During Atlanta’s DragonCon 2015, multi-hyphenate talents Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt took time out of their relentlessly busy convention schedule to chat with a small group of reporters about their ongoing and upcoming projects. Lowenthal, perhaps best known for voicing the title character in the Ben 10 series, has a huge list of credits that includes recent performances as Red Robin in the DC universe’s Batman Unlimited series. Platt boasts an equally impressive resume chock full of voice-acting roles in cartoons and video games, plus continuing work in films and television.
While Lowenthal and Platt certainly fielded a number of questions from fans of their voice-acting work at the convention, we got a chance to dig into a number of passion projects the married duo is involved with. Not only do they have a pair of graphic novels coming out – one about a Steampunk action heroine and the other about a traveling Romani girl – but they’re also involved in a number of charitable projects, including a campaign to provide unique voices via VocalID, and another to increase awareness of those folks who suffer from PTSD. Check out all that and more in the interview below:
Question: For Yuri, you’re currently playing Red Robin in the ‘Batman Unlimited’ series. How did that role come about?
Yuri Lowenthal: Red Robin was just another audition, like a lot of other auditions. I just lucked out and I got it. It’s a great group of people I get to work with. Roger Craig Smith and Will Friedle, and a bunch of guys. It’s fun! I love the DC Universe so much and to get to play iconic characters every now and then – I’ve never gotten to play Robin in any shape or form – so this was one of those little checkmarks on my nerd list of cool roles to play. I know there are many different Robins so I’ve still got plenty of chances to play other varieties, but it’s been good. And the show itself has an interesting flavor to it because it doesn’t go as dark as a lot of the things have gone, but while it’s kind of kid-friendly, there are a lot of nice little nuggets in there for people who have been fans of the universe for a long time. It’s been great.
You mentioned that this is a role that you’ve gotten to check off, so for both of you, what’s a dream role that you haven’t had a chance to play yet?
Lowenthal: That’s a long list.
Tara Platt: All of the roles we haven’t played yet.
Lowenthal: All of the characters I’ve loved from both the Marvel and DC universes.
Platt: Well, you’ve always wanted to be Batman.
Lowenthal: I’ve always wanted to be Batman, but I don’t naturally tend towards Batman. I tend towards Robin, but I did get to play Superman.
Platt: That’s true.
Lowenthal: Captain America would be awesome.
Platt: Captain America would be great.
Lowenthal: I’d love to play Moon Knight. I don’t know if anybody’s doing a Moon Knight animated series any time soon.
They should. It would fit with their Netflix shows.
Lowenthal: They should! It would be a good Netflix show.
You could star in it, not just voice it.
Platt: Well, you’ve always told people that you want to be the first American Doctor [Who].
Lowenthal: Yeah, I’d love to be the first American to play the Doctor.
Platt: Although we did get to do a fan film where you played the Doctor and I was the Companion, which was pretty awesome.
Lowenthal: Yeah, it’s out there. You can find it.
Both: It’s on the Internet.
Platt: I’m trying to think of who I would want to be.
Lowenthal: Any fairytale character.
Platt: Any Fairy Tail character. Any character from the 1930s. I would be Captain America, but as a girl. That would be awesome.
Lowenthal: You would be Topsy McGee.
Platt: Well, I play Topsy McGee already, so that’s not a character I haven’t done.
Lowenthal: That’s a character that we created.
Platt: Yeah we created a Steampunk action heroine.
It’s silent, right?
Platt: It’s a silent film, yeah. It was at the DragonCon Film Festival. It’s ‘Topsy McGee vs the Sky Pirates.’ And we’re working on the graphic novel, which is a different adventure. And then we’re in the process on several other parts of the world for Topsy to explore. It’s a really cool, female, strong, feminine…
Lowenthal: We’re shopping it as a show, a longer-form action-adventure show. So we’ll see.
Platt: We’re excited about that because our production company actually does on-camera things as well.
How did you guys decide to do a silent film as voice actors?
Platt: It’s funny. Before we were doing voice acting, we were already doing film and television and stage, so we’re actors who are most known for voice-over work, but when we started to explore the world of Topsy and this Steampunk alternate Victorian London timeline, whatever that is, we realized that, part of the fun was, the movies they would be watching at that time would have been silent film movies. Not that we couldn’t have pretended that they didn’t have Talkies then, but we loved the idea of actually making a movie that would have been something that they would have watched. So we decided that to live in that world more completely and fully, we thought that making it a silent film would be fun. So it wasn’t about, “Well, we do so much voice-over work…”
Lowenthal: “Now we’re just going to shut up for a while.” [laughs]
Platt: Yeah, it’s actually been a criticism from some people, because they were like, “We’d actually like the film better if you stopped doing the silent film at the beginning and then went into dialogue later.” So we debated on whether or not we should actually … It starts out very much black and white, very, very Silent Film, even the aspect ratio is tiny. It’s the old school 4:3, I think. As it moves through the film, it changes aspect ratio and it starts to add color, so things start changing as the world comes to life. The one criticism that some people said was, “Why didn’t you add the dialogue spoken into it as it went?” and we said that we had decided that was the feeling of it, so we didn’t. But we could always go back, because we are voice actors, we could just dub ourselves.
