Dee Bradley Baker performs a virtual one-man-show by bringing to life an entire troop of clones in "Rookies," a new episode of animated series STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, premiering at 9 p.m. ET/PT Friday, October 24, on Cartoon Network.
The episode finds a group of clones standing guard alone on a distant listening outpost. Clone Commanders Rex and Cody must inspire their rookie unit to believe in themselves to stave off a Droid Commando invasion.
Baker is a veteran voice actor with hundreds of credits ranging from AMERICAN DAD and AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER to BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE and MY FRIENDS TIGGER & POOH. For STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, Bradley finds himself performing an altogether new concept of "range" -- voicing all of the clones and embuing them with unique identities and slight variations. Bradley says the not-so-simple trick is to make all of the clones sound the same... but different.
"We start with a basic core voice like Rex, then we take into account the personality traits that are built into that character," Baker said. "Some are younger and rougher around the edges, or older and more cynical. So we attach an adjective or two to each one, then we record each one separately, giving each character a different feel."
While Baker already has a library of thousands of voices in his head, he says it's not difficult adding to the catalog and quickly referencing those intonations -- even when there are so many clones, each of whom is subtly different.
"As you go through the recording sessions, you become familiar with the different feel of each character, so they really become individuals and it's surprisingly easy to recreate each one once you've done it for a while," Baker said. "When you paint a picture or write a book, each character you create becomes this little polished thing, so when you come back to it there's this immediate familiarity. To that end, voicing all the clones is not as difficult as it seems."
While most of Baker's clone characters are recorded separately, he sometimes voices multiple clones at once, depending on the complexity of the dialogue and the number of clones in the scene. Baker says he wants to ensure there is enough separation for the viewer to make the distinction between the characters' voices.
"It's a great acting challenge to give these guys an individual sense of humanity," Baker said. "One of the outstanding things about this series is that we're giving the clones a sense of identity that they never had before. I think humanizing the mass of soldiers is really interesting and a wonderful addition to the storytelling."