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Wizard World Austin 2017: Interview with Voice Actor Steve Blum

Wizard World Austin is almost upon us! You can get your geek on November 18 – November 20 at the Austin Convention Center. Among those attending are various actors, comic book artists and voice actors. Steve Blum is one of the most talented voice actors working today. He’s voiced a range of iconic characters including Spike Spiegel in “Cowboy Bepob,” Wolverine in the animated series, Zeb in “Star Wars Rebels” and many more! Seriously, while researching for this interview I found that Steve has the longest IMDb from anyone I’ve ever searched! You can take a look at all his amazing credits here. We had the chance to interview him about getting started in the business, voicing iconic characters and more!

How did you get into voice work? Did you always know you wanted to be a voice actor?

By accident. Back in the late ’80s, I was working in the mailroom of a low budget sci-fi film company as a driver and production assistant to support the crappy band I was playing in at the time. Our boss was a buddy of mine who happened to be casting for what he called a “Japanamation” show. We always goofed around with stupid voices, and I had the deepest one in the room, so he asked if I’d be interested in giving dubbing a try as a monster ripping the limbs off another monster. It meant a free breakfast on a Saturday, so I risked it. I was the only non-actor there, and I thought I sucked, but apparently I did okay. They hired me on the spot. I worked 26 episodes on that series (“The Guyver”), at first doing creature voices, but soon I graduated to actual English-speaking roles. I seemed to have a natural knack for it and haven’t stopped since. I think my ability to sync with the lip flaps of the Japanese characters came from years of playing music. Language and phrasing of speech is a rhythmic and melodic thing. It simply made sense to my weird-ass brain. I had no idea voice acting could ever be considered as a “real job.” For years, I had three other jobs to support me so I could do VO for fun on the weekends!

Can you describe your process when fleshing out a voice for a character? When do you know you’ve nailed it?

My process is organic. I didn’t have classical training, so I don’t break characters down like a lot of actors tend to do; I listen to the directions very carefully (or read and/or look at the pictures provided) and go from instinct. Like all of us humans, every character in my mind is a unique being possessing a unique personality. I start there, add in technical tricks I picked up from 30 years of doing this and it’s off to the races. I work very hard not to second guess my intuition and at the same time remain flexible to whatever curveballs they throw at me once we begin to record. I never know for sure that I’ve “nailed it,” but I do know when I’ve given it my best take when the playback feels natural and serves the story.

Zeb Orrelios (second from left) Voiced by Steve Blum | Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm/Disney XD

You’ve voiced so many great characters, including Spike Spiegel in “Cowboy Bebop,” “Wolverine,” Starscream in “Transformers: Prime” and many more. Do you have a favorite character that you have voiced or are they all special in some way?

Like children, there are no “favorites.” At least there shouldn’t be. If I’m not fully invested in the character I’m working on today, I shouldn’t be voicing him (or her). I find they all leave some sort of mark on me and hopefully vice versa. Spike was the most influential character in my personal and professional life to the point that I still have conversations about him almost every day 20 years later! Same with TOM from “Toonami.” Also amazing to play iconic characters like Wolverine and Starscream, but some of the more obscure characters hold special meaning to me as they help me to heal parts of my own life and affect others. Zeb Orrelios from “Star Wars Rebels” took me into an entirely new dimension of my personal fandom that I didn’t realize ran so deep in my subconscious. The best characters for me though, are the ones who touch the lives of the fans. That gives me purpose as a human being.

Spike Spiegel (voiced by Steve Blum) | Photo from “Cowboy Bebop”

What has been the most challenging character to voice and why?

For me the difficulty is more the physical toll than the performance. Recording howling, screaming creatures always hurts. Characters like Brutes from “Halo” or fighters like Wolverine or Tank Dempsey are always painful, but viscerally rewarding at the same time. Spike was tough in the “Cowboy Bebop” movie, simply because I had to learn how to become vulnerable as an actor. Not an easy task at the time.

You’re coming to Wizard World Austin. What are some of the reactions from fans that have been the most surprising and rewarding when attending these conventions?

When I witness stories from the fans about how my work has helped an autistic child speak for the first time, or stopped someone from committing suicide, or helped someone through a tragedy or simply a tough time – it changes me on a cellular level. When we record most of this stuff, it’s in a padded room, isolated from the rest of the world. We just do our best to make good art and tell good stories. The fact that it moves people at all used to be happy frosting on the cake. Now it’s my entire purpose in life. “Humbling” isn’t a powerful enough descriptor.

What are you working on next and is there a character you haven’t voiced that you would like to?

I’m sworn to secrecy under SEVERE penalties, so I can’t speak about most of my upcoming projects. Season 4 of “Star Wars Rebels” is underway, so a lot more amazing stuff is happening on that show. “Niko and the Sword of Light” is out on Amazon now and I LOVE that show. Also “Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz” is on Boomerang with many more episodes to come. “Toonami” is still happening every Saturday night on Adult Swim and many, many more shows and games will be coming out next year. More “Lion Guard” is in the pipeline and a whole bunch of games and other animated series.

Regarding characters I haven’t voiced yet? If I know about them, they’re probably already being voiced by one of my friends, so no.

I’m currently involved with an Indiegogo Project called “Goblins Animated” with my friends Phil LaMarr and Matt King based on the amazing comic series by Tarol Hunt. Would love to see this happen. One of the greatest casts of all time have signed on. Check it out here. And I may or may not be working on future projects with my dear friend/brother Logic. I have worked on two of his albums and witness him changing lives every day. My daily mantra for all of it is gratitude. Thank you for letting me be a voice in your life.

You can meet Steve Blum at Wizard World Austin on November 18 – 20 held at the Austin Convention Center. You can get more info on Steve’s Wizard World Austin schedule here. Check the official website for all Wizard World scheduling and ticket info here.

Featured image credit: Steve Blum | Photo by Pamela Baker

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