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Toonzone At MCM London Comic Con May 2015 – Hynden Walch Roundtable Interview

Adventure Time Nemesis
Princess Bubblegum and Peppermint Butler fight to save the Candy Kingdom.

On the Saturday morning of May’s MCM London Comic Con Toonzone News was invited to take part in a roundtable interview with voice actress Hynden Walch. Having risen to fame as Starfire in Teen Titans, she has returned to the animated DC multiverse a few times to play Harley Quinn and is perhaps currently most famous for playing Princess Bubblegum, the scientific and sometimes sinister Candy Kingdom monarch in Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. In fact Walch attended the session wearing a dress covered in characters from that show produced by Australian clothing brand Black Milk.

Adventure_TimeQ: In terms of your voice acting, because you have done some on camera roles, what kind of drew you to voice acting?

HYNDEN WALCH: I always wanted to do voice acting from the very beginning but it’s very geographically specific. You have to live in Los Angeles and I started out in Chicago as a stage actor. Then I moved to New York and did Broadway and slowly, finally I moved to L.A. and suddenly there was an opportunity to do voice acting but still even with the resume I came armed with it took a very long time to get in.

Q: So what would your advice be to any kind of actor who is looking into going into voice acting?

HYNDEN WALCH: I would say, and maybe my point of view is a little old fashioned because I didn’t come up in the age of YouTube, but you don’t go into voice acting, that doesn’t happen. You go into acting, you go into stand up, you go into performing, you become incredible at what you do. You can be an amazing animator or character designer that has great ideas that puts your stuff on YouTube and you and your four friends do all the voices and it can happen that way. But voice acting isn’t something you shoot for and go for, it’s gotta be a broader thing to begin with.

As someone whose been on so many hit shows did you know when you got that first Adventure Time script that it was going to become big, did you have a sense of it?

HYNDEN WALCH: Yes. I absolutely knew that was going to be galactically huge. I’d been a fan of the Frederator short. Did you guys see that? The pilot with Abraham Lincoln? [All journalists respond positively] That was such an amazingly brilliant little piece of animation that I knew it would be huge. I can’t believe that Nickelodeon passed on it.

So yes, I was so excited when I got called in for Bubblegum. It was like “Of all the auditions I do every day, this  is the one I want! Look at this one. Please let’s get this one.”  And it worked [chuckles]. So yeah, I was delighted to work on that show from the beginning.

harleyquinnassaultonarkhamQ. So you really seem to love playing Princess Bubblegum but you also play villains as well. Do you have a preference? Is there something fun about playing a Harley Quinn and playing a Starfire?

HYNDEN WALCH: Oh my God, YES! Are you kidding? Wouldn’t you think it was fun?  That’s the best part about animation, that I like so much better than any kind of ‘being seen’ acting is you can be anything.  You can be a bird and a baby and an old woman and a supervillain, like, all in one day. There are no limitations on what you can do except the sounds you can make and the way you can emote it.

Q. Talking about that, is there any kind of character you’ve found a real challenge of getting the voice right?

HYNDEN WALCH: That’s an interesting question. How it works in V.O. is it’s so immediate, it’s like a machinegun of creativity. You go in the room, you’ve read the script before although sometimes people haven’t even read the script, and they’ll say “Hynden, can you turn to page five. There’s a Romanian woman who grew up in Italy. We need you to do that right now, GO!” [All journalists laugh] And if you can’t do it in less than one second they’ll ask the next person in the room.  So it’s a little like “Boy, I better get this right on the first time”. When you go in for auditions there’s no way to really know what the producers want, at all. It’s just a stab in the dark. I used to tell classes I would teach that “Until you can read the producer’s sub-conscious minds and give them exactly what they don’t even know they want yet AND all the producers agree on just what that is, that’s the only way you can get every role.” But in the booth, doing an audition, you’ll have this idea of what it is and then they’ll throw something else at you which you have to do immediately. So in terms of time, you know, ‘is it harder for me to find certain voices’, I can’t remember because it all happens so fast [Laughs].

Q. Is there any way that you can read the sub-conscious mind of the producer?

HYNDEN WALCH: [Laughs heavily] “Are you p-sychic?”

No, there’s absolutely no way. You’ll get descriptions of the character in words, sometimes you’ll get pictures, sometimes you’ll get neither. Sometimes you’ll just get dialogue and it’s like “Well, what do they want? Good luck!”

Q. How do you prepare? Do you get influenced by listening to people outside and bringing it to life then and there?

HYNDEN WALCH: I love listening to other accents, it’s been really fun being in Europe for the last month. Being around other people is helpful, yes, but really what it is that’s most helpful in getting roles is having absolute confidence in the incredibly strange and embarrassing way you’re about to do this audition! Just going “This is the weirdest voice I can possibly imagine and you’re either gonna lock me up or I’ll get the show!” and very often it works.

Q. Were you always good at accents? Were you one of those people who just had a knack for it or did you just train yourself?

