Published on April 20th, 2011 | by gareth0
Steve Blum Talks Transformers: Prime, Guild Wars 2, Bulletstorm & More
Steven Blum is a voice actor known primarily for his work in anime dubs and video games, using his distinctive baritone voice. He is best known as the voice of Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop; Wolverine from several incarnations of X-Men (animated movies, games; the Wolverine and the X-Men TV Series and The Super Hero Squad Show); Tom, the robot host from Cartoon Network’s Toonam; Green Goblin from the Spectacular Spiderman series; Heatblast, Vilgax and Ghostfreak from Ben 10, and the voice of 7-11, in addition to his impressive list of other characters from anime, video games, TV and film.
Currently he’s working on the new super-charged CGI series Transformers: Prime, playing the sometimes delusional but always deadly Decepticon Starscream.
How did you become involved with the new Transformers project and your character?
I prayed a lot, bribed a little, cried some. [Laughs] Actually, I just auditioned for it like anything else – and got really, really lucky! Starscream has always been one of my favorite characters – especially as played in recent years by the great Charlie Adler and also the great Tom Kenny! In fact, after hearing Charlie’s recent performances in the films, I felt I had to get his blessing before I could even accept the role! By the way, what a gentleman – love that guy! Tom’s a hell of an act to follow too – jeez! It’s very hard for me to take over a character that has been so masterfully portrayed – especially when my friends are the previous portrayers! I didn’t try to consciously copy anything that had been done before me, I simply did what came naturally and apparently (thankfully) they liked it!
What are the differences between voicing an animated character and a character for a video game? Do you have a preference?
I pretty much have the same approach in terms of the acting. I strive to try on the character’s skin and live as natural a life as I can while wearing it – even if it is highly dysfunctional. The primary difference is that in games, we don’t have as much time for development and finessing a performance. There are so many lines that need to be recorded, there simply isn’t time to do anything but lock in the character and start blasting away.
I love them both for different reasons, but I’d have to say working with a cast (like in Transformers) – is always more fun. We get to play a lot of nuance off of each other that just doesn’t exist when I’m in a room by myself. And we laugh. A lot. Sometimes too much. This cast in particular is amazing. I get a huge kick out of sitting back and watching Peter (Cullen) and Frank (Welker), the “Godfatherbots” themselves – duke it out. It’s a joy and honor to work in the same room with two of my biggest heroes! They ARE a comedy team. Like the old school, masters of improv and impersonation, the real deal. So much talent in that room, and an unusual mix of voices! It’s humbling.
How much time do you have to prepare for your film and game voice parts and how much information are you given on your characters ahead of time?
Most shows and games end up being a cold read. Little or no prep. Sometimes I have no idea what species or even gender my characters are going to be, not to mention dialects or ages! I’m grateful that the Transformers gang gives me the luxury of a couple of days to sit with the script and figure out where the story is going. I’m not in every episode, so sometimes I have to play catch up. I always do research when I can. Winging it is a huge part of the job though, and I don’t mind the challenge at all.
What sort of research did you do for the parts and what challenges did it present compared with other work?
I read a lot of stuff on the internet and watched an episode or two from each of the older series. I was already in my 20’s when G1 came out, but I was certainly aware that Transformers was something new and different and I have to admit that I did play with my kid’s action figures. I still do. Except I have my own action figures now. That counts as research, right?
What can you tell us about your voice work for the video game Bulletstorm and will we be seeing more of Grayson Hunt in the future?
Now THAT was fun to work on! It may be the winner of most allowable cussing in anything I’ve ever worked on. Physically, it was as taxing as some of the other action-heavy characters I play, but somehow session after session as a venom-spewing, potty-mouthed pirate was oddly satisfying. I was even allowed to abuse the players into buying the damn thing at pre-order! Genius! I hope we do more. Don’t know yet, but even if I did, I’d have to find 31 clever and stunning ways to kill you if I told you.
Any past game characters of yours we may see in the future?
I would suspect Wolverine may show up again somewhere and yes, others may reappear, but again, I don’t want you to die, so I can’t say anything more at the moment.
