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Despite nearly 600 voice roles in her prolific voiceover career, Loki star Tara Strong still had to audition for her fan-favorite character Miss Minutes. Strong was initially tasked with bringing the Time Variance Authority’s animated mascot to life in its Jurassic Park-inspired orientation video, which brought Loki up to speed on his current predicament. But in episode two, Miss Minutes even took the form of a hologram that briefly interacted with Loki. So despite her vast resume, Strong was more than happy to audition for such an enigmatic character.
“It’s actually quite surprising for many people to learn that most voice actors — even ones who’ve been in the business for 30 or 40 years — often audition for parts they’ve already had,” Strong tells The Hollywood Reporter. “You have to constantly keep proving yourself in auditioning for new studio people and new showrunners even though they may have hours and hours of tape on you for a character you’ve already done. So I’m happy to audition, and thankfully, it worked out.”
While she can’t say much about Miss Minutes’ future, Strong can confirm that we haven’t seen the last of her.
“I can cryptically tease that you’ll see her again,” Strong shares. “There’s much more to be revealed, and it’s fun to watch that unfold. The beautiful thing about this character is you don’t really know who she is, where she’s from, what her origin story is, how sentient she is, if she has a horse in this race at all, and what her intentions are, if any. Like any good, exciting adventure, TV or film, you are left wondering that all the time. So she’s an intriguing character, and that will continue.”
When Loki director Kate Herron revealed to THR that Miss Minutes’ introduction video was inspired by Jurassic Park‘s Mr. DNA cartoon, most viewers assumed that Strong’s Southern accent was paying homage to the Southern accent of Mr. DNA, but that wasn’t the case.
“I didn’t even know that until I saw Kate Herron talking about it in an interview,” Strong reveals. “I didn’t even make that connection initially when I first started seeing some of the footage. But it is a fun comparison because they both have this juxtaposition of very high-end, modern technology with very basic, classic ’60 and ’70s animation.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Strong dives even deeper into the audition process for voice roles, and then she explains why she wants more synergy between live-action and animated comic book properties.
Since you have a few voice roles [nearly 600] under your belt…
(Laughs.) Just a couple.
I have to imagine that you just got a phone call for Loki‘s Miss Minutes.
I had to audition! It’s actually quite surprising for many people to learn that most voice actors — even ones who’ve been in the business for 30 or 40 years — often audition for parts they’ve already had. You have to constantly keep proving yourself in auditioning for new studio people and new showrunners even though they may have hours and hours of tape on you for a character you’ve already done. But this character, since it was new, needed an entire audition process because I think they were in search of what felt best for this character. So I’m happy to audition, and thankfully, it worked out. (Laughs.)
How much did they tell you?
Normally, for an audition, they’ll give you a drawing of the character, a character description, sides and some backstory into their world, but we really got very little information. I called my agent after I received the packet, and I was like, “Um, can you tell me anything else about this character? Is she sentient? Is she A.I.?” And my agent was like, “I don’t really know.” So nobody knew what it was because it was so top secret. In fact, I didn’t know what it was until I booked it, which, of course, was very exciting. So based on the information that I had, I laid down three different versions in my home studio. I always do the preliminary audition in my home studio. Sometimes, it’ll take me 5 minutes, and sometimes, it’ll take me 3 hours to get it exactly right, knowing that there’s hundreds or thousands of people vying for one role. So I’ll think about what’s going to separate me from the other people and how I’m going to give them something special that they’ll glom onto. For this one, there were three different versions: one of them included an accent, one was a little bit more A.I and one had a little more emotion attached to it. Obviously, once I saw what it was, it made sense that they were keeping it on the DL.
Did they inform you at some point that they wanted an homage to Mr. DNA from Jurassic Park?
No, they didn’t! In fact, I didn’t even know that until I saw Kate Herron talking about it in an interview. I didn’t even make that connection initially when I first started seeing some of the footage. But it is a fun comparison because they both have this juxtaposition of very high-end, modern technology with very basic, classic ’60 and ’70s animation. So it’s this beautiful mix of things that just somehow seem to go together to create this visually stunning and exciting world, as well as the voiceover behind it. It just all seems to go together to create this enigma. Who is she? Where is she from? What’s her origin story? Why does she look like she’s from the ’70s but she knows everything from the future. It’s really cool.
When it came time to record in earnest, you must’ve been baffled by what you were reading, but then again, you’re probably used to it.
Yeah, and I’ve done several voices with similar descriptions and similar varying levels of A.I. I was the voice of the singing refrigerator [Bridget] on an episode of Modern Family, and initially, they wanted it very Siri-like. And then we added a little more attitude to it. So I’ve done that sort of thing several times, and I know how to manipulate my voice enough to sound like A.I. It’s that sound where you question whether there’s actual emotion behind it. Miss Minutes is such an interesting character because initially you think she’s just someone who’s giving exposition on what happens to you when you get to the TVA. But by episode two, you realize she’s got a little attitude. So she’s a lot of fun to play with.
Before live-action comic book stories became a global juggernaut, animated comic book movies and shows were a primary frame of reference for a lot of these characters. So I’ve always felt that there could be more synergy or crossover between live action and the animation/voice acting community. Are you hopeful that your role as Miss Minutes can help bridge that gap?
