Interviews: Garry Chalk (11/03)
This interview was done on 11/03 during the Big Apple Con Convention where Garry Chalk was a guest.
1. Please tell us how you became involved in acting.
I started acting when I was a kid, when I was about 8 years old. I think the very first thing I ever did, and it's going to sound corny, was the "Shoemaker and the Elf", which was a school play. I found that I really liked it. I carried on as a performer, mainly as a singer. And then when I got into high school I got involved with a bunch of fellows who just absolutely loved writing and putting on their own shows. And I got into it with them and just carried on with that doing community theater, musicals and so on.
It wasn't until I started working as a stock trader for a while that I realized I really didn't fit in in the conventional business world. So I went back to college to be a teacher. But when I got there I went to the theater department which wanted to do a play, and it was a production of a play called "Of Mice and Men" and it was a good play. The acting was good, the production values were good and I wanted to be a part of that. So, I abandoned my english lit/anthropology teacher thing and I went down and tried out for the theater department and they let me in! God knows. And I've been working as a professional actor ever since.
Basically I've done everything you can think of. Singing telegrams, gorilla-grams, plays, improvisational theater, children's theater, movies, television, radio. Anything that had to do with performing, I did it. That's what I've been doing now for twenty five years.
2. When I've spoken to other voice actors, they often mention community theater. It seems to be a huge influence on acting careers.
Well, the thing is that you really know you want to do it if you stay in it after live theater. The live theater is the true test of whether you're in love with the idea or reality of performing. Because it's hard work, requires a lot of memory and requires a lot of energy to maintain those performances day after day after day. It's a great training ground to earn all your chops. Basically there's no school that teaches you or prepares you
for television and radio or just for the stage. So you adjust accordingly.
3. You've been involved in both live action and animation. What are the biggest differences between the two and which do you prefer?
The biggest difference between animation and live action is that, in live action you communicate with your body and facial expressions as well as your voice and your mannerisms and people can see it all on the screen. With animation you have only your voice to give your emotion, geography and your physical intent and whatnot. With limited animation, you have to fill it all in with your voice and they draw around that voice. So, with animation whereas you can get away with a few things in live action, in animation, everything has to be absolutely clear so the audience believes you as that character. Even though you're a cartoon you're still playing in a reality that holds true for that cartoon character, so that character has to remain true as well. So, to my mind it's the purest form of acting there is (animation).
4. Okay, I'm going to name some roles/shows that you have been on, and just throw out whatever comes to mind.
MacGuyver, one of my first experiences as a guest star in a television show, my first experience with Richard Dean Anderson and with a syndicated, hit television network show. Very fun, great people, made a lot of life long friends on that show, Richard Dean being one of them and Michael Greenberg (the producer). It was a bit nerve wracking for me because it was the first time that I was on a big show. All in all, a great time, I had a wonderful experience with the director Les Landau who directed a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generations. And we had a great time, I had a glorious death at the
end of the episode (laughs)!
Dark Angel, lot of fun, I really enjoyed the director David Nutter, was a great guy. I've worked with all those guys before through channel films and so on. Jessica Alba, I was a little intimidated by at first, but she turned out to just be a sweetheart. And everyone else involved with the show was quite wonderful. I see Jessica every once and a while, and it was the first time I ever got a love scene!
Stargate, again, Michael Greenberg producing, Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, absolute joy. I get to play a Russian. What happened, Peter DeLuise was directing this one episode I did, the first Colonel Chekov episode. I spent three weeks learning the entire scene in Russian and spoke perfect, fluent Russian and then we got to the day, [they said] "I'm sorry, we can't use the Russian, it's just too long." But I had a ball and I love working with those guys. (I pointed out the cast of Stargate seems to be one big family). They are, Christopher Judge, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Greenberg, John Smith. All the people who make that show possible have been working together in one capacity or another for twenty years, so they're really one big family.
