Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Tara Strong Talks Rugrats, Fairly OddParents, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and More

You might not know Tara Strong’s face, but you’d definitely recognize her voice. With more than 600 credits on her IMDB page, Strong is one of the more prolific voice actors working in Hollywood today, giving life to everyone from Rugrats’ Dil Pickles to Timmy Turner on Fairly OddParents., as well as characters such as Batgirl and Twilight Sparkle, the latter helping to bring My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic into fans’ hearts and lives. Strong even executive-produced a documentary about the deeply supportive Brony fandom.

Credit: Tara Strong

As well as being behind the mic, Strong has also been popping up in front of the camera, portraying drug kingpin Tiggy Sullivan in the CBC police procedural Pretty Hard Cases. Strong also recently provided the voice of of Loki’s Miss Minutes, Strong lent charm and omniscient eeriness to the all-important office of the Time Variance Authority. The actor has stepped in front of the mic and camera with a fierce, take-no-prisoners attitude.

The A.V. Club recently talked to Strong about those roles, as well as a few of the hundreds of others she’s had over the course of her career so far, from Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham City to Melody in Little Mermaid 2. You can check out some excerpts from the interview, in which Strong talks about her Nickelodeon career, below, and read the whole interview on avclub.com!:

Fairly OddParents (1998-2017)—“Timmy Turner”

AVC: Fairly OddParents [...] seems like one of those shows that, when you first went in, you probably didn’t think “I’m going to be doing this voice in 20 years.”

TS: You never really know. Sometimes you think, “This is going to be one season,” then it explodes. Sometimes you think, “This is going to go on forever” and then it ends.

For me, like the biggest example of that would be Sym-Bionic Titan by [Genndy] Tartakovsky. I thought that was going to go on forever. It was a brilliant, brilliant show. We had one season, so you just never know.

Certainly when I started Titans, I didn’t know I’d still be doing that show 20 years later with the same cast. We are a family, so that’s really beautiful.

AVC: There’s the sense that all the voice actors know each other and are very supportive and say, “If I can’t do the job, I know someone else who can.” “If I’m not the right voice, I’ll suggest Cree Summer.”

TS: She’s the number-one person I recommend for anything. We’ve known each other since I was 13. My very first job was Hello Kitty, and she was Catnip the bad cat. We both grew up in Toronto.

It’s a very collaborative world. It’s a very supportive world. It doesn’t matter what you look like, so compared to on camera work, you have fewer chances of catty behavior or backstabbing. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. It does. It’s just rare.

Most people that work all the time recognize that there’s plenty for everyone, and we’re blown away by what our cohorts do. Every single time we’re in studio together, someone does something that I didn’t know that they could do. So, we all love each other.

It’s a very small group of people that work all the time. And we’re a family. We know whether everyone’s happy or sad or divorced or married or having kids. We’ve been through our lives together and we really are family.

AVC: How has the explosion of streaming changed the voiceover industry or the animation industry? Are there more opportunities to work out there now?

TS: I think, in terms of performance, it hasn’t changed anything because if you’re performing a role, you’re in character. You are that role. You don’t think, “Now I’m doing this for a video game” or “Now I’m doing this for a streaming network” or “Now I’m doing it for primetime.” You think, “I’m in the moment. I am this person.”

Contractually, things have changed, of course, and have to keep changing and will keep changing. I’m sure there’ll be a new contract for when cartoons are holographic in your living room. The business side of it will always change. The acting side, not so much.

Certainly during COVID it was a great opportunity for shows to really take off because people were home catching up on shows. It’s nice to be able to binge something and watch something.

It’s certainly very exciting that all the major streaming platform now carry animation because, as we know, animation has no age. There are fans at Comic-Con that I meet that are in baby strollers and there are fans that are in their 80s and 90s. So, it’s nice to have plenty of places for people to go and watch some really good animation.

Rugrats (1997-present)—“Dil Pickles”

AVC: Speaking of changes, Rugrats is back. You were brought onto that show a few seasons in, when it was already pretty popular. How has your ride with Rugrats been?

TS: I remember when I first moved to L.A., it was one of the shows I really wanted to do because the animation was so fascinating and unique and beautiful.

I first joined the cast as this kid named Timmy McNulty and his little brother. We were in the park with Angelica and her babies, and I was a bully to the babies. So, we kind of had this love-hate relationship and it was really fun.

They initially brought me in to guide track baby Dil. What that means is they’ll bring in a skilled voice actor to lay down some stuff so that they can start production and then bring in some big on camera celebrity. I had heard that they wanted Madonna to be baby Dil.

I had just gotten off a plane and I had to do some baby screaming and I started wailing and they stopped tape. I thought, “Oh, gosh, maybe they don’t like me.” But they said, “Tara, there’s a new mom in the booth and you made her lactate.” So I got to keep my job.

It was really fun. The first few seasons my lines were all in the stage directions. It was like, “baby Dil grabs Tommy’s toy, hits him in the head, and poops.” [Makes sounds to that effect.] I would always have a really wet script, and it was fun.

That cast is so fantastic and we all love each other a lot. It’s pretty exciting that it’s back.

AVC: It’s a lot of cool women doing the voices of little kids.

TS: It’s some really dope ass, powerful, strong women who have the ability to manipulate their voices and become these other characters.

Typically, if you’re going to hire a little boy, you have to worry about school. You have to worry about their voices changing and they do. With women, if we can accurately sound like a little boy, there’s no risk of our voices changing and they don’t have to worry about school and different things like that. So it makes sense to hire women.

There are some men that can do a little boy voices, but more often than not, a woman is going on more authentically like a little boy. I think it has to do with how we’re built in our vocal cords and that we don’t have to make it too forced to sound like a little a little boy.

With little kids, boys and girls all sound like little girls anyway. So it’s quite the gift to be able to do that and then to get paid to be like a little boy, which I would never get to play a on camera. That’s the beautiful thing about voiceover: You get to play all these roles that you would never play on camera.

Strong also talked about the differences in voicing characters in western animation and dubbing voices in anime:

"When we do an original animated show—Powerpuff Girls, Fairly OddParents, Rugrats—we go first and then they animate to our voice, which of course allows the actor to be much more creative, because we can do anything and then they’ll animate it. When you have something that’s already done in another language, you have to dub it. It’s much more challenging because you have to fit the line in a certain time code, match the lip flaps and still do good acting. It’s meticulous work and it’s actually less pay generally. A lot of L.A. actors don’t even do it. When you get the chance to do something really great though, it’s pretty fantastic, and Miyazaki films for sure are. Oh my god. It was so cool to be a part of them."

And about working on the Sabrina the Teenage Witch movies:

"Sabrina was so much fun. I got to travel to Italy and Australia with Melissa Joan Hart and her family, who are just the most loving, supportive people."

You can read Tara Strong's awesome interview with The A.V. Club in full at avclub.com!

Stream the new Rugrats now on Paramount+! Try it FREE at ParamountPlus.com!

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