Paul Eiding, best known among TF fans for his work as the voice of Perceptor in the original animated series, recently graced us here at TFW with an interview. Answering questions posed by some of the users on the site, Mr. Eiding mused about the original series, his work in the video industry, and his love of the stage. Read below to check it out!
First off, how did you get the role of Perceptor? As he was a character that appeared in the second season, had you heard any buzz for the Transformers series at that time?
Nothing too exciting here. I auditioned along with many others. I was doing a stage play at the time playing 3 characters with different accents, one a Brit. Someone recommended me to the casting director and I got called to audition. I had several friends doing characters so I knew of the show, but honestly, didn’t know too much about the show.
What was the audition process like, as a character being added to an already large cast? Do you think the process would have been any different if you had been auditioning at the beginning of the show?
The process, as I remember, wasn’t any different from usual. I was shown a picture of the character and told they were going for an effete proper English accent. Something along the lines of C3PO…”but not really.”
Do you have any stories about the recording sessions of Transformers? Any favorite memories or anecdotes about the other cast members?
Early on the sessions took HOURS. Wally Burr, the vo [voiceover] director had very specific sounds he was after, and made many an actor irate by pushing and pushing, and giving “line readings” (actors hate line readings), and having us do innumerable takes grunting, screaming, shouting, etc. We all felt like we were bleeding from the throat when we left the studio. I remember one session we were all voicing Insecticons who were eating buildings, etc. We were all making munching, crunching, slobbering mouth sounds, as if we were devouring metal, etc. At one point, I looked up to see Greg Berger, Chris Latta, Michael Bell, and others, faces contorted, bodies hunched over, arms and hands gesticulating wildly…just as I was doing. The absurdity of what we were doing just hit me as incredibly funny. Simultaneously, others felt the same way, and of course, uncontrollable laughter ensued ruining the take. Were we really getting paid for this?!
Was it strange to voice an “intellectual” character in a cast of primarily action-oriented roles? Do you feel you were treated differently because of it, by the other cast members or the director? Has anyone ever given you any ribbing about being “the nerd Transformer”?
I wasn’t treated differently, except for the fact that Wally Burr seemed to enjoy what I was doing and almost NEVER gave me line readings. It’s been kind of a bummer that, as in life, the thinking person hasn’t always been thought of as cool. The bad guys and the ones with “fire-power” are the sexy ones. Perceptor is often considered boring by the uneducated.
Perceptor was one of few characters from season 2 of Transformers who survived his appearance in the animated movie and was featured in season 3. Why do you think he was brought back?
Oh, this one’s easy. It’s because of my incredible talent and charm. I became Perceptor and he became me.
Okay, that was all bulls**t.
The real answer is, I have no idea. I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I ain’t got one.
What did you base the voice for Perceptor off of? If you were given an opportunity to reprise the role, would you voice it the same way? Similarly, have you been approached for any other Transformers projects? Are you interested in being a part of the franchise again?
As I said, they wanted a C3PO sort of voice. I also thought he could be an absent-minded professor kind of guy. Never had an audition for ANY of the new Transformers projects. Kind of irritating, but what can you do. I’d love to be involved with the franchise again. The Transformers occurred early in my Los Angeles voiceover career, so it holds a special place in my heart.
Many of the intellectual characters you’ve voiced have had extremely specialized vocabularies, but Perceptor stands out as the one with most “techno-babble”. Do you do any background research to learn these kinds of terms? Is there any improvisation in these kinds of lines?
No improv with Perceptor. Some of the sessions were hairy, because we didn’t get the scripts ahead of time. As I recall, we’d get to the studio, get the script, do a read thru, then record. Some of the stuff was tough to wrap my mouth around. The only research I had was my experience doing industrial films (training films) for companies like 3M, Control Data, and Honeywell, when I was living in Minneapolis, Mn. where I worked at The Brave New Workshop, and improv theatre.
The Transformers brand has lasted for 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Why do you think the brand has lasted this long?
Because they’re COOL! C’mon giant robots, who TRANSFORM into other things?! And they have big guns! Well, most of ‘em. Plus, they have a lot of personality. They don’t sound like robots. The fact that some are good and some are bad is also cool. It’s the never-ending tale of good vs evil. Human beings, I believe, are also naturally drawn to mythology, and the Transformers’ is great fun.
The character of Perceptor has had some longevity as well, with appearances in the current Transformers comics by IDW, an upcoming re-release of the original toy, and a new version of the character (although heavily influenced by the original) on the Transformers: Animated series. Do you follow characters you’ve voiced, and if so, had you heard about his Animated appearance? What do you think of the Hawking-esque computer voice used for Perceptor in Transformers: Animated?
I haven’t watched TF: Animated. I was too pissed off. I am getting a new Perceptor (the re-released original).
Have you heard about Michael Bell’s “animated” comic campaign for IDW? If so, are you at all interested in participating?
I’ve heard Mike’s stuff. Very cool. He’s one of my buddies and someone I’ve always looked up to. When I grow up, I want to be Michael Bell! I’ve told him I’d love to be involved any way I can.
How does working in live action differ to voice work, aside from the idea of working on a set vs. in a recording studio? What about working on stage? Do you have a favorite medium?
