Make My May: Actress Erin Fitzgerald Talks to Toon Zone
Voice actress Erin Fitzgerald is probably best known to today’s TV viewers from her work on Ed, Edd n Eddy, but she’s had a busy and varied career lending voices to many other characters and projects. She recently was kind enough to talk to Toon Zone about her career, her talents, her recent turn “doing strange and violent sucking noises and death speak” for “Vampire: The Masquerade.”
Toon Zone: How did you come to do voice work?
Erin Fitzgerald: I could do accents and voices since I was a child. My father was always doing character voices, so I suppose I got it from him. I studied and became an actor because everyone thought that was the natural progression of my talents, but I had no clue there was such a thing as voice work. I had always watched cartoons—fanatically—and I was the kind of kid who believed they were real, not actors doing the voices. So when I grew up and someone offered me a job based on my vocal range and skills I was flabbergasted. I had finally found my true niche, where I belong. My friends and family are no longer tortured with me going in and out of characters because I have an outlet.
TZ: As a kid, did you just make up voices, or did you do lots of imitation of existing characters or actors?
Both. I could do all the characters of The Wizard of Oz by age three and would force many an elderly person to sit through my one person Oz rendition. I find I tend to imitate the people I love the most or characters I love the most. I also find that I have many different characters sitting in me just itching to get some time to play. Everything from babies to grandmothers. From all countries of the world.
TZ: You say someone offered you a job based on your range and skills. It sounds like you didn’t try to break in into the business but had someone drop it on you. Who offered you your first voice-acting job and what were the circumstances?
EF: My roommate named Tobias was working doing ADR and Walla for television and films I was a film and TV actor at the time and had never heard of ADR or Walla. Because he lived with me, along with six other roommates, he was forced to put up with my jumping in and out of voices all the time. One day he asked if I wanted to try doing voice work because the place he worked was in need of a woman who could do all I could do and the rest was history.
I honestly didn’t even know there was a “business.” I spent so much of my time watching cartoons it never occurred to me someone did voices as a job. I did voices cause I was compelled to. I guess the universe spent my early years preparing me.
TZ: Are there any actors/actresses (voice, stage, screen, or other) who have influenced your work, either in whole or in a specific part?
EF: Meryl Streep was always mind-blowing with accents. Peter Sellers and Monty Python. Today my favorites are Candi Milo as “The Flea” in Mucha Lucha and E.G. Daily. Any of her work makes me smile.
TZ: How did you become attached to Ed, Edd n Eddy?
EF: The usual way. I auditioned but it took them six months to cast, so I was sure I didn’t get it. I was wrong.
TZ: Six months? Is it unusual to go six months without hearing anything? What’s the usual turnaround time between auditioning and getting a part?
EF: I didn’t just read once. I went in four times over six months. Danny was very particular during casting and wanted to make sure he got exactly what he was looking for. Six months is unusual but I’ve booked jobs up to a month after I auditioned. Finding the right voice isn’t always as easy as it may seem.
TZ: Did you audition for the part of May Kanker, or did you try out for other characters on the show?
EF: I read for several parts but I only got called back for May. Although I think my read for Ed was very close to Matt Hill’s.
TZ: Ed, Edd n Eddy is a very extreme show, in every facet. Is it hard to voice characters with that kind of energy?
EF: If you met me in person or spoke to my friends they’d tell you that I’m always that energetic. In fact, behind a mike is the only place where I feel truly “normal.” I’m very excitable and I find the job a wonderful outlet.
TZ: Do you record your tracks separately, or do you and the rest of the
actors do it in one large session?
EF: Eds is an amazing show because the creator, Danny Antonucci, is a real purist. He is adamant about trying to get us all together to give the best possible read for each story they tell.
TZ: Is there any kind of improv work in the show? Are you encouraged to play with dialogue and with the other actors, or do you stick very closely to the script?
EF: With the Eds the story boards are very specific, so we don’t play around with the words, but I love it when I can come up with a delivery that they weren’t thinking of that enhances the script.
TZ: Some voice actors say they feel very protective of their characters. Do you feel protective of any of your characters? Do you come to have strong feelings about them, either positive or negative?
EF: May Kanker is my alter ego! I love her very much. She’s sloppy, dorky, says the wrong things, is easily confused and is bossed around a lot. She’s great fun. I’m quite attached. The most recent character I fell in love with is the Farmer’s Wife I did for the video game “Destroy all Humans.” She cracked me up so much that I actually had to stop between takes because she was just so funny and I couldn’t stop laughing! I love that.
TZ: Speaking of video games, do you approach roles in video games differently than you approach them in animation?
EF: No, acting is acting. I want each character to come to life, and since with a video game someone might be sitting with my character for hours in a row it’s almost more important to make them real. A TV show only lasts a half-hour or hour, but games go on and on.
TZ: You’ve also done some live-action work. Do you have a preference for live-action or voice performing?
EF: I gave up live performing once I found the voice thing because animation just fits me so much better. Besides, I didn’t think I’d top the fun of getting to do a walk on for The X-Files.
TZ: Was there a particular bit of fun to that walk-on? Or was it just, like, “It’s ‘The X-Files,’ this is so cool!”?
EF: Oddly enough, it wasn’t my first run in with David Duchovny, so I had a chance to to remind him of our first encounter, which he remembered and I had him to myself to chat to for most of the day (when he wasn’t in his trailer). Really great guy. And yeah, it was “The X-Files” and it was sooooo cool!!
