Its 4:09 pm
Welcome to another edition of 8 Questions with……
Last month the cheetah and I reviewed a film about a crazed possessed unicorn named Duke in the creature feature called “CarousHELL” which was put out by Wild Eye Releasing. While the movie was a bit rocky,we loved the concept of a unicorn from Hell.
What saved “CarousHELL” from the average low budget indie horror release was Steve Rimpici who gave Duke the Unicorn both sass,incredible martial art skills,a weird freaky side and some serious comic chops. I found myself cracking up listening to Duke because I really thought a possessed unicorn would sound exactly how Steve voiced him.
The more I thought about it,the more I wanted to know who this funny voice actor was and how in the hell did he and Duke meet. I dig a tad digging and found Steve and we chatted and then I asked him if he would answer 8 Questions. He graciously agreed to do and so,here is the very talented Steve Rimpici. Just don’t take him near a Merry-Go-Round….
Please introduce yourself and tell us a little of your background.
I am born.
Let’s skip ahead a bit. In school I enjoyed creating characters and making funny voices and found that humor could diffuse almost any situation. I found that laughter is one of the few things that brings as much pleasure in giving as it does in receiving. I attended Stuyvesant High School in NYC and I worked the switchboard at lunch. Companies called the school posting jobs for students and I accepted them before anyone else even knew there was an opportunity. One day I was lucky enough to take the call from Laurel Entertainment (who made Creepshow and a bunch of other horror films and TV shows). Every Friday I was sent out for a magnum of champagne and two pounds of cookies, so the office could screen the next episode of Tales From The Darkside. They were a terrific group of people. (They also let me use their VHS duplicating machine, so I could copy Star Trek tapes rented from Blockbuster.)
Other than a stint in a highly regarded production of the Wizard of Oz in 4th grade (thanks Mom!), I was not a theater kid. I’ve been a salesman all my life. I started doing telephone sales as a teen and found I enjoyed it. In the wild west days of the pre-Do Not Call List world, I was one of those annoying telemarketing reps bothering people during dinner, trying to sell them a magazine subscription. Having a nationwide clientele, I found that I’d unconsciously mirror the various accents I heard to help connect with the person on the other end of the line. Once I started looking into acting, I realized that sales and acting were two sides of the same coin.
Of course our first question is, how did you get started as a voice actor? Most actors WANT to be seen but you rather be heard, correct?
While I’ve been using accents and making funny voices since childhood, I didn’t start professionally as an actor until later in life. My daughter was a nationally ranked gymnast, and I volunteered to be the emcee at events. A lot of people liked my shtick and told me to look into it as a career, so I came up with a plan to act (and keep my day job). Some students at NYU are required to have a voice over project done as part of their theater program. Because I worked for free, I did projects with a lot of them (who also were just happy to have someone over 30 involved). From there, I did a lot of low-pay and free work for projects that sounded fun (since I had the benefit of a full-time job, I could choose what I liked). Through Craigslist and other resources, I auditioned a lot, and did a number of old-fashioned internet radio serials (including The Ark of Time, Smoke and Mirrors, and The Adventures of Lord Dinby Witherspoon), which allowed me to develop hundreds of characters. Eventually got the lead role as Dr. Wolfgang Wagner in Dustin Mills’ indie-horror cult classic The Puppet Monster Massacre. It was great fun and Dustin has gained a well-deserved following. He was kind enough to ask me to voice the Mega-Pope in the very funny (and very naughty) Easter Casket as well.
As far as being seen, I was blessed with a face for radio, so I never had a great desire to be onscreen.
How do you develop voices and more importantly, how do you protect your voice?
I usually hear a voice in my head when reading a script, so it starts there. It helps immensely to get a picture of the character (if a cartoon), or a description (if an audiobook or narrator). 90% of the time I’ll go with the voice in my head. I’ll then do whatever research is necessary (what does a Norwegian sound like?) to refine the voice.
Knowing your intended audience is vital as well. Doing a narration for an intentionally dry medical training video is very different than a narration for a corporate event in Vegas and certainly different than movie or audiobook.
Protecting your voice starts with the audition. Don’t audition with a voice that you can’t do consistently for hours on end. You don’t want to get a job that you can’t complete (or keeps you from doing other jobs because of the strain).
What is the biggest difference for you from doing a in front of a camera role and doing voice acting? Do you approach roles differently?
Voice acting isn’t dependent on your age or how you look (or else I’d always be the cop, the crook, or the crazed maniac). Frank Welker is 73 and still voicing Fred from Scooby Doo after 50 years. A big plus for me as well is that you don’t need to memorize lines or worry about blocking.
