Interview With Voice Actress Tara Strong of Teen Titans Go!

Return of the old gang in Teen Titans Go! (Courtesy Cartoon Network)
Return of the old gang in Teen Titans Go! (Courtesy Cartoon Network)

The new series Teen Titans Go! premieres Tuesday, April 23, on Cartoon Network at 7:30 PT/ET with rebroadcasts in the DC Nation programming block on Saturday mornings at 10:30 am. Teen Titans Go! features the return of Teen Titan characters and cast, embroiled in situations more mundane than saving the world. Our guest, Tara Strong, will once again voice the character of Raven.

GeekMom: It’s a pleasure to speak to someone with such a rich, diverse resumé. My kids are deeply involved with anime, manga, cartoons, comics, and video games– so this opportunity to speak to you is a thrill for us. They loved a lot of the shows and movies that you contributed to. You have an amazing portfolio–Not just Twilight Sparkle on My Little Pony, but Dil on Rugrats and Raven on Teen Titans, Bubbles on Powerpuff Girls, Ben Tennyson on Ben 10, and Timmy on Fairly Odd Parents, among hundreds of others.

Tara: It’s real long. It’s been a good run and I’m very grateful.

GM: What can you tell us about your new show, Teen Titans Go!

Tara: [All of the cast] are all so excited to get back together from the original show! I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a cast that really genuinely all, all love each other so, so much as we do on Teen Titans. We’re all gonna be together again– all the original characters and voices in crazy situations. We’re all just really excited and grateful for the fans for supporting us and rooting for us and sending love.

GM: That sounds like a wonderful situation. We have a tight bunch at GeekMom, too, through the grace of the internet, even though most of us haven’t met in real life.

Tara: Before the internet I’m sure a lot of people felt really isolated. Especially for voiceover actors–they really didn’t know how much people were appreciating them. Thanks to the internet, we get to hear things like, “Hey, we grew up with you– you were our babysitter. We love you and thank you for the years of making us laugh and making us feel like we’re not alone.”

GM: When you’re facing a new project like this, do you have a different way of approaching an established project with a long-standing character compared to a totally new project?

Tara: When you have a new audition, they’ll give you a drawing of a new character and a short character description, what world what world they’re living in, and a portion of the script. And then you as the voice actor have to come up with what you think the production team– the writers, directors, and animators, artists– would want that character to sound like. And then at the callbacks you sort of have to be like putty: make her one year older or give her bigger teeth or give him a lisp… It’s a very collaborative, fun, creative world.

Working in a world that already exists, especially one that you really love, one that you feel deep, have been doing for a while, maybe one that you mourned the loss of for a while…. That is so exhilarating, we so love each other, we’re so excited to get back to work together. But of course that’s not always the case. But with Teen Titans we were really happy and when you watch the show you’re going to definitely see that mutual respect and love for each other shining through everything.

GM: Do you change your portrayal in your voice depending on the show’s art style?

Tara: Yes, you always want to match the style of what’s going on. Typically they’ll say something like, “This show is very real,” so then you don’t do anything that’s very cartoony but if the show is whimsical then you can be more silly. Going from the old Teen Titans to the new Teen Titans they actually didn’t change our acting. I think the beauty of this is that it’s still the same characters but suddenly they’re thrust into unique situations and we really maintained the same original characters in these new situations so our performances haven’t really changed. Except Raven may be a little crankier.

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GM: So they’re still in the same universe, the same worldview?

Tara: Creatively, it looks very different. It’s colorful and beautiful. The footage is amazing, but the performances are the same. We don’t change who we are; the situations change and what we’re doing changes. The situations are less dire. The world doesn’t come to an end and we’re a little more flippant about it but who we are hasn’t changed.

GM: GeekMom Dakster wants to know if you have a favorite voice and a voice that you hated in your past.

Tara: The job that I love the most in my past was the The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, because what little girl doesn’t want to be the mermaid? But talk about geeking out! I got to play Ariel’s daughter and sit in the studio with her (Jodi Benson). I had to keep pinching myself and she was really gracious. Just looking at her and singing with her was such a huge dream come true.

And since then I’ve really been just so lucky all my characters have been so extraordinary and a tremendous amount of fun: Fairly Odd Parents, we laughed our butts off all the time; My Little Pony is the biggest phenomenon I’ve ever seen, I’m really proud to be a part of that. I loved too doing Bubbles (Powerpuff Girls) because we laughed the entire time and we all really loved each other.

I don’t know what horseshoe I was born on! All the characters are just so amazing and I really loved pretty much every minute of it.

The only time I’ve had some trouble was in some video games. They can be really vocally taxing. When you’re doing an animated series you’re working with the cast and you’re cueing for four hours and you’re working with each other. When you’re doing a video game you’re by yourself and sometimes they book like 8000 lines and you have death noises and screaming and by the end you’ve got nothing left. So those can be more taxing.

I mean I was a Rugrat. How many people can say that?

GM: Yeah you really had some of the highlights of my kids’ viewing. We used to all watch Fairly Odd Parents.

Tara: I hear that all the time– people say that they grew up with Fairly Odd Parents.

GM: For the video games, why do you have to record alone rather than with some of the other cast?

