Muppet talks to Wally Wingert, the voice of Herman Toothrot.Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Wally: I grew up in the midwest and moved to LA in 1987 to pursue acting and performing. I have three kids who live with their mom and step-dad in South Dakota. I now make my living from acting, voice-over, singing and performing. I'm single and absolutely adore women! (Anything else you want to know you can get from my bio page at http://www.wallyontheweb.com/)
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I'm working on "Invader Zim" which will premiere 3/30/01 on Nickelodeon and I'm the voice of the Pax TV network. I'm working with my manager on embellishing my on-camera career and am in pre-production on my new VO demos.
How did you end up doing voice-over acting?
I started in radio at the age of 16, and since I've always doing wacky voices, graduating into voice-over was a natural thing. I had a friend who knew an agent, and in 1991 gave her my tape, she liked it and I signed on with her.
Which do you prefer - on-camera acting, or voice-over - and why?
On-Camera and Voice-Over are two different animals. You have to convey a character with only cadence, pitch, and musicality in voice-over. You can't rely on the physical. Voice-over people are some of the best actors I know, because they don't need the physical to bring a character to life. I love both equally, but since I'm really into make-up, on-camera is a lot of fun!
Which was the first 'talkie' game that you were involved on? How challenging did you find it to provide voices for a computer game and were you pleased with the end result?
The first game I recall doing was the Lost World game for Playstation. Since I'm not much of a gamer I never saw the end result.But I bought a copy for my son and he seemed to like it. It was fun doing both human voices and dinosaur sounds. The thing about doing games such as Monkey Island, Lost World, Heretic 2, is that you have to record every possible expression the character will go through.
Part 2 - Escape From Monkey Island
How did you get the part as Herman Toothrot in Escape From Monkey Island (EFMI)?
I auditioned for the role of Herman like everybody else. Darragh O'Farrell, the LucasArts voice director said the thing they really liked about my Herman was his laugh. Herman was interesting because he had several different levels of amnesia. Sometimes he was just completely gone, other times he'd go in and out, and then there's the completely "normal" Herman.
Did everything going according to schedule, or did you find yourself being called be for edits, etc.?
In any voice-over situation, the voices are recorded first with the aid of a storyboard. Once the voices are assembled in the order they need to be, the animation starts. Sometimes the animators get ideas as they're creating that they couldn't forsee in the voice sessions. So the actors will be called back months later for "pick-ups", so they can record the new direction. Pick-up sessions are fairly common.
What does the average day in the voice studios for EFMI consist of?
My average day during recording consisted...
...The other actor finishing his sesssion
...The previous actor and I bs'ing for a little while
...Bs'ing with the cool guys from LucasArts
...Me hitting the guys at LucasArts up for Star Wars secrets
...We record for a few hours
...Me hitting the LucasArts guys up again for Star Wars secrets
...signing my union paperwork and bidding everyone adieu.
Herman Toothrot was one of several characters from the first two Monkey Island games who had not yet been 'voiced' but made an appearance in EFMI. Have you found this more challenging to act, seeing as a lot of people already have a voice for that character in their minds?
I hadn't really thought of the fact that Herman had been seen and not heard. I just gave him the voice I heard in my head when I looked at the model sheet.
Did you get a chance to meet any of the other voice-over actors, or were you just recording on your own?
I would run into the other actors as we would come and go to the sessions, but we never recorded together, or ensemble style.
What chance is there for ad-libs to be put into the game? Or are you working to a strict schedule?
Ad-libs for the most part are ok in standard animation, but because a game is so precise, sometimes they're not usable in that situation.
Was there a particular line from the dialogue that stuck with you as a favourite?
Since dialogue is recorded so far in advance of the actual release of the game (the animation takes a long time) it's difficult for me to remember any particular dialogue bites that stand out. The entire experience is so enjoyable as a whole that one standout thing is rare.
Were there any funny mistakes or stories from the recordings?
When I was recording the voice of Jason for another LucasArts game, I was heavily into Beavis and Butt-Head at the time. Darragh O'Farrell asked if I would record phone messages for some of the LucasArts staff members' voice-mail in the voices of B&B. We laughed ourselves silly coming up with messages, in particular one for George Lucas himself. I'm not sure if he ever heard it, but it was hysterical!
What were the hardest things about the job? And what were the best?
The most difficult thing about the job is voice strain. After a few hours of doing a raspy voice like Herman's (or Reti for the upcoming Starfighter game) I need to go home and shut up for the rest of the night so I can do my sessions for the next day. But I truly love it! The best thing about the job are the LucasArts people really rock! Darragh and Haden are feasibly guys that I would want to hang out with!
Are you a fan of the Monkey Island games outside of work?
As I said earlier, I'm not much of a gamer, so I wasn't aware of Monkey Island before my involvement.
Have you had a chance to play EFMI? If so, what did you think of it?
I have EFMI installed in my new computer, but haven't played it yet. (LucasArts was kind enough to send one to all the actors) I'm waiting for coaching from my good friend Dustin Diamond (Screech from "Saved By The Bell") who has been a Monkey Island fan from the very beginning of the games. He's been through the entire game and loved it! He would get to Herman's parts and call me up and leave the sound bites on my answering machine.
