The voice of a thousand characters: Tara Strong
From The Powerpuff Girls to Family Guy and more, Tara Strong tells us her process behind finding distinctive voices for different characters
If Tara Strong's name doesn't immediately ring a bell, her voice surely will. The 46-year-old Canadian-American actress is the voice of famous characters like Bubbles on The Powerpuff Girls (1998), Timmy in The Fairly OddParents (2001), Raven in Teen Titans (2003) and Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (2010), among many others. After kicking off her career at the young age of 13, she secured several film, television and musical theatre roles, and has made a mark in Hollywood over the years with memorable voice roles in DC Super Hero Girls, Family Guy, Drawn Together, Ben 10, and more. We caught up with Tara on Friday at the Middle East Film & Comic Con at Dubai World Trade Centre.
How do you come up with your voices for so many different characters?
They'll give you a drawing of the character and a description. You get some of the script, then as an actor I have to add my own flair and creativity and hope it's somewhere in the ballpark of what they want. They can give you notes and you really round it out as a collaborative process. Often you get an idea last minute too. For Raven from Teen Titans, I was on my way out of the studio when I thought I'd just add this little guttural roll. It has become quite popular.
How physical do you get with the role in studio?
You'll rarely find an actor standing still for a voice role. If it's a crazy character, I get pretty crazy. For instance when I'm doing Harley (Quinn), it's like therapy almost! I visualise myself in all the moments and sometimes I'll cry.
Is it a more in depth character study than on-camera work?
It's just completely different. It's like asking a tap dancer if they do ballet. It's just a different art form. An on-camera person can come in and sometimes be intimidated by how many different voices a voice actor can do. We are very versatile.
From your social media, it seems being an advocate for causes is important to you - from where does that spring?
I love that on social media we can reach so many people. I have almost 400,000 followers and if everyone can donate a dollar to a kid with cancer, that's a good day. I always had a strong anti-bullying streak. My mum was heavyset and my sister was a little different and I saw the pain when they got home. I always knew that I would be there for people. I don't understand cruelty. I am upset if I have hurt someone accidentally. So now I have a voice and I am able to raise money and awareness I want to use it.
How are you finding Dubai?
It's culturally different for sure! It's fascinating and everyone has been extremely kind. I'd like to see more of the city. I have had a tour of the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall. It's a lot like Vegas with the shows and fountains.
How do you find the overall Comic Con experience?
I get asked to do one every single weekend. I don't love leaving my kids, so I'm somewhat picky, but it's amazing to see how massive some have become. The smaller ones are great too. You just have to go out and give back to your fans. You are nothing without them.
What do fans ask for most?
It depends where I am but the top ones are Raven, Bubbles, Timmy Turner, Twilight and Harley. The fans from different shows are all different but are all equally passionate.
What do you have coming up?
The new DC Super Hero Girls show is a lot of fun. I have a couple of video games I can't talk about and an on-camera part in a film called Witness Infection - it's a horror film. I'm still doing Ben 10 and Teen Titans. I just love going to work.
When did you discover you could do these voices?
I was always good at silly voices. When I was four or five I knew I wanted to be an actress. My parents finally relented and got me an agent when I was 13, growing up in Toronto. I got my first audition and was the voice of Hello Kitty at 13.