I love what I do, whether on-camera, vo, or stage. On-camera work is wonderful, but I find it a bit limiting. Unless you have a director who wants to work “outside the box”, your roles can be limited by your age, height, weight, and other physical characteristics. Voiceover work is limited only by your talent. I can be a dwarf, a demon, a 90 year old invalid, a 6’4” Marine Colonel, an absent-minded professor, a dimwitted ogre, an number of aliens, and I could go on and on. However, stage work is still my favorite medium. I love the rehearsal/discovery part of the process, the bonding with fellow actors, the immediate reaction one gets from an audience, and the ownership the actor has over the process. Once a show opens, it belongs to the actors and the audience. No one else. I love it.
You’ve played a lot of learned characters over your career, do you think there’s a reason for this? How do you approach a role to make it seem “smart”?
I’ve played my share of dummies, as well. I attempt to play every character at the top of their intelligence, whatever that may be. Even the big dumb brutes. My sense is no one thinks of themself as dumb…no matter how thick they may seem to others.
Have you ever done a voice that really hurt your throat? Have you ever been forced to change a character’s voice because of that reason?
I haven’t had to change a character’s voice…yet. There have been instances that I’ve passed on an audition because I knew it would be a throat ripper. I did a game about a year ago which came close. Don’t remember the name of the game, but it was a monster, named “Baby”. It was always having tantrums…growling, attacking and screaming at the top of it’s lungs. Luckily, most everything was done in one or two takes. Had it been Wally Burr directing, he or I would be dead now.
Do you ever ad-lib while doing voice work, and has it ever caused a good / bad result?
Used to get to ad-lib a lot doing animation, back in the day, but not as much doing games. Every once in a while the opportunity comes and I love it. The results are almost always positive because if you’re into your character, “he” speaks through you, so the character can become more fully developed.
Is this where you saw yourself when you were young and asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” What would your dream role be? Out of the projects that you’ve worked on over the years, what would your favourite have been and why?
When I was young I wanted to be a musician. String Bass. I’ve always said that my dream would be to do a film role that is appreciated by my peers, in a movie that truly affects society in a positive way, that changes people’s actions for the good, that is both a financial and critical success…and that makes me FILTHY RICH! What do ya think? Too much to ask for? Seriously, my favorite role has been Tevye, in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. I did the show for 11 months, many years ago. For a character man, it’s a show that has everything. You sing, you dance a little, you make people laugh, and you make people cry. Loved doing the show and would love to do it again, before I’m too old. There are many projects I’ve had great fun doing. I’m a very lucky man!
Is a voice actor working on multiple projects for the same studio, either simultaneously or in succession, common? Does it depend on the director, the studio, or something else?
Yep, it’s common. I’ve worked on several projects in succession at Sound Deluxe, and others. It can depend on the casting director who brings you in to audition for different projects, the director OR the studio. Some of it is just happenstance. Tomorrow, I work on Starcraft, and just finished working on Warcraft. Next week I’m doing BioShock.
Lately, you’ve been doing a lot of work in video games. Is there a reason for this? What are some of the differences you’ve found between voice work done for a show or movie, and for a video game? Is there a particular genre of games you prefer to work in (RPGs, action games, etc.)?
I’m an actor. The games I prefer are the ones that involve story. The more cinematic, the better I like it. I enjoy working with another actor in the studio. It’s always more fun to work off one another. The difference between games and films is becoming harder and harder to define. And that’s a good thing. Games to me are becoming more and more like movies.
What was it like working on the Metal Gear Solid series? Were recordings done individually, or in group sessions? Were you able to work again with any of the numerous other Transformers cast members who worked on the games?
I’ve loved MGS. Making friends with folks like David Hayter was a special treat. The first game was done ala radio drama, actually recording with the actors. I’ve gotten to work with David on all the sessions, but not the other characters. Mainly for scheduling reasons, I think. Over the years, I’ve worked with most of the Transformers cast on other projects. I’ve done lots of Pixar stuff with Jack Angel, cartoons with Charlie Adler, Sue Blu, Corey Burton (another hero), Scatman, Jim Cummings, my dear friend Walker Edmiston, Laurie Faso, Linda Gary, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Danny Gilvezan, Jerry Hauser, Casey Kasem, Mo LaMarche, Alan Oppenheimer, Rob Paulsen (most recently on Ben-10), the wonderful Tony Pope, Frankie Welker, and others. Many of the games are recorded one actor at a time. I always laugh when I find out, after the fact, that I’ve worked with Greg Berger, or Clive Revill, or whoever, on the same project.
What is it like working on many of Blizzard’s extremely popular games franchises, such as Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft? Have you been approached for any of their upcoming projects?
oops…I’ve answered this one. It’s been great being involved with Blizzard. Diablo and Starcraft were a couple of my first games. Chris Metzen is still a great guy.
Some of your credits are for “additional voices”, what exactly does this mean? How are these roles usually filled, and is this any different from other roles?
Some of the “additional voices” listing on IMDB are incorrect, they were actually, guest stars. The Pixar work, however, is “additional voice” work. It’s basically ADR [additional dialogue recording], but usually there are characters that have actual lines written for them…or lines we get to improv…that either move the story along or add comic relief to the movie. This is different from adding crowd noise or fight sounds or background walla to scenes. Additional voice stuff is intended to be heard as stand alone. For instance, in Monsters, Inc. I was one of 3 trainees who were afraid of little kids. I was also a huge eye, a little business man monster who flies off to work and says something to his wife. Each has their own little moment. Whew…hope that makes sense. The parts are usually filled by members of special ADR groups. I work with one called Lipschtick. We’re all animation vo actors.
Thanks again to Mr. Eiding for taking the time to answer our questions!