What can you tell us about your work in Guild wars 2 and the new Transformers game in terms of who you voice and what were your experiences on each?
Ah, Rytlock Brimstone, one big, nasty Charr – wields a huge sword and speaks in a gravelly, deep voice. That’s pretty much my entire knowledge of the guy. I’m not a gamer, so I play, I fight, I move on. Seemed pretty epic at the time.
If you’re speaking of the newest Transformers game – WAY too early to talk about it, methinks. Lasers trained on my temples. In the past, I’ve played a lot of bots – good and bad, including Barricade and Breakdown. Vocally stressful, but any time I get to live in the Transformers universe, I’m grateful.
Are you a fan of horror and science fiction? If so, what are some of your favorites?
Not as much horror as sci-fi, but I’ve seen quite a bit of both. One of my favorite horror bloodfests happens to be Re-Animator. I worked as a driver, shlepper, mailboy, slave for the production company that made it – Empire Pictures, when it was shot in 1985. The weird thing about that film is that the star, Jeff Combs, is now playing Ratchet in Transformers: Prime! I’ve been a huge fan of his for years. To get to work with him in this capacity is like bringing my life full circle. I was like a giddy 8-year-old when I got to meet him again, and actually work in the same room as an actor after all these years! Other stand out films from those genres would be the old classic Dracula, Frankenstein type fare and sci-fi goodies like the original Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Blade Runner, 2001, etc. Too many to name.
What can you tell the readers about your training in acting and about your big break in the industry?
My training was diametrically opposite to the way most do it. I was working as the film company driving-mail-slave by day, and as a crappy R&B musician at night. I had no intention of ever getting into acting. I never really had a “big” break. My break came in the form of getting to voice an anime monster ripping the limbs off another anime monster for fun, on a Saturday, for about 20 bucks and some food. My friend and head mailroom-slave driver Victor Garcia – a very talented actor – asked me if I’d like to try working on a crazy “Japanamation” project he was helping to cast. I was terrified, but said yes, because he said they’d pay me a little and feed me a couple of meals. I would’ve done almost anything for some food and a few extra bucks in those days. Anyway, the pacing of the dubbing seemed musical and natural, and I took to it well. They hired me for 26 episodes. I eventually dubbed human characters, and learned how to act over the next 20 years by just doing it and stealing technique from everyone I could. Not the easiest (or fastest) way to break in, but the pressure is minimal when you have no idea why people are paying you to fart and bark into a microphone.
If you can, tell the readers about your time on set and how you found the whole experience of making a movie vs. television. I know many people often say that they are surprised how much waiting they do while so much is going on.
I only worked on a couple of films – just to get my union card. I hated it. I couldn’t justify sitting for 14 hours, only to get up and do three lines – badly – and have to look good doing it. I haven’t done on-camera work since. I don’t like the mean casting process or the unhealthy competition it seems to instill in otherwise nice people. The voice community is much friendlier. And they don’t care how I look. I’ve never done on-camera TV. I’m way too lazy to memorize lines anyway.
What do you like to do in your off time and what sort of music do you like?
I like to get outside more than just about anything. I need to see some sky or trees or beach often or I go nuts.
I’m into hiking, swimming, biking, going on driving trips. I hang out with my girl, my animals and my kids and don’t socialize much. I’m pretty happy to just shut up and watch a movie. I talk a lot at work, so quiet = good.
I like all kinds of music. This week, its blues and some crazy dude who beatboxes while playing the cello. Groovy.
What future projects do you have coming up that the readers can look forward to?
Hmm…most I’m not allowed to talk about yet! In fact, I don’t think I have clearance to say anything about any of my new stuff. I do a lot of convention appearances where I often announce projects and frequently post news on my website (steveblumvoices.com), but at the moment I’d get in some serious trouble if I broke anything here.
What movies have you seen recently and what do you have on your to see list?
Just saw The Kings Speech, Babies and Inception. Looking forward to Thor, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, and if I’m drunk enough… maybe Arthur.