At New York Comic Con 2018, Nickelodeon asked if we’d like to interview Rob Paulsen (at right in the image above) and Maurice LaMarche (at left) about their work on Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that’s the kind of question where we couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. Rob Paulsen serves as voice director and the Foot Lieutenant, while Maurice LaMarche plays the Foot Brute; animation fans will recognize the both of them for countless roles, perhaps knowing them as a pair best as Pinky and the Brain.
(Audio of the first part of the interview is embedded above, because the interplay just doesn’t carry over in text. Bonus fart joke squeezed in there, too.)
ANIMESUPERHERO: First question I have to ask, Rob, how are you doing health-wise? You’re looking good.
ROB PAULSEN: I’m good. Thank you. I’m going to die some day but not from throat cancer. I may expire before the end of this interview because I’m in the presence of greatness with Maurice LaMarche.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: (Laughs) I thought it was because you’re wearing flannel on a 105-degree day.
ROB PAULSEN: And his…his countenance is so all-consuming. No, man, thanks for asking. I’m great. Your timing is excellent, because not only are you speaking with a couple of folks who work on the show, but one of the reasons and not the least of which, that I’m doing so well is my friend Maurice LaMarche was utterly supportive through my whole cancer experience. It was very difficult and Mo made it a lot easier. So I’m good.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: Thank you pal.
ROB PAULSEN: I love you, buddy.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: I love you.
ROB PAULSEN: Truth! But I’m good, thanks for asking.
ANIMESUPERHERO: We definitely wanted to know. So, Maurice, you have worked with Rob Paulsen for so long…
MAURICE LAMARCHE: SOOO long…
ANIMESUPERHERO: Has the directing completely gone to his head now? What is it like working for him in the studio?
MAURICE LAMARCHE: He’s insufferable. It’s unbelievable. He wears jodhpurs to the sessions.
ROB PAULSEN: Yes. And I have a riding crop.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: Riding boots and a riding crop.
ROB PAULSEN: I generally say things like the following: “Excuse me, Mr. LaMarche? Do you recall that talent you had when we hired you? Could you use it on this next take? Thank you.” That happens a lot.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: It’s heartbreaking. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. First what he does is he breaks down an actor, and then he builds them back up again.
ROB PAULSEN: You are NOTHING!!
MAURICE LAMARCHE: That’s right. I’m putty in his hands. No, you know what, it’s tremendous fun. I sometimes forget he’s directing becuase we always go in the booth together to play the Foot Lieutenant and the Foot Brute, so I forget that he’s the boss on this one. So I sometimes mess around with him a little and then I go, “Oh, no no no no…right.” Like, “you’re telling me how to do this?” And then I’m like, “Oh, yes, on this one you CAN tell me how to do this.”
ROB PAULSEN: The right reading…
MAURICE LAMARCHE: “The right reading for this is the one I’m giving you.” But I don’t go all Orson Welles on him because on this show, he’s the boss and I listen to him.
ROB PAULSEN: It’s such a pleasure!
MAURICE LAMARCHE: So we have fun, both acting and being directed by him because he’s a terrific director. He speaks the actor’s language. So he doesn’t say, “Louder, softer” or “emphasize the ‘in’ before ‘July,’”. He’ll say, “You’re a little angrier here.”
ROB PAULSEN: Plus, when you’re dealing with a guy like Maurice, and it’s true of any of the nice folks we’ve had to come on…Mo has so many arrows in his quiver, and I’ve worked with him so many times. It’s like, “Hey, Mo, you know you did that thing…” “Oh yeah.” “Could you try it on this one?” “Sure!” It’s so easy.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: We have a shorthand, after working together for 20 years.
ROB PAULSEN: I know what he can do. And it’s just…it’s really fun. Half the time there are things that don’t end up in the show because I say, “Hey Mo, do that thing that you can do,” and he does and Ant and Andy go, “Oh my GOD, that’s so FREAKING COOL!” Or “do something from Futurama” because everyone’s a fan of Mo’s, so that stuff pops up. It’s effortless.
ANIMESUPERHERO: How has that adjustment from the acting to the directing side been for you? Are there things you’re doing now because you’re saying, “Man I really wish that people would be doing this when I was behind the glass being directed?”
ROB PAULSEN: Oh, interesting. I don’t think I can say that too often because I’ve really gotten to work with wonderful directors. The guy who gave me my first real shot was Gordon Hunt, who was a pretty remarkable director in his own right and was essentially Andrea Romano’s mentor. And then Mo and I and a bunch of others all kind of grew up with Andrea, we’re all the same age. And we all worked together on the same stuff. Between Andrea and Ginny McSwain and Gordon Hunt and Kelly Ward…Peter Hastings, people who we’ve worked with many, many times. These folks have all been peers and it wasn’t like we had anybody talking down to us. We’ve all learned at the feet of the masters. Maurice could totally do this.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: I can’t do this.
ROB PAULSEN: Yeah you could.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: No, no. I really couldn’t.
