Graeme McKenna Interview
1. How does it feel to know that there are still fans of this show?
I think it’s fair to say that anyone in the arts likes to feel that a project they were a part of is remembered let alone continues to be enjoyed. It’s really fun that work I was evolved with … what 28 years ago has fans. That’s not something everyone gets a chance to experience its pretty cool
2. Are you currently working on any projects today? If so, would you care to share them with us?
I long ago moved from performance to production and currently run a performance venue in upstate NY so I’ve got a full slate. However I stay close to the indie film community in the region and have a small walk on role as a gypsy fortune teller in an indie horror film called Creepy Crawling lots a fun
3. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
It’s not something I have a lot of so its time with the family that’s most coveted. Film is still a big passion so when I have the time I do a little screenplay writing and try to catch a film.
4. Favorite movie, book, TV show and food?
That’s an unfair question as it’s always changing but I quite enjoyed the George RR Martin series and just watched the first season of The HBO version. I’m a big walking Dead fan and also love Justified both of which are currently on hiatus. I thought the Hunger Games trilogy was a fun summer read and everyone else in my family had read it so it was compulsory. I love food and the food network its summer so salads like black bean mango and grilled veggies on the BBQ all sound good and of course meat
5. Do you ever do any conventions or autograph signings? If so, where do they normally take place?
I honestly have always imagined that people of some renown and fame do those and as I don’t consider myself as having either I’ve never done won but how cool would that be.
6. How did you get into voice acting? Which jobs where some of your favorites?
I started acting professionally around 14 and booked some voice over as a kid around that time but it wasn’t till I moved to LA that I really got involved in voice over work. I probably should say my favorite was MASK and though it is a close second my favorite was Prince Valiant as I had the opportunity to work with Tim Curry from Rocky Horror, Will Wheaton from Star Trek, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr whom I had grown up watching on The F.B.I. one of my favorite shows as a kid and a whole slew of other actors that I’d known from film and TV.
7. How did you become involved with MASK?
I had done very little voice acting prior to moving to Los Angeles a little bit in Canada where I’m from but mostly stage and a little film and television. I was staying in this funky two story apartment building that looked like an old army barracks on stilts in Echo Park. The first floor was split in two and the top floor was one long single. Two really nice heroin addicts lived on the top floor with another guy who we all believed was Barbra Streisand son and beside us on the main floor lived Brandon Lee. It was a bizarre place but we had wild parties. I was dirt poor doing stand-in work on films to get buy but loving living in LA. Our kitchen had back stairs and a small landing that we used as a porch and one day our neighbor’s house was having some roof work done. It was a small bungalow that was actually below our apartment so we could almost walk from our stairs to their roof. I struck up a conversation one morning with the guy working on the roof. He was Czechoslovakian and had escaped to England on the last plane out as the Russian tanks had rolled in. Turns out he had been a fairly well known actor and once in England he landed a TV series and was fairly well known there as well. He had moved to LA a few years before and here he was doing construction on my neighbor’s roof. Turned out his manager had just asked him if he knew any Canadians as DIC was looking to cast a cartoon series out of LA. Two days later I was auditioning for MASK.
8. How did the voice for T-Bob come into existence?
The true unsung hero of MASK is Stu Rosen who directed almost all of the series shows. I seriously would have most likely been fired after the first few episodes if Stu hadn’t been hired and quite frankly saved my job. It was Stu that worked with me to find the right pitch of the voice and add the adolescent break that became its distinct characteristic. Stu was a seasoned vet and had the opportunity to fire the lot of us and recast the show which he didn’t and I’ll always be grateful for that kindness as well as his patients and guidance to a young actor who still had a lot to learn.
9. Brad Tuner was always the cool MASK agent. Did you enjoy playing him during the series?
Absolutely I totally thought Turner was the coolest one and completely identified with the role oh ya I was Brad Turner.. at least in my mind.
10. Which of your voices was the hardest to do? Why?
Calhoun Burns as I was always losing the accent and having to work at insuring the pitch of my voice was different from Turners.
11. Are any of the characters you voiced close to your original voice?
I’d say Brad Turner was closest to my voice at the time of course I now sound much older and wiser
12. How long did it normally take for you to do your voice recordings for each show?
As I recall it was usually two or three hours but I’m shaky on the recall as I remember doing multiple episodes at a time.
13. Were you allowed any input in the voice acting or did you have to stay strictly to the scripts?
Certainly, as far as the dialogue was concerned, we stuck very closely to the script as written but we always did a run through of the show before recording which gave us the opportunity to make adjustments if something really didn’t work. It was also the time where we sorted out any questions on the read of a line. Sometimes a line would come up that could play several ways and at times we would even record two versions just in case.
14. Were you provided with artwork or any back stories for your characters prior to doing their voice? Did that help you come up with each of their voices? Do you still have any today that you could share with the fans?
As I recall there were sketches of the characters at the auditions and I have memories of seeing story boards during recordings as well. Once Stu Rosen came on board there was a lot of discussion regarding character and story that had not happened when we first started working. I credit Stu with having been the director that helped us all stay connected show to show particularly since most of us did multiple characters on top of any incidental characters that popped up script to script. One of my fond recollections is that every session we would all compete for those incidental characters. It became a very good natured rivalry too see who would get the parts. Sharon seemed to always score the female roles which I thought was very sexist particularly as I always thought I sounded like a girl anyway. In the end I believe it was a tossup between Doug and Brennan for the most. However Mark Halloran was a great impressionist and was always throwing some famous voice on a guard or shopkeeper which I thought was very funny. At the end of the first series of episodes we all received a cell of our character which I’m sorry to say is in a box in my attic somewhere but if it’s worth millions I go up and find it for ya.
15. If you were allowed to pick one of the MASKS to have in real life, which one would you want? Why?
Hard to say I was never overly impressed with what the Masks did I thought the vehicles were cooler of coarse Brad’s cycle chopper and projecting holograms were cool. I also really liked Jack Hammer.
16. If you can recall, which episode did you like the most? Why?
It’s been too long and I’m too old Also when you work on a show your take on it is very different than being a fan. You’re breaking it down and looking at it from a performance perspective as opposed to seeing the whole and final product. It’s also didn’t seem too me to be very cool to watch your own work I always thought that was a bit self-indulgent as an actor. What I can tell you is when you’re working with a fun group of talented actors with a good director then it’s an incredibly fun process my memories are of a lot of hard work and a lot of fun with a group of great people. I often wish when I think back on that work that I had been more appreciative of how lucky I was to be doing the work that I did on that show.
17. If MASK where to be brought back today, would you want to be involved with the project? Do you feel an animated cartoon movie would do better than a live action movie?
It’s funny I think MASK might feel a bit dated now it would need a serious reboot and I’d want to see a darker edge. It was certainly a product of the 80’s and sometimes it felt they were banging out scripts without much thought. I can’t help but get a kick out of Robot Chickens spoof on the series as I always thought Doug and Brennan had a thing going on. I’d love an opportunity to reprise those voices that wouldn’t its work and actors always love to work.
18. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your experience with MASK?
I think it’s very cool that there are fans of the show that keep it alive. My work on the project is a very small part of a vast army of artist who created this series. It’s great to feel you were a part of something that someone else sees as special it makes having done it incredibly satisfying. It also pays homage to that entire artist involved. This is a business that sees thousands of us come and go without recognition in a business that often measures your success based on recognition. So it is a privilege to get feedback from the audience in this way. As I said its very cool thanks