HYNDEN WALCH: Oh God. I always loved accents, just loved them. I tried to do them [laughs]. I’m not one of those actors that’s gonna say [adopts mock conceited voice] “Yeah, I can do every accent in the world.” Maybe I can. I’d have to listen and try it, it’s always something I love to play with. For a while there I was ‘Mrs. Accent’, much to my nervousness [laughs]. “You guys want me to do what?! What makes you think I can just pull that out?” So hopefully it came out okay.

NiaQ. You’ve obviously been in top class cartoons like Adventure Time and Teen Titans but you’ve also worked in anime. I was wondering if there is a difference between voicing a character where you just have a description and then having the Japanese version of the anime to work from. Is it more restrictive doing dubbing work?

HYNDEN WALCH: Yes. In original animation you’re creating the character and you’re collaborating with the artist and the writer and through synthesis that’s what the character is. That’s a lot of the reason why I’m like “No pictures, please”. I don’t wanna be seen because I don’t want it to be about [adopts mock tone again, gestures dramatically] “Look at me, Hynden! Look at me!!” No, NO! It’s about Harley, it’s about Starfire, that’s who it is.

Anime has its own system that I found kind of odd to get into. They don’t let you read the script, they don’t let you see the show… so when you go in you are blind.  You don’t know who you’re playing, what the scene is about, who you’re talking with- you’ve never heard the other actors in the scene we’re gonna do in English because everything is very separate. It’s just about very matching the lip flaps, just [smacks hand into palm with each word for emphasis] “Beep! Beep! Beep! Do it.” Now that’s fine if you know who you’re playing and what the scene is about. It gets a little strange when you’re not privy to those two things and you can ask questions but it’s like “No no no, you’re slowing it down! Just do it!”  “….Who am I playing?!” You can kind of go “Okay…it’s a little girl…” and you can kind of get the emotion in the Japanese track but you don’t even know the end of the scene.

So, original animation you get to read it, collaborate, add to it, improv, all this stuff that’s really organic.

Q. Do you think you have more freedom with your characters when it’s original animation?

HYNDEN WALCH: Utterly! They animate to us [chuckles]. We record the voice track first, then it’s animated. So yeah, we have a lot to do with the creation.

TTG_Action_2TOONZONE NEWS: Making Teen Titans Go! reunited you with your fellow main cast following on from having returned for the New Teen Titans shorts on the DC Nation block.  As shows aren’t usually revived in that way, what was it like to be back together?

HYNDEN WALCH: It was heaven! I love those guys, they are my superhero brothers and sister. Khary and Scott would bail me out of jail, help me move into a six-storey walk-up on a Sunday …[laughs]. It was bliss. We’d all been really hoping the show would come back and we had a lot of fans writing us saying “Bring it back!” …We have no say, no power in any of that. But we were delighted to hear that Sam Register wanted to bring it back. What Warner Brothers Animation does, you might have noticed with every incarnation of the Batman, it’s never the same twice. They’ll recast, they’ll give it a different tone like Batman: The Brave and the Bold was very different from Batman: The Animated Series [laughs]. The plan was to do that with Teen Titans but keep the cast together. So we were all delighted and we’ve been having a lot of fun with the comedy, actually. My cast is so talented, it’s just great to see all the things they can do.

Q. Do you have a favourite incarnation of the show?

HYNDEN WALCH: I love them both. They’re both Starfire which means they’re both me. All my cast, they’re very close with their characters which means we’re watching out for them too. It’d be like “Uh, she wouldn’t say that.”

We got used to the change and the writers, Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic are killin’ it! What they’re writing now on Teen Titans Go!…oh my goodness. It’s such high satire, it’s absolutely brilliant. So, I like them both.

Q. Out of all the characters you’ve voiced is there one you think “That’s me” and relate to?

HYNDEN WALCH: Wow. Well, they’re all kind of me except possibly Madame Rouge or maybe most Madame Rouge! [laughs].

They have to be me or I couldn’t do it. I’m not someone who can just fake it, I have to actually feel it. You know, no ‘marshmallow head’ reads.

Q. Is that the same when you go for an audition? If you don’t feel a connection with the character would you not do it?

HYNDEN WALCH: Well I would give it a shot because most of the time they’re gonna say “We know you. Come back for a call back, we have a slightly better idea of what we want now.” So I’ll be like “Here’s my…[laughs] throwing at the dart board blindfolded!” and they’ll say “Yes, we know your career so come in and try it this way. “ So yeah, I’ll go in for everything.

Q. You’re on two very big shows that run concurrently. Do you feel as a vocal artist you have the freedom to do that? Could you take on another show.

HYNDEN WALCH: Oh, bring it! Yeah, for sure! I’m doing four or five shows right now so, yeah, all good.


Toonzone would like to thank Hynden Walch for talking with us and MCM London Comic Con for arranging this interview session.

Both Adventure Time and Teen Titans Go! air daily on Cartoon Network UK