Friday , May 24 2024
Credit: Pat Cuadros

BotCon: Sue Blu on ‘Transformers’

When Sue Blu (The Smurfs, Scooby-Doo) auditioned for the part of Arcee in Transformers, she learned from voice director Wally Burr that her new character was the only female robot in the film and the television series. She looked at the breakdown and told Burr, “Well, I want it.”

Blu recounted the story recently at BotCon, a popular convention all about Transformers. Aside from voice acting, she also wanted to work as a voice director. She eventually landed a successful seven-year run in the late 1980s: the very popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.

Thoughts on Voice Acting

Aspiring voice actors can learn a lot from Blu, who wrote Word of Mouth: A Guide to Commercial Voice-Over Excellence. Solidifying vocal exercises and skills is a good start, but making a demo tape is another vital piece to help you land roles. Blu found inspiration from the radio.

She said, “When I was putting together my very first demo tape, I hadn’t done any commercials at that point. I would take commercials off the radio, [rewriting] them so I wasn’t stealing anything.”

Developing your voices for characters takes thought and careful study. “You create the heart and the soul and the characteristics of the character, and the voice will come…AI is not going to work because they don’t have a heart and soul.” 

On Getting to Play Arcee

When she was preparing for the role of Arcee, Blu looked to actors from classic films, particularly Barbara Stanwyck. “I really studied her for the strength of the character. She was so likable and yet so ballsy and strong. I got a lot of my feeling of the character from Barbara Stanwyck.”

Describing herself as a “TV junkie,” Blu found other sources of inspiration. “I would study even John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, to get a lot of that strength to be able to put that into Arcee and some of the stronger roles that I’ve played.”

Photo of Sue Blu gesturing and holding a microphone at her panel
Sue Blu at BotCon 2023 (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

On Directing and Respecting the Actors

During the Q&A, I asked Blu if directing helped her become a better voice actor. She said, “Voice acting made me a better director, and directing made me a better voice actor.”

With her breadth of acting experience and credits since the 1970s, she’s worked with many directors. She knew what worked and what didn’t work through observing them.

“A lot of dialog directors were never actors. I knew that, being an actor, I would give a tremendous amount of respect to actors in the first place. I could work with the producers, story editors and writers on what they wanted.”

She knew how to maximize the creativity in the recording studio and maintain a positive work environment for creatives and actors alike. Additionally, she diligently prepared her homework, bringing notes on the storyboard and the scripts. “My purpose as a director was to fulfill what they wanted and also keep the actors smiling while having to do several takes in a row.” 

On ‘Beast Wars’

Beast Wars: Transformers is another series that BotCon attendees are excited about. Several of the series actors—Garry Chalk, Scott McNeil, and Venus Terzo—are also guests at this year’s convention. Blu served as voice director for that show and the followup Beast Machines: Transformers. She flew up from Los Angeles to Vancouver to work with the actors.

She praised the cast for their amiability and pliability in handling their lines and recording sessions. “It was like directing a party. These guys were great; they were talented. We respected one another. It was really a wonderful communication and time that I had with these guys.”

Hasbro supported Blu’s approach to the show. “By the time that the scripts got to me and when they heard a few of the dialog tracks, they really let us do what we do best. They loved how we were creating it, so they were great to us.”

On the Enduring Popularity of ‘Transformers’

Like other Transformers actors, Blu didn’t realize the extent to which it resonated with fans until she began attending conventions.

“People love this show! I would get a lot of mail and photographs that I would send back in the mail. But I had no idea that it was the phenomenon that it became and is today.”

Earlier this year, she attended a film screening in London. She appreciates the enduring interest of fans in the Generation One or original TV series and film—which she considers to be the best part of the franchise. “It’s amazing. I just hope that it lives on and on and on and on.”

Visit the BotCon website for more information.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

Check Also

Fan Expo Philadelphia: Tom Cavanagh on ‘The Flash’ and Directing

"When you're directing, you're telling all the parts of the story."