The 2013 Emmy nominations were announced on July 18th. In the category of Outstanding Voice Over Performance, one nominee is veteran voice actor Bob Bergen.

Bergen is nominated for his performance as Porky Pig in the episode “We’re In Big Truffle” on The Looney Tunes Show.

Voice Over Times connected with him on what it’s like to be nominated, playing a character created by the legendary Mel Blanc, and how he got his start in voice-overs. In this interview, Bergen also delivers some point-blank advice on the business of doing voice-overs.

VOT: Congratulations! How did you feel about being nominated for your performance as Porky the Pig on the new Looney Tunes?

Bergen: Pretty exciting. It’s my second nomination and it doesn’t get old. It really is true that it’s an honor just to be nominated.

VOT: What do you think was special about the “We’re In Big Truffle” episode?

Bergen: It’s all about the writing. Actors are lost without great scripts, and this particular episode was just so well written. I will say that this season has had some pretty terrific scripts overall. Good writers are a blessing.

VOT: How does it feel to be walking in the steps of Mel Blanc?

Bergen: Well, I don’t think any of us come close to the genius that was Mel Blanc. I just do my best to respect the integrity of the character. But there will only be one Mel Blanc.

VOT: When did you first discover you could mimic many of the voices Mel performed?

Bergen: Very young.  Like five years old. My mom would tell stories of how I’d be watching TV and she’d hear me repeat lines of characters back to the TV.

VOT: Are you often asked to perform on the spot, say, in the grocery store when you’re recognized?

Bergen: No, not really. Being a voice actor most people don’t know who I am in public. Only at conventions do folks recognize me. But I’m always happy to offer some Porky if asked.

VOT: What is the best thing about working on the new Looney Tunes episodes?

Bergen: It’s a dream come true. I think anyone able to do what they love, and (or) what they always wanted to do is pretty awesome. Every time I drive onto the WB lot I still pinch myself that I actually get to do this. Even after 23 years.

VOT: Do you go to the studio everyday or do you do your voice work from home?

Bergen: Both. For animation we go to the studio. But I do other VO work from home and most of my auditions.

VOT: How did you get your start in voice-overs?

Bergen: My dad moved the family to LA when I was 14 and I just started studying VO. I coached with every VO teacher in LA for 4 years, as well as two years in an acting conservatory and three years of Improv. I got my first agent and cartoon a week out of high school. Then it took me about 5 years before I was able to quit my day job and work as a full time actor.  So it was about a nine year journey from first VO class to working actor. During that time I was in classes at least 2 days a week and all day Saturday workout groups. I was pretty obsessed and determined.

I find today most pursuing VO just want to make money. That’s a pretty recent phenomenon. Actors over the years went into this because they loved it. The most successful actors still did/do it because they love it. Today, because of technology, more are pursuing VO than ever before. Not for the love of it. But rather for the money. Huge mistake!! And it’s also why there’s so much low balling in fees.

People just want to work. I wanted a career. There’s a difference. A career takes strategy. It takes being willing to say no. You can pay the bills doing anything. But you are as good as the company you keep. So I never settled. I knew exactly what I wanted out of my career. And I was always willing to do more and work harder than anyone else.

VOT: What advice do you have to those just getting started in voice-overs?

Bergen: It’s all about the acting. There’s no such thing as a good voice. Just like there’s no such thing as a bad voice. There are only good actors and bad actors. I suggest study acting first. Become the best actor you can be. Study Improv, which will train you to commit to choices. Once you have your acting skills honed, then study VO.

Do not make a demo until you are ready! And never post anything online that isn’t brilliant. In the old days the only people who heard our demos were those we mailed them to. Today people post online where the entire world can hear and judge. If you are not brilliant you are closing the door of every buyer who isn’t impressed.

Don’t confuse bragging with PR. Most actors lack good marketing and PR skills. Study marketing at a local college! Good PR can get you another gig. Bragging can ruin a career. Get out of the habit of bragging about auditions and (or) bookings. Agents are dropping actors left and right for posting what they are auditioning for or booking. Ad execs are firing actors for divulging this info on social networks. Treat every audition or gig as if you signed a NDA.

Don’t go broke pursuing VO. Don’t pursue on credit! If you can’t afford something, wait until you can. I had numerous day and night jobs to subsidize my VO training. And don’t think just because you buy it you’ll have a career. You do need to invest and reinvest. But there’s no need to buy a $5000 microphone if you don’t have the career to back up the investment.

Stop making excuses!!!!  Don’t complain! Be nice, be on time, and be willing to stay longer than expected.

Plan out your career. Specifically and strategically. If all you want to do is work, you probably won’t. This is what the majority out there want, to just work. This is why most are not. They are amongst a huge herd, all walking in circles trying to work and not understanding why they aren’t. You want to be ahead of the herd, not amongst them. There can be no shortcuts. The cream floats to the top. Always has, and it always will.

If VO and acting is for you, none of this should scare you. It should light a fire in you to want it even more. And again, never go into the arts for the money. It will never be enough and you will never feel fulfilled. You need to get a high at the mic. You need the same high from an audition as you get working on a Disney feature.

And don’t forget to have fun!!

To learn more about Bergen, sample his work, and find details on VO Classes visit: www.bobbergen.com/

3 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent article and excellent words of wisdom. Really taken to heart, and “fueled my fire” even more. Thank you!

  2. This is great information. It is enlightening to get the firsthand experience from someone who has succeeded. I think though that realistically acknowledging financial goals in any career is a responsible thought process. It doesn’t need to become the obsessive focus of day-to-day living, but at some point if you love something so much that it is all you want to do with your time, it’s not a bad idea to ask the question, “How can I make money at this?” People have been asking that question since money has been printed and will continue asking it until we all just work for free. Anyway, I know exactly what he is talking about mentioning that feeling you get at the mic. I feel it every day. I also feel it when I perform live on stage, write a song, or finish a project. Creativity gives you back so much more than what you put into it, it’s incredible. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and monetarily.

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