The Fly 2:
My first lead in a feature film. I got to meet a lot of people I'd never met before, Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga and Chris Walas, who I sort of admired for his special effects from Raiders (of the Lost Ark), Ghostbusters and so on. He won an academy award for it. It was a huge, stressful show for the first couple of days because a) It was my first lead in a big budget feature and I didn't quite know what to do, as I went on with it, I found that it was an incredible experience. I got to work with monsters, special effects, I got to blow off machine guns! How much fun can that be?! So all in all that was one show where it was very sad on the last day of shooting. Everybody was so wonderful on the show, particularly Chris Walas because it was his first feature.
Where I was He-Man? That was one of those shows that I had about two or three voices on it. It was hard work. I was just sort of getting my legs as far as animation was going. I enjoyed doing it, it was my first experience with Sue Blu. That was fun. The only reason that sort of made it crazy was that we had the bands Motley Crue and Poison in the next studio and they had these huge sub-woofer speakers that sent bass frequency into our studio which they couldn't hear, but but we could hear. And it'd make your stomach upset and make you irritable because of the ultra low frequencies. I used to go "Holy s--t!" and go storming out of the room. That was also the first time I ever worked with Scott McNeil, Venus Terzo, Anthony Holland, Matt Dill and Doug Parker was in it along with Don Brown. I'd see them over and over in the next fourteen years or so.
Exo-Squad was a show I loved to do. That's where I got to play this character Marsala, a very gentle warrior who was half way between humans and the mutants (note: Neosapians were the other race). I liked working on that program, the only thing that made it difficult was Mr. Burr. He was a very exacting task master. Wally Burr, twenty takes of a line to get it perfect. I remember it being a very difficult session, but it ended up being quite fun. Had a great time. He took the work seriously. He used to have drawings, tons of little drawings that he'd write in the script with all these weird things he knew that we didn't.
We don't know what happened. I think there were only thirty nine episodes and they just decided not to do anymore. I don't know why because it was such a great show. We had Robbie Benson as the lead guy in that show, and there was myself, and Scott (McNeil) and who else was in there? Richard Newman. The writing was so good, it was spot on.
Beast Wars was an adventure because that stretched out over five years (including Beast Machines). I had a really good first season, a really good second season. The third season (most likely he is referring to the first season of Beast Machines) started to get all spiritual and artsy fartsy. I really didn't like it too much. I didn't like that we were no longer these cartoon hero kind of characters. We became very fragile, very whiney and I thought the writing was just a little bit out of the realm of what the show was for and who it was targeted for. It's not only in it for kids, but it's also in it for young adults, but you don't want it too serious or then it's not a cartoon. (Optimus Primal) became a religious fanatic, yeah, and I didn't want to be a religious fanatic, I wanted to be a cartoon superhero! That's what Transformers is.
After that it started to get a little bit better. The season finale in the last season was amazing. You couldn't get a better ending than that. It also gave me the opportunity to go to the Botcons, and see all the fans all over America.
Armada was fast and furious because a) I never got to work with anybody because it was ADR. I had no lip flaps. All I had to do was just act within a time. So I could just bang out those scripts in twenty minutes. Didn't have to worry about lip flaps or being synched up right. All I had to worry about was performance. And that was great. It was great fun. The only thing I didn't like about Armada too much is, I don't like the little kid characters. I don't know why in Japanese animation they insist on having kids there. So for the kids in the audience they'll have someone to look at and say "Oh! I can do that! I could be that kid!" I just started working on Energon as Prime again, and David Kaye is Megatron again. Scott McNeil is in it as ... Sureshot or one of those characters, I forget which.
Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
(Laughs) I got to work with Stan Lee! Yes! I got to be David Hasselhoff's buddy. I got to hang out with Lisa Rinna. That was fun, I got to do a live action comic book. The highlight of that movie was meeting with Stan Lee, in person. After all these years being a kid reading comic books and hoping to see my letters in the comic books to Stan Lee. Never seeing them. Then actually meeting him made up for it. Face to face just made my life.
Man At Arms in the new He-Man is great. I'm working with the Dobson brothers: Paul, Brian, Michael, the three Dobson brothers. They're in it. Scotty McNeil, myself, Nicole Oliver, Cam Clarke who's out from LA, he plays the new He-Man. Very good at what he does. He's been around forever and enjoy him very much. I'm not playing He-Man anymore because I aged out of that character. It happens even in cartoon-land, they have ageism (chuckles)! What happens is I get those characters because those are the kind of characters I play in live action. They say I have a strong, commanding presence on film and on camera and with my voice it's just the way that I am. It's part of my nature to be like that and I like to think I am similar to those characters, but with a bit more humor (laughs).
Freddy vs. Jason:
F vs. J was just a lark. I got to work with Ronnie Yu, I got to work with him before in "Warriors of Virtue". Ronnie Yu is the funniest guy to work with. I got to meet with Freddy and Jason and Kelly Rowland! The hard thing about that character was maintaining a straight face because every single scene I said "We're gonna contain this thing.", "Gotta get this thing contained.", "We don't contain this thing...", "I want this thing contained!". Every single scene I had "this thing contained" in a sentence somewhere, so I said to Ronnie "You think I should drop..." but he said "No, you have to play it serious, like you don't realize!" and I said "Okay." It turned out to be fun. Haven't been in a creature feature in a long time. It was great, lots of gore, lots of special effects.
I took my friend's daughter who was thirteen for her birthday to meet Kelly Rowland, because she was a huge Destiny's Child fan. So we go on set the day I happen to pick is when Kelly is in the flaming cabin being chased by Jason. She's covered in blood and flames are roaring and all kinds of effects were happening in the studio. So, she came in with me and was sort of looking around wide-eyed. She meets Kelly Rowland and Kelly says "Come over here honey! Give us a hug!" And she just was like speechless, couldn't say anything so she took out her CD and just asked "Could you sign this?!" and then they got to talk for an hour or so while she got gored up for the next gig. She was in seventh heaven, so that was quite an enjoyable experience.
5. What would you say is the hardest part of being an actor?
The hardest part of being an actor is getting a job and not taking it to heart if you don't get a job. The easiest part of being an actor is doing the job and getting a fat head if you're not careful. Because your ego can swell out of proportion if you're not careful. It's very hard to maintain a sense of ground to be normal Joe Blow and going to the diner to have some fun. People are always telling you "Oh you're great, you're this, you're that" and if you start to believe it, not from what you know, but from what other people tell you, then you're in trouble. But if you you know what you are, that way you maintain a sense of normalcy.
6. You've played Optimus Prime and Optimus Primal, what are the differences between the two?
Optimus Primal was more cerebral. Optimus Primal was more human and more frail than Optimus Prime. He had not so much weakness but he was a bit more lenient than Optimus Prime. Prime is a very gung ho, very "My way or the highway" "Listen, I want it done, I want it done, now" Optimus Primal would be like "Come on guys, let's do this". So the fundamental difference, Optimus Prime is a lot more military.
7. What actor and actress would you love to work with whom you haven't yet worked with? They can be alive or dead.
The actor I'd love to work with is Anthony Hopkins. I would've loved to work with Alec Guinness but he's dead. Some of the younger actors such as Johnny Depp. I have worked with him, but only when he was younger on "21 Jump Street". I would love to work with some of the comedic actresses. I'd like to work with Bette Midler, that'd be fun. I've worked with a lot of people so it's kind of hard to say who I haven't worked with. A lot of the big mainstreamers like Will Smith and Vin Diesel I haven't worked with, but they're sort of in their own vehicle. It's not a big deal from an actor's point of view, just from a financial point of view.
8. By playing such a diverse set of roles, do you avoid typecasting?
I have a lot of freedom, but I get typecasted as a cop a lot. I play cops, but different cops, not locked into one specific character. I get to have fun with various roles. I'm playing yet another sheriff in a German/Canadian co production. In the movie I've got playing at the Smithsonian on Thursday, I play a good cop who even though he's good, still bears the guilt and deteriorates to the point where he kills himself.
9. How do you mentally prepare yourself for a role?
Well, first off I read the entire script. And then I determine what the relationships are between every person in the script whom I interact with. Who I like, who I don't, who's above me, who's below me status-wise. So then I just look a the situation and then take it from there and add from my own experiences. The core essence of any character is you, anything else just an embelishment.
BWTF.COM thanks Garry Chalk for his time.