Part 3 - Other Work
You've done a fair amount of work voicing over E! channel profile programs (True Hollywood and Celebrity Profiles). Are the topics people you're genuinely interested in?
As far as the E! True Hollywood Stories/Celebrity Profiles go, I've been extremely lucky to be chosen to do narrations for subjects I really care about. I've been an Andy Kaufman fan since the age of 16, and performed his foreign man character since then as well. When the E! True Hollywood Story came up, I was initially cast to play Andy and Tony Clifton in the recreations. Then I auditioned to narrate it and was cast to do that as well! It was a dream come true. I've also known Adam West for 20 years and have always been a huge fan. So getting to narrate was another dream come true. I'm also an acquaintance of Wally George's, and I was lucky enough to do his ETHS too. Of all the stuff I do, the E! stuff is the work I get the most reaction to.
Of the advertisements you've voiced over, which was the worst experience (if there was one) and which was the best?
I hear all kinds of horror stories about actors doing vo for commercials, and being asked by the producers to do a million takes. I've been really blessed so far, because I have no personal horror stories in relation to the commercial work I've done. It's all been really pleasant. The thing that makes commercials different, is that you're usally doing it in a studio with just an engineer.
For the majority of the commercial sessions I've done, the ad agency people are on a phone line listening in from Chicago, San Francisco or one of the other major cities that are home to the big ad agencies. So I never really get to meet them in person.
I think my favorite commercial work is the storyteller from the upcoming VanKampen Investment spots. I got a really good feeling about the spots when we were recording, and I wasn't even seeing the picture that went along with it. I think they're going to be great spots when they hit the air.
Do you know if you'll be doing any more LucasArts voice-over in the future?
I would love to continue doing more stuff for LucasArts! I'm sure there will be some more pick-up sessions for the upcoming "Starfighter" game. I play Reti, a guy of the same species as Watto from Episode I.
What projects do you have lined up? Are you working on anything at the moment?
My current projects include semi-regular work as a utility player on Family Guy for Fox (which will be returning to the air in the spring) also the Invader Zim series, I've been doing a few episodes for a new Fox Family animated series called "Jason and The Heroes of Mount Olympus," in addition to my work on Pax TV and constantly auditioning for commercials, TV, movies, promos and animtion, my weeks stay pretty full!
I have to ask - who did you voice-over on Family Guy?
I play a myriad of different characters on Family Guy. I've been Dr. Kaplan (the dog's psychiatrist), The Pawtucket Patriot, Bert from Sesame Street, The Grinch, and a wide array of incidental characters. For the season closer, I get to play the voice of Peter Criss from Kiss, and I even got to sing! That makes 3 of the 4 Kiss members that I've provided voices for in various projects! As a Kiss fan, that's a hoot!
Do you like most of the stuff you do work on (King of the Hill, for example), or is it simply 'another job'?
I've always been a huge fan of cartoons since I was a kid, so getting to do animation work now is an extreme high. King of the Hill, Angry Beavers, Flik for Disney, Family Guy, etc...all the stuff really sends me! It's a big thrill for me to see my voice coming out of an animated character. I don't think that thrill will ever get old!
I heard you were voicing Monkeybone in the movie called - erm - Monkeybone. Can you tell us what the movie's all about?
I'm not doing the voice for Monkeybone in the upcoming film, that was played by a very famous actor who wishes to remain anonymous. But they needed a voice-match for that actor for the peripheral Monkeybone projects that he was too busy for, like the website. That's where I came in. Though I have seen all the Monkeybone scenes in the upcoming film (so I could study the voice more intensely) I'm not at liberty to describe any of the content. Rest assured it's very entertaining and wild, and Rose McGowan looks tremendous! GRRRRR!
What's been your most memorable job so far?
I've had a lot of terrific experiences in voice-over, meeting my idols Paul Stanley and Tim Curry, working beside some of the great vo actors in history, but the most memorable was the session for the Andy Kaufman E! True Hollywood Story. It was extremely emotional for me since I've been a fan for over 20 years. Andy and I used to correspond somewhat back in the late 70's. I was imitating him before anyone else and I think he was amused by that. I have a great hand-written letter and autographed picture he sent me. His girlfriend Lynne Margulies told me that Andy mentined me to her. So when the time came in the session to read the part about his cancer diagnosis I got emotional and couldn't continue. The producers understood and gave me a little break to collect my thoughts. That was an amazing night.
On the other end of the spectrum, I recently did an announcer voice on the episode of "Just Shoot Me" that Pamela Anderson appeared on. I was on the set that day, and let me tell you, watching her work was no difficult task! I also enjoyed working with the casts of Drew Carey (Drew's a monumentally great guy) and Murphy Brown!
Finally, If you could have had any role in existence, which one would you want and why?
If I could have any role in existence it would probably be to play Andy Kaufman or Jesus Christ. I've played both before in various circumstances, but I'd like to play them on a bigger scale. I don't feel that either subject has been accurately portrayed in prior projects and I'd like a shot. Of course, there's always that rockstar lifestyle I've dreamed so much about. Ha ha ha.