Tuesday , May 28 2024
Garry Chalk

Exclusive Interview: Voice Actor Garry Chalk on ‘Transformers,’ ‘Sonic the Hedgehog,’ ‘Riverdale’ and More

Veteran actor Garry Chalk has had a long career in live action and animated programs alike. In animation, he’s perhaps best known for Grounder in the first Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik in Sonic Underground, Optimus Prime in the Transformers “Unicron Trilogy,” Optimus Primal in Beast Wars: Transformers, Slash in ReBoot, and many more. I spoke with Chalk on Zoom to learn more about his acting tips, memorable roles, and upcoming projects.

On Voice Acting Versus Acting

To Garry Chalk, “acting is acting.” The main difference between voice acting and acting is perhaps the amount of time an actor spends recording or filming those projects. Still, he outlined a few points beyond the surface.

Chalk said, “Voice acting is the purest form of acting because you have to fill in all the blanks. You have to have a physical, geographical, and emotional intent. It has to be absolutely clear because as soon as they draw you, all of that flattens out. You fill in all the sound effects of the body, motions, the leaps, the walks, the distance between characters, and so on.”

For film acting, he’s enjoyed the technical aspects and seeing how this organic machine works for more than 30 years. “It looks like organized chaos when you’re on set, but everybody on set has a specific job. When you know what every job is, it’s beautiful to watch it. I love being a part of that and working with people.”

Another aspect of film acting is the proximity of actors to the camera lens. Acting can be quite intimate with the camera lens right in front of the actor’s face. Everything is transparent about the performances. “The camera does not lie!”

On Essential Tools in the Actor’s Toolkit

It’s important for actors to develop their toolkits so they can deliver good performances. “Lived experience is a big one. Vulnerability and honesty in who you are and what you do is huge. Having the mechanical and technical skills is definitely part of it, because you have to build yourself a foundation of skills so you can impart experiences to your audience.”

An actor may not have direct experience with war, but they could draw on their past feelings associated with conflict and challenges. The same goes for other scenarios. “You know what it’s like to feel in love. You know what it feels like to feel disappointed, tired, or ill. You call back on that sense memory. And you go, ‘I remember this. I know what this feels like.'”

Chalk also offered practical advice for actors. “Stay away from drugs and alcohol. They don’t help you in your performances, and they cause a lot of grief over the long term. That’s my belief. If I were surgeon, would I operate on somebody while drunk or high on drugs? No, I wouldn’t.”

Aside from the actors, film sets often involve 100-150 people working very hard at their jobs. “If you come to work screwed up, you ruin it for everybody else. Also, it’s really hard on your mental health overall. It’s good to have a solid foundation of who you are and what you are.”

On Memorable Roles

Chalk’s favorite film role was Inspector Andrew Pawlachuk in Cold Squad. He won at the Gemini Awards in 2001 and 2002 in the category Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role in a Drama Series. In this cop series, Pawlachuk headed a police department investigating cold cases.

Chalk added, “We went through a lot of great experiences, turmoil, and emotion. It was a show that made me run the gamut and challenged my skills.”

In animation, he loved portraying the dimension and emotional span of Optimus Primal in Beast Wars. He also had fun during his time as Grounder in Sonic and Slash in ReBoot.

“Grounder was a silly little guy, which I loved. [With] Slash, we got to improvise on our scripts on the show. A lot of times we’d come up with some really good gems!”

Interestingly, ReBoot had a reboot as a live action series in 2018, but Chalk wasn’t involved in that short-lived project. “I was so disappointed that they had only a limited number of our cast in the reboot of ReBoot. If they ever do a reboot of the reboot of ReBoot, then I’m in.”

On Transformers

In the mid-1990s, Chalk was Optimus Primal in Beast Wars: Transformers. He greatly valued the three seasons he had to dive in and portray Primal in different situations. He could explore Primal’s interactions with other characters, including Megatron, Cheetor, Rattrap, Silverbolt, Airazor, and Blackarachnia. “All of them have their own personas, which I really liked. I had a distinct relationship with each and every one of them, which I thought was a lot of fun.”

Garry Chalk

He wasn’t called to reprise Primal in this year’s live-action film, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. While Chalk was disappointed, he acknowledged the reality of the film business. “I know Ron Perlman. He’s a really wonderful actor, great guy. He’s got a great voice. I would’ve liked to have done that film, but I didn’t get a call.”

“Apparently, [Ron] did an incredible job, and I don’t begrudge him that. I took over for Peter Cullen years ago. I’m sure that Peter felt the same way, but we got on quite well. At one convention, they had Peter, Neil Kaplan, and myself. We got along like a house on fire with dueling Optimuses!”

On Garry Chalk’s New Projects

Chalk’s credits on IMDb go all the way back to 1980, and he kept busy this year. He filmed a Curious Caterer mystery movie and episodes of the TV series Riverdale. On the latter, he said, “It was such a delightful experience to work on that show. I thought I was going to be on for one [episode]. I ended up being there for the whole last season!”

He recorded for a new animated series as well, airing across the Atlantic with more markets to come. “The show playing right now in Scandinavia and England is called Monster Loving Maniacs, and it’s hilarious. I play the grandfather, Arthur, who teaches kids how to hunt monsters. I don’t know how it will go over in North America.”

Follow Garry Chalk on Facebook for updates about his projects and convention appearances.

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.

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