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Doug Stone Interview

September 7th, 2010

Doug Stone: “I’d like to say greetings to everyone and thank you for staying on the M.A.S.K. team. I’m thrilled that you’re still enjoying the series and hope you get pleasure from it for many years to come……M.A.S.K. on!!”

1. How does it feel to know that there are still fans of this show?

It amazes me that the show remains alive with the fans. When you’re voicing a show you’re very much in the present. Both during the recording process and in your thoughts about the show’s acceptance. All we cared about was that it would find popularity with the kids watching it. I don’t any of us even considered the thought that it might still be of interest to people so far in the future. It’s very gratifying to think that one’s work/performance still resonates with the fans. It was a total surprise to me to learn so many people still had an interest in M.A.S.K.

2. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My spare time? Well, I’m a great one for reading. I usually have 3 books on the go at the same time. I go to films almost every wknd. I enjoy all types. Small films to Avatar. I’m just looking for quality. And I love to watch great actors at work. Quiet evenings with friends, maybe a trip down to the beach to walk along the boardwalk. Going to plays. Now that I’m older I live a quieter life than I did 25 years ago. During the M.A.S.K. days I got around a bit. Ahem. Oh, and I like check out Youtube and Google for odd information. Of course, my favorite thing is to find out there are still M.A.S.K. fans out there.

3. Are you currently working on any projects today? If so, would you care to share them with us?

I am fortunate enough to earn my living solely through voice acting. So there are always projects on the go. I mainly do anime and video games these days. Bleach, Naruto, Fist of the North Star…..etc. The role I seem to be best known for is Pyscho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid.

4. Do you ever do any conventions or autograph signings? If so, where do they normally take place?

I’ve never been to a convention. I could attend anime conventions but choose not to. Part of it is that I don’t feel I warrant the kind of attention the actors receive. Especially in anime I don’t feel what I do is so special. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up watching anime and don’t have a great affinity for it. I enjoy acting in anime but never watch it. So, I feel like I’d somehow be cheating fans if I were to sign autographs for a genre I’m really not into. I’d feel like a phony. I’ve never heard of a signing for M.A.S.K. That I would attend because original animation acting means more to me.

5. You have had a long career in voice acting. How did you get into it?

I had done some radio dramas as a kid, so I had some comfort around a microphone. I was working a day job, in my adulthood. They produced commercials and needed someone to do what are called, “scratch tracks.” That is a demo track where they can check for timing, alter scripts, etc. You’re essentially laying down a track for the star voice-person to follow. The fellow I recorded with encouraged me to consider v/o as a career. I was doing theater at night, including a comedy show. I earned some money but not enough to support myself with….this is turning into a long story. Let’s start another paragraph, shall we?

I recorded a demo reel and sent it to every advertising company in town…that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it but I didn’t know any better. Amazingly one of them called me and I began doing the commercials for all the stores in a mall they represented. That, and my theater earnings, gave me enough money to quit my day-job and try for a career in the industry. 26 years have past, and I’m still here. Hurray!!

6. Which jobs where some of your favorites?

Some of my favorites? Well, M.A.S.K. ranks up there. I had a small role in Lilo and Stitch. Where I’ve made a lot of money is in something called, “looping,” where you supply voices for films and t.v. shows. I’ve done a thousand of them or so and some were great projects. I guess I’m very proud that I formed my own group of actors and we did all the supplemental voices for the entire Hercules and Xena series. Over two hundred shows. That was very gratifying.

7. How did you become involved with MASK?

I was living in Canada and had just signed with a great agency. When DIC auditioned actors they only used about three agencies and I was fortunate to have gotten with mine only a few months before. They liked me a lot for Matt Trakker, which was really the key. I believe I was also cast for Hondo and Bruce at that time. But I had to read for Matt around three times, long distance to L.A., before they decided I could handle the role.

8. Did you have to audition for each part or where you played?

Yes, we auditioned for every role. Unfortunately one actor was let go right before recording. His roles were then auditioned for by us. i think that’s when I got Dusty and maybe one more. As new characters were created they’d bring drawing and lines for them to read into the studio and we’d audition right there. I was fortunate enough to get other characters.

9. You played the voice of one of the best cartoon heroes of the 80’s, Matt Trakker. What did you think of the character?

First, thanks for the compliment regarding Matt. I liked him a lot. He was a stand-up guy, ready to go into action when needed. I thought he was a fair, but firm leader. I tried to give him a lot of authority in his voice but I wanted to keep him very human, so that his humanity and good heart would show through. One of those guys you would call tough, but fair. And I liked his relationship with his son. I always felt he was a good Dad. All the above qualities are admirable so it was nice to voice a guy I could respect. Here’s what might be an interesting fact for you. When voicing a cartoon character you sometimes change the way you stand or gesture, to help you get in character. It’s an aid to changing voices as well. With Matt I always stood up straight and had my chest pushed out. I kept a serious look on my face. With someone like Dusty I was more bouncy and tried to think more like a impetuous kid would. With Bruce I held myself very softly and tried to imagine I was almost floating.

