Mae Whitman is a talent that has done something quite difficult- she has conquered both the on screen and voice over world. Most of the time you’ll find people who seem to fit into one medium in particular, but Mae took on both and succeeded. Whether you’ve seen her in Independence Day, In Treatment, Arrested Development, or Scott Pilgrim vs The World, or heard her voice in Kingdom Hearts 2, Avatar: The Last Airbender, or Family Guy, it’s hard not to be a Mae Whitman fan. I had a chance to interview her, and jumped at the occasion. Enjoy.
Mae- Wow! Where do I start. Well, I’m 23, very short, a Gemini, an only child, I live in Los Angeles, I have two dogs, peanut and chet baker, a kitty named edgar, a boyfriend named Landon (who also happens to be my favourite musician), excellent parents, a great small group of friends, I love Taylor Swift, I do the crossword every day, I watch jeopardy and chopped, and I love my job.
Retroplayer- When did you decide that acting was your call in life?
Mae- I started acting when I was really young, like two or three. My mom had an audition for a commercial when I was about two and a half, and i ran in crying and interrupted her and they thought I was cute so they offered me a commercial role. My mom was sceptical and a bit nervous about the child actor thing, but I was extremely bossy and convinced them I wanted to try it. And ever since then, I’ve just felt really at home on a set, and it feels really second nature to me to play a zillion different people within one lifetime.
Retroplayer- Tell us about your work ethic. While every acting role is vastly different, how do you approach your work in general?
Mae- I’ve never really had a specific method or rules or anything. It’s very important to me to keep it simple and honest. I just try to really put myself in the characters shoes and make sense out of who they are. I almost always make a playlist on my ipod of songs for each character or specific scenes. I have a great acting coach, Andrew Magarian, who’s been helping me since I was really little, like before I could read.
Retroplayer- You’ve acted on film, TV, as well as behind the microphone. Which do you enjoy most and why?
Mae- You know, I’d have to say I love them all for different reasons. A movie is amazing because you know the whole story and exactly where its going, and everyone becomes really tight really fast because it isn’t open ended. It feels like a wonderful contained experience. TV is great because you really have time to create an interesting character, and to bond with the whole cast and crew. You really feel like its a second home. And voice over is incredible because it’s always so fun to do, plus it doesn’t matter what you look like, or if you don’t feel like wearing real pants.
Retroplayer- Does a particular skill blanket every one of these mediums, or does each one require its own separate skill set entirely?
Mae- I’m not completely sure- I’m not much of an over thinker when it comes to acting in general. I try to just stay clear and honest in my head. I will say that for voice overs, a lot of the time the voices are more animated or wacky. It’s always fun to play around because all the voice over actors I know are brilliantly funny geniuses who make me feel very comfortable at work.
Retroplayer- Your first venture into the gaming world was in the 2004 video game Everquest 2 as Lilly Ironforge and Thana Rumblehoof. What was your first impression of the videogame voice acting world, and did you find the process much different compared to the voice acting you did previously?
Mae- I guess the main difference is that you have to record vocal options for every possibility in the game- you know, “go left, go right, open this, eat that, I cant go there” etc. so its fun. It’s like a choose your own adventure.
Retroplayer- Was videogame voice-over always something you wanted to get into, or did you just happen upon it?
Mae- Yes, it is definitely a thrill for me to be in games!
Retroplayer- After Everquest 2 you landed the role of iconic role Yuffie Kisaragi in Kingdom Hearts 2, a character that you would return to in Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus. Back in 1997 Yuffie appeared in the original Final Fantasy VII game, a huge favourite in gaming circles. Were you aware of the fanbase already established for Final Fantasy VII before you voiced her?
Mae- I don’t think I was aware of the extent to which people were familiar with her character already.
Retroplayer- Personality-wise are there any similarities between Yuffie and yourself, Mae?
Mae- It’s tough to say because it was a very long time ago, but i recall her being bubbly and bright and nice. But still super cool!
Retroplayer- In the voice acting world our readers will recognise you as the voice of Katara from the series Avatar: The Last Airbender and its three spin-off videogames. Looking back do you feel that there were still stories to tell about Aang and Katara, or do you feel the creators ended the series with perfect timing?
Mae- One thing I always really respected about that show and its creators is that they had a plan from the beginning to give the story a start middle and end. It’s rare to see cartoons that have an arc that you can’t just tune in to any episode and know exactly what’s going on, but it makes the show so much more special. So although we’d all love to see what happens to them throughout the years, I’m glad they stuck to their plan and played the story out so perfectly.
Retroplayer- In Scott Pilgrim vs The World you played evil ex number 4 Roxy Richter. The film itself is crammed full of videogame references. Did you happen to catch any of them yourself, Mae?
Mae- Oh yes! almost all of them. The whole movie felt like a big video game! I’m a huge graphic novel fanatic, so it was incredibly exciting to be in it. So many friends and so many insanely talented people were involved that it made it one of my most special working experiences.
Retroplayer- Much like your voice acting work, you’ve been quite prolific with your on-screen work, from being in projects such as When a Man Loves a Woman, In Treatment, Arrested Development, Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Parenthood. While on screen you can physically show your emotions, in voice acting your performance is solely limited to your voice. As an actress how do you compensate for that lack of physical presence when voice acting?
Mae- I think reading through the script and really understanding the situation the character is in can really help you reach the level of depth that is needed. And you know, these days they video tape me while I’m doing the voices on some shows so they can animate the character to my facial expressions, which really ups the level of believability.
Retroplayer- Since 2008 you have become the new voice for Disneys Tinkerbell. Did you bring your own interpretation of Tinkerbell to the table, or did you draw inspiration from the many voice actresses who have voiced her before?
Mae- Actually, I’m basically the first actress to give her an official voice- she spoke in jingles before. It was an honour to be chosen to give this wonderful character a voice. I think we all just connected on who she was and all the little nuances that make her so interesting, her sense of humour, confidence, loyalty, and even her temper- and I got lucky enough that they felt I was the right person to bring her to life in that way.
Retroplayer- Mae, you’re voicing the character of April O Neill in the new upcoming series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What can we expect from the series and your portrayal of April?
Mae- So exciting! me and my boyfriend Landon were huge fans of the original turtles, so to be a part of this is a dream. It is so well written and all the guys who play the Turtles are dear friends and wonderfully talented actors. It’s gonna be great!
Retroplayer- Are you a gamer yourself?
Mae- Ilove games! mostly like trivia or logic games, detective games, escape the room games, point and click, sims style stuff. Actiony stuff gets me a little stressed out !
Retroplayer- At this point in your life what is your main source of inspiration, Mae?
Mae- I’d say just getting my life balanced. As I get older I really strive to make the most of my days, and enjoy having some sort of routine and feeling really happy and comfy at home. We just adopted another rescue dog peanut to add to the clan and be a brother to chet baker, the first guy, so I’m focused on them a lot. And also Landon Pigg, my boyfriend, and I are doing music together. He’s the most amazing musician I’ve yet to come across and I’m terribly lucky to have that opportunity with him.
Retroplayer- What advice would you give to any young people who wish to become a voice actor who are reading this right now?
Mae- Be natural and have fun. I’m not completely sure on how to get into it, probably finding a great voice over agent like my incredible gal Melissa? But as far as performance goes, yes, have a great time!
Retroplayer- What’s next for Mae Whitman?
Mae- I have a movie coming out soon called The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is super cool and takes place in the nineties and stars all kinds of incredible actors, and I have a partially shaved head. So it’s rad.
Retroplayer- And finally, do you have a message for all your fans here on TGL?
Mae- Stay honest, do the right thing, eat a lot and never stop gaming!