On camera, the actor uses their whole body as well as the surroundings to add to the performance. The viewer takes in everything in front of them and invests their emotion in the scene. With voice acting (and audiobooks in particular), the narrator provides the scene and characters, but it is the listener’s imagination that fills in all the details. It can be a much more immersive experience.
I’ve done a few on camera roles and I enjoyed working on set, but I prefer voice work. With all those cookies I ate in high school, I think it’s better for me to be heard not seen.
On screen and VO are very different skills, and each has its own rewards.
In animation, you act against a cartoon on a screen but does it help when you do a character like Duke to actually be on the set?
Not for me, but having the full script and a picture of the character is crucial. That said, I would have loved to have been on set for CarousHELL. It would have been great fun to watch and be a part of (although I would have felt like the creepy old guy watching some of the scenes), and Steve Rudzinski is great at what he does.
As a voice actor, I record in a studio and have the audio files sent to the director. The director makes notes and I’ll send a few more takes for them to choose from. If the directors are OK with it, I may even send some ad-libbed takes as well.
For animation, recording together with other actors is wonderful (it’s great to play off each other), but isn’t always possible.
What three people have had the biggest influence on your career and how so?
Mel Brooks – He is, quite simply put, one of the funniest men that has ever lived. His ability to use humor to show how absurd the world is and laugh at it all, is a blessing. His songs are hysterical, his sight gags are great, and his movies are proof that unsanitized humor is still funny in a very PC world. It’s also obvious that his actors love him, and he loves them.
Mel Brooks taught me to be fearless in comedy and to love what you do.
Jonathan Winters – Another of the funniest men that has ever lived. There is none better at improv than Jonathan Winters. He can take a pen and use it as a thousand different things, all of them funny. Watching him and Robin Williams together (whether in Mork and Mindy or even on the Tonight Show), is a master class on how to enjoy yourself while performing.
Jonathan Winters taught me to think fast, use sharp wit, and do what you find funny (and the audience will happily come along for the ride).
William Shatner – He’s William Shatner! William. Shatner. There’s nothing more to say.
So how did Duke the crazed Unicorn and you happen to meet?
Steve Rudzinski put out a casting call for a crazy horror film about a killer carousel unicorn. What’s not to love? He sent me a few pages of this incredibly funny story. I’m much more comfortable in comedic roles and had done horror comedy with Dustin Mills, so I sent him an mp3 with a few different takes for Duke. Steve was very kind to offer me the part.
This was back in 2016 and Steve released the film himself. Since then, it has gotten distribution (and a great new poster!), is on Amazon, and Steve is on the convention circuit. I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the film with Steve and the other actors which was a wonderful experience. It was great meeting everyone and seeing the film with a theater full of happy people! Very grateful I got the part!
You also seem attracted to the dark poet Edgar Alan Poe, what’s the story behind that?
I’ve always enjoyed Poe’s works. The Black Cat, The Raven, and The Tell-Tale Heart are all favorites of mine. I was lucky enough to work with Strobie Studios on a few audio series and for Halloween one year they decided to do The Horror of Poe (which became a yearly tradition).
We were doing a modern take on Sherlock Holmes (The Watson Files) and I played dozens of characters including the recurring role of Officer Weathers (who sounds a bit like Duke). I decided to have a little fun with Poe, so I read The Raven as Officer Weathers. I mentioned I tend to hear voices as I read, and Strobie Studios was kind enough to let me play, so I did The Tell-Tale Heart with a German accent and had fun with others as well.
. Poe’s works have both darkness and light in them, horror and comedy, loss and love. He is such a great weaver of stories that just beg to be read.
What has been your three most challenging roles to date and how did you handle them?
My first audiobook was Steve Kozeniewski’s Braineater Jones. It’s a noir, detective story about a sentient zombie trying to solve his own murder. (Plot twist is that zombies become stereotypical brain-eaters without alcohol, and this take place during Prohibition.) Many narrators I’ve heard will use subtle changes in tone and cadence to portray different characters. I wanted to give every character in the book its own voice, whether the protagonist or one with a single line (about 50 characters in total). I set up a spreadsheet to map characters’ entrances and exits by chapter, and assigned traits to them for the voice. Steve Kozeniewski gave a description of almost everyone (old Italian man, Russian woman, sounded like Jimmy Durante, etc.) so I had a foundation to work with. It was a challenge to keep everyone straight, but I enjoyed bouncing back and forth and having conversations with myself. I was thrilled (and very proud!) when the Voice Arts Awards nominated Braineater Jones for Outstanding Audiobook Narration in the mystery category.
