Michelle Creber has an incredibly intimidating acting resume for someone who just turned 18. The actor, singer, dancer, musician, song-writer and voiceover artist has numerous TV shows, movies, stage productions, and music albums under her belt, ranging from voiceover roles as Lucy in Peanuts motion comics, Alice in PBS Kids’ Martha Speaks, and Wendy in The New Adventures of Peter Pan; live-action roles in Strange Empire, Supernatural, Smart Cookies, and A Killer Among Us; and six released albums. However, she may be best known to animation fans as the voice of Apple Bloom, one of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, as well as the singing voice of Sweetie Belle on the hit show My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.
Toonzone was able to talk with Michelle Creber via telephone just before the end of 2017 about her work in general and on My Little Pony Friendship is Magic in particular.
TOONZONE NEWS: With a resume that starts when you were four, this might seem like an obvious question, but did you always know you wanted to be an actor or a performer?
MICHELLE CREBER: Yeah, I think it was never really said. It was just known for me and my whole family. I was just really passionate about it from a very young age. When I was 2 years old, I’d run on stage and want to be up there with my parents and their students when they had a music school. Right from then it was like, “Oh, this child is going to be a performer.”
TOONZONE NEWS: There’s a lot of voiceover actors who sing, and I wanted to get your opinion about how those two particular arts interact or overlap or differ from each other?
MICHELLE CREBER: Well, I think they’re very correlated, at least in my experience. I think being able to sing and my musical background might have given me an advantage in casting, especially for voice acting because so often in cartoon shows these days the characters are singing and the casting directors and producers would rather cast somebody to talk and sing for their characters. I’ve been cast not only as the acting and the singing voice for my own characters but the singing voice of other characters as well. So it’s definitely been an advantage for me, pretty much in any other avenue of my career aside from music.
TOONZONE NEWS: Speaking of that, I think you might be the first voiceover actor I’ve interviewed who is also the singing voice for somebody else, and I did want to ask about that. How do you sing in character as someone else’s character? What’s your process for doing that kind of thing?
MICHELLE CREBER: I’ve always been a mimic-er. I’d watch TV as a kid and I’d just talk along with movies and do all the different voices. That also, I think, comes from a musical background as well. It’s another huge thing that I have good ears, so I can hear pitches, I can hear speed of people’s voices, and it helps me to imitate other people. A lot of people ask me how difficult it is to sing in a character voice. People seem to think it’s this really crazy adventure. For me, it’s always been quite natural. It’s just like mimicking somebody else’s voice but just with a tune in mind. That’s really all it’s been for me. And you know, most of the people that I’ve sung for their characters, we have similar voices as well. That’s usually the case. It’s harder with singing to imitate somebody else’s voice because you’re so limited. You’re limited to speed, to pitch, to tone, and so you have to work around all those obstacles, but I’ve always enjoyed it and I’ve never found it too difficult.
TOONZONE NEWS: What kinds of things are you doing specifically to do Sweetie Belle’s singing voice, as opposed to Apple Bloom?
MICHELLE CREBER: There’s obviously the accent, because Apple Bloom has an accent and Sweetie Belle doesn’t, so that’s already a huge differentiator. Also, it’s the pronunciation, because Sweetie Belle will speak her words much clearer and in a sweeter tone. Even though you’d have to sing as Sweetie Belle in the same key with the same melody and everything, you can bring it higher up into your range while singing the exact thing. Claire Corlette, who plays Sweetie Belle, and I have always had very similar voices, too.
(ed’s note: Michelle sang the same line as Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle live to demonstrate, but the recording I have just isn’t good enough to highlight the difference. You’ll have to take my word for it that it was pretty cool to hear her do it.)
TOONZONE NEWS: So how do you work the scenes where the Cutie Mark Crusaders are having their group singalongs?