Lowenthal: That’ll be the next incarnation of Topsy.
Speaking of graphic novels, what are you enjoying about jumping over to that?
Platt: We started a publishing company five years ago when we put out our book, “Voice-Over, Voice Actor: What It’s Like behind the Mic.” So we were dealing with publishing and printers and all of the aspects that it takes to make a book, so utilizing some of those has been helpful in making the graphic novel, but making a graphic novel is a completely, totally new world than writing a more traditional black-and-white book.
Lowenthal: I’ve been writing for a long time and I’ve loved comic books for a long time, forever, but I had to learn how to write in a different way to write sequential art for a graphic novel. It’s been an interesting transition. Basically, we love storytelling, and sometimes we’re voice-acting, and sometimes we’re on camera, or doing theater, and sometimes we’re publishing books. What we’ve learned only recently is that we love telling stories.
Platt: And creating worlds.
Lowenthal: Yeah we love building worlds.
Platt: Using our imagination and creativity is fun. And so you just take whatever obstacles and hurdles of, “We don’t know how to do this…” and you go, “Great!” and learn how to do it because I want to play in that sandbox. Okay, how do I build a bridge to get there? And now you get to that sandbox. You just keep building bridges.
It seems like you have a number of projects going at the same time. I wanted to ask about how the VocalID campaign went, and also, what do you guys have coming up next that you’re in the process of?
Platt: We became ambassadors for a company called VocalID, which helps create unique voices for people who don’t have voices, whether through disease or birth defects, or whatever reason they don’t currently have a voice. You can think of Stephen Hawking; he lost his voice and now he has a robotic voice.
Lowenthal: That’s been sort of the default voice for a lot of people.
Platt: Even little girls will have the same voice that Stephen Hawking has. So as a way to create a unique voice for them, VocalID has created a system where you record all the different sounds, all those little bitty sounds through speaking sentences. You have to log about…
Lowenthal: 3,500 sentences.
Platt: To be able to say all the different sounds that might play out.
Lowenthal: They can then pull things and build voices for people. They take things that people have recorded, and each person gets a unique voice that sounds …
Platt: They take a sound or two from the recipient, whatever sounds that they can make, and they blend that with the donor’s voice, so that person gets a unique voice. We all have our own vocal print, just like we have a unique thumbprint, we all have a vocal signature, so that way they get their own voice, which is so exciting. So we did a VocalID drive, it lasted a couple weeks, and we had a bunch of donors which is very exciting. It takes some time, it’s an intensive thing, but it doesn’t cost any money so it was nice because you can donate something of you rather than being like, “Here’s my checkbook,” because we don’t always have money to donate.
Lowenthal: It was great because we were able to reach out to fans. A lot of fans are always saying, “Hey, I’d love to get into voice-acting. What are some things I can do?” And this was great because they have to sit in front of a microphone and record 3,500 sentences, and the response was overwhelming. We were really happy with how it came out.
Platt: Yeah, it turned out well. Honestly, if you or anyone you know wants to still donate, just because our vocal drive is done – we did a timed vocal drive – they still need voices. Much like the Red Cross is like, “Give us your blood!” whether a blood drive is happening or not, they still need voices.
Lowenthal: As for other things we have coming up … we get that look on our face of, “What are we allowed to talk about and what are we not allowed to talk about?” We’ve got the projects that we’re working on independently.
Platt: I wrote a book! A book about a traveling Romani girl, a gypsy girl. It’s an interactive book, so it’s not quite a pop-up book, but like the recipe cards pull out, or the instructions on how to hunt with a bow and arrow … it’s an interactive book, and that’s in process right now. It’s called “Zartana.” It’s not out yet, but stay tuned. On our website we try to give you as much information as we can.
Lowenthal: We’re trying to produce other things as well, writing scripts. I just produced a pilot for trying to normalize and civilianize post-traumatic stress in society, so it’s not seen as just something soldiers have, but also first-responders and people have been abused or grew up in an abusive household. We’re trying to find a way for people to not see any shame in getting help for that. What happened was I had heard that figure, that 22 American veterans commit suicide every day. I couldn’t live with that. So we put together a pilot for a show where we had four Marines and a Navy Corpsman who fought in Ramadi in 2004 come in and talk about their dealing with PTSD and how they cope, and what they can do, reaching out and talking to their fellow soldiers and saying, “Hey, this is something you can talk about.” We’re working on putting that together. You’ll be hearing more about that because I’m sure I’ll be looking for funding for that eventually. [laughs]
Platt: Each episode will focus on a different group of people. This particular episode was military but then there will be childhood trauma, things like that. First-responders.