While in Los Angeles, I had the rare opportunity to conduct an interview for our reading audience at VOX Daily in person!
The week before I left, I happened to see a web cast Kevin Delaney produced featuring Alicyn Packard. Once I heard she was one of the voice actresses on the Mr. Men Show, I knew I had to hear more about her story.
Join me in this very off the cuff interview full of fun with Alicyn Packard.
Interview with Alicyn Packard
VOX: Thank you for meeting me here at The W, Alicyn! It’s a pleasure to chat with you. As you may know, I’m a big fan of tea and I see that you’ve just ordered a green tea. Is this a new thing for you, or have you been drinking green tea for a while?
ALICYN PACKARD: Drinking green tea is a habit, it’s a relatively new habit but is one that I’m enjoying a lot.
VOX: I heard from Randy Thomas via an article she sent me saying that tea drinkers, because they drink so much of it, (black and especially green teas) live longer because of the properties in the tea that slow down the aging process.
Off mic: Cha-ching!
AP: It helps you to think clearer as opposed to the scattered brain patterns you can get when drinking coffee or too much coffee. It’s an artificial stimulant.
VOX: Coffee clutters things up and makes you freeze. I think a lot of people would agree with that! You want it to be a pure acting experience fueled by your own energy.
VOX: What is the most challenging role that you’ve had to create and why?
AP: I would say the Little Miss Whoops has been challenging for the Mr. Men Show. My initial audition was a completely different character, so when they were looking to move into a different direction they got me back into the booth after I had already booked Little Miss Sunshine and Little Miss Naughty, and so they basically had me run through literally about 25 different voices, try, just see what you’ve got!
VOX: Oh, torture!
AP: That part was pretty fun though because you got to go through the whole range, they had no idea what they wanted. I tried a Roseanne Barr thing, you know try a little bit of Boston, pulled it back, went d nasal with it. Eventually they said, “That’s it! That’s the one!” I ended up getting cast as that character. They were playing back the tape, and I thought, “I didn’t really remember what I did!” At that point, you’ve gone through so many voices. They wanted me to bring the pitch down, go d nasal, more monotone, “Don’t worry Mr. Bump, I’m a trained professional.” That character was one that was organically created in that session.
VOX: Okay, so within the direction they gave you, it’s not like it was a planned thing when you walked in, or “We’re going to take these elements…” You organically created the character very much in the moment?
AP: She was totally birthed on the spot.
VOX: I love that!
AP: There was a period of time between that audition and later when we actually started recording. Getting back to her definitely took a lot of work, it was challenging. It was something new and I almost had to voice match myself.
VOX: It’s a good thing that they recorded it for you so that you could voice match yourself. You had the tracks and could go back, feel out your methodology on that one?
VOX: That is an interesting concept. Often when people do these auditions, and someone casts them much later, they wonder, “What did I sound like?” Fortunately with technology you have that ability to go back and say, “Oh, that’s the read!” I used to read those books, in fact my kids have Little Miss / Little Mr books, including Little Miss Sunshine and a number of other ones. Are these shows based upon the books or the characters but in different situations?
AP: They are the characters but they’re reinvented.
VOX: Did you read the books growing up?
AP: I had the Mr. Happy book and it came with a little Mr. Happy doll.
VOX: Who are some of your male cohorts on this show? I know there are a lot, so if you could name just a few…
AP: Jeff Stewart is Mr. Tickle and Godfrey, the comedian, is Mr. Stubborn.
VOX: Interesting! What are the ages of voice represented on the show? With so many diverse characters, there must be quite a range?
AP: Yes, there’s a range of ages from late 50s down to early 20s. Each voice is distinct and it’s great to have really skilled people performing the roles who fit the image of the character they’re playing.
VOX: Out of curiosity, how did you come to get the audition in the first place?
AP: It was a Nancy Wolfson casting and I got the audition via a contact at the school I was attending (Emerson College).
VOX: Very cool. How long has the show been on the air? Can you tell me a bit about the program schedule and how long it took you to record?
AP: We’re now entering into our second season on the Cartoon Network with 26 episodes per season and two special episodes running 11 minutes. In all there were 52 scripts for season two recorded over a period of a couple months, under the direction of Emmy-winning director Mark Risley. The first show airs on September 8th, 2009.
VOX: Very good! Congratulations on that. Now, I’d like to ask you another question. If you could have a character entirely tailored to you (I know that pieces of you are in each of the little misses), what would that character be like?
AP: I like voicing young kids and little girls. Morphing into a super hero would be great! Everything is so exaggerated in cartoon life. My ideal character would also be in a rock band, you know, going to school by day and a secret rocker by night… acting in cartoons is freeing and it is fun to not be limited by physical elements.
VOX: Kind of sounds like WordGirl, you know, Becky Botsford and Captain Huggy Face. Speaking of secret identities, how do you feel about voice actors having headshots?
AP: I think that nowadays, it’s beneficial to be a voice actor and have a headshot. Being an integrated person is an asset. Everything (especially online) is coming together. In the past, people didn’t want to be typecast which is why so many people opted not to have headshots done. Today that has changed for many of those people. You are who you are and that’s good! As a new media producer, we’re lucky to be living in the times we are.
VOX: Thanks, Alicyn. Your perspective on headshots is very interesting. Going back to your creative process, I mentioned before that you are able to find a little bit of “Alicyn” in many of your roles. Have there been any roles where the character was your complete opposite?
AP: Once I had to be the voice of a zombie, a male zombie at that, which was challenging. What I found to help was drawing upon my improv skills. I’d say that men and little boys are the most challenging for a woman to portray. Examples of characters that were opposite to my personality are Connor and Olivia who are shy, nerdy, and introspective. My character(s) speaks with an adenoidal tone, thinking and delivering their lines slowly, just short of a stutter.
VOX: Someone as talented and accomplished as yourself must be studying with great teachers. Who have you studied with to date?
AP: Dolores Diehl, Nancy Wolfson, at Susan Blu’s with Cynthia SongÃ©, Richard Horvitz, and M. Jai Lallo, all in California.
VOX: What motivates you to work in voice over?
AP: It’s fun! The work is play. The real work is trying to get the jobs. Playing once you’ve booked the jobs is rewarding.
VOX: You aren’t a native of Los Angeles. Given that fact, how has life in LA changed you or enabled you to grow?
AP: I’ve grown and evolved since moving out here from Massachusetts, certainly. LA has a culture that stimulates growth when you find the right people. I’ve been affected by people I’ve met and collaborated with and also have an excellent support system including family and friends. It’s great to be able to share creative feelings with your peers. It’s also good to keep many irons in the fire.
VOX: Tell me a bit about going to conventions. You were on a panel at Comic Con 2008 on the voice panel last year. Do you get a rush from it?
AP: I love going to cons to learn and meet new people. Dallas Travers, author, writes that everyone has their own set of “people”, you know, your people. When I’m at these conventions, I am among my people.
VOX: Just like the event tonight! I look forward to spending more time with you at the mixer and want to thank you on behalf of the Voices.com community for this interview.
AP: You’re welcome! My pleasure.
To learn more about Alicyn Packard, visit “Inside Alicyn’s Wonderland,” a new web series that goes through the looking glass and behind the scenes into the wild and wacky world of animation.
You can also follow Alicyn’s Wonderland on Twitter.
Anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment!