“Laughing is an important aspect of being the Overlord”- Laharl
Retroplayer- First off, tell us a little about yourself, Barbara.
Barbara- I was born in Brooklyn, New York. The 3rd daughter, no brothers. Every member of my family had a lot of wit and a sharp tongue. In order to get some attention I observed mimicking my father got a lot of laughs and I found a niche as the youngest. I had the typical little girl dream of being a ballerina. Being petite made that plan fall away but the desire to perform never faded.
I lived on the east coast most of my life, studied acting and singing in NY, then toured around doing theatre in the south and mid-west, then back to NY to perform a one-woman show I had created with a band and characters I developed. (I found it easier to sing when I was in character rather than being myself.)
Then I lived in Hawaii and ended up in California in my late 20′s. I met my husband there and settled down and had my son who is now 23. Been happily married for 27 years.
Retroplayer- When did you decide that you wanted to get into voice acting?
Barbara- It was not something I ever consciously decided. I was planning on being an all around actor and wanted to do very aspect of performing. When I lived in NY I never had enough money to put a voice tape together but I wrote out something and used it to showcase the characters I could do and memorized it to audition for shows. When I came out to California, I played Amy (the crazy bride) in the show Company and the bass player told me his ex-wife worked for Jim Terry Productions and they were taking Japanese cartoons and dubbing them into English. He thought I might be good at it.
I performed my character monologue to her and got hired. She also turned me onto a voice agent who signed me and I booked my first voice over commercial as The Magical Penguin for Froot Loops with Paul Frees as Toucan Sam. That’s how it all began!
Retroplayer- Tell us about your work ethic. How do you approach your work in general?
Barbara- As little as possible!! Hah, just kidding.
I am not the ‘best’ at seeking out work. Networking is certainly not my strong suit. It makes me cringe a little but I know how important it is to keep yourself actively searching for work because unfortunately it can get slow … really fast! It’s a harsh fact of this business and it certainly doesn’t get easier as you get older so you have to build that muscle of contacting people and staying informed. I may not do the most I could do but I am always doing something for my career.
I make sure to turn in my auditions on time, I go to casting offices and my agents to audition and I daily submit for all the appropriate roles on the 3 actor sites that I’m signed up on as a part of the ritual of seeking work.
When I have a gig, I listen hard at what is desired by the client. For games, there is usually a picture of the character and if they have happily chosen me and my voice, it’s pretty clear what they want.
In the session, many things are open to change and I very much enjoy collaborating and making suggestions but only when others are open to it. I’m more than willing to give a variety of readings. It’s truly pleasurable to attempt my best and I love the workout. I am so grateful when I have a job. That never gets tiring!
Retroplayer- Your first venture into the gaming world was in the 1994 game Might and Magic: World of Xeen. What was your first impression of the videogame voice acting world? Also, did it differ much compared to voice over for animation and anime?
Barbara- No, not really all that different. Different genres maybe but same requirements. It’s a character with an intention. You must bring that person to life realistically. True, you don’t have to match mouth flaps and that’s easier I suppose but it’s harder because you don’t usually see much and have to imagine more to flesh out the character. The grunting and screaming can be taxing so that’s harder sometimes when there’s a lot of it.
Retroplayer- Was videogame voice-over always something you wanted to get into or did you just happen upon it?
Barbara- I fell into it … and I hope never to fall out of it!
Retroplayer- In the original English recording of Akira you played Kaori and Takashi. While recording the voice over did you have any idea that it would turn out to be the classic anime it has become?
Barbara- No, not a clue. I could tell it was a powerful story and was impressed with the animation and maturity of the film but no way did any of us know it was going to be thought of as a classic someday.
Retroplayer- In 1983 you played Red Fraggle on the Jim Hensen TV series Fraggle Rock, a huge favourite here at TGL. Were the voices recorded prior to puppeteer work or did you need to do the voices right there and then on set?
Barbara- I was not part of the original Fraggle Rock with puppets. I was part of the Saturday Morning cartoon version that (according to Stu Rosen – the director) had auditioned 1,200 people to match the original voices. This was one of my favourite roles and sadly it ended prematurely for a variety of unfortunate reasons none of which had to do with the calibre of the show.
Retroplayer- Another role you played that many of our readers would instantly recognize you as is the voice of Rita Repulsa from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Do you enjoy playing an over the top tongue in cheek villain more compared to, say, a serious, dark villainous role?
Barbara- You betcha’! I adore combining sinister and whimsical together. What a fine mix of crazy that can create! Now, I do love being authentic with my characters so whether it’s a straight on serious persona or a little coo-coo, it has to be played with full out honesty. Rita believes she is dark and serious, she doesn’t see herself as whacky like others see her but I admit, straight up nasty is not quite as much fun!
Retroplayer- You’ve also provided the voice for Laharl in the very popular Disgaea videogame franchise as well the anime based upon it and cameos in other Nippon Ichi Software games. How do you view the character of Laharl and how do you approach his portrayal?
Barbara- I approach Laharl as I do Rita. Believable in his own mind as a powerful, evil devil boy but humorous because he is so ridiculously over the top. Like a maniacal Woody Woodpecker!
Retroplayer- Do you approach voice over for videogames differently than you would with anime?
Barbara- Just that I know I’ll most likely be getting a heavy vocal workout. It might get repetitious so I set my mind ahead of time to being focused in the moment … so I can give it my all.
Retroplayer- What have your interactions been like with fans over the years at conventions? Also, do you enjoy connecting with them?
Barbara- I am so privileged and excited to meet the fans! It wasn’t something I had any awareness about for many years. The extent of the appreciation is mind boggling. I am very honored and grateful to be validated for my work. It’s also such fun to attend these weekends with other VO Actors and then to see all the creativity out there!
Retroplayer- While many gamers associate you as Laharl are there any roles that you’ve done in videogames that don’t get much attention that you think our readers should check out?
Barbara- Hmmm, there’s a role or two (I forget) in Warhammer, Kormir in Guild Wars, Granny Chiyo in Naruto, Lady Vashj and (original) Alexstraza in World of Warcraft, Granny Rags in Dishonored (new), Aunt Sara in Darkness 2 (new) … to name some.
Retroplayer- At this point in your life what is your main source of inspiration, Barbara?
Barbara- Knowing that I continue to love what I do and I’m healthy and able and people want to work with me and are pleased with what I give them. When I get a role, I am as thrilled as ever. I work in a variety of genres and I love them all. I hope to be invited back for a 3rd season as Mother Talzin on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Retroplayer- Favourite role you’ve ever done in your career?
Barbara- Rita, of course, Cruella DeVille, Darling, Red Fraggle, Laharl and Wooli the sheep on CloudBread. To be honest, my favourite role is usually whatever is next on the agenda!
Retroplayer- What advice would you give to any young people who wish to become a voice actor who are reading this right now?
Barbara- Be truthful with yourself as far as your talent. Take acting classes. Don’t get into it unless you are able to commit your heart and soul fully and know that there will always be homework to do and we are all as memorable as we are forgettable. Don’t do it to get something. Do it to give something but respect your ego. Have a healthy ego. If you do not have that, do what you can to become centred and happy. Create a strong personal life of some kind. Have a support system outside of this business. Do not spend too much time being hurt and be real about when you are hurting. Then go at it again. No ruminating allowed. Develop a great sense of humour and be curious. Read. Stay informed. Listen to people. Stay healthy in body, mind and spirit! Good luck!!
Retroplayer- How do you want your portrayal of Laharl to be remembered?
Barbara- I would like people to be thoroughly amused and entertained. Haahahahahahaha!
Retroplayer- And finally, do you have a message for all your fans here on TGL?
Barbara- Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me the acknowledgement I’ve received from you!
May YOUR lives be filled with happiness and creativity and all the blessings there are to receive from our wonderfully complex and challenging world.