If you’ve had a favourite cartoon character growing up, chances are Tara Strong has voiced him/her/it at some point in her more than three decade-long career.
Hello Kitty, Batgirl, Raven from ‘Teen Titans’, Bubbles from ‘The Powerpuff Girls’, Ben Tennyson from ‘Ben 10’, Twilight Sparkle from ‘My Little Pony’ and Harley Quinn are just a few names in her 500+ credits in TV and film.
Ahead of the legend’s appearance at the Middle East Film & Comic Con (MEFCC) at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 11-13, Strong talks to Gulf News tabloid! about her kookiest version of Batgirl yet, some of her craziest convention memories and the joy of watching girl-centred cartoon shows. Excerpts from an email interview follow:
Q: Your voice acting career has defined a lot of our childhood memories; your filmography is quite frankly, overwhelming. Were you always into comic books and geekdom or did the nerdy characters just happen along the way?
A: As a child I loved comic books. My favourite being Archie digests and comedic comics as well as some of the Batman and Wonder Woman comics. My dad had a WW2 museum, so I had access to some pretty great old comics.
Q: Tell us about how you got interested in voice acting.
A: I started acting professionally when I was 13 years old. I did not know voice-over would be my main source of income. I was interested in singing, dancing and acting in all mediums. My first animated show was the title role of all of ‘Hello Kitty’ when I was 13.
Q: You play so many different characters, both male and female, and you also play different characters on the same show. How do you get into the head space for each character in such a short span of time?
A: Once I create a character they live up in my brain and they just come down to play when it is their turn. The characters are creative collaborations between myself and the writers, creators and directors.
Q: In more recent news, the DC Super Hero Girls just reunited for #Sweet Justice, and on International Women’s Day, too! Can you tell us about the project and what audiences can expect from the show?
A: This version is really fun and adorable. The girls are kicking butt while learning about friendship. I think the thing that makes this show unique is that the stakes are very high for the crime fighting scenes but it is still comedic and geared towards a younger audience. This show skews older than the last iteration and I think will speak to a large age group.
Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from this show, seeing that it is about young female heroes?
A: I hope the audience enjoys the comedy and camaraderie and women empowerment. The girls are all colours, from different countries of origin, different backgrounds, different body types... this show masterfully teaches inclusion.
Q: You’ve played Batgirl countless times. What can you tell us about the particular spin you’re putting on her for this show?
A: This Batgirl is the silliest to date. She’s high energy, always ready to jump into action and very focused on friendships. She is much lighter in tone than previous iterations and insanely fun. She is the clear leader of this group of fabulous girls.
Q: As a frequent attendee at conventions, what has been the craziest fan moment you’ve encountered so far?
A: There’s been a lot of wonderful moments. I love meeting the fans. I love when fans tell me they’re grateful for what I’ve done, that my characters got them through challenging times, they thank me for their childhood a lot. Some people do crazy things like get my name tattooed and lots of people cry or pass out, but my favourite is connecting with fans and realising how much our shows mean to them.
Q: Could you ever pick a favourite character from all the roles you’ve played? Could you give us maybe your top five and why?
A: My favourite role I ever did was Melody from the ‘Little Mermaid 2’. I don’t know what little girl didn’t want to be the mermaid but to sing in the studio with the original cast was very surreal. Jodi Benson was the loveliest to work with. Other than that I love Bubbles from the ‘Powerpuff Girls’, Raven from ‘Teen Titans’, Timmy Turner from the ‘Fairly Odd Parents’, Harley Quinn and Batgirl.
Q: You’ve been in the industry for a long time and you have probably seen a shift in the way characters are written, especially when it comes to female characters. What is the most prominent change you’ve seen?
A: I think we’ve seen a real increase in girl-centred shows in general. The success of ‘The Powerpuff Girls’, then ‘DC Girls’,’ ‘My Little Pony’, all fantastic role models. Harley Quinn is a great example of a character initially submissive who over the years has found her own power and become a true force to be reckoned with. It’s so important to give girls strong female characters to look up to and I believe it’s happening. I’m grateful to play a role in empowering young girls as well as boys who will learn to respect women and treat them as equals.