Friday, September 14, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Interview with Ben Diskin

Every character in any cartoon always has to have a pushover. That was the case for Eugene Horowitz. He was clutzy and had a streak of bad luck around him. However, he was always optomistic about everything and always tells his friends to look on the bright side. Today we had the opportunity to interview the kid who voiced Eugene, a prominent voice actor named Ben Diskin.

Besides Hey Arnold, he has voiced in other cartoons and anime such as Naruto: Shippuden as Sai, Katao in Blood+, Eddie Brock/Venom in Spectacular Spiderman, and Numbah 1/2 in Code Name Kids' Next Door. I hope you enjoy this awesome interview.

Patricia- What were your favorite shows growing up?

Ben- I was big into cartoons as a kid.  I loved the 90s Spider-Man show, Gargoyles, Darkwing Duck, Ducktales, Goof Troop, Batman the Animated Series, Freakazoid, Pinky & the Brain, Tiny Toons, Loony Toons, etc.  The list goes on and on.  It’s too hard for me to pick favorites!

Patricia- What made you decide to go into voice acting?

Ben-I had been auditioning for various voice-over projects since I was around 6 years old.  I only really began to pursue voice-acting after I did a show called Problem Child when I was 10.  I loved the fact that I could do acting work and still be a normal kid.  No one, not even my closest friends, recognized my voice in the show.  Nobody ever picked on me for being an actor after the majority of my work became voice-over.

Patricia- Who are your influences?

Ben- Like I said, I was big into cartoons as a kid.  Everyone who made my childhood what it was is an inspiration to me.  This is another one of those lists that could go on for miles without end.

Kevin- What was the audition like for Hey Arnold?

Ben- When I auditioned for Hey Arnold for the role of Eugene, I actually didn’t hear back from them until much later.  I was their third choice to play the role so I only got called in to work on the show once the other two boys got too old sounding to play him.  Funny note: the second guy to play Eugene was Jarret Lennon who played the role of my best friend in the movie Just Like Dad.

Kevin- What was it like working with Craig Bartlett?

Ben- Craig’s a great guy to work with.  I’m honestly surprised we didn’t drive him completely nuts.  Directing kids can be difficult, especially with a room FULL of us.  Actually, I remember they put up sound proof walls between the mics so we’d stop chatting with each other and interrupting other people’s dialogue.  Hee hee!  (We’d just lean our chairs back and talk around the walls anyway, though.)

Patricia- Did you know of his work on Pee-wee's Playhouse before you auditioned for the show?

Ben- No, I never knew he worked on Pee-wee’s Playhouse!  That’s so cool!

Patricia- Did you see Pee-wee's Playhouse as a kid? If so, what did you think of it?

Ben- Hah!  Well, that’s another show I should have included in my list of shows I liked.  I loved Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.  It’s only as an adult looking back that I realize how lucky I was to have cool shows like that as a kid.

Kevin- Can you tell us any funny behind the scenes stories on working on Hey Arnold?

Ben- The funny thing about Hey Arnold for me is that people keep asking me questions about it and I really only barely remember what went down on that show.  I think I was 11 or 12 when I did it, so it’s kind of a blur to me.  Most of the sessions were pretty straightforward and I can’t think of anything that really stuck out as being funny.  Sorry :(

Kevin- What similarities do you see yourself as with Eugene?

Ben- Eugene and I are pretty different from one another.  I’ve never been much of a klutz or had long periods of bad luck.  We do both tend to be optimists, though, so there’s that.

Patricia- Were you disappointed that The Jungle Movie never was released?

Ben- I wish The Jungle Movie had been released.  Like I said, I don’t remember much of working on the show, but I remember enjoying that script quite a bit.

Patricia- Do you still keep in contact with the voice actors from Hey Arnold?

Ben- I’ve kept sporadic contact with some of the people from Arnold.  I’m Facebook friends with Craig Bartlett, Franny Smith (Helga) lives in the same part of town as me but I haven’t actually seen her in a while, Anndi McAfee (Phoebe) used to be with my agency for a long time, and Olivia Hack (Rhonda) still is with my agency.  Plus, I’ve worked with Olivia’s dad, Michael Hack, on anime before.

Patricia- What was the audition like for Naruto: Shippuden?

Ben- The audition for Naruto: Shippuden was pretty standard.  I actually didn’t get to find out much about the characters I auditioned for, but I was hoping to get Sai.  I’m pretty good at having trouble staying in touch with my emotions, so I figured he’d be an easy fit for me ;)

Patricia- Do you like anime? If so, what are your favorites?

Ben- No.  I HATE anime.  I can’t STAND that stuff.  ...  Kidding!  :P  I grew up on freakin’ TOONAMI!  I don’t think it’s possible for me to hate anime ;)  I like *takes deep breath* DBZ, Death Note, Naruto, Wolf’s Rain, Digimon, Deadman Wonderland, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Eureka 7, Blue Exorcist, One Piece (Funimation, not 4kids,) and mounds of others that I can’t remember right now.

Patricia- What was the thought process of coming up with the voice of Eddie Brock/Venom from Spectacular Spiderman?

Ben- I was a big fan of the 90s Spiderman cartoon show, so I wanted to do the Symbiote vocal effects myself.  During the audition, they told me that they were considering doing a dual track voice and asked me to first record myself doing the Symbiote voice and then they’d play it back in my headphones while I did my Eddie Brock voice in time with it.  I got through the first paragraph and they told me that they’d heard enough, so I went home and hoped I gave them what they were looking for.  So, honestly, I can’t really take credit for coming up with the voice for Venom.

Patricia- What was it like doing the voices for Numbah 1 and 2 in Code Name Kids Next Door? How were you able to differentiate the two voices from these two different characters?

Ben- Working on Kids Next Door was really awesome.  It was cool because basically every single person who came in to join us in the recording sessions was a big name voice actor who I’d grown up listening to.  Heck, Cree Summer of Tiny Toons fame was on the main cast!  I was in my “dark” phase during that time of my life (yeah, kind of a late bloomer in that regard since I should have gone through that in my teens,) so I probably came across as surly, but I was actually really honored to work with all the greats in VO on that show.

Patricia- What cartoon character do people demand that you do the most?

Ben- Sadly the voice most people ask me to do is the Venom voice.  I say “sadly” because I have to keep explaining why I CAN’T do it for them.  I can do the Eddie Brock voice; I can do the Symbiote voice, but I can’t do them at the same time.

Patricia- How does one become a prominent voice actor?

Ben- If I knew how to become a prominent voice actor, I’d be one ;D  No, seriously, the best advice I can give is to keep on truckin’.  It takes a lot of time, effort, and luck to make it big in voice over.  No one who’s successful in the business today got there without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

Patricia- What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started on voice acting?

Ben- Getting started in voice over can be really tricky.  I’m probably not the best person to ask because I was fortunate enough to have an agent while I was still in my mother’s womb.  ...  No, really.  Not kidding.  If I could give any advice, it’d probably be to start out small.  Go for the smaller jobs that don’t pay so well.  The casting directors are probably more willing to take a chance on you since none of the big names will work for peanuts.  Build your way up from there.  Or, take the opposite approach.  Go for the biggest talent agency and start going up against the big names in the biz right from the start.  If you’re able to snag prominent roles away from successful voice over actors, you’re probably destined for this.

Patricia- Alright. Thank you so much for answering our questions, Ben.

You can follow Ben on his official Facebook page at Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon.

-Patricia and Kevin

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