Veteran voice actor Steve Blum is probably best known to animation fans for his roles as Spike Spiegel in the renowned anime Cowboy Bebop, as the mutant Wolverine in numerous Marvel Animation projects, and as TOM, the robotic host of Cartoon Network and Adult Swim’s Toonami programming block. Other prominent roles in his 20+ career include the Vilgax and numerous other aliens in the Ben 10 franchise, Starscream in Transformers: Prime, Heatwave in Transformers: Rescue Bots, Orochimaru in Naruto Shippuden, and Kang the Conqueror in Avengers Assemble. Blum was also inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2012 as the most prolific voice actor in video games, with more than 300 titles under his belt (including Tank Dempsey in the Call of Duty series, Oghren in Dragon Age: Origins, Killer Croc in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham VR, Zoltan Kulle in Diablo 3, and Verstael Besithia in Final Fantasy XV).
In Star Wars Rebels, Steve Blum played Zeb Orrelios, the hulking Lasat member of the Ghost crew who often served as the team’s muscle. We were able to fire off a few questions to Steve Blum via e-mail about his role as Zeb over the four seasons of Star Wars Rebels.
TOONZONE NEWS: There was a quote I read in an interview with Lupita Nyong’o where she says, “I went to acting school thinking I was going to learn how to be other people, but it taught me how to be myself.” How do you feel about that sentiment, and what did you learn about yourself acting over the span of the four seasons of “Rebels”?
STEVE BLUM: An insightful sentiment indeed. I never went to acting school, but Lupita has tapped into something powerful here. I’m teaching voice acting online now (at https://www.blumvoxstudios.com/) and “finding your voice” is one of the key concepts I base everything on. Everyone has a unique voice. I feel that it’s impossible to authentically embody a character without understanding and accepting who you are first. Only then can you find the interval to portraying another’s life. That character will be partially made up of at least some of your essence, so ya might as well get comfortable with that!
I learn something from every character and Zeb is no exception. The wonderful thing about this show in particular is that our characters noticeably grew and evolved. Zeb had (for self-preservation) tucked away tremendous pain and loss, and occasionally acted out because of that. But even before he was forced to truly face his demons and his destiny, his loyalty and integrity remained intact. It was a good reminder that we’re never done in our personal evolution. It caused me to check in on my own ability to trust, to forgive and to be willing to sacrifice for the greater good. And to make sure my integrity was always being attended to. Pretty deep lessons for a cartoon.
STEVE BLUM: Wow – SO MANY!! Can’t choose one! Jim Cummings as Hondo Ohnaka comes to mind. He made me smile every time he came into the booth. Fun, funny, wonderful improvisation – and brought out a different side of Ezra. Jason Isaacs as the Inquisitor was chilling and wonderful. Sam Witwer as Maul – absolutely brilliant. Dee Bradley Baker as the clones (and everything else he did!) is a genius talent and a joy to work with… Lars Mikkelsen’s performance as Thrawn was insanely good – and of course the incredible Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Governor Pryce was the perfect choice. Very hard for me to hate and love a character that much at the same time. It would require two other complete interviews for me to go down the full list!
TOONZONE NEWS: A lot of acting teachers talk about the importance of preparation to develop character, and I know you did a lot of pick-up roles in Star Wars Rebels. What kind of preparation do you do when you’re asked to play “Stormtrooper #2” or “Imperial Bridge Officer?” Are you actually playing the same Stormtrooper in all those times?
STEVE BLUM: Ha ha ha! Great question. After voicing about a full third of all troopers in the Star Wars games, it sort of became a running joke that I was always the obvious choice for “Trooper #3.” I truly believe that Trooper #2 and every other trooper had a life of their own and I did my best to change it up to indicate that. Same with Imperial Bridge Officers and everyone else. Each a unique individual with a complete back story. If I don’t care enough to imagine that, I shouldn’t be doing this work.
STEVE BLUM: I think more than any other character I’ve played, Zeb gave me a more profound respect for the cultural phenomenon that Star Wars has become. Getting to flesh out an incarnation of a previously unused Ralph McQuarrie design for Chewbacca really took me by surprise. I’m not a good enough fan to have caught that one on my own. That kind of reverence and attention to detail beautifully illustrates how much Dave Filoni and everyone at Lucasfilm cares about this franchise! The other thing that surprised me is that my (over) 80 year old parents were truly excited to come to the premiere and watch this show. It’s one of two projects in 30 years of doing this that actually caught their attention.
STEVE BLUM: Yes! Thank you! Please check out my teaching website https://www.blumvoxstudios.com/. I’ve put almost 2 years of my life into this so far (and WAY too much money) to help others on their journey in voiceover in a fun, affordable, and meaningful way. Lots of other cool stuff there too, like a guided meditation with music by Arielle https://www.blumvoxstudios.com/steve-blum-guided-meditation/ and the story of my work with Hip Hop superstar Logic https://www.blumvoxstudios.com/logic/. And please check out Niko and the Sword of Light on Amazon Prime. Beautiful show and it’s not getting the exposure it deserves. So much other stuff, but not enough room here. I talk about new projects and my convention appearances all the time on Twitter @blumspew. And lots of fan stuff is available at http://www.steveblumvoices.com/.
So great to talk with you guys again. Thank you for letting me nerdprattle. Can you tell I love this stuff? Many many thanks also to everyone at Lucasfilm and Disney for letting this fanboy live out dreams he never knew he had. May the Ashla be with you! Karabast!
Toonzone News would like to thank Steve Blum for taking the time to talk with us again, and to the PR teams at Disney, Lucasfilm, and Click Communications for making it happen. Star Wars Rebels Season 4 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.