Are you a fan with a question for Mike? Spectacular! Mike loves answering questions, but Mike doesn't love answering the same question over and over. So if you'd be so kind, please check here to see if your question ranks as a Frequently Asked Question. [Some of these questions and answers were lifted from an interview Mike did with Andrew Paulson on July 27, 2008 for The Sonic Scene, and subsequently fleshed out a bit.]
- YOU STARTED VOICING DR. EGGMAN IN THE SONIC X SERIES BEFORE THE GAMES, HOW DID YOU END UP GETTING THE ROLE ORIGINALLY?
4Kids acquired the rights to dub Sonic X, and the production team for the series, with whom I'd previously worked on Kirby Right Back At Ya, were apparently very keenly interested in having me as Dr. Eggman. SEGA evidently needed a lot more convincing, so after what seemed like an endless series of auditions and callbacks, I finally won the role. A few weeks into the production, the producers casually mentioned that they still needed to cast Ella, and half-jokingly asked me to try. Sure enough, I ended up getting her role, too! I still find that hysterical.
- HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE VOICE FOR DR. EGGMAN? DID YOU RESEARCH AND LISTEN TO PAST EGGMAN/ROBOTNIK VOICE ACTORS SUCH AS THE LATE DEEM BRISTOW?
I was originally given clips of Deem Bristow to try to match. After the first few episodes, the voice sort of settled and became a little less Deem and a little more me as I realized staying deep down in Deem territory would make it tough to play the comedy of the scripts. The director suggested more pitchy peaks and valleys to the voice, in the style of Martin Short's character, Jiminy Glick.
- HAVE YOU WATCHED MANY OF THE OTHER SONIC THE HEDGEHOG CARTOON SERIES? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE OTHER VOICE ACTORS WHO HAVE VOICED DR. EGGMAN BEFORE YOU? SUCH AS JIM CUMMINGS FROM THE SATURDAY AM SONIC SERIES, OR LONG JOHN BALDRY OF ADVENTURES OF SONIC THE HEDGEHOG. BESIDES YOURSELF, WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE?
I haven't gone out of my way to seek out the others, but I did stumble upon reruns of the Saturday cartoon during a hotel stay a few years back. I was surprised at how different it was. I'd say Cummings is probably my favorite, only because his résumé is as long as your arm, and his soundalike replacement work for Disney is phenomenal. As I pride myself on my own versatility (going from Eggman to Ella, for example) I admire Mr. Cummings' volume of work, and am honored to have shared a character with him. He's probably never heard of me.
- WHAT ARE YOUR OWN PERSONAL THOUGHTS OF THE CHARACTER OF DR. EGGMAN AND THE SONIC THE HEDGEHOG FRANCHISE? ARE YOU A FAN OF THE SERIES YOURSELF OR JUST A FAN OF THE CHARACTER YOU VOICE?
I wasn't familiar with it before I got cast, but I've since grown quite fond of it. I knew it was staggeringly popular, so I was honored to become a part of it. I'd watch it on Saturday Morning but found the plots a little confusing, so I'd mostly watch to see how my own performances turned out. I love to see how the finished products turn out, but I'm narcissistic enough to pay special attention to the characters I've done.
- IS THERE A SPECIFIC SONIC X EPISODE OR STORYLINE YOU ENJOYED THE MOST DOING?
Not specifically, but I liked certain moments like when Eggman would break the so-called fourth wall and address the audience directly. I remember one episode in which he took a phone call from a "viewer." I also liked the moment in one of the later moments when he got to show his tender side to Chris, with a sincere "so long, kid." Nice to be able to show some depth and other dimensions to the character.
- HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO VOICE ACTING? HAS IT MOSTLY BECOME YOUR MAIN CAREER OR DO YOU ALSO DO OTHER UNRELATED WORK?
I started in radio in Upstate New York back in the 80s. When I came back to New York in the 90s, I had enough of a character demo tape to send out to producers and managed to book a kids' video, an anime and an episode of Pokémon. Things pretty much snowballed from there. After toiling for years for various radio stations and a radio syndication company, writing for their show-prep services, the changing radio industry eventually decided I shouldn't be doing that anymore so voice acting is my full-time gig at the moment. But I'm always usually working on something, be it a commercial, animated series, audio book, industrial or medical narration, or some other video game project. As a freelancer (as most actors are) I'm constantly auditioning for any voice-work for which someone will pay me.
- HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO GET INTO VOICE ACTING?