ROB PAULSEN: I’ve been given a real great opportunity. So it’s not like I’m saying, “Boy, I’m going to tell people how to do it,” or teach them how to do it the way I wish I’d been taught, because the best directors know how to get what the people footing the bill want, and also allow people like Kat and Omar and all these wonderful actors to have their head. The reason they got the gig is because they know what they’re doing. I’m not going to tell them how to do it. I’m going to hopefully guide them in such a way that everybody gets what they want and the fans see what it is about these actors that got them the job in the first place. And that’s what I hope I’m doing.
ANIMESUPERHERO: So you’re not really countering the negative examples as much as channeling the positive examples you’ve had throughout your career.
ROB PAULSEN: Oh no, no no. In fact, it can’t be negative. And to be fair, Mo and I have both had circumstances where we’ve had directors who said, “Don’t do that.” When you say to an actor or any artist, especially one who’s just starting out, “No no no, don’t do that, do you have something else?” Immediately that connotes a negative. And there are actors — and we were that way years ago — where you take it personally. A good director says, “All right, I got that. That was interesting. Now let’s try…” Or “you did something before, do more of that.” It’s always about interesting, even if you didn’t like it.
You also know people that you can screw around with. I can mess with Maurice and other actors and say, “Oh, my God. Can you sober up and do it right?” But you don’t do that with people you don’t know and you don’t presume that your own self-aggrandizement is going to be accepted in a jovial way, you know what I mean? I would never presume that actors would say, “Oh, I know who you are, so you can mess with me.” I don’t want to approach it negatively. I want to make them comfortable, because ultimately then they’ll do whatever you want. Sean Astin, who’s an on-camera guy, is now a voice guy because he’s done a lot of this and trusts what we do. But Billy West and John DiMaggio and Maurice LaMarche and Tress Macneille are all like, “Yeah, let’s start playing.” And they have thousands of episodes between them. They know what they’re doing. You don’t have to tell them how to do it. Just say, “That’s great, would you try this?” and they’ll say “Sure.” So yeah, it’s not about being negative, ever.
ANIMESUPERHERO: For the both of you, how would you say the voiceover business for the actors has changed over time? Where is it now compared to where it was when you guys were starting out?
MAURICE LAMARCHE: There are more people doing it. I was told that in 1980, it was maybe 20 people doing all of it. When I got into it in 1985, the community had grown to maybe 40 people doing all of it. Now there’s probably a community of union actors, and I will differentiate between SAG-AFTRA union actors and all the people doing it in their basements around the country. And that’s just commercial and small narration voiceovers, and then there are the people in Texas and the right-to-work states who are voicing anime. There’s literally several hundred to a thousand of those people. At least a couple of hundred really working SAG-AFTRA actors.
There’s also a lot more product out there. When I started, there were three networks and a few syndication houses. Now, it’s all over the place. That means more work. However, most of the work is streaming and the streaming structure for residuals is not as lucrative as it was for a network show. So you know, in that regard, in a strictly financial sense, it probably doesn’t take care of you as well as it did in the 80’s, but there are more opportunities to work. That’s the upside.
ROB PAULSEN: It’s about volume.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: Yeah, and so we do get to go out there and read on more things, but there was a time where if you nailed a series, residuals were years and years and years. Now you get your money up front and hope that something comes through in the way of mailbox money later on. To be blunt about it.
ROB PAULSEN: But that’s right. It’s changed a lot in that regard.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: And the humor is more adult. There’s a lot more adult-skewed animation humor. Even on shows that will bleep it out, they say, “Use the f-word. We’ll bleep it.”
ANIMESUPERHERO: Obviously not on Turtles. (Laughter)
ROB PAULSEN: Definitely not. We do forget sometimes that we are grownups and we behave like children.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: We can’t talk about anything we’re working on together, except this. I’m lucky enough to be working on Matt Groening’s show Disenchantment, where we are putting together the finishing touches on the second installment of 10, and hoping very, very fervently for a season three. That’s been tremendous. I’m on this show, and hopefully more things to come.
ROB PAULSEN: We just got picked up for our second season of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I am doing my podcast which I’ve been doing for a while now. My friend Maurice has been on it I think three or four times. He’s my lucky charm. That’s called Talkin’ Toons, and it’s available on the Nerdist, and they have their proprietary content thing called
MAURICE LAMARCHE: Where you can see the video version of it where it’s basically a TV show.
ROB PAULSEN: Right. it’s a TV show, and we’ve been doing it for a little over a year.
MAURICE LAMARCHE: Rob’s got a desk and he’s interviewing people.
ROB PAULSEN: It’s the greatest. I’ve had all my friends on, and the people at Nerdist have been fantastic. We’ve been doing that for a year and change, we’re doing more of those. There’s also Animaniacs Live in which myself and my partner Randy Rogel are doing the music of Animaniacs around the country. Maurice LaMarche has been in the live show and will be in future live shows…
MAURICE LAMARCHE: I’m going to be in Houston with you guys.
ROB PAULSEN: Yeah. Houston in November. So go to AnimaniacsLive.com and you can find dates where we’re going to be doing it all over the country. Next year we’re already booked.
AnimeSuperhero would like to thank Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche for taking the time to talk with us, and the Nickelodeon PR team for the opportunity. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is airing now on Nickelodeon. You can follow Maurice LaMarche on his Twitter, and Rob Paulsen on his Twitter, his official website, and the links above.