It is our privilege to be able to bring you an exclusive interview with Transformers Prime voice actress Tania Gunadi. Tania voices Miko Nakadai the female lead human character in the show. We recently had the opportunity to ask Tania some questions regarding her role, the show as well as her acting and background in general.
Q1. You were born in West Java in Indonesia and moved to the United States at a young age, could you tell us more about this and what first impressions when you arrived within the US?
Oh man, moving to the US was one the coolest things ever. It was actually a really big surprise because my sister had submitted my name into the US green card lottery, and I won- along with my Mom and Dad! This might sound a little funny to Los Angelinos bu t when I first walked out of LAX airport, I was blown away at how fresh the air was and how awesome the traffic flowed cause I'd never seen a freeway before. And I liked looking at all the big buildings, the variety of people surrounding me and everyone was speaking English! And while I didn't quite understand what they were saying cause my English was super bad at the time, I was just so excited to be here.
Q2. How did you get into acting and voice acting and what was it that interested you in acting in the first place?
When I grew up in Indonesia, I knew nothing about acting, voice over, or anything involving TV/Film. Then while working at Pizza Hut, my first job in LA, a friend mentioned something about auditioning for a Disneyland commercial. I didn't even know what auditioning was but long story short, I booked it and have been hooked on acting ever since. I remember calling my mom and telling her that I found what I wanted to do in life, and she was pretty much shocked. She was hoping that I would work in a bank or something like that where I have a stable income with my own office and wear like, a nice suit and stuff. She tried convincing me that acting was to be a hobby only, and that I should find a real job, but I told her that it IS the best job for me because I get to have fun and make a living at the same time? Eventually after coming to set and sitting in some acting classes with me, she came around to being very supportive of what I love to do. She even had a small part in an episode of Boston Public with me and enjoyed it very much!
Q3. If you weren't an actress what would you see yourself doing?
I think I'd be an art teacher or a painter?
Q4. I understand that as well as English you are also fluent in Indonesian, Sundanese and speak some Mandarin, do you think being multi-lingual helps you when you audition for roles?
Yeah it definitely helps!! And it really is fun when I get to speak my native Sundanese language because rarely does anyone understand what I'm saying. Haha!
Q5. You landed the role for Miko Nakadai in the soon-to-dťbutTransformers PrimeTV series, what was it that first interested you in the role and can you tell us a little about the auditioning process?
I love Transformers: Prime!! (well, of course I am a bit biased. hahaha). When I first read for the role I just remember being really excited about the way Miko was written. She had a sense of high adventure and freedom about her that I was instantly drawn to. And it was cool to be reading for a newly created character on a show with such a great history. I got the audition from my agent like around September 2009, went back to meet with the producers in October, then my agent called in November and said I booked it! I was screaming so loudly it scared the cats and my agent.
Q6. Miko is described as being "15, Japanese, with a love of American pop culture especially speed metal and punk clothing", could you tell us any more about her character and how you approached the role?
That sounds like Miko allright! She's the kind of person who just lets it rip 24/7, making "fun" priority number one and letting the Universe, or maybe better said, the Autobots, sort out the details! She's crazy adventurous, loves inviting herself to go on any and all missions with the Autobots, especially the dangerous ones, and she likes to break rules. I prepared for the role by driving fast on the 405 freeway, watching the movie Casino Royale a lot, and not stopping at "Stop" signs. Ok, I'm kidding…maybe.
Q7. The Japanese youth pop-culture is often heavily influenced by the West especially in places like Harajuku in Tokyo and the Amerikamura (American Village) in Osaka. Did you research these areas to pick up on anything that would add to the role?
Honestly, not too much. But the reason is because Miko was written from a more American point of view, I felt. And while I had done research on Japanese youth pop-culture (which was pretty cool) the past couple years for other roles that I've auditioned and worked on, Miko is more into American heavy metal music and monster truck rallies!
Q8. What were your first thoughts when you saw the CGI renders for your character?
I was pretty blown away by all the details of her facial features and the specifics of her clothing, hair, and accessories. At the time the producers said the renders weren't even "final" yet, so it was even more impressive cause it looked so good. I remember all the actors were in the room at the same time, and all you heard was "wow", "whoa", "cool", for like 15 minutes while everyone got to check out the first CGI renders of their characters.
Q9. Transformers Prime will air on The Hub within the US which is a Hasbro / Discovery joint venture. Shortly after the channel launched on 10.10.10 Susan Liin, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood group attacked the channel stating the "The notion of a toy company owning a television channel for the sole purpose of promoting their toys is egregious practice,". What are your thoughts on her comments?
No doubt there's an ample supply of opinions from others about what's considered appropriate or inappropriate behavior, on any given subject in the world. At the end of the day it's impossible to sort all that out, and it doesn't serve the greater good of anyone to criticize. I'm someone who wants to see, and tries my best to look for the absolute best in every person and situation I'm involved with and so I'm very appreciative to be doing what I do, and I thoroughly enjoy working with all the people involved with Transformers. I think they are fabulous!
Q10. When Transformers Prime was first announce it was met by an overall luke warm reception from Transformers fans with some groups being quite vocal about their dislike for the show. As the months have moved on and more information and trailers have been released many people have changed their mind and there now appears, on the whole, to be a real sense of excitement amongst the many fan communities as this new incarnation of Transformers. Were you aware of this feeling and if so how did it and does it make you feel?
Well, my answer is highly similar to your previous question in that I try not to weigh myself down too much with what others are choosing to focus on cause you really have no control over any of that. But I can definitely share with you that myself and the entire cast are very thrilled to be a part of this new evolution of Transformers, and it's my wish that that translates into a group of fans that are equally as excited and looking forward to the upcoming episodes, as we are!