As a kid I wanted to be in radio, which is kind of voice acting, but as the years went on, I realized the opportunities available as a freelancer for many studios rather than just working for one radio station. That realization began during my radio career when I was asked to do stuff that wasn't produced in-house at the stations. Mind you, if I found another radio job, where I could spend lots of time behind the mic, I'd seriously consider taking it. But as a kid, I did lots of school and community theater productions to get those basic acting skills under my belt. I've loved theater from the first time I hit the stage as a toga-sheet-wearing Roman in third grade.
- WHO OR WHAT WERE YOUR VOICE ACTING INFLUENCES GROWING UP?
Every cartoon I ever watched and every children's record my Mom ever bought me was an influence. Those records, and old-time radio dramas and comedies, really gave me a chance to focus on other actors' strictly vocal performances. I was a big fan of Mel Blanc and his legendary voice work, as well as the cast of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. I learned about characterization and comedy timing from listening to them, and could even recognize the bad acting of some of the kiddie albums and figure out what not to do. There were also some very versatile voice talents on New York radio, among them: Gene Klavan, who would fill his show with a plethora of imaginary characters which he would voice in real-time. Also, listening to national talk radio shows and hearing all the regional accents from around the country help train my ear to pick apart local dialects.
- WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN DOING VOICE WORK FOR A CARTOON SERIES (SONIC X) AND THE VIDEO GAME SERIES? IS THERE MORE WORK INVOLVED IN A GAME THEN IN A EPISODE OF SONIC X?
The games are more disjointed. The cartoons have a linear plot that you can follow, more or less, but the nature of video games means they can fork off in many different directions, so there's a lot of recording many similar lines (Pick up the hammer! Pick up the cup! Pick up the chair!) which can get a little tedious. On the other hand, the games are very short-lived — my parts are usually finished in a couple of hours. But animated series will typically go on for several weeks, in one- or two-hour sessions, so that work is more ongoing.
- WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT THOUGHTS ON THE SONIC VIDEO GAME SERIES? HAVE YOU EVER PLAYED ANY OF THE GAMES AND WHICH ONE WAS YOUR FAVORITE TO VOICE DR. EGGMAN IN?
Nope, I'm not a gamer. But my kids are, and I often hear myself coming out of their handheld gaming devices. I like the well-written games that are jam packed with comedy.
- WHAT WENT DOWN WITH THE GREAT RE-CASTING OF 2010?
I only know my part of the experience because I respect my clients' need for privacy, especially on personnel matters, and I'm quite content to remain on a need-to-know basis. I was minding my own business one night when I got a call from one of my agents on the West Coast saying she had an audition for me for a role she thought I had played before, "a Dr. Egg...Man?" She clearly had no idea. I explained that I had played it before and I thought I still was. Undeterred, I did what any actor would do and looked at the breakdown (description) and the sides (bits of dialog) and recorded an audition, doing exactly the same Dr. Eggman performance I'd been doing for the past seven years. Much to my delight, I was again chosen for the role. Unlike previous games, where SEGA people would jet out to New York and supervise the recordings at 4Kids Productions, I was dispatched to an independent recording studio in New York for the next booking — to record Sonic Colors — and spoke with the Los Angeles based production team via headphones. Aware of potentially overstepping the boundaries of the client/talent relationship, I gingerly asked if I was the only survivor from New York, realizing how awkward if could be if I were to bump into any of my New York colleagues and the conversation should turn to a new Sonic game that they knew nothing about. "You're the only one we have scheduled," I was told. And with that, an exciting new era began.
- WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER TO VOICE?
As a fan of comedy, I like the voices that make me laugh. I have a special soft spot in my heart for the burly truck driver voice of Meat from Ultimate Muscle, which was my first big co-starring role in a series. And I love when I can re-work that voice into something else, like the effeminate version, as Bonaparte in Yu-Gu-Oh GX and the more intelligent version as Bigoriki in Gogoriki.
- ARE YOU AS BIG A SONIC FAN AS I AM?