That would be pretty wonderful. It is true that voice actors and legacy voice actors — who’ve been at it for so long and are so brilliant at bringing characters to life just with their voice — get passed over for on-camera celebrities that maybe the casting director wants to meet or because someone thinks they’ll bring big box office. If you were to record two very big animated features, one starring on-camera people and one starring people who’ve been doing voiceover for a while, you would definitely hear the difference in the little idiosyncrasies and other things that we know how to do in order to bring this action to life. Overall, there certainly is plenty of crossover when you look at someone like Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, or my favorite, Mark Hamill, who’s brilliant at doing both on-camera and voiceover. But then you do have the A-list celebrities who will come in for an animated session and freak out when they see what everyone else does. Of course, it’s still acting, but it’s a different form of acting. It’s like asking a tap dancer if they do ballet. It is wonderful that the Internet has given voiceover actors a lot of love that maybe their predecessors never knew existed. Now, people can look up who their favorite voiceover actor is, and when I go to a comic con, I’m treated like a superstar who people know. It’s wonderful to be able to give back to those fans, and give hugs, and hear stories about how shows shaped their childhood or brought their family together or got them through a depressing time. So that kind of stuff has been really nice. I certainly didn’t anticipate Loki being so huge, and the reception to Miss Minutes being so wonderful and so loving right out of the gate. So maybe this will give networks [and studios] pause, so they think, “Hey, let’s give one of the voiceover actors a shot at this role. Maybe it’ll be more fun than so and so from The Office. Just for this time, let’s see how this goes.” (Laughs.) If somebody suits the role and does a great job, they should be granted that role regardless of how many Twitter followers they have or how many episodes of an episodic they’ve done.
Loki director Kate Herron said that Miss Minutes is about to go on an “interesting” journey. So what can you cryptically tease about Miss Minutes moving forward?
Well, I can cryptically tease that you’ll see her again. (Laughs.) There’s much more to be revealed, and it’s fun to watch that unfold. When you see the first episode, you think perhaps that she’s just a recording on a screen, but in episode two, we see that she can become a holographic form and interact with Loki. He even responded to her and asked, “Are you a recording, or are you alive?” And we still don’t know. The beautiful thing about this character is you don’t really know who she is, where she’s from, what her origin story is, how sentient she is, if she has a horse in this race at all, and what her intentions are, if any. Like any good, exciting adventure, TV or film, you are left wondering that all the time. So she’s an intriguing character, and that will continue.
She got her own character poster, so that’s usually a sign of importance.
She did! And she has her own Twitter! She also has the cutest emoji hashtag I’ve ever seen in my life. (Laughs.)
When Morgan Freeman gets hired for voiceover work, he’s hired to do Morgan Freeman. So what percentage of your jobs ask you to invent a voice, versus using something that’s trademark Tara Strong?
That’s a very good question. Like I said before, they’ll give you a drawing of the character and some backstory into who they are. And then you, as the voice actor, have to try and imagine what production had in mind for this character. With that said, you have to be free to let something organic come to you and take chances. Sometimes, things don’t happen until the very last minute. My favorite example of that would be Teen Titans. When I first read for that, I was already doing five tragic teenage girls: Batgirl for the same network, Ingrid from Fillmore!, Kylie from Extreme Ghostbusters and Shareena Wickett from Detention. I was like, “Gosh, I have to make each character different, but I’m not sure how to make Raven stand apart from the other similar descriptive personalities.” So when I read for Raven, I just put myself in the acting mindset of where she was, and I read the part. And when I walked out of the studio, I passed the booth where the engineer, director and writer were sitting. So I turned to [casting director] Andrea Romano, who I’d been working on Batgirl, and said, “I just had this other idea. Can I try something else?” And she said, “Sure.” So I went back in and that’s when I had this idea that Raven had this weird little roll every time she spoke. So that was not something I planned when I first walked into the studio. You have to be unafraid to try something new and different, and to also be malleable to what production wants. Sometimes, they’ll really love what you did, but then they’ll want her to be older, or missing teeth, or have headgear, or Southern. (Laughs.) So you have to be ready to jump right in and try all kinds of different things until it lands right into the pocket of what works for that voice.
Would you perform your voice roles the same way in live action? Or would you use less inflection?
More than likely, it would be less broad because the cameras are there. On an animated show, if the line is “Whoa!” and your character sees a hot guy or is falling off a cliff, you have to know how to bring that action forth with your voice. When you’re watching something on-camera unfold in front of you, you don’t have to tell the audience so much with your voice. If you’re doing a sitcom, it’s going to be bigger than if you’re doing a single-camera drama. I just worked on a series for 6 months in Toronto, and my character was basically an on-camera Harley but as a drug-dealer mom. It’s a show called Pretty Hard Cases. And it wouldn’t have worked if I played her as broad as animation. With that said, if I got to play actual Harley Quinn as a mom, it would be bigger than that, but probably not as big as an animated thing. It would be somewhere in the middle. Even within animation, you tweak your level of performance based on the world. For instance, I’ve done many iterations of Harley where she’s the high school girl, or in some cases, she’s even darker than Joker. So you have to know the world around you. Some of the best actors that sustain long careers are very highly aware of what environment they’re in at each moment. So the show or the movie really dictates the level of performance.
Loki is now streaming every Wednesday on Disney+.
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