I Call On Charlie Adler

by Will Ryan

Annie Award nominee Charlie Adler is one of the most sought after voice actors and directors in the entertainment business. Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network.

Driving up to Charlie Adler's rustic Calabasas home last November, I was thinking I hadn't seen Charlie in perhaps three, maybe five years.

Back when we used to audition a lot for voice work in Hollywood we'd bump into each other frequently. We were also Glo-Friends together on a less-than-memorable series of the same name. I believe that we battled the forces of evil together as part of the same G.I. Joe platoon. I also have a vague recollection of the two of us portraying random Smurfs in a now-abandoned recording studio in the back of the now-abandoned Hanna-Barbera building on Cahuenga.

But when I finally saw Charlie standing in his driveway, I realized it must have been more like nine or ten years since we'd actually seen each other. Each of us had some undeniably gray hairs on our respective heads and we'd both gained a few pounds. Luckily for Charlie, his were all muscle and tattoo.

When I first met Charlie, he was fresh off a road show tour reprising his star turn from a hit Broadway show. He had begun applying his talents to an audience of one microphone at a time. Less applause. Less travel. More money. Maybe.

Rugrats: The Movie was a huge success for Nickelodeon and Adler. © 2000 Viacom International Inc./ Nickelodeon. All rights reserved.

'Maybe' turned out to be a decided 'yes' for Charlie, whose restless creative energy would seem to prevent him from ever accepting 'no' as an answer. So let's sit down in a nice comfortable chair in his oak-paneled living room and catch up with a few of the multiple personalities of the energetic Mr. Adler.

Will Ryan: So, Charlie. When you first came to Hollywood you had just left the world of theater?

Charlie Adler: Yeah.

WR: What made you decide to settle here?

CA: Well, I actually moved out here 'cause -- at the time I was in New York. I did Torch Song Trilogy on Broadway in the Harvey Fierstein role, and then did the national tour. When I left to do the national tour I thought, 'I'm going to get out of New York for a while, finish the tour, move to L.A. and see if I can get a TV series.' And I did. Got the Red Foxx show and never hated anything more in my life than television at that time. It just was dull for me.

WR: Five days of waiting around for a few minutes of shooting.

CA: Yeah! I gotta do something. I didn't feel used. I was kind of embarrassed. It wasn't what I thought it was gonna be. It's funny how you spend your whole life going, 'God, I just want to be in a TV show and have a parking space.' Then I got it and it was just so not what I wanted to do. Now, at 44 years old, I probably would re-think that whole thing because now I know how to wait around, but then it was so wrong for me. I was 27, and I had committed to live here. What I didn't expect was to have animation grab me and it did. It just literally did, it just grabbed me.

Adler voice directed Susan Sarandon, Debbie Reynolds and John Lithgow in Rugrats in Paris. TM & © 2000 Paramount Pictures and Viacom International Inc. All rights reserved.

WR: Was it your agent Arlene who did all this literal grabbing?

CA: My agent in New York was Harry Abrams, which is how I got Torch Song Trilogy and their affiliate office [in Hollywood] was Abrams, Rubiloff and Lawrence and I went and met the on camera agent. At that time I was very hot commercially and had on the air probably about, at any given time, 8 national spots. That's when I passed for white and worked with the Antichrist. So I was working all the time.

WR: It seems to me you used to enjoy McDonald's and Coca-Cola.

CA: Yeah, I did. Actually, I was vegetarian when I was doing the McDonald's commercials. I had a big spit bucket. Anyway, so I met with the on-camera agent and in New York you're considered an actor. You do a voice-over, you do it on camera, then I would do a soap opera for a week, then I'd go to the theater every night and do a play for eight months and then afterwards go out and sing.


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