. To learn more about Nancy's career, listen to her audio book My Life as a 10-Year-Old Boy.
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