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Interview - Margaret Dunlap

For some time I had been promising John Cook an article about what it was like doing voices for the Sev Trek movie. I would even periodically send him little notes saying, “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about that article I said that I would write.” Of course, the article was not forthcoming. However, with video release imminent I finally sat myself down for an interview.

Q: So, how did you get involved with this project?
A: I had once submitted a punch-line for one of John’s cartoon contests and wound up on the Sev Trek mailing list. So I got a message in my inbox one day that said, “Hey! I’m making a movie and looking for character voices.”

Q: And you auditioned and the rest is history?
A: No. I said to myself, “How on earth is he going to pull that off?” I decided it was completely unfeasible, deleted the message, and forgot about it. Two or three messages later John mentioned he was still looking for Tryhard and Cruncher. That’s when I said to myself, “Hey I do a good Troi!” and I emailed an audition to him.

Q: and the rest was...
A: A lot of back and forth trying to get useable sound quality on the recording. Eventually though, we worked out the technical glitches.

Q: Which voices do you do in the movie?
A: Well, if it’s female and it talks, I’m doing the voice. I originally auditioned for Tryhard, and the next thing I knew I was in danger of developing multiple personalities. Witness me interviewing myself. Of course, this is nothing on Wally who is doing so many characters that I am told he has hosted dinner parties for himself and run out of table settings.

Q: You were not told that.
A: No, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?

Q: Do you ever get the characters mixed up?
A: It’s always obvious to me who’s supposed to be talking. Hopefully the audience will be able to tell them apart. Seriously though, I would record lines in batches by character, so I’d get into Cruncher mode and do all of her lines, then switch to Tryhard or the Computer. Once, I sat down to do a recording session after watching way too much FarScape, and Tryhard came out sounding like Chiana. That was kind of creepy. I sent the sound file to John in case he ever decided to do a SevScape movie.

Q: What was his reaction to that?
A: He didn’t laugh at my Australian accent.

Q: What was the most difficult line you ever had to record?
A: I am not kidding about this. It was Dr. Cruncher screaming, “Eeeek!” I sent John some ten takes of that one. Usually, we only need three to five. I kept worrying that the neighbors would hear through the walls and call the police. Naturally, he went with the first one I had done.

Q: What was the most fun?
A: For sheer silliness, it would have to be recording different laughs for the characters. The whole idea making recordings to then send to the other side of the world to be put into a cartoon is so strange when you sit and think about it, laughter wasn’t hard to motivate. I also liked to amuse myself sometimes by sending John blooper out-takes or ad-libs on the scripted lines. Since I was three time-zones away from the nearest other cast member for most of the time we were in production, it was the closest I could get to joking on the set.

Q: How many lines have you sent anyway?
A: Does anyone really care about that? It was almost 250. About half of those are for Tryhard, the rest are for all the others. And those are just the useable takes.

Q: Is Tryhard your favorite voice?
A: Well, she was my first, and actually, I think the easiest. On the show, Troi has such a distinctive rhythm to her speech, once you’ve got that, anyone can recognize the voice. I had the most fun creating the voice for the computer. It doesn’t have many lines, so I played around a lot with more and less “machine” sounding versions.

Q: Do you use a lot of sophisticated equipment to make your recordings?
A: That depends on your definition of the word sophisticated.

Q: Well, what sort of equipment do you use?
A: My recording studio consists of a computer, microphone, Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, The Complete Works of Shakespeare and a towel.

Q: You’re kidding.
A: Yes, it actually involves two towels.

Q: Really?
A: You see now why laughter was easy to motivate.

Q: Any other thoughts on making the movie?
A: I got involved in this project a little over two years ago. In that time, I’ve worked with some wonderful and talented people whom I have never actually met, and they have listened to my voice but have no idea what I sound like in real life. It has been a joy and a privilege to help bring this very ambitious endeavor to fruition. I can’t wait to see the finished project.

Q: But wait, don’t you already know what happens?
A: I wish! John has kept this project so secret I’ve never seen the entire script, only the scenes where I’m doing one of the character voices. For all I know, those were not even the actual scenes. They could have been just random lines he needed me to record, and all the other characters’ lines had been made up to be convincing filler. I think the story involves space travel and a giant zit. I could be wrong about that though.

If you'd like to ask Margaret any more questions, post your question in the online form on the Interviews Page.

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