MICHELLE CREBER: We record the songs separately, one at a time from an episode, and usually we don’t go into the studio together, so if it was a Cutie Mark Crusaders song, we’d all go in separately. But sometimes there have been groups. I remember singing one song with Maddie [Peters – voice of Scootaloo] in the studio. Oftentimes [composer] Daniel Ingram gets me to sing the demos as well, so I have kind of a pre-show of the songs and more time to learn it.
MICHELLE CREBER: Usually, if I had to pick an average, we’d record the episode dialogue in one day and then 2 hours later we record the songs, after we had recorded the episode. It’s pretty rare to record the song before the episode. But usually, I have that preview because I sometimes record demos for songs that we don’t officially record for a couple of weeks.
TOONZONE NEWS: Did you find that recording for the movie was different from doing the show?
MICHELLE CREBER: I’d have to say no, it was a pretty normal session. Go in there, do our lines, do them a couple of times, and that was that. There might have been pick-ups as well, but that’s pretty normal, and my role in the movie is relatively small, compared to my role in the show. I got to sing on one of the songs as well. It was very fun to go into the big theater and watch it. I was really proud of everyone who was involved, and I think fans really enjoyed it.
TOONZONE NEWS: You got My Little Pony Friendship is Magic I think when you were about 13 or 14…
MICHELLE CREBER: Actually, I was 9!
TOONZONE NEWS: That’s right, the show premiered when you were 13 or 14! Then my question is even more relevant because a lot of stuff happens to people going from 9 to 18. How did the changes from being a kid to being a teenager to a young adult affect the way you approach the acting and the singing and other things you do in your job?
MICHELLE CREBER: Are we talking about in general, or about My Little Pony in particular?
TOONZONE NEWS: In general, and if it applies to My Little Pony in particular.
MICHELLE CREBER: Sure. I think when I was younger, I was always very professional and I got along well with adults. I was outgoing…I’m actually 100% extrovert, according to the 16-aspect personality psychological test. So I’ve always been very comfortable and performing in front of crowds and under pressure and in stressful situations and going to sessions. I’ve always been immersed in this world. But I think as I’ve grown up, I’ve really started to appreciate what I have. When you’re younger and you have awesome opportunities and good success in several things you’re passionate about, it’s hard to really appreciate that, and to digest that and not take it for granted. Not that I ever did, but I just kind of went along and did my thing. Now I’m kind of like, “Wow! That’s something to be really really thankful for.” And I’m so thankful that I have this foundation to take with me for my whole career. Just build from here and just have connections and experience. Now I can choose the projects that I know I’m really passionate about and focus on one thing at a time. Right now, I’m writing my own all-originals album and exploring the more musical side of me. Some years I’ve just focused entirely on film and TV. This year has also been a lot of musical theater. So I jump around wherever there are opportunities and whatever I’m feeling inspired by.
MICHELLE CREBER: Well, I think the challenge is that we’ve always been encouraged to replicate the same characters we started with at age 9, and haven’t really grown that much. It’s been almost 10 years and they’ve got their cutie marks and they’re clearly older, but they’re still children. That’s still their role in the show, so that’s been challenging for all 3 of us, especially because naturally our voices dropped. It’s harder on boys in voice acting when they start young and they get old. They have a major drop once they hit puberty. But even with girls…my voice used to be very naturally high and it dropped quite significantly. All of us have to put a bit more effort in to getting that higher tone, especially Claire with Sweetie Belle, who has that squeak. It’s difficult to emulate that from when you were 9 and just doing that because you were young and that was your voice. But it’s been nice because they’ve written it into the script, a little bit of growth, especially when they hit their cutie mark episode. So we have let them grow a bit and that’s partially because the writers have, but overall it’s just trying to keep that youth in them and keep it high.
TOONZONE NEWS: Do you have a favorite story of how FIM has popped up in a way you weren’t expecting in your own life?
