June 14, 2018 Interview – Kari Wahlgren
She is a villain, a ditz, a grandma, and a teenager, and sometimes all in the same week! Kari Wahlgren is a superbly-talented and diverse voice actress, whose voice you have no doubt heard many times emanating from your television. Her current gig is starring as the voices of “Bridget,” “Harper,” and many more on the Netflix and DreamWorks Animation cartoon, Trolls: The Beat Goes On. However, you have also heard her work on such shows as the Anime cult-classic FLCL, Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, Cartoon Network’s OK KO: Let’s Be Heroes, as well as in the 2017 film The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature. No stranger to all facets of voiceover, Wahlgren has even put her vocal talents to video games, including the popular likes of Final Fantasy XV and Injustice 2.
No stranger to Disney, Nickelodeon, Netflix, Amazon, Boomerang and beyond, Wahlgren is an exceptionally busy talent who brings a lively zest and an exceptional spunk to each of her varying roles, keeping her spirit forever young. Taking a moment out of her tight, but fun schedule, she recently sat down to talk all things voiceover acting, her reprisal of the Haruko Haruhara role, some little show called Rick and Morty, video games, and much, much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in entertainment for roughly three decades now. What have been some of the highs and lows of your work in Hollywood?
Kari Wahlgren – There have been highs and lows. I remember only having $0.97 in my checkbook at one point, and just crying because I couldn’t even afford to buy a taco at Taco Bell. One of my roommates did craft services for music videos for a while, so I lived off of the leftover frozen egg rolls from her job. I answered phones, worked multiple jobs, cleaned toilets at a dance studio – there were a lot of unglamorous moments. But I think of the highs more: my first callback on the Disney studio lot, booking my first jobs, my first red carpet movie premiere, meeting some of my heroes and working with them. I guess I enjoy the journey, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some wonderful things happen over the years.
CrypticRock.com – That is wonderful! Of course, the highs make the lows worthwhile. Now, many actresses start out working on-screen, but, with time, opt to go into voice acting. Nearly from the get-go, you have pursued voice. What inspired that choice for you, and was this always your goal?
Kari Wahlgren – I always wanted voiceover to be part of my career. I don’t know if I expected it to take off as much as it did. I was focusing on both voiceover and on-camera when I moved to L.A., but I found myself getting a little bitter about the on-camera culture. I decided to step back and focus just on voiceover for a while, and I guess the rest is history.
CrypticRock.com – That makes perfect sense. Is it harder to portray a character utilizing only your voice, or does this perceived ‘limitation’ actually allow you more freedom?
Kari Wahlgren – I’ve found more freedom in voiceover. I play everything from babies to grandmas in voiceover; things I would never to be able to play on-camera or on-stage. I like that I can create a wide-range of characters and not be limited by my age, my gender, my looks, etc. It’s very freeing!
CrypticRock.com – So, the sky is truly the limit with voiceover! Which clearly explains why you have such a truly extensive resume of work. One of your earliest projects was the Anime mini-series FLCL, which is set to return soon. Does it add to your enjoyment in portraying a character when you were there since the beginning?
Kari Wahlgren – It definitely adds a sentimental layer to the sequel. FLCL was my very first Anime show in L.A., so it’s been wonderful to return to the role all these years later.
CrypticRock.com – It’s wonderful that you are going to be able to reprise one of your earliest roles, now with additional years of experience. What should fans of the initial series expect this time around?
Kari Wahlgren – More chaos!
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Excellent! Now, it is no secret that Anime fans can be very particular and very demanding. Is there any pressure going into portraying a character such as Haruko Haruhara?
Kari Wahlgren – The expectations are really high, so there’s some pressure there, but everyone involved in the project has worked tirelessly to make it the best it can be. Playing Haruko again felt familiar and brand-new all at the same time. It was a pretty incredible experience.
CrypticRock.com – Fans will be very excited to see and hear what you have done this time around. Now, it is also worthwhile noting that you voice “Jessica” in Rick and Morty, which, despite not being around for that long in the grand scheme of things, has become a huge hit series. When you initially signed on for the show, did you expect that Rick and Morty fandom would go as far as it has?
Kari Wahlgren – Not at all! I had no clue it would become as huge as it has, but I couldn’t be happier for Justin Roiland and I’m so happy to be a small part of it.
CrypticRock.com – It’s a very fun series, for sure. Obviously, you have voiced so many varying and exciting characters throughout your career, thus far. Who have been some of your favorites, and is it more fun to portray a fantastical character versus one that is more realistic, or is it all equally enjoyable behind the microphone?
Kari Wahlgren – I can never pick a favorite, it’s too hard! I love playing a variety of characters. I love playing the psycho, the adorable child, the ditz, the villain, the sex symbol; it’s all sides of yourself that you don’t get to show in real life.
CrypticRock.com – It must be a blast to mix things up so frequently. Speaking of fun, does working often with Cartoon Network keep you young at heart?
Kari Wahlgren – Absolutely.
CrypticRock.com – Good to hear! Currently, you are working on the series Trolls: The Beat Goes On. Firstly, do you have to have amazing hair for this and, more seriously, what drew you to this particular project? Are you able to insert some of your own personality into your roles in the show?
Kari Wahlgren – If only I had that hair in real life! (Laughs) Trolls has been a blast! The creative team really let me bring a lot of my ideas to the role of Bridget, and I’ve gotten to play a wide-range of other characters on the show. One song I sang also ended up on the soundtrack, which was a huge milestone for me. I was known more as a singer than an actress when I was a child, so getting the chance to sing again meant a lot.
CrypticRock.com – It must have felt amazing to be able to combine two of your loves and talents into one. Now, not to be overlooked, you have also done extensive work in voice for video games, including the hugely-popular Final Fantasy series. As someone with a myriad of experiences doing voices for video games, is there a huge difference between voicing television and games?
Kari Wahlgren – There’s just a technical element to games that makes it unique. You have to be careful to protect your voice: video games can definitely be some of the most vocally stressful jobs in voiceover.
CrypticRock.com – Last question. CrypticRock.com covers music as well as films, particularly Horror and Science Fiction. Are you a fan of either of these genres and, if so, do you have any favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Kari Wahlgren – I love Horror and Sci-Fi. I even wrote and produced a short Horror film called Girl #2 that has played at a number of film festivals. I really liked some of the
A Nightmare on Elm Street movies. They Live (1988), The Thing (1982), the Alien films. Classics like The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). I used to watch Fright Night (1985) every Halloween. I’m not really into gory Horror unless there’s a campy element. Love vampires, but zombies terrify me!
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