TZ: What can you tell us about your work in “Everquest II” and “Vampire: The Masquerade”?
EF: “Everquest II” was an amazing experience because its so rare that you are asked to do more than six characters. I got to read twenty-one and do different accents for all of them. Accents are also a real taboo thing in America. Most shows avoid them, so I was in heaven going from voice to voice and pushing myself to my creative limits. I’d go back and do more for that game any day.
“Vampire” was wild because I can now say I know what it would feel like to suck the blood out of some animals. It’s so silly when I think about it. Standing alone in a room with glass separating me from a row of people watching, doing strange and violent sucking noises and death speak. Would I sound crazy if I said I loved it?
TZ: You mentioned “Destroy All Humans” earlier. What’s that about? The title sounds kind of horrific, but you make it sound funny.
EF: It’s hysterical!! Very Mars Attacks! I don’t want to say too much cause I don’t think its released yet, but its very 1950′s horror style with hysterical scenarios and very cliché characters!! I can hardly wait to get a copy and play it.
TZ: Accents are a real taboo, you said. What makes them taboo?
EF: Well, for some reason a lot of producers are afraid to have accents in their projects in case they’re done wrong, or the audience can’t understand them or their afraid the American audience won’t by the product.
TZ: Are there any parts that “got away”: parts in series or movies that you tried for but didn’t get? Are there any series out there that you would like to appear on, even if only a bit part?
EF: I would love to be on Mucha Lucha! It’s my favorite show right now. As for parts that got away, goodness there are hundreds. It would be too depressing to list them all.
TZ: Well, I don’t want to depress you, but could you name one? It’s a fun game for some of us to play. To imagine, say, May Kanker as Wonder Woman.
EF: Well, I auditioned for the part of Lexi Bunny in the upcoming series Loonatics. It’s based on the original Looney Toons characters but they turn into a kind of comedy Power Rangers. I am such a ridiculously big fan of Looney Toons and Mel Blanc that I was a little sad that I never got called back on that one.
TZ: What are some of your upcoming projects?
EF: Well, I’m very excited to record Ed, Edd and Eddy‘s Hallowe’en special next week. Very excited! I think the Christmas and Valentine’s Day specials were the best work we’ve done so far, and I look forward to carrying it on. Unfortunately, I’m unable to go into the upcoming projects because their info has yet to be released. But if you’re a fan you’ll find out soon enough. Keep an eye out for the game “Destroy all Humans” to come out this year! It’s hysterical!
TZ: I know of at least one actor who says he likes to read and make up voices for comic books, as a way of keeping supple and challenged. Do you do anything similar?
EF: I do actually. I love to babysit eight-to-ten-year-olds and play make-believe. We do voices and change characters. It’s lots of fun. I also meet with other voice actors a few times a week and we practice behind a microphone and challenge each other with ridiculous directions.
TZ: Really? Like what?
EF: I grab old copy (scripts I’ve auditioned for) and redo the characters a zillion different ways. I always make sure they get a Drew Barrymore read at least once. Or I’ll take a really sad scene and make it psychotically happy or vice versa. That sort of thing.
TZ: What do you do outside of work? What hobbies, passions or interests
EF: I’m really into anime right now, reading about it renting everything I can get my hands on. And I love reading, watching movies.
TZ: Some of your early voice work was in anime. Is that an area that you’d like to work more in?
EF: Right now I have my heart set on trying to get more anime work. Unfortunately there aren’t very many studios who do it, and I believe they have my demo and resumes but no one’s biting at the moment. I won’t give up though. My goal is to get that going before the year’s through.
Other things I do: I teach American accents to people who live in the States and want to sound more local. And I edit my own documentaries that no one will ever see.
TZ: I didn’t know there were jobs in teaching American accents. How did you find that? Do you just teach them the standard American accent (or whatever it is), or do you get requests to teach more regional sounds?
EF: I started teaching ESL as a part time job to be of service to others and stay grounded. I found that it naturally led to my helping my students with pronunciation, which naturally developed into my own technique which I’ve developed. Ihope to spend the next year writing a book and developing tapes on it. I teach a generic American Accent, trying to stay regionless, but since I’m working with people from many different countries my main focus is to get them to speak clearly enough that anyone, anywhere in America, will understand what they are saying.
TZ: What are those? It sounds interesting.
EF: Totally a hobby, private and fun. No one will ever hear of them or see them. But they keep me humble and teach me a lot.
TZ: What’s the oddest non-acting job you’ve ever had?
EF: When I worked at Dairy Queen (my very first job) I spent my first day on the floor of the walk-in freezer scraping off the inches of gunk that covered the floor.
TZ: That sounds like a metaphor for first jobs! Anyway, if you couldn’t be an actor, what career would you like to try?
EF: I’d like to get my Pilates certification and teach that. I love it.
TZ: What sort of career advice would you give to anyone who aspires to work in the voiceover field?
EF: Practice constantly, understand that you can always go deeper with every character. Know that it’s more important to create your own work than to wait for someone else to hire you. That way you’ll have the self-confidence to do anything your heart desires in your life. And most importantly watch a lot of cartoons!
TZ: Thank you very much for your time, Erin!
For more about Erin Fitzgerald, be sure to visit her website.