Friday, November 30, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Interview with Wally Wingert

To conclude our discussion of Invader Zim, we have another special interview! This time is actor/voice actor/Batman fan Wally Wingert. In Invader Zim, he was the voice of Allmighty Tallest Red, one of the leaders from the planet Irk. Wingert has voiced in many TV shows, cartoons, and video games such as Jon Arbuckle in The Garfield Show, The Riddler in the video games Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, the announcer on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, over 100 small roles in Family Guy, and more.

Kevin and I had the opportunity to interview Wally so I hope you enjoy it.

Patricia- Who were your influences growing up?

Wally- Definitely Adam West in Batman. Also Don Messick, Daws Butler, Howard Morris, and many other voice actors. Can cartoon characters be influences? If so, Popeye for sure. I also drew great inspiration from Henry Winkler and Paul Michael Glaser.

Kevin- Who are your favorite cartoon characters?

Wally- I think my first word was “Pipe-eye.” (As a babe I became a huge Popeye fan) I also loved The Archies, Groovie Ghoulies, The Impossibles, Space Ghost, Frankenstein Jr., Roger Ramjet, Jungle Book, and more.

Patricia- How did you get started on voicing acting?

Wally- I started as a radio DJ when I was 16. I had always loved doing voices and playing radio at home, but now that I had a public forum on the AM radio waves. I would write bits using some of my characters and impressions, and interweave them into my radio shows. It was great training!

Kevin- How did you get the part on Allmighty Tallest Red?

Wally- As I recall I went into Nickelodeon to read for a variety of characters for Casting Director Donna Grillo. Apparently I was the second choice for Red and got the role when the guy who was the first choice decided to move out of the L.A. area. Lucky me!

Kevin- What was it like working with the cast of Invader Zim?

Wally- It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had! Richard Horvitz and I had previously worked together on a series of Popeye CD-Roms and had a great time. So we went into it with a lot of our own inside jokes. But then getting to work with the great Kevin McDonald, and of course working under Jhonen were also real treats!

Patricia- How did you get to be Jon Arbuckle in the new Garfield show?

Wally- There were auditions for a new Garfield CGI direct-to-DVD film that was in the works, and I think I auditioned for every character other than Garfield, Jon and Odie. But unlike other auditions, which are just recorded on audio files, they had a video camera running at this session. I guess Mr. Jim Davis saw something in me on-camera that gave him the impression that I would make a good Jon. (I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or an insult come to think of it.:) I guess I had the same dorky sensibilities that Jon does. And for that I’m eternally grateful.

Kevin- Did you speak to Tom Huge about voicing Jon Arbuckle before starting on voicing for the Garfield cartoon?

Wally- No, but I asked the director Mark A.Z. Dippe if I should watch old Garfield cartoons and try to approximate what Tom did. He said it wasn’t necessary, so I just basically copped the same attitude and voice I used when I talked to my own dog and cat.

Patricia- Who is your favorite Batman villain?

Wally- Whyyyyy….The Riddler… of course!

Patricia- What is your favorite/least favorite Batman show, both live action and animated?

Wally- Without a doubt my absolute favorite is the 1966 Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, followed closely by the animated series from the early 90’s. My least favorite would be the current Dark Knight series of films.

Patricia- What is your favorite/least favorite Batman movie?

Wally- My favorite Batman film is the 1966 feature film based on the TV series, followed closely by the film Val Kilmer was in. My least favorite was Batman Begins.

Patricia- What was it like voicing the Riddler on Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City?

Wally- It was an absolute dream come true! To be in the history books as anything related to Batman was a lifelong fantasy fulfilled! And it’s always fun to work with the amazing Collette Sunderman!

Kevin- What Batman action figures do you have?

Wally- I have many of the old Mego figures, with the actual cloth clothes. I wasn’t so much a fan of the 3” plastic figures. I like action figures that have actual fabric costumes. I used to adore the old Captain Action line!

Kevin- You did the documentary for the show Groovie Ghoulies. Who is your favorite characters and why?

Wally- I like Frankie best, because he’s just so darn cuddly and loveable! (And a little bit slow)

Kevin- What it is about Groovie Ghoulies that you liked? As a kid, that show was everything I wanted in a Saturday morning cartoon. It was animation, monsters and rock and roll! All balled up into one!

Wally- Did you see the Daffy Duck and Porky Pig meets the Groovie Ghoulies? Yeah, I saw a bootleg of it awhile back. It was…uh…odd.

Patricia- What is it like doing the voice announcement for The Jay Leno Show?

Wally- After two years of announcing The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, it’s still a gigantic thrill! Just as much today as it was the day I started! It’s a great group of professionals and I’m proud to be on the staff with them.

Patricia- How is Jay like in person?

Wally- Imagine the coolest guy you’ve ever known, and then times it by 1000. He’s one of the most famous people I’ve ever met (known worldwide!) but yet one of the most down-to-earth and likeable. If the world was more like Jay, the world would be a better place.

Kevin- What was it like being the alien in Can of Worms?

Wally- Since it was one of my first big VO jobs, it was a real thrill. In fact, I just bought an original conceptual sketch of the Loafer Alien on eBay recently and had it framed.

Patricia- What's it like voicing over 100 characters on Family Guy?

Wally- It’s almost as fun as being one of the regular characters. In some episodes I was 4 or 5 different characters. And you can always count on the crazy writers of Family Guy to come up with wacky and challenging characters to voice!

Patricia- What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a voice actor?

Wally- First and foremost, become a REALLY good actor. Voice acting at its core is acting, but with your voice. You must have acting chops to be good in this business, but so many people believe it’s simply all about the voice. True, you need a good instrument. But you need talent behind it to drive it properly.

Patricia- Do you have to take frequent breaks to rest your voice?

Wally- Since I’ve started working on The Tonight Show, I’ve had to pass on any videogame jobs that require vocally stressful work. Other than that, I don’t take any conscious voice breaks.

Patricia- How is it that you became a versatile voice actor?

I realized the key to success in any acting venue is versatility. That goes for on-camera as well as voice acting. I aspire to be the voice acting version of Lon Chaney. He had so many great characters, all diverse. I figured that if I can come close to what he did with my voice, I’d be very satisfied.

Kevin- What are your favorite Nickelodeon shows?

Wally- I’m not currently familiar with many TV shows on any channel.

Patricia- You voiced a lot of video games as well. Do you play video games? If so, what are your favorites?

Wally- I lack the fundamental hand-to-eye coordination necessary for successful videogame play. But I love watching others play!

Patricia- When you walk down the street, do people notice you and compliment on your work?

Wally- One of the things about the voice acting world is that it’s fairly anonymous. That can be good and bad. Once in a great while I’ll get recognized, but it’s very rare. Of course that all changes when I go to a convention, because con folks are a little more hip and enlightened than your average person-on-the-street.

Patricia- Alright then. Wally, thank you so much for taking the time to interview us.

Wally- Thank you! Cheers!

To know more about Wally Wingert, check out his website at That’s all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.

-Patricia and Kevin

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