Probably not. Remember, my job is being a voice actor, not just Dr. Eggman's voice actor. And before you think, "oh, so it's just a job to him" let me clarify that everyone needs a job because everyone needs to buy food, clothing and shelter, but not everyone is lucky enough to have a job that they love. I am, and I do. And to me, voice acting is not just a job, it's my passion. But I perform in all sorts of projects for lots of different employers, and every one is special. Arguably, the most special one is the one I happen to be recording at any given time. If you've picked me from among several dozen other auditions and are paying big bucks for me to stand in a studio and read your script, you can bet your words are the most important thing in the world to me at that particular moment. And since any one particular gig may only last a few hours, I have to keep auditioning for new work in order to keep getting money for food, clothing and shelter. Let's draw an analogy to a homemade ice cream shop: Everyone has a favorite flavor of ice cream. Mine's Mocha Chip. [So now you don't have to ask me on social media.] When I go for ice cream, I don't care if the ice cream maker — or what the French would call a "Glacier" — has the same favorite flavor that I do. I'd expect him or her to make each and every flavor the best that it can be, so that fans of Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry or Butter Pecan will all enjoy the best scoop of ice cream they've ever had. All the flavors have their own fans, so each flavor gets made with pride, whenever it's that flavor's turn to be manufactured. So if today is my day to make Pistachio, I may not like Pistachio, but my client has hired me to make Pistachio, so I'm gonna make the best darn Pistachio I can. And we can compare auditions to testing out new flavors. I'll make a small test batch of Dill Pickles, and if people like it, it goes on the regular menu. If not, it's time to test out Nacho Cheese. So that's why I'm a fan of all the work I do — and also why I'm not in the ice cream business.
- DO YOU EVER RUN INTO MANY SONIC/EGGMAN FANS WHO FIGURE OUT WHO YOU ARE OR GET NOTICED BY THEM?
Nope. It's easy to be anonymous when you're a voice actor. I did have a little fun at a state fair once, though. A kid won a plush Sonic at a midway game and I spotted him as he walked by. While the rest of my family enjoyed their ice cream, I blurted out, in my best Eggman voice, "Look, it's Sonic!" I laughed when I saw the kid's head whip around, but I gave no hint that the sound came from me. I wonder if he thought he was just hearing voices!
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE OR COMMENTS ON ANY YOUNG ADULTS OR KIDS WHO WANT TO GET INTO THE VOICE ACTING SCENE? WHAT TO TRY AND AVOID EARLY ON OR SUCH?
Do as much acting as you can, in school or community theater or wherever. You can also check with area radio, TV or cable stations to see if they need any extra voice talent for commercials and stuff. To get most voice-over gigs, you've gotta have a brief, well-produced demo reel (usually several to cover different genres — I have Commercial, Animation, Promo and Narration demos) to send to prospective employers. If you're willing to invest some cash, you should train with a coach. Also check out my friends at Edge Studio. And read the two pages I wrote about Animation in Voice for Hire: Launch and Maintain a Lucrative Career in Voice-Overs. The rest of the book is good, too.
- CAN I TALK TO YOU ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER OR SKYPE?
Glad you asked. I've recently revised my policy on that question. In fact, the revision was so significant, I thought it best to break out MIKE'S RULES OF ENGAGEMENT to their own separate page. Please check them out.
- CAN I GET YOU TO SAY CUSTOM STUFF, OR GET YOU TO APPEAR IN MY VIDEO PROJECT?
That depends. Take a look at my Shout-Out For Starbucks policy, which covers shout-outs for online media channels, or my Rate Card, for scripted material.
- WHERE ARE YOUR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS?
- WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THOSE "HERB LAWRENCE" CREDITS?
They're a tribute to my late father, Herbert Lawrence Pollock, shortly after his death.
- WHAT'S THE GENESIS OF YOUR IT'S A MIKE! BRAND?
If you guessed it has something do with a certain mustachioed plumber, you'd be wrong. If you guessed it's a clever pun on "MICrophone," you'd be half-right, but honestly, that part wasn't intentional. Back when I was growing up, and Saturday Night Live was still good, they did a sketch parodying a Mike Wallace investigative journalism piece from 60 Minutes. You should be able to read a transcript of it here. In it, Mr. Wallace interviews brothers Al and Herb Minkman, whose company manufactures classic practical joke and novelty items like dribble glasses and Chinese finger prisons. As the Minkmans [Minkmen?] are trying to impress Mr. Wallace with the quality of their workmanship, the following exchange about "phony doggie doodie." occurs:
Al Minkman: By the way, Mike, did you let a St. Bernard come in here?
Mike Wallace: No, Sir, I didn't.
Herb Minkman: [ pointing ] Because there's a big brown, seeping present underneath your chair! [ Mike Wallace jumps up as they laugh at him ] It's a Minkman, Mike!
Something about Christopher Guest (as Herb Minkman) and his delivery of that "It's a Minkman" line (equating the name "Minkman" with quality, in the grand tradition of such advertising slogans as "It's a Wurlitzer") caught my ear and stayed with me for years. So, when the time came to find a catchy brand, I co-opted it and turned it into "It's A Mike!" equating my first name with quality. The fact that the line was addressed to a character named Mike is an added bonus, but like the Mike/Mic connection, that, too, was purely coincidental.