Interview (Part 2 of 2): Karen Strassman Talks ‘Creepshow,’ Voice Acting, and more

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Karen Strassman - Part 2 Interview
Photographer: Birdie Thompson Hair and Makeup: Allison Noelle

To go back to the first part of the interview with Karen Strassman click here.

Michelle Patterson: I want to believe there was some sort of connection there that none of us will never know. I do enjoy the ambiguity of it. I love the idea that there was a connection between her and her son because of his reaction. A deeper connection where their pasts were intertwined. While you don’t know a lot about her you obviously aren’t going to have that kind of reaction over someone you hate.

I do know that Vendetta is not your only appearance in the franchise.  In the recent video game remake of Resident Evil 2, which has garnered rave reviews, you voice Annette and you tackled motion capture as well.  Of course, motion capture is a whole other beast in the gaming world. What did you enjoy the most about creating the movements and expressions for Annette?

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#MoCapMonday #MotionCapture Here's a cool little peek #BehindTheScenes of Motion Capture magic! When I was playing #AnnetteBirkin they took a picture of my marked face and then blew it up so that the #MakeupArtists could copy it each time they re-applied the dots on my face. These dots are captured by the camera (that is fastened to the actor's head) and then used to precisely animate the characters face. It is always really important to get those dots pretty exactly in place, so a lot of focus goes into making sure they are applied very precisely. So much goes into creating such vibrant and alive #mocap characters and the attention to detail is impressive. . . . . #karenstrassman #actress #voiceoverartist #dialectcoach #preacheramc #boschamazon #siliconvalleyHBO #residentevil2 #residentevil2remake #creepshow #anime #voiceovers #voiceoverartist #volife #voiceactors #voiceactress #voiceoverartist #voicetalent #voiceartist #voicetags #animationlife #characteranimation #videogamers #videogamelife @DeanPanaroTalent

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Karen Strassman: I personally think that motion capture is one of the most difficult sectors of acting because you’re literally making everything up.  When you’re in a studio doing voice over you sort of make it up in your head. But when you’re on a motion capture set, and a movie, everything is there.  Props, decor, you’re in the wardrobe so it’s so real. But on the motion capture set you aren’t even wearing the clothing that your character would wear. You’re wearing this tight black suit that is weirdly uncomfortable.  You have a ton of electronic receptors on you. Then you have this whole contraption over your head with a microphone and a camera that is on little bars that reaches out in front of your face. It sits in front of your face because it’s filming all the stuff going on with your facial movements.  So even when you’re looking at an actor you can’t even see them because this contraption is in front of your face. It’s really like being a kid in your back yard and you have a branch and you pretend it’s a sword. Then there’s a smaller branch and it’s a gun. The willing suspension of disbelief is so exaggerated because not only do you have to imagine everything but you’re in such a contrived atmosphere.  You’re sitting on a block of wood, there are marks on the floor. They’ll tell you this mark is a cliff so you’re going to come over here and look over and fall over. But you have to look down at this little mark of tape and imagine that below that is a cliff. It’s an even higher level of imagination to get past all of the contraptions that are strapped onto you. That’s really fun though and I love that challenge.

What I love the most about this particular motion capture role is that Tom Keegan, the director, and I decided to make her very human and very conflicted.  The other incarnation of Annette is that she is an evil scientist. In this one there is a whole actual backstory where she is not necessarily evil. They are doing all these experiments because they actually want to save mankind.  Then the Umbrella attains it and she has to make these horrible choices between focusing on saving the world from these monsters and this virus or saving her daughter. But if she focuses on saving her daughter it might be the demise of the world.  We’ve made her very complex and very divided. So when you see what is going on with her you don’t just see she’s a evil person.

I think finding all those conflicted spaces was really compelling to do.  I think it makes the whole project a lot stronger.

MP: I know you said it was difficult to do the motion capture work, but do you prefer that over the voice acting?  Or would you prefer to do both like you did with Annette?

KS: I love it all! There are just different genres and I love being on a motion capture set.  One of the things I love about it is that you get to work with other actors. I was on set with Nick, Jolene, and Stephanie.  Running around set and acting together. If you’re just doing the voice on your own in a studio, most often– unless you’re doing original group reds of an animation series, you’re on your own in the studio with the director and the sound engineer and then however many clients are listening in. So it’s really, really stimulating and exciting to get to act with other actors and imagine this world together in this studio with tape on the floor.  I really do love it all. They are such different genres, but there’s so many things I love about each one.

MP: You have done a lot of voice work.  Is there any particular role that has meant the most to you?  Or is there a role that has meant more to you than some of the others? 

