Monday, July 26, 2010

Moon Chase Presents: An Interview With Jeff Lumby!

Hey Moonies! We're sorry for the lack of updates recently, real life has been intruding on our Moon time. D: But as part of our effort to get back into the swing of things, we have another stop on our celebration of the 15th Anniversary of the English Version of Sailor Moon, the voice actor behind Prof. Souichi Tomoe and others, Jeff Lumby! He has had a very widespread career from radio to television, and he has a lot of great stories to tell that you probably never knew before!

MC: How did you get started in acting?

JL: My first love was radio and it seemed a natural extension of that. Ironically though, I wasn't that attracted to drama in highschool. It all came together afterwards.

MC: Out of the three characters you played on Sailor Moon (the figure skater Mischa, Dr/Professor Tomoe, and Kakeru in the S movie) who was your favorite and why?

JL: Dr. Tomoe was my favorite because he was more nuanced than the others.

Josh2Darien: What was your favorite thing about Dr. Tomoe?

JL: What attracted me most to the character was finding a voice that accomplished both the Doctor and the villain in Tomoe. He had to sound intelligent and evil.

MC: How did you come up with the right voice for each of these three characters?

JL: It's always a benefit to see the character's illustrations when coming up with voices. In some animated series the voices are chosen before the animators have a chance to draw them, which is a lot more difficult.

MC: Your sister, Lisa Lumby Richards was a writer for Sailor Moon – did you ever get to collaborate with her on the roles that you played?

JL: No, but I definitely acted out her words on several occasions.

MC: Dr. Tomoe was a unique villain because he was the only one related to a Sailor Scout/Senshi (he was Sailor Saturn/Hotaru Tomoe's Dad). At the end of the season he was given a second chance to be a Dad again and make a new start free from his past mistakes. Most villains in cartoon shows stay villains and they are almost never redeemed. Was it challenging to play this kind of transition?

JL: Yes, it was challenging and fun, since I didn't know about the plot twist when I first took on the role, I then had to create a new softened take of Tomoe. Although the voice is clearly me, the tone and attitude are quite different during the "dad" stage.

MC: Did you ever watch the original Japanese episodes with subtitles before you recorded them?

JL: Yes, that's an interesting question. We would watch every scene first in Japanese just to get the intent of the scene. The Dr. Tomoe character was quite different in Japanese so sometimes this could be more of a hindrance than a help. I seem to remember the Japanese Tomoe as quite gruff, a choice I stayed away from with my version because I felt he needed to sound like an educated villain.

MC: Could you please describe what it was like to record an episode?

JL: I'm sure it sounds as though we spent hours in the studio but it really doesn't work that way. Each actor is called in separately, unless there's a very important piece of dialogue to record together, so once your line is recorded, the engineer will fast forward to your next a result each episode is recorded quite quickly. There will always be at least 2 takes of each line recorded for safety and choice. Sometime we'll lay down one line with a couple of intents.....punching one word on the first take and another on the second.

MC: How many episodes a week did you record?

JL: This varies. Sometimes we'll be called in for a few episodes over the course of the week, then we won't hear from the project for quite some time while they package the stuff we've already recorded. The Producers typically use the same studio for recording and mixing and sometimes they need to ship finished product for several episodes at a time, so they'll record a few then mix them, then get back to the recording.

MC: Would you reprise your role in a re-dub of the series?

JL: Absolutely.

MC: What do you think is Sailor Moon's legacy 15 years later?

JL: Obviously for me, the fan base is the legacy. Without your interest, we wouldn't be talking.

MC: Which memories of the show do you treasure?

JL: My fondest memories are from the recording. We always had a lot of fun doing it. Some of my favorite people (actors) today are folks I met on Sailor Moon.

ChibiGinger: Has Sailor Moon been the only anime (Japanese cartoon) you have dubbed?

JL: If I've done others they didn't have the impact of the "Moon".

MC: When you shot that first episode of Red Green, did you ever imagine it would have become the huge phenomenon that it did (let alone give a new life to duct tape)?

JL: Not a chance. I met Steve Smith (Red Green) at a promotional event the two of us were asked to participate in. (At the time I was Morning Man at a Hamilton radio station) We hit it off and he later asked me to be in the show. ("I'm looking for a Sewage and Septic guy and your name floated to the top.") After my first night in front of the camera I thought to myself, "well that was fun", thinking it was the last time I'd be on. 12 years later...

esahC: I see you're credited as the contributing writer for one episode for The Red Green Show. Tell us, how does that work?

JL: In the case of Red Green there were usually 2 or 3 main writers. Steve (Red) was always the head writer and the man through which all material ran. It was his vision and he had the best perspective on the overall idea. There were also a few contributing writers. We were expected to pitch ideas on segments and individual scripts. There would be weekly writing meetings where ideas were thrown around the table. If Steve liked your idea, he'd ask you to flesh it out. Even then it might get rejected, and if he liked it, it certainly would be improved upon. Steve Smith is the funniest person I've ever met, and my Red Green experience in this business was second to none.

MC: Do you have a new found admiration for those in septic and sewage maintenance or for duct tape?

JL: After you've sat behind that steamy truck for a few hours on a hot day in July, well let's just say "admiration" is one word that's new and found. There are others though.

