Before he touches down at Supanova, we spoke with the man of a thousand voices, Jess Harnell! Check out our wikkid interview where we chat about Crash Bandicoot, celebrity impressions and how to live like a rockstar!
Q: How did you get into voice acting?
JESS: “It’s funny, sometimes you get shot out of a cannon expecting to land on one trampoline but you land on the one next door. I always thought that I was going to be a rockstar. I grew up thinking that; I was always singing in bands and writing songs. I started being a studio singer, doing jingles and background music for TV shows and some movies. I’d be on the microphone in these sessions and just start throwing out voices. I’d read the script in a funny voice. People dug it, so they started getting me to do the voice-over too. I got called up to do an audition to be one of the voices on Splash Mountain, which is a ride at Disneyland. I thought it’d be cool to hear my voice on a ride at Disneyland, so if you go on that ride I’m basically I’m the only guy you hear! After that I did some Roger Rabbit stuff, and then I auditioned for a show called Animaniacs. 25 years later I’ve been doing this every day, it’s the best job in the world and I wouldn’t change a thing!”
Q: In terms of voices you’re great at nailing impressions. Is there a particular character or celebrity voice you like doing?
J: “I actually get hired to do celebrity voice-acting, which is when a celebrity can’t finish their dialogue for a movie. I come in and pretend to be them. My favourite ones are the ones with the weird voices and affectations. Some of my favourites are William Shatner, Christopher Walken or Adam West. They take the english language and mangle it in such a way that it doesn’t even sound like english anymore!”
Q: You’ve done so many different voices throughout your career. Do you have favourites?
J: “Wakko from Animaniacs, definitely. So many people come up to me at these conventions and say ‘Man, I grew up watching Animaniacs! That show is my childhood.’ When I was a little boy my favourite movie was The Wizard of Oz, and now Cartoon Network are bringing it back as a new series. I’m playing the Cowardly Lion, so it’s like a dream come true! I used to do the voice as a kid!”
Q: Have you ever dropped a voice in public, like when you’re ordering lunch or talking with friends?
J: “They come in handy when you’re doing drive-thru. Sometimes you’ll run into someone wearing a t-shirt with a character you play on it. I’ll have fun with that and drop a voice while standing next to them.”
Q: You voiced Crash Bandicoot in Skylanders and the recent N. Sane Trilogy. What did you do to channel your inner bandicoot?
J: “Crash is pure emotion – there are no words! He’s crazy, he’s nuts. He’s bouncing off walls and having a blast! You’ve got to figure out how speak without actually speaking!”
Q: You’ll be in Australia soon. Have you tried Vegemite before?
J: “I’ve had it before, and I’ve got to be honest with you I’m not a huge fan! This will be my first time in Australia, and I can’t wait to get there. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about your country.”
Q: You also play in a rock’n’roll band – what are your top tips for rocking out and living like a rockstar?
J: “The thing about being a voice-actor is that not a lot of people know what you look like, compared to if you were a TV or movie star. For me, I get the best of both worlds though. I dress like a rockstar, so when I go places people always think I’m in a big rock band and I always get given the best table in restaurants. As for living a rockstar, I always say, ‘Why stand back when you can stand out!’ If everybody else is doing the same thing, do your own thing! Live to the fullest, have a good time, enjoy yourself and never give up!”
Q: You’ve voiced a couple of Transformers throughout the years – if you could transform into any vehicle, what would it be?
J: “A Lamborghini Countach.”
Rock out with Jess Harnell at Sydney Supanova (June 16-18) and Perth Supanova (June 24-25)!