KS: It’s hard to pick one over the other because so many of them.  Every voice role I do I feel like I learn something. Every character I do that character brings me something. I actually think Annette Berkin has had a big impact on me.  And there’s a lot of different characters I’ve enjoyed voicing for different reasons. I have tremendous affection for Chromie on World of Warcraft. Just because she’s so enduring and so powerful being able to go anywhere in time.  Because of that though she’s so forgetful. She can’t ever remember if she’s in the past, present, or future and I just love that!  

I have a particular affection for Aigis and Nanako from the Persona series.  They are big fan favorites and they’ve touched a lot of people around the world.  I love all of my League of Legion characters because they touch so many people around the world.  And I love the Sonic series and being able to play Rouge the Bat.  

I could start making a list of all these characters I’ve enjoyed playing so much.

MP: That’s always such a blessing to love what you do and you definitely convey that sentiment in everything.

KS: I’m so glad to hear that.

MP: I did notice that you were part of The Muppets movie. What was it like getting to add voices to such iconic franchise as The Muppets?  

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwI_Hf2AZbi/?igshid=2r31o47tqg12

KS: It was so delightful.  I just played a few of the smaller characters.  Just being part of that iconic world is such a delight.  I felt like such a little kid in the studios being able to witness it all and hear some of the other actors doing some of the other voices.  It was sort of magical. 

MP: I can only imagine.  I’ve been a huge fan of The Muppets since I was younger.  I think to know I was able to bring something like that to life would be insane, but also probably one of the best experiences.

You’ve had a couple of recurring roles recently.  On Preacher you played Dr. Slotnick and Bosch you played D.D.A Laura Tribe.  Is there a character you connect with more?

KS: They are so different.  I also did the Hooli lawyer that appeared in Silicone Valley. Those roles were all so different.  Bosch was extremely real. I played D.D.A Laure Tribe. I was interviewing a victim of rape for the witness stand.  So it was very real, very raw. Unfortunately part of our storyline got cut out for lack of time in the series. I really enjoy playing those realities.  They had a DA on set who I was able to consult with it. I was able to ask her if you were in this position doing what I had to do in this scene, how would you react?  How would you take care of the victim? How would you be questioning her? Would you be more a matter of fact? Would you be more compassionate? It felt like it was a privilege to be able to speak to a professional and have that feed my character so I could come to it as realistically as possible.

Preacher is on the complete other side of the coin where I play this evil German scientist. The fun part about that was to play such a board cartoon character, but make her within that realm as believable and real as possible. It’s understood that it’s a cartoon character and you might walk into Whole Foods and meet this person.  In the world of Preacher–one of the things I love about that show–every single character is so human. It’s how we feel about The Muppets. We know they’re puppets but we relate to them so much. Preacher in its genre is like that. The challenge was to create Slotnick as believable as possible. I did create a backstory for her and I knew why she was doing what she was doing and what she had at stake.  I really enjoyed that. I know the show has come to an end, but I wish I could come back so I could continue to explore her world.

MP: A backstory is always so compelling to hear about with certain villains. It creates this weird line in the sand where we as the audience actually feels like as horrible as this person is on the screen, we still feel an odd amount of compassion for them.  If you don’t mind telling us, what was your backstory for her?

KS: She had a debilitating childhood disease that left her crippled.  She was able to regain her use of legs. You probably don’t see it that much in the show but she actually had a limp. As a scientist she figured out how to heal herself.  She was made fun of as a child and ridiculed and abused because of her disfigurement. That was all feeding her desire to work for this company and be one of them– to be one of the people who will help create the messiah. That was really fueling her motivation.

MP: I absolutely love that backstory.  That’s amazing. I love character driven stuff. I feel that character actors are often underrated.  They make the world go round. You have all these characters and they have to play off of one another.  So I think a lot of the time character actors don’t get the credit they deserve.

KS: When I was younger, I wasn’t quite sure where I fit in.  I wasn’t the sexy model-y actor. I wasn’t the girl next door either.  As I began to get older, I began to discover I’m a character actor. Being a character actor has opened up so many possibilities and worlds.  It is just so much fun. I absolutely love it.

MP: I want to take the time to thank you for your time today.  I have loved getting to talk to you about everything we’ve discussed.  It’s been such a pleasure.

KS: You are so welcome.  I have enjoyed it as well, it’s been my pleasure to talk to you as well.

You can see Karen Strassman next in her role as Barbara Dowels in The Onania Club. You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and her official Facebook page.  Stay tuned for more on Karen Strassman when she talks about the short film The Red Thunder later this week with us.

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