Q11. How far through the series of Transformers Prime are you currently through recording at the moment, and can you tell us a little of your schedule for the show?
We started recording in January 2010. We've recorded over 15 episodes. But that's just the voice-over. The creative and tremendously talented CGI artists have been working on all of it for much longer than us actors. I'm pretty sure they're working on it all day, everyday, while the actors work once or twice a week.
Q12. Was the voice acting for Transformers Prime recording using ADR or were the actors in the studio at once?
One of the many aspects of the show I love is that all of the actors record at the same time in the studio- which makes it soooo COOL and FUN because you get the opportunity to play off one another. They can actually put the Bots, the Cons, and the humans all in the same room and no one's trying to laser blast another! And I get to record every week with the legendary Optimus Prime and Megatron in person! ?
Q13. Many people that have worked in voice acting really do not like ADR as they feel it is very impersonal and cold where as when you are in a studio with other actors and can interact they feel it brings a warmth to the recording and thus to the characters. Is this something you also believe?
Of course it is much nicer and much more fun to interact with the other actors in the same room, and I do prefer that as well. But there are times when doing ADR is pretty cool too cause you get to give the director and animators a lot of different choices in terms of line readings that they may not necessarily get with a group read.
Q14. Do you plan on watching the show when it airs to follow the finish product?
OF COURSE!! I've been waiting to see it for the last 11 months! I know for sure that all the actors are looking forward to watching it as well. We tend to talk about it a lot whenever we are at the recording sessions.
Q15. How familiar are you with the Transformers franchise, the fans and the history of the characters before working on the series?
Familiar enough to be really eager and excited about the news that I was going to get the opportunity to audition for the show!
Q16. Have you auditioned for any other parts on this or other Transformers series / movies before?
Nope, this was my first audition.
Q17. Transformers is a huge global brand with sales estimated to be worth over $1 billion now. What does it feel like to be a part of this brand?
Itís an indescribably cool feeling. Iím highly appreciative, and itís nice to know that in some small way you get the opportunity to be a part of something that already has such an undeniable and established global presence. Itís pretty sweet.
Q18. With the global financial success of the live-action Transformers movie, Transformers has seemingly moved from its routes as child's toy line into a genuine piece of IP for Hasbro and one of their strongest franchised. With that comes expectation that any new series must perform well. With Transformers Prime do you think it will meet these expectations?
Well, I can only relay that in my personal experiences with film and television, and I suppose it really goes for creating anything that involves such a highly collaborative effort, that many aspects of a project begin to take shape and meld on an individual level first, before they evolve into the fullness of the finished product that is ready for the world to view. And so I can also share with you that every actor involved with the Transformers, and Iím certain this permeates all the way to the top of the team, is eagerly invested in his/her role in the making of a what we all hope will turn out to be a very fun and enjoyable series to watch. So I guess to sum it up, I surely hope so!! I know for sure that I am the BIGGEST fan already.
Q19. Other than Transformers Prime where else can our readers expect to see and hear you?
I just finished a guest-starring role on the kidís series "Imagination Movers" which will air next year. And also the animated movie "Zambezia" is coming out next year where I play a little tiny bird named "Tini."
Q20. What would be your dream role both as an actress and a voice actor?
I know it sounds crazy cause Iím a little Asian girl, but one of my favorite roles of all time is Gollum from Lord of the Rings! So to do something along those lines would just be a lot of fun I think! I just walk around my house trying to talk like him and my cats run away. Guess I need to keep working on itÖ ha!
Q21. Of all the projects you have worked on, which do you feel has been the highlight for you?
Currently for on-camera I'd say the series 'Aaron Stone' had been a lot of fun because I get to play a character that leads a double-life so to speak, as both your typical teenager yet, the world's best weapon specialist! So I got to carry around a lot of futuristic looking guns and make people obey my orders! Who wouldn't love that?! In terms of the voice acting world, definitely TRANSFORMERS: PRIME!!! I mean, I get to work with this amazing cast of talented actors who're just a lot of fun to be around! It's not hard to have a good time and laugh in the studio when those guys start cracking jokes and doing impersonations and stuff. So really it's like the highlight of my week, every week.
Q22. What's the best bit of advice you would give to someone thinking of pursuing a career in acting?
Do it!! If your heart says Yes, then Go For It, full-on like Miko would do!
Q23.I understand that as well as acting you are also a lover of cats and play the drums. How long have you been playing, who are your inspirations and what is your favourite tunes to drum along to?
I do LOVE cats!! However, I also love dogs, bunnies, hampsters, and well, just about any other animal! I'm still working at trying to love the reptiles but man, that's a little tough… Right now I have 2 cats, Ricky and Lucy. I started playing drums as a kid in Indonesia and when I got to the states I got a drum set in my apartment and about drove my neighbors mad! I don't really have any favorite drummers as much as I just like songs where I can play my drums along with them, like, really loudly. I'm so not a pro or anything, it's just cool to play around.
Q24. You are involved in a lot of charity work, can you tell us more about this, your involvement and the nature of the charities you support.
I've done some work for homeless/abused animals and for elderly people who cannot help themselves due to old age or sickness. My favorite was when I fostered a total of 5 cats in the 8 months while I was working on Aaron Stone in Canada. I worked with 2 rescue groups that helped me save some cats that were red-listed from the local shelters. It was such a fulfilling experience.
We'd like to extend out thanks Tania for taking the time to answering our questions, it's been a genuine pleasure to find out more about about her work and her take on the show. We would also like to thank Mike at Leading Edge Entertainment for helping to arrange this interview. Hopefully you've all enjoyed it as much as we have.