In Bullseye, a low-budget indie noir-spoof directed by Alex Prister, I played Detective Dick Polakowski, my first lead and my first large onscreen role (and I got to wear my grandfather’s fedora from the 40s). Since I had not done much stage or screen work, I had to learn to be aware of camera placement as well as where the actors were. The cast and crew were mostly younger folks (from my perspective), and it was great to see so many people passionate about their craft. The best advice I can give anyone in a new situation is to listen and learn more than speak. Understand your place in the universe and keep your ego in check.
Steve Kozeniewski and I worked together again with the audiobook version of Billy and the Cloneasaurus. The title is based on a joke from The Simpsons, but the story is all Steve’s. This is about a future earth populated entirely by blue collar worker clones. There were about 20 different characters in the book, but as clones, all sounded alike. The challenge was to find a way to differentiate between everyone, especially when talking to each other. While I tend to like larger than life characters, it was fun to focus on the subtleties.
- What is the auditioning process like for a voice actor?
It depends upon the project. Some will ask you to come to their studio to do a live audition. For others, you’ll be sent sides (a partial script) to record on your own and then send them an mp3. There are also a few websites that have lists of auditions where you’ll submit as a member of the site.
The level of direction you get varies widely from project to project. The best advice I’ve gotten is to commit to the character and be fearless about it. With comedy especially, you have to be very willing to look and sound the fool (my first marriage taught me this very well).
If you’re lucky, you’ll get feedback from the directors or casting agents but you typically don’t hear anything unless you’re being called back for another audition or are offered the part. You will be rejected way more than accepted and you need to be OK with that. You also need patience, as with animation you may not see it completed on screen until a couple of years after you recorded it.
If you could work on any three shows today, which would they be and why?
Spongebob Squarepants – The show has some of the funniest bits you’ll see on TV including a great comedic duo in Spongebob and Patrick. (I’ll add them onto the list with Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, and Bert & Ernie.) It’s been on for 20 years old and still fresh. Tom Kenny is a national treasure.
Any Disney pre-school show (and Peppa Pig) – I was born the same week Sesame Street started. Pre-school shows can be educational and fun, and I’d love to be the voice of a character that little kids love.
Star Trek Discovery – I’m a proud Trekkie. I’d work on any Star Trek show.
The Animated Adventures of Braineater Jones – If you know anyone in the industry who can make this happen, we’re ready! Anyone out there? Please?! I want an action figure!
Which five voice actors would you want to work with the most?
Frank Welker (the current reigning King of Voiceover) – Whether as Megatron, Fred, or Curious George, Frank is a master in every sense of the word.
Rob Paulsen (the Crown Prince) – From Pinky (from Pinky and the Brain), two Ninja Turtles, Yakko, and countless others, Rob is the heart of the VO community. I was lucky enough to have some training classes with him. He is a true gentleman.
Maurice LaMarche (the Jester) – As Brain (in Pinky and the Brain), Morbo, Calculon, and Kif (all from Futurama), and a few hundred more, he’s just a joy to listen to.
Peter Cullen (the Black Knight) – Best known as Optimus Prime, I loved him as Venger in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. His deep, resonating voice pierces your soul.
If we could resurrect him, Mel Blanc (the God-Emperor) – I can remember as a kid watching the credits of Bugs Bunny cartoons which said, “Voice Characterizations – Mel Blanc”. I wondered who all the other people were that did the other characters. I’m still in awe that he could do so many different and distinct characters and do them all flawlessly. (June Foray will forever be the Goddess-Empress.)
The cheetah and I are flying in to watch you voice Duke once again but we are a day early and you’re our tour guide, what are we doing?
I live just outside NYC and there is absolutely nothing to do there. I’d probably make sure you were sufficiently soaked in alcohol and then subject you to a Rimpici movie marathon (which is really the only way to watch my performances).
I like to thank Steve for a fun and insightful interview. If you go on his website,you can hear a couple of demo reels that showcase his incredible array of voices. I hope you enjoyed meeting Steve in this interview and will take the time to visit his social media pages and give him a follow,you’ll even see the cheetah and I are already doing so.
You can also hit the “like” button and hopefully leave a comment or question for Steve.
If you do,I’ll make sure he gets it…..
To find out more about Steve and his amazing voice acting,follow him at the following:
Check out Steve’s website here
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Find and hear Steve on Audible
You can find Steve’s films on Amazon