MICHELLE CREBER: Well…(laughs) there’s been some times when in Vancouver. The great thing about voice acting is that people don’t necessarily recognize your face just because they watch the show. People recognize me if they’ve looked me up and they’re hardcore fans or they see me at conventions or they’re fans of my music. There’s people like that, but it’s not like in film and TV, where if you’ve seen the show you’d automatically recognize the actor if you saw them in public. So it’s not obvious to me when people recognize me. There’s not a ton of bronies in Vancouver, but once or twice a month, there’ll be this really funny event where I run into one and I don’t know it at first and they don’t admit it. I was playing laser tag with my friends, maybe two months ago, and there was this girl and this boy who were working there, and they kept looking at me really weird. I didn’t think anything of it. And at the end of the night, the guy was like, “What’s your favorite kind of apple?” (laughs) And there was another time, and it’s one of my favorites, with me and my friend Gabriel Brown, who goes by Black Gryph0n and who’s also been on the show and I’ve done a lot of music with. So Black Gryph0n and I are at Walmart trying to buy Halo 3 or something, because that had just broke, and we went, “Let’s ask somebody” because we couldn’t find it. So we asked this guy, “Do you have Halo 3?” And he seemed really, really excited about it. He went all around, he searched the whole Walmart for like 20 minutes, and we were like, eventually, “Dude, it’s OK, we can go somewhere else.” And he seemed so disappointed about it. Then that night, somebody tweeted at us saying, “I FAILED MICHELLE CREBER AND BLACK GRYPH0N FINDING HALO 3!!” And we were like, “What?” It was pretty funny.
TOONZONE NEWS: I’m still weirded out by the whole social media thing and how it lets fans interact with actors and actors interact with fans. But it’s great that he was able to say so even if he wasn’t able to say it to your face.
MICHELLE CREBER: I know, yeah. It’s a pretty incredible group of people, bronies. Nobody expected this when we started the show, but I’ve been to 32 conventions now, worldwide, and it’s just thousands of bronies and they’re such an interesting, amazing group of people who have come together based on loving this good-hearted, good moraled show. And some people automatically think, “That’s so weird, a bunch of adults liking My Little Pony?” People just assume this, but go around and meet these people. They just want to believe in something that’s good. Not everything has to be violence and gore, especially for boys. So it’s been a real pleasure having this part of my life and meeting all these awesome people.
MICHELLE CREBER: Sure! As I was saying, my big project right now is my first all-originals album. I’ve done many albums in the past, either originals with somebody else or with my family or all cover songs, so this is going to be all of my music. It’s going to be singer/songwriter pop. If you’ve ever heard of Sara Bareilles, she’s kind of my inspiration. I really believe that there’s still an audience out there who loves pop music and loves the sound of it, but wants lyrics to mean something and aren’t just these shallow breakup songs or songs about nothing that really has meaning. I just want to try and have a positive impact on people and make songs that help people through bad times. I also like to write a variety of topics, because there’s so much that’s not being written about. I want to kind of fill those gaps. That’s sort of my big goal right now, but I’m still keeping up film and TV and voice acting. I just had a video game that came out called Tooth and Tail, where I played an entire species of lizard, so that was pretty fun. Not every day do you get to play an entire species of lizard.
And actually right now, I’m about to open a musical theater show right here in Vancouver based off Little Women, the book written by Louisa May Alcott. I play Jo, the lead role, and that’s been a wonderful experience. it’s such an incredible show because it’s so real. It’s based on both her book and her life, and I just finished re-reading the book. I read it when I was a kid, and it’s such an incredible piece of literature in our time, and hopefully it will continue to be such a classic. So it’s been an honor to portray that role and I’m really excited about our opening. (ed’s note: the production ran from December 27-30, 2017, after the interview but before press time.)
Toonzone News would like to thank Michelle Creber for taking the time to talk with us, and the PR team at Lionsgate and Click Communications for arranging the interview. My Little Pony: The Movie is out now on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital. You can follow Michelle Creber at her website, along with the usual panoply of social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.