#sparkchamber 071618 — Colleen O’Shaughnessey
A delightful cast of characters filled the #sparkchamber today, brought to life by voice actor Colleen O’Shaughnessey. Colleen is best known for her roles as Tails on Sonic Boom, Wasp on The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Jazz on Danny Phantom, and Sora on Digimon. From Naruto to Doc McStuffins to Horton Hears a Who she can be heard on numerous animated series and features such as Cars, Toy Story 3, Ponyo, Monsters University, and Storks. She has also voiced multiple commercials, video games and toys.
In her own voice:
It’s a strange revelation discovering that your greatest skill that will turn into an amazing career is creating characters out of the voices in your head. I began giving voices to animals and babies as early as I can remember. The expression on their faces spoke to me somehow, and I felt compelled to lend them my voice, never guessing it was laying a foundation for my future aspirations. I adored Saturday morning cartoons, The Muppet Show and the Wonderful World of Disney as a kid. Essentially, they were my early training.
When one of my college instructors made the miraculous and astute suggestion that I pursue a career in voice over, it was an epiphany!
I moved to LA where I picked people’s brains, asked questions of anyone remotely involved in VO, put together a demo, took classes, pestered casting directors and agents until I had the right one and auditioned until I finally booked my first job as Skipper on a Reporter Barbie book. My first animated series was shortly after — Polly on The Kids from Room 402 on Fox Family. She remains a character near and dear to my heart. From there I branched into anime, commercials, animated features and video games.
It’s been a whirlwind adventure. I feel so fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love. I am grateful for every job I book and the wonderful and ridiculously talented people I work with. I still strive to create new and lovable characters. Every audition is an opportunity to discover something about my voice and stretch and grow. I welcome the challenge. And so, the journey continues…
1.] Where do ideas come from?
So, I do voiceovers. Most of the time I’m voicing an animated character, so my ideas of what that character sounds like come from whatever description they give me and ideally, a picture. If I see it, I know almost immediately what he/she sounds like, to me, of course. Part of the challenge is trying to figure out what they want so that you book the job, but the trick is to also let that go. You can never know exactly what they want. Most of the time they don’t know what they want until they hear it. This is a really hard question. Where do ideas come from? It’s hard to pinpoint where an idea comes from. I think ideas come from experience, observation, and then experimentation, things you hear, things you see that make you think of something else and lead you to build on that and turn it into something new. As actors, I think in a way, we all steal a little bit from each other and from people we encounter in the world and then strive to make it our own. I do a lot of kid voices, so when my kids were little, I paid more attention to other kids’ voices and mannerisms. Even though it’s voiceover, there’s a physicality to it. I don’t mean mimicking, because that would come across on the mic, but borrowing characteristics and blending them into full-fledged character. I think, also, my initial idea of a character develops over time with the help of the writing and the director. I’m only given a snippet of the script and a glimpse of the character. I don’t have the whole story. It’s truly a collaborative effort.
2.] What is the itch you are scratching?
I am scratching the itch of a kid who became completely absorbed in Saturday morning cartoons, the Wonderful World of Disney and the Muppet Show. Who ran around the house yelling, “Captain CAAAAAAAAAVE MAAAAAN,” sang like Kermit, karate chopped like Miss Piggy, had pickanick baskets like Yogi, and by college, was singing the soundtrack of the Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs in her dorm room. I get to perform and become different characters using only my voice. It doesn’t matter what I look like or how old I am or whether or not I can dance [in my head, I’m a really good dancer, by the way]. I can be a short, ethnically ambiguous, forty-something-year-old woman and play a yellow, 2-tailed fox who happens to be a 10-year-old boy. The best thing is I get my “acting bug” itch scratched, and I also get to be a regular ol’ mom. If I were doing television or movies, I’d most likely be on a set 10-12 hours. If I were doing theatre, I’d be gone every evening and afternoons on weekends. With voiceover. I work 2- to 4-hour sessions and make it to school pick-up almost every day.
3.] Early bird or night owl? Tortoise or hare?
Night owl who’s forced to be an early bird 5 days a week to get kids to school.
Tortoise in that I do take the time to pay attention to details and try not to miss anything; hare in that I am constantly going a hundred miles an hour, juggling work schedule with kid schedule and all of the life stuff in between — bills, laundry, what’s for dinner?
4.] How do you know when you are done?
When the director says, “Moving on.” When the show gets cancelled. I don’t know, are we ever “done”? I do most of my auditions from home and I could literally stay in my closet recording all day. I record, listen back, maybe record a 2nd or 3rd time and then force myself to send it. My first stab at it is usually my best. I have to just trust my instincts that it’s good enough, and if it’s not right for this one, maybe it is for the next one. I just did a job that they cast me from an audition I did 2 years ago. So, I guess I was done with that audition a long time ago, but it wasn’t done with me. I don’t ever want to be “done,” because that would mean hanging up my microphone and turning in my headphones.