Tara: In a TV series you may have 10 or 20 lines but never more than 50 or something like that. But when you’re shooting a video game you can have 8000 lines, you can have hundreds and hundreds of cues, so to have to wait for the other actors to do their parts, wait for the cues, and to wait for everyone involved to be happy with all the parts. It’s typically many cooks in the kitchen who want one thing this way and another thing that way–the actor would never get through it. A lot of times when there’s a lot of cues it makes sense to work through it with one actor at a time, especially when you’re doing a game that you know.

For example, when I did Final Fantasy I would have to watch the version that was already recorded in another language and dub over it. That can sometimes take a long time, so if you had to sit there and wait for everyone else to do that you would probably make yourself silly.

GM: So even when you’re doing a scene that includes several other actors, it is still more efficient to do it by yourself?

Tara: Yeah. It’s not always the case… It seems to me that video games are going in the direction of film now. They’re beautifully animated and they tell a story and they’re well-directed and they hire great actors and directors. There’ve been a few scenarios where I’ve been opposite the guy playing the Joker or Batman and we get to play off of each other a little bit; in some of the slightly more character-driven stuff we get to play together, but typically for a game you work alone.

GM: Do you seek some kind of balance– do you worry this is too much animation and I have to do something else?

Tara: Not really, because I have so much fun and I’m so grateful. I know people would give their right arms to do the sort of stuff that I do. I’m not really afraid to be stuck in one world because even if I am it would be a pretty good world to be stuck in.

GM: Do you have roles that you would drool for in the future?

Tara: I would like to be on The Simpsons because they have a really good paycheck. Similar to that, when the kids are little bit older, I’d like to do a really big musical because singing is my favorite. Oh, and ancing With the Stars!! I really want to be on that show and they’ve never had a toon star!

GM: 0oh! Would you do that in your own persona or as one of your characters?

Tara: I guess that would depend on the dance!

Geek: I have a question from one of our GeekMom writers and I know other people were curious about this as well. She was wondering if you have any advice about how to get into voice acting and how to help a child break into it as well?

Tara: I would say that they should definitely take all kinds of acting classes and really get a feel for their voice. Any kind of acting class you can take will help supply you with the tools that you’ll need. I always recommend taking improv classes and singing lessons. If you live in a city where you have access to voiceover classes that are in a studio, that’s great, too. We have a program called VoiceStarz.com where we teach a class over the internet. It’s everything you need to know about getting into animation

The best advice that I have is that it’s work to get in, it’s not an easy field, it’s not an arms-open field to anyone. You really want to be at the top of your game before you go to an audition or make a demo reel. And investing in that demo reel is at least $1000. You really want to be at the top of your game because you don’t want to go into an audition and embarrass yourself or ruin your chances. You look at it the same way you would becoming a dancer or singer or Broadway actor. Also, you should not give up if it’s something that’s in your heart.

GeekMom: That’s great advice. A lot of parents are so blinded by their love for the children that they have a hard time seeing the work ahead for the kids or what their true chances are. They don’t see the hill ahead of them.

Tara: Yeah, it’s a pretty big hill. My eight-year-old is so talented and funny and he booked a pilot when he was like four. He had a lot of fun doing it. When I asked if he wanted to do more TV shows, he said no and I told him to let me know when he was ready. For the mothers, I advise listening to your kids because if they are forced into it, they’re certainly not going to love it.

GeekMom: So that brings up another question I had: Do you find that your attitude towards your work or your approach to it has changed since you became a mother?

Tara: Yeah. I mean, I get invited to conventions almost every weekend. I have to say no to most of them because my eight-year-old still needs me around. (My 11-year-old you know still loves me but he’s like, “Mom, don’t embarrass me when you’re doing the drop-off!”) I know this time is so precious and it goes so fast. In terms of my performance it doesn’t change things too much because I’m typically not doing too much that my kids can’t see. Most of the stuff I do is pretty PG. They can pretty much watch everything that I do.

GeekMom: What about the video games?

Tara: You know it’s really funny–I was given a copy of Arkham City and I put it in for them to play and the first words were, “Get out of the way b*tch!” from some cop. I was all, “My God!” And I had to pull it out because I wasn’t there when they recorded that and I didn’t know it was there. So my kids are not going to play that game now. So, they cannot play all my video games.

GeekMom: What influence do you think your career has had on your children versus having some other career?

Tara: I know they love and appreciate the way I am, the work I do. You have to be kind of silly and I make my kids laugh every single day. They love watching me. I know they’re really proud of me but I’m sure that if I did any other job or didn’t have a job, the kids would still be really proud of me. They love me.

GeekMom: Thanks for speaking with us and good luck with Teen Titans Go! and, someday, Dancing With the Stars!

You can catch Tara on twitter (she just won a Shorty award for her excellent tweets) at @tarastrong and catch Teen Titans Go! on Tuesdays at 7:30 PT/ET or Saturday mornings at 10:30 am on the Cartoon Network.

Kay works with engineers, scientists, and programmers as a writer and editor, which she prefers over working with muggles. When sufficiently caffeinated, she geeks out over words, communication, biology, needlework, and recreational sports. And, of course, chocolate. Her children _may_ have been exposed to D&D at a too-young age, but they continue to play happily to this day.