When you go to the movies and watch an animated film, or when you’re at home playing video games, have you ever wondered who the voices were behind all those animated characters we have grown to know and love? Or what it takes to be a voice actor?
We had the opportunity to speak to Roger Craig Smith, an American Voice Actor, who has lent his voice to various projects like Sonic the Hedgehog (in Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph, video game and film), Captain America / Steve Rogers in Avengers Assemble on Disney XD and as Ripslinger, the villain in Disney’s brand new animated feature film Planes. In addition to his work in film, Roger has done voice work as the role of Batman in Warner Bros video game, Batman: Arkham Origins. Over the past few years, Roger has done voice work for Cartoon Network, Microsoft Game Studios, Nickelodeon and Sony.
Roger, Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.
No, thank you. Thanks for having me on.
So how did you get started in voice work? I read your bio and it looks like you just jumped right in.
Well I guess there is an element to how the happy break of having somebody “discover” you in a class. I guess I’ll try and make this as quick as possible. I was always kind of a goofball in school. I wanted to be more of a ham than anything else. Was always sort of playing bit parts in plays and things like that. Did some musical theater as a kid. Got out of High School and thought I was going to be a drummer in a band and all that stuff and that didn’t really go anywhere. Ended up going to college and while I was in college I started doing standup comedy. On the advice of my High School theater arts instructor, who after hearing me do some standup said, “Hey do your characters. You were always the character guy.” I started doing characters and voices in my comedy act and started hearing more about people asking me who was representing me for voice over work and hearing less of “Hey we’d like to book you to do your wonderful standup comedy.” They weren’t saying that. So I started looking into it. This was the days when MapQuest ruled everybody’s computers and I got on and put in that I was going to Chapman University down in the city of Orange at the time and found a commercial voice over class in Burbank and then eventually I put together a real crude demo and put on a suit and tie and drove around to a bunch of different studios down in area of Orange County. Knocked on some doors and handed off a demo and the next thing I knew I was getting work here and there down in Orange County and then got more work in Orange County. And then I finally went, “You know what, I’m going to go and see if I can’t run with the big dog’s up in the LA area.” Then I ended up signing up Bob Bergens Animation Class. Bob Bergens is the voice of Tweety Bird and more famously Porky the Pig. And luck would have it, in his animation class was a woman who was auditing the class but she wasn’t really auditing for her own purposes as much as she was the booth director at Abrams Artist Agency and was looking for young men that could do animation voices as well as commercial reads. And she took a recording of the work we had done in the class that night to the agency. They took a listen, they called and set up a meeting, the next thing I know they called me a week and a half later and said we would like to bring you on-board. That was like, oh gosh, 7 years ago? They first started representing me.
That’s really great. I’ve seen, you’ve done a lot.
Thanks man. I’ve been very, very fortunate. I’ve been a very lucky guy.
Let’s talk about Avengers Assemble, Captain America is one of my favorite characters. How did you get that role and what was it like playing Captain America? To play an American icon like Steve Rogers?
I wish there was something more exciting with regards to how to “how did you get the role thing” other than just getting a call for an audition and I went in. We did some work on that. What’s it like to play him? It’s incredible. When I was a kid growing up I used to watch a lot of World War II documentaries and a big, big fan of old school aviation and things like that and I’ve always thought that was a fascinating time in our nation’s history and in global history. To be able to play a character from that era is awesome, but even more to be able to play a character from that era who is wrestling with what we have become is even more awesome.
The characters I’ve played in animated series and other voice over work are all great to play but to do something as awesome as Captain America… It’s an honor to get to voice this character; and especially for something as big as Marvel’ Avenger’s Assemble, I’m awestruck by the opportunity and it’s a blast because I like the fact that he gets to be the butt of jokes as well as he’s not necessarily the hippest guy in the room, he has a lot of integrity and does things by the book, likes to plan, train and execute the plan that he has come up with. It’s also fun to play against someone like Hawkeye who is snarky and sarcastic and be the guy who says “Now hold on we don’t do things that way we’re doing it… the right way.” There are a lot of different versions of the “right way” among the Avengers and how they handle things. The dynamic they are doing with this particular series is fun, especially between Iron Man and Cap, how they both approach things. Cap likes to fancy himself as THE Leader but in Avenger’s Assemble we definitely see the dynamic being played up between Cap and Iron Man, and Iron man kind of taking the reins learning to be a leader and Cap kind of standing back and saying, “OK this guy may not do things the way I do them but he has chops and integrity in his own way.”