10. Outside of Matt Trakker, my favorite voice that you did was Bruce Sato. Who was responsible for all of those clever one liners. Do you remember any that stand out the most to you?

I’m sorry I don’t remember any of Bruce’s lines. it’s been too long. But I do know I enjoyed saying them. They were sometimes so short that I had to be careful to make every word count. You couldn’t rush past one because the sentences were so short and concise. He was the cerebral observer.

11. Can you explain to us how voicing a character works?

Well, I’ve explained a bit about voicing when I talked about body stance. That’s actual something a film or stage actor might do as well, but not as exaggerated as an animation actor would do. First you have to hone your instrument – your voice, as a singer would do. When creating the character I think you have to inhabit him. It’s not just words that you’re saying, you must consider your character to be a being with his own point-of-view of life, his own way of expressing itself. And ask yourself, what is this characters real drive in life – what do they want? Power, acceptance, justice, revenge? How would those strong emotions affect the way you speak. Of course if you’re voicing a non-human character the drawings tell you even more. Body size is important too.

12. You played a lot of other characters in the show. Which ones were your favorites?

It’s really hard to say who were my favorites. I think you have to learn to like every character you play or you can’t give a full performance. I did like Bruce a lot.

13. Are any of the characters you voiced close to your original voice?

The closest to my real voice is Matt. But I deepened my voice. And his attitudes and manner were not my own. I’m no super-hero! Hondo was much deeper – that was a tough one to reach down to. Dusty of course was my high end and Bruce was much softer than me. It would be Matt, but not as straight ahead and heroic as him, certainly. My natural voice has a bit of husk in it. I tried to play Matt with a very clear tone.

14. How long did it normally take for you to do your voice recordings for each show?

Most shows take 3-4 hours to record. There is actually a union rule that they can not go longer than 4 hours. With good actors and a good director you can finish in 3 hours easily. I know that sounds like an awfully easy way to make a living, but bear in mind that actors go on hundreds and hundreds of auditions Doing the job is the gravy, but getting jobs is what our careers are really about. It’s not a business for everyone. You must deal with daily rejection and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to pay the rent every month. I’ve been very lucky but most people only last a few years in the business before they quit.

15. Were you allowed any input in the voice acting or did you have to stay strictly to the scripts?

Some shows welcome actor input, but as I recall M.A.S.K. did not. Perhaps if something was not grammatically correct and you pointed it out they might let you change it. It’s usually comedic animation where they’re more open to actor suggestions. A lot of people look at scripts before they’re approved so you can’t go changing things on the fly.

16. Were you provided with artwork or any back stories for your characters prior to doing their voice? Did that help you come up with each of their voices?

Yes, we got artwork and drawings of the characters. It was extremely helpful. There are some jobs where you don’t even get to see a drawing, they just describe the character to you. Actors hate that. The M.A.S.K. folks did it the right way.

17. You’re sometimes credited under pseudonyms like Gully Jimson, David Orosco, and Doug Store. Is there a special reason for this?

Ah, the names. Well, it used to be, frankly, that I did some non-union work, which I wasn’t supposed to do. I’d make up names for the credits. Other times, when it was just a small dubbing job I’d make up a name for fun, as some of my fellow actors would do. David is my middle name and Orozco was a street I lived on. Gully Jimson is a character in one of my favorite books, “The Horses’s Mouth.” I always use my real name for larger projects.

18. The first season of MASK went 65 episodes while the second only went 10. Did you like the transition into the second season?

Well, we were unhappy that we were doing so few episodes the 2nd season. On the other hand we hadn’t expected anything more than the original 65. So, it was a nice surprise. I think that’s when Brian George joined us, but I’m not sure.

19. If you can recall, which episode did you like the most?

I’m sorry, it’s too long ago for me to recall which episode I might have liked best.

20. You have done a great deal of voice acting over the years. If you can recall, have any of your other voices ever sounded similar to the ones you did for MASK?

I probably have done some voices again that I used on M.A.S.K….or versions of them. I don’t voice many African-American characters because there are real African-American actors. Oddly enough I do play asians in quite a few games…usually the wise old sages. I don’t often do hero roles anymore, they like younger actors to perform them. However, I have used a Matt type voice since the series. I find that a character can be more heroic if he’s not a screamer but has a quiet intensity.

21. If MASK where to be brought back today, would you want to be involved with the project? Do you feel an animated cartoon movie would do better than a live action movie?

I’d love to be involved in a new M.A.S.K. project. It was be like old home week. I’m still friends with Brendon and Sharon and we’d love to work in studio together again. I’d prefer it to be animated, so I could be in it! They’re not going to put a tight uniform on me and ask me to jump into vehicles at my age. lol. But I think it would make a very cool 3-d film.

22. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your experience with MASK?

M.A.S.K. provided me with enough money to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career here. It never would have happened otherwise. So I’ll always be grateful to the show. Overall we were treated very well. I made friends on the show and got my first taste of working in ,”the big time.” So, it was all good.

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