MC: Winston Rothschild had quite a higher pitched voice than your regular voice, but one of the major themes behind the show was showing men being "manly". Did the voice and his somewhat quirky personality pose any challenges for you?

JL: Once Steve described what he wanted in the character it became very easy to portray. All he said was, "Winston loves his work. When you're performing remember one thing, Winston can't figure out why everyone isn't in the septic business." That was all I needed. As a result, there were very few scripts where Winston wasn't completely positive about any situation. Very fun.

MC: Which was your favorite episode of Red Green?

JL: I'm not much on "favorite" anything...but for Winston the episode where he was going to get married was memorable for me. "I've got the church booked, I've got the all I need is a bride." (or words to that effect) See, always optimistic. Winston also had the cool promotional catch phrases and the one that stuck out for me was this gem: 'Don't gamble with your septics. Remember, a flush always beats a full house.' Classic.

MC: What was the biggest lesson you learned from working on Red Green?

JL: To always have fun, even if you screw up. I used to get a bit down on myself when I'd flub a line cause I hate having everything come to a screeching halt for one of my mistakes. Particularly when I had such few lines compared to Harold (Pat McKenna) or Steve. Then I saw what happened when Pat blew a scene. He'd stay in character and play.....sometimes those "outtakes" would go on for minutes at a time. That's when I realized that I could either have fun with the mistake or suck the energy out of the room by getting down on myself. Pat is such a pro and was always so helpful and generous to me.

MC: Stephanie Beard was also a voice in Sailor Moon (Sailor Mini-Moon/Rini) and was the first woman to be on The Red Green Show. Did the show's dynamic change much when women were brought in to guest star on the show occasionally?

JL: No, it was quite refreshing actually. We had to clean up the lodge a bit when women guested, but other than that, I was for it.

MC: Do you know what prompted this change to have women visit Possum Lodge?

JL: Just a new dynamic for the show. Remember, the show's theme was to bring to life men's shortcomings, who better to do that than women?

MC: What are your favorite kinds of cartoon roles to play, ones for the younger audience or ones for the older audience (like Uncle Joe's Playhouse)?

JL: They both present challenges, but it's always fun doing cutting edge, meaty adult comedy.

MC: Which method do you prefer for voice dubbing – the Rhythmoband (which has almost gone the way of the dinosaurs) or the beep method?

JL: I liked Rythmo and got pretty proficient at it. The new digital technology is awesome though. Much easier to make corrections to etc.

MC: In March, I had the opportunity to see Fred Penner live in concert (he was doing a tour of campus bars). He commented that children's TV now isn't the same as it used to be and shows are more computer animated rather than using puppets and songs (the "variety" show aspect is almost gone). Having worked on Size Small – a legendary children's show in its own right with your own family behind it, what are your thoughts on shows for preschoolers and young kids these days? Do you think that these shows need to go back to a time when the technology was "simpler"?

JL: Yes, I agree with Fred. When my Mom (Miss Helen) created Size Small years ago, the goal was simple. Don't talk down to the toddlers. She never patronized, and sometimes I think that gets lost in technology. She (and Fred) have a very personal approach and I think some new producers of young children's programming thing they're only interested in flashy, fast edited shows. It's my opinion that they're missing the boat and contributing to short attention spans. Think about it, kids will watch slow paced shows like Size Small over and over again, now ponder what the retention rate is on overly produced, fast paced programming.

MC: You've had a radio career all over Canada for over 20 years – are you still on the radio now?

JL: Yes, I still dabble in my first love, radio. And I'm always recording radio commercials, so one way or the other, I'm on the radio.

MC: What were some of your most memorable radio moments and how did you get started in it?

JL: Let's start with when I got into the radio business. It was the same year I got out of high school and I had no interest in University or College at that point. My folks had worked with a man (Roy Curry) at the TV station in Saskatoon. Roy was opening a radio station at the time and I began taking voice classes from him. Eventually he hired me for the overnight show (Midnight-6 a.m.) The rest, as they say, is hysterical...ah history. I have one memorable moment I'll share with you....when I first started my Morning Show in Montreal in the late 80's, I was trying to endear myself to the audience by talking about the cultural experiences I was enjoying. So one night I went out to try a French Canadian staple called Poutine. It's French Fries topped with Cheese-curd and gravy. (ya, I know!!) The next morning I was all excited to report my findings and said, "last night I had my first Putin!" I guess the pronunciation was a little off, because immediately after I said it, my producer disappeared on the other side of the glass. Apparently he'd fallen off his chair laughing. I said, "what did I say?" He struggled back into the chair and pressed the mic button, "Jeff, you just said that last night, you had your first prostitute!!!" Good times.

MC: Size Small was shot in Saskatoon for many years – how did you survive those "balmy" Saskatchewan winters?

JL: Well, I'm originally from Saskatoon, so it's all we knew. We survived, "stubble-jumpers" are hearty stock.

MC: Are you in any upcoming productions right now? Where can Moonies find you next?

JL: I've been in several animated productions in one-off roles including the upcoming, Cat in the Hat starring Martin Short. A few years ago I played the Dad in Ricky Sprocket, but sadly the show only lasted a season. Right now though I'm very excited to be playing the regular, Charles LaPuck in Skatoony, which premiers on Teletoon in the fall.

MC: And with that, this interview is finally finished! Thanks again very much for doing the interview! We wish you the best of luck in the future!

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