Let’s now chat about your new Feature Film ‘Planes’. I got to see it a few weeks ago, and I loved it. I’ve always had a love for aviation. So how was your experience voicing Ripslinger?
To use the cliché, it’s a dream come true. I grew up in an area of Orange County where El Toro Air Base was nearby and I had planes flying over my house all the time. I was a huge plane buff as a kid. Use to go to the El Toro Air Show all the time to watch the Blue Angels. To be involved in anything Disney in my opinion is awesome. I love this company. I love what they’ve accomplished. I love their attention to detail. And yet to also have it be an animated film, to be a feature theatrically released, and be about airplanes and to be the bad guy has just been incredible. I kept waiting for so long to have them swap me out for a celebrity voice or celebrity name or that kind of thing but to have gone the distance in this role has been a dream come true. I owe so much to the staff who worked on this film, Director Klay Hall, Producer Tracy Balthazor and the casting folks over at Disney. It’s just been epic.
It really feels so surreal in so many ways, in my line of work, I’m very happy to be the guy that does the voice of the little pity in the background, the car that drives by. I’m happy being additional voices. Yet to have it go this far and be involved in this project is a dream come true. I owe so much to the people that worked on this project. It was an unbelievable experience. I think most people don’t really understand how much work is put towards a film like that. I’m quite excited for this project.
Did you get to work with some of the other actors / voices?
I did not, since I was there at such an early standpoint, from the table read, we are talking over 3 years ago now. They would bring me in every few months or so. There wasn’t much of a need or opportunity for me to come in to work with another actor. I’ve gotten to see Carlos Alazraqui a number of times who plays El Chupacabra, I know he’s going to be a very popular and funny character, I’ve seen him at a number of different sessions, but we didn’t work collaboratively. It’s just usually me by myself with the Disney folks.
Portraying Ripslinger, did you have any difficulty playing that character?
If anything it’s fun, I know its sounds awful, but its really fun being the bad guy. Like in Avengers Assemble, Captain America, he’s a hero. Even as a kid doing musical theater, I didn’t want to be one of the good guys. He gets to be wonderfully evil in so many ways, hes arrogant to a fault and very far away from anything I can every be as a cool factor in life. It was a blast. He’s the top of the game, best racer in the business and its fun to be the champ. Using his powers for evil. He was a pretty bad dude.
Check out Ripslinger in action:
So, what is the most challenging thing about doing voice work/acting?
It’s challenging in the fact that it can be intensive at times, sometimes you’re doing right brain, left brain stuff and you got to get the performance done in a short amount of time. Trying to stay healthy is the most challenging thing, you need to get a lot of rest. Sometimes that can cost you a job if you get sick. You make little sacrifices here and there, like not going to a noisy restaurant. I got to pick and choose my roller coasters, like going to California Adventure, I don’t ride Tower of Terror if I have to work the next day since I voluntarily scream on that ride. It keeps you on your toes. Trying to get the job is the job itself. You get to meet a lot of great and creative people. It keeps you on your toes. The work is the best part about it.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into voice acting?
This is funny, it’s acting is acting is acting. There’s a skill set involved with voice acting. If you’re thinking about going into voice acting, take some classes in acting first and foremost then take some voice acting classes. Get some education and knowledge under your belt. Really and truly have that perseverance, there is no doubt that luck will have a role in anything you pursue in life, but with this business, there is a lot of the right time, the right place. Unfortunately this is a business that if you’re not ready and you miss out, you don’t get a lot of second chances. Have belief in yourself. You’re always sort of adapting and thinking on your feet. Invest in your education and industry. Also introduce yourself to the people in the business.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Roger, we wish you the best in all your projects. We are looking forward to watching “Planes” on the big screen. To see Roger in action as Captain America, check out Avengers Assemble on Disney XD.
“Disney’s Planes” takes off in theaters on Aug. 9, 2013. And don’t miss our extensive behind-the-scenes look at “Planes” with a visit to Disney Toon Studios as well as a Spoiler free movie review! Coming soon to SoCalThrills.com!