Saturday, 21 November 2009

DEE BRADLEY BAKER: FROM CLONES TO QUEEN KARNIA

You've voiced all the clone troopers and quite a few creatures in The Clone Wars. Which types of voices offer more of an interesting challenge for you as an actor?

In a way these clones are the most normal thing I've ever done. They're completely straight ahead, above board, human characters. And that for me is an unusual project. When you look at the stuff I've done, I tend to do things that are just completely out there, or not even human in any way. So that's what I'm kind of used to doing even though it's just odd to do.

For me it's unusual to do something normal, and that's what the clones are. I like the clones because it's more straightforward acting. They're good soldiers, they're smart and competent, and yet each one is a little different. They have foibles. Some are less experienced, some are gruffer and some are turncoats. To make these guys a little bit different, and yet feel real and the same, is a real interesting and fun challenge.

That said, I really like doing the bizarre stuff like the Geonosian queen who emerges from the catacombs. There's a real thrill to doing something that's so bizarre and inhuman that's very gratifying.

How did you approach creating the voice for Queen Karina?

I have a lot of experience with doing enough weird things with my voice that I'm good at walking in, seeing some images of the character or creature, having it explained it to me, and then trying a few things that they like. In this case, they weren't really sure what they were going to do with it, so Dave Filoni threw it to me and gave me a shot at it. He told me what she's like, what she's feeling and the tone of the scene, and I came up with this crazed, kind of frightening and yet authoritative type of voice. He liked my first take right away. And a lot of what you hear in the episode is my first run at it. I also added in some screams to give it more realism.



It was interesting that you gave the queen a scratchy, horror-type voice instead of the traditional voice like Queen Elizabeth.

It's definitely more Ridley Scott. However, I don't know if Queen Elizabeth sounds like that when she screams. (laughs)

Why do you think fans will really enjoy the "Legacy of Terror" episode?

This is a really unique episode. The creative team of The Clone Wars is confident enough to tell different kinds of stories. It's not all just the politics of war, but you get these side stories that have their own flavor and feel that are very different from the other stuff they've put out. It's like a little experiment and detour. This story is not the typical Star Wars stuff that you've seen. It's got elements of horror in it that are unusual, and it's really cool.

Zombies are definitely popular right now, so it's fun to see The Clone Wars explore that genre. But the episode also has a lot of humor in it as well.

That's a really smart storytelling device. With Obi-Wan's light-hearted scientific take on what's happening, it lets the viewer know they don't need to get too freaked out. Obi-Wan's not afraid that everyone is going to die and he'll find a way to solve this, which is important because a number of these episodes in the new season are very intense and it's good to have a character that reminds us that everything is going to be all right.

Speaking of zombies, according to your extensive list of credits on IMDB.com, you voiced the zombies in Dawn of the Dead. How does one go about making the perfect zombie sound?

What a great movie! I got to work with director Zack Snyder when I did the ADR on the zombies. The zombie who gets a broom to the back of the head -- that was me. There was another zombie where his bottom half was torn off and he was crawling along the ceiling -- that was me. I did a number of zombies.

When I do these zombie sounds, I look first at what's happening on the screen and go from there. There are so many great zombie movies out now that are scary like Dawn of the Dead, and funny like Shaun of the Dead, and sometimes really moving like 28 Days Later. I'm also a big fan of the classic George Romero zombie films.

As a kid, were you really into monster and horror movies?

On Saturdays, I would watch Science Fiction Theater which you'd see a lot of vampires and werewolves and a lot of monster movies. I really liked Godzilla and worshiped Planet of the Apes. The first adult horror movie I ever saw, which has a lot of similarities in this episode, was Alien. I was into Hammer horror films and monster movies. And once the '80s hit with The Thing, American Werewolf in London, and Scanners, I was all over those. They remain as some of my favorite movies to this day.

There's not a lot of monster and horror movies out there that seem edgy enough for adults but still somewhat safe for kids without being hokey.

I think that's what is unique about The Clone Wars. I'm a dad and I watch it with my 9-year-old. There's really not a lot of shows you can watch as a grown-up with your kids and gladly do it. This is actually one. They're well-written, interesting and a lot of cool ideas come out with every episode. It's a story that's actually about something.



Who is your favorite character to voice on The Clone Wars so far?
In "Hostage Crisis," there was this bounty hunter special ops guy named Robonino. He doesn't sound human, just a bizarre little creature. But I like Queen Karina too. Also, I find that the clone who goes in a different direction always has a special place in my heart.

On your Twitter, you often let fans know what you've recorded for the day. It's pretty impressive to see your lineup of characters you're expected to come up with in one session. One day included you voicing a raccoon, a prairie dog, a squirrel, a vulture, a turkey, a hawk, a bear, a tin superhero, two giant monsters and two surfer dudes. That sounds like the best show ever!

What's cool about doing voice overs is that you can be on a show that has all those things. I think that day it was a movie where I was asked to do realistic animal sounds. Another was a Batman: Brave and the Bold episode where I did a creature sound. Finally, at the end of the day it was a Fairly Odd Parents episode that needed a giant tentacled monster that was devouring the world.

Are all these creature and character sounds already in your head or do you ever have to research sounds to build up your skill set?

I think because I watched so many monster movies all along I have a lot of ideas in my head -- not necessarily about the sound but about what the creature seems like. If I have that feel of what it seems like in my head then I can bring something up that will match that. I've been doing these sounds for over 15 years, so I know where to go into my head to pull out a certain sound. It's almost like a motor muscle memory where these sounds are.

You must be the best bedtime storyteller ever!

Actually, my daughter only recently let me do voices when I read to her. Before that she just wanted me to speak in my own voice. She's changed her mind now that we're reading The Lord of the Rings and I do all the voices.

When you're in the grocery store, are you ever tempted to make Rancor noises when you're in line?

Actually, when I'm in the produce section of my grocery store, there's a guy who works there who's a showoff like I am and he'll start making animal sounds, so I'll make animal sounds back. And we'll do that back and forth while I'm shopping for groceries. But in most cases, I give my voice a rest.

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