You have a very distinctive and recognizable voice. Was there a point in your career when you realized that your voice could be your ticket?
Well, I was on stage singing at Carnegie Hall one day … no, that never happened. Up until 10 years ago, I never did any voice-over work. A lot of folks would say, every now and then, “You could do radio, you could do cartoon voices.” I always thought it would be fun to do. It’s a tough little world to get into. It’s very competitive. It’s certainly more of a microcosm in the industry. It’s a tight little walled-up world. I got the opportunity because we had neighbors, and one is a voice-over actor, and the other one worked in the agency. So I went in to just take a meeting there, and I got some great opportunities that first year, and it helped get the ball rolling. And I’ve been doing cartoons ever since.
It’s fun to do, especially when you’ve got four kids. I do Adult Swim stuff, which the older kids like, and I still do the Disney stuff, which has always been a big deal to me, because Disney was a huge part of growing up for me, and I’m a total geek. I love Disney as much as any straight guy could ever love Disney. I still believe it’s the happiest place on Earth. Yes, there’s that part of Disney that’s a mega-corporation, but I don’t believe Disney’s ever lost the heart of Walt Disney, or ever will. I believe that it exists there. The inspiration for Disney and what it was originally -- there’s a heart and soul to it that is still there now, even though it’s huge and expansive and owns networks and whatnot. It’s still Disney. So I love working for Disney.
Was there an adjustment period for you to doing voice work after having done on-camera work for so long?
Not so much. Contrary to popular belief, you record by yourself -- you’re not recording with the rest of the cast. You’re isolated in a sound booth recording by yourself, and every now and then you’ve kind of got to wake yourself up and animate your voice, because there’s really no one there to smack you in the face and say, “It’s getting a little sleepy in here.” Everything is in the voice when you’re doing animation. It’s all in the voice, so you sort of have to use your imagination to put yourself in the situation and wake it up a little bit. Because you’re not on a set interacting with somebody. There’s a slight adjustment, but it’s not that big of a deal. If you want to do voice-over work, it ain’t rocket science. I don’t want to say anybody can do it, but I feel like just about anybody could do it, if you just go in there, have fun, use your imagination.
It does help to have something of a unique voice. I never looked at myself as having a unique voice. You always just feel like, “Well, that’s just the way I sound.” Everybody sounds differently, and this is the way I sound. I’m glad people like my voice. Sometimes I can’t figure out what that’s all about. Nobody really loves their voice. I hated my voice. Every time I’d leave an outgoing message on a phone machine, I’d redo it over the course of half an hour. I never liked the way I sounded.
Is it tougher for you to get in character for a cartoon role or even a cartoony live-action role like the Tick than it is for something more realistic like Rules of Engagement?
It’s almost more inspirational. It is more inspirational, I’d say, with the Tick. Because once you grasp or realize who this guy is, the fact that you’re inventing a world and an atmosphere and a persona that, really, his past is a mystery. So everything that he looks at or perceives can be brand new, and he can get really, really excited and intrigued by something that’s just a commonality for everybody else, that’s humorous. He’s like a child; everything’s new. So you just bring that attitude to him, a childlike attitude of discovering things.
Yet you’ve got this great writing, where everything’s mixed metaphor, and he’s articulate, and he describes everything in a new way. It’s inspiring as an actor to be able to go to that place. Anything you do is not going to be wrong. All you’ve got to do is just be inventive with this character and have fun. That’s the definition of an ingenious character. To get to step into the shoes of the Tick, I just felt that was an honor. Once again, I will reiterate